By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
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Videographer / Director: Gerrit Messersmith
Producer: Nathalie Bonney
Editor: Ruby Coote / Sonia Estal
Tay and Anayah Kennedy are childhood sweethearts with a difference: when they first started dating, they were both female but now they identify as a man and a woman in a straight relationship.
The now-married couple live in Jacksonville, Florida, where 22-year-old Tay is undergoing the gender transition process. Already a year into his hormone replacement therapy, Tay wants to have bottom and top surgery but his wife Anayah , 19, says it doesn’t matter what gender her husband is – she will love him regardless.
Anayah, also known as Nay, told Barcroft TV: “I am attracted to Tay as a man just the same as I was as a woman, maybe even more. It really didn’t make a difference to me at all. I love the same person at heart. So that’s what I fell in love with.”
Tay and Anayah grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, first meeting at a pizza restaurant they both worked in. Friends at first, Tay had identified as a lesbian from an early age while Anayah had only gone out with boys.
Tay said: “We have been together for five years now, I have been with her since I was 17 and she was 14.
“We were friends for like six months almost, we were best friends, we were very close.
“I had been a lesbian since I was young so my family was open to it, but the only thing that they disagreed for a little bit was the age difference, I was 17 and she was 14 at the time but now it doesn’t seem too bad.”
For Anayah, although her family were surprised when she started dating another woman, they weren’t surprised she was dating Tay.
Anayah said: “We were very close, actually our family members and the people that we surrounded ourselves with even told us that we liked each other even before we told ourselves so I guess it was kind of obvious.
“It kind of just came naturally like it just happened I don’t know, it just started one day and we never denied it.
“I wouldn’t say that we had friends or family that disapproved, some people were shocked or, of course there is negativity that comes with it.
“It was new for my family and friends too and the people that I surround myself with so I would get like a ‘why?’ and ‘what made you do this?’ and things like that but there really wasn’t a ‘why’ or ‘what’ that made me want to do it, it kind of just came naturally and I just fell in love with Tay as a person and not the gender role. That never really mattered to me.”
Even before transitioning Tay would wear masculine clothes and ask to be referred to as a ‘he’; as Anayah explained: “Tay was never really girly so it wasn’t really a big difference” to dating a boy.
But by the time Tay turned 18 years old it was clear to both Tay and Anayah that Tay wasn’t a lesbian - Tay was a trans male.
Tay said: “I think I was about six years old when I felt like I was born in a wrong body.
“I used to look at myself every day in the mirror [and think] something is not right about myself like: ‘why do I have to look like this? I was supposed to be a boy, why was I born a girl?’”
It wasn’t until Tay turned 18 though that he finally felt able to identify as a trans male.
Tay said: “The first person I told that I wanted to be trans was my wife, I talked to her about it because I was afraid because she fell in love with a girl so I didn’t know how she would feel.
“I came out as trans at 18, because when you are 18 years old you are legal and you can go to your own doctor’s appointments and talk to your doctor by yourself.
“[The doctor] said: ‘give it a few years so when you are 21 and you know that you want to be trans come back to me’ and that is what I did, I turned 21 and I got back to him, first appointment early in the morning 7 o clock”
The year Tay turned 21 was extra memorable as it’s also the year he married Anayah – not as her wife but as her husband. At a simple court house wedding, Anayah wore a red velvet dress that matched Tay’s tie in his wedding suit.
Anayah said: “We got married on my birthday on June 27 last year.
“We actually just did like a small court house wedding with our close family and friends.
“But that is why we want to have our big wedding in 2020, on my birthday again.”
Tay has undergoing hormone replacement therapy for just over a year now.
“My voice has changed a lot. Another one is hair growth: hair all over my body, my legs to my arm pits, facial hair. I have to shave it a lot.
“Another effect is body odour. That’s the worst I guess. Smelling like a 13-year-old boy in the morning.”
The couple have got used to strangers staring. Nay said: “We get people that look at us. I think that more of them are looking at is like: ‘is that a boy or is that a girl?
“And you hear people too. Like you past walk past them and you hear kids or even adults like whispering like – was that a girl or a boy? Or they will just stare for a while and try to figure it out.”
Tay added: “Most of the time they can't really tell. But now they can tell. They think we are a straight couple, which I do identify us as a straight couple now.”
Asked if he wants surgery, Tay is adamant he does and is already on the road to having top surgery.
“I am gonna do my first appointment to get my breasts removed, traveling back to Minnesota.
“It is important to me to get the surgeries because I wanna be happy with myself and happy with the person I am. I wanna feel like the person I should have been at birth and not like the person I was at birth.”
For Nay though she will love her husband regardless of if he has his surgeries or not.
She said: “I don’t care what you do. You can walk around looking like a clown all day. You can paint your face orange, dye your hair white, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me.”