By Nathalie Bonney @NathalieBonney
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Videographer / director: Mike Shum
Producer: Nathalie Bonney
Editor: Beth Angus
The 22nd October 2019 will be a date Tay Kennedy will always treasure; it’s when his name was officially changed from Leticia to Tay Michael Kennedy.
The 23-year-old was born biologically female and despite coming out as a trans male seven years ago, some of Tay’s relatives still refer to him by the female pronoun.
Together with his wife Anayah, Tay hopes the name and gender marker change from the Anoka court house will help the couple to be seen as husband and wife.
Married for over 18 months, the couple have got used to family members still referring to Tay as if he was a woman.
The former teenage sweethearts first met at a pizza restaurant in Minnesota, where they both worked. At the time of meeting, Tay identified as a lesbian while Anayah had had boyfriends but found herself falling in love with Tay.
Anayah, now 20, told Barcroft TV: “We just instantly clicked. And then it was like when you’re best friends you build that bond and connection already. So then it's like when you take it to the next level, it just seems natural.
“I thought that I was scared to tell my family and I was scared to come around like to tell and open up about my personal feelings because of what everybody else was going to say and was going to do to me, especially my family, so I thought that they were going to judge and kind of just be confused and not really agree.
“But it was the total opposite. They were just really welcoming.”
But when Tay came out as trans, the couple experienced judgement from corners they perhaps hadn’t anticipated, with some of Tay’s own family members struggling to come to terms with the change.
He said: “I felt like I got more judged because I was changing my whole body and a lot of people didn't agree with that.
“They say they did, but I can tell that was like a no go and they felt like why would I change myself. I was perfect the way I was. But they didn't realise I wasn't happy the way I was.
“My siblings [were] the ones having a difficult time grasping all this because they are very young and they get confused because growing up they saw me as a girl and now I'm a boy so they're having a hard time transitioning and I think they're more scared.
“They use the right pronoun in private, but in public, they use the opposite pronoun. Like, they'd be like, ‘this is my sister, she…’, I think they're more afraid of what society will think about them or what their friends will think.”
Tay’s mother has also struggled to come to terms with Tay’s transition. Her husband James, Tay’s stepfather explains: “I would say my wife, it kind of bothered her because it was more like, ‘I'm losing my girl. And now I have a son.’ So she just had the grasp to it too.
“She will cry at night and be like, ‘I'm losing my daughter.’ And then in the end she was saying, ‘but it's the best for him’. So she was fighting her own demons with it.”
Tay and Anayah gathered family members together to reveal the name and gender change had been made official as well as announce that Tay would be having top surgery before the end of 2019.
In 2020 Tay also plans to have a hysterectomy as his physical transformation continues. As Tay’s transition becomes more visible he hopes it will help his family to journey with him, understanding more of the man he believes he was always born to be.
Tay said: “It makes me feel good knowing they all are trying with the pronouns because it can be hard.
“They knew me for so long, my whole life as a girl, so it’s going to be something they’ll adjust to.”
In the meantime Tay will keep carrying his papers with him as a reminder to anyone who still mistakes him and Anayah for being two women that he is a man.
He said: “For me to have these documents means that my life has officially began and my journey is almost complete, where I am 100% comfortable with myself. And these documents actually means a lot to me.”