“I feel like I lost out a lot on my life, because I was too busy pretending to be someone else.”
Cayes was assigned a female identity at birth, but started his transition in 2009. Recently, he starred in an emotional episode of the original docu-series, Secret Lives Of Americans (on Pivot, Friday, July 24). The point of the series is for the star to video record themselves telling the people in their lives their big secret they’ve been holding on to years. Cayes’ secret was that he was assigned female at birth and for the past six years has been living as a man.
Cayes’ parents weren’t accepting when he first came out and he hadn’t told his co-workers about his transgender status, but when Cayes recently read an article about a young transgender person who committed suicide, he decided he couldn’t keep his secret any longer. He didn’t want transgender people like him to feel they need to be ashamed of who they are and he didn’t want to live in the shadows any more.
Cayes is a resident of Long Beach, CA and works full time as a behavior interventionist at an elementary school and part time as a “manny” for a local family. He loves working with kids and didn’t want anything to jeopardize his opportunity to do so, but Cayes had a secret and he was worried that telling it might affect the way people perceived him.
After watching Cayes’ powerful episode of Secret Lives Of Americans, we reached out to him to gain insight on what life is like as a Black trans man and how it feels to release his secret.
HelloBeautiful: Why do you think society wants trans people to explain themselves?
Cayes: America, the world, society – it’s just another way to make people feel bad about themselves. It’s to make people feel less than. I just don’t understand. People ask me all the time, ‘What do you identify as?’ and I’m like, me. I’m awesome! I don’t know how else to explain this to you. Are we really that immature that we’re reduced to asking someone if they’re straight or gay and that defines them?
I feel that trans says that I’m in a transition. I take hormones. That’s really the only part of trans for me. I’m happy to be a woman. I’m happy to look like a man. I love having a beard, I’m not going to lie. I like walking around without a shirt on, I feel good.
I feel happy when I look at my body.
People ask me all the time if I want to have bottom surgery and I’m like, ‘No, I don’t want one.’ As far as what they can give me? No thank you, sir. I feel the need to explain myself only because we’re not visible. Especially someone like me, people see me and they think I’m gay and if I don’t say I’m trans then we won’t be represented. I’m lucky because I didn’t have to feel like I was trapped. I was trapped in a way because I felt I couldn’t be honest. I felt like I was living a double life with my parents and pretending I didn’t have girlfriends and my grandfather died thinking I’d never been in love because he’d never seen me with a boyfriend and that killed me. I think about that everyday and it’s just like ugh, I had to pretend – I had known who I was since I was two!
HB: How did your parents take the transition?
Cayes: It was really difficult because I didn’t want to disappoint my family. My family is huge. We just had my mom’s 60th birthday party, my dad two years before that and we’re talking like 400 people at the house just chilling, Haitians. All of my family is from Haiti. At my dad’s 60th birthday two years ago, it was the first time anyone ever saw me.
My dad, we just don’t talk about it. My dad came and sat down with me and he told me that he loves me and respects me and thinks I’m responsible and he’s proud of me. I was like ,‘Oh my God!’
I ran away to California to really transition somewhere really peacefully and positively. It the first year anyone ever really saw me and there had been a lot of talk. You know, my cousins told me how people were feeling and how they were thinking and I struggle with my family, especially my dad’s side. I posted something on Facebook –I used to tell teens like where they can get resources; I would videotape myself taking my shot, show them how to do it properly and let them know I was scared of doing it too. You know, just being open about it and my cousins would be like, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t do this. You’re embarrassing your parents’ and I just flipped out. I left a Facebook status like, ‘I am so sick of this. This is the only place to talk about it guys. Look at this, you’re my family.’
HB: Are things better now?
Cayes: My mom turned instantly overnight after seeing the Bruce Jenner interview back in May. She wrote me a really heartfelt text message after seeing it. She apologized for being an uninformed Haitian mom. It was really a beautiful text. It was really emotional and awesome. I thanked her for finally admitting that she wasn’t supportive and she’d say things like, ‘I don’t care if you like girls, but why do you have to tell people? Like that makes no sense.’ And I’d be like, ‘Mom, that’s not being supportive.’
HB: How do you feel about your body now?
Cayes: I love my body very much. I was blessed with a very beautiful body or I’m just very blessed with vain-ness. I remember being six years old on my pink carpet naked, looking down at my vagina. My brother is three years older than me. We would take many baths together. I was literally like, ‘when is mine going to grow?’ I guess I already felt masculine at a young age because I just assumed – no one told me at first like number one, you’re going to have a vagina for the rest of your life. They don’t tell you anything. They just stick you in the tub with your brother and expect you to not wonder what the heck is going to happen next.
HB: Anything you want people to know about your trans life?
Cayes: I can’t speak for the people who feel trapped in their own body. Personally for me, I have not [felt that way]. I’m still the same loving, caring, compassionate person. Hormones have not changed that. My name change has not changed that. I was born that way. I’m that person.
What I want to do is be an advocate for youth, help them out. I want everyone to remember that there are people out here on every corner that don’t have the means, kids don’t have jobs and can’t make money for themselves. They don’t have the necessary resources for themselves. Even though nowadays things are easier to get, but if they feel like they don’t know anything or where to start, they have no one if they don’t have the support of their parents, I hope that Caitlyn Jenner’s [mainstream] presence will really bring that issue to light.
Secret Lives Of Americans airs at 10:30pm on Pivot.