“I was born in Las Vegas, NV on April 25, 1990. My parents named their little girl Kayla Kay. At 5 years old I was far from knowing what transgender was or what it meant. I did discover, however, I preferred being viewed as a boy. I had just moved to a new neighborhood. I had a 90’s bowl cut and a windbreaker outfit. Some neighborhood kids came over to introduce themselves and asked if I was a boy or a girl. Not surprising with my hair and outfit. It did not take me long to come up with an answer. I said, ‘I am a boy and my name is Kaleb.’
The following weeks I started contemplating what I had said. I realized I had always felt like a boy and seen myself as a boy, but everyone referred to me as a girl. When watching movies, I was supposed to envision myself like the princess or other female characters like all the other girls I knew, but I saw myself as Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn and many other male roles. I thought maybe this was normal, maybe you decide when you’re older if you want to be a boy or a girl. Maybe all girls felt this way. Growing up, people would just refer to me as a tomboy and I thought, ‘Well, that makes sense.’ I’m a girl biologically, but I like boy things.
The first day of sixth grade I met my best friend and my future wife. I did not have any of my new pencils sharpened and I was too afraid to go in front of the class and sharpen it. I turned to the girl behind me and asked if I could borrow a pencil. She lent me the pencil and after class we realized our lockers were right next to each other, followed by our assigned lunch seats. Our friendship grew over the next months and I would share with her my insecurities about being a girl. I would say that when I grew up I was going to cut my hair short and wear boy clothes. She thought I was a little off, but decided to be my friend anyways.
Over time our relationship became closer and closer and it seemed as if we could not be apart. If we were, we were talking on the phone for hours. We just figured it’s what best friends do, but we quickly realized we felt like more than just friends. This was especially hard because neither one of us felt like we were a lesbian. We kept our relationship a secret for 6 years. Around the age of 19 we had come out as a couple. I cut off my hair and started wearing more masculine clothing. At this point in time I was labeling myself as a lesbian, I still didn’t know about the trans community and my closest depiction at the time was a drag queen, which of course is not the same thing.
My wife Alex and I were living together by this time, but our relationship was struggling. I had internal struggles and anger issues because I was uncomfortable in my body, I was binding my chest with Ace bandages and packing tape to make it look like I didn’t have a chest. It felt like it didn’t belong to me. I viewed my chest the same way I viewed the fat on my body. She was struggling because she didn’t want to be seen as a lesbian, so affection towards me was limited. Alex had no negative opinions about the lesbian community, it just was not how she identified. After about a year we had parted ways and I started seeing other people. Yet at the end of the day we would have to call each other to talk about our days. We were still best friends and could not be apart. I noticed I started comparing the girls I was seeing to Alex and how Alex would do things differently in a more positive way.
I stopped seeing other people and Alex and I started to see each other on a day-to-day basis again and eventually we started dating again. She told me she no longer cared how people viewed her, she just wanted to be with me and it was the only thing that mattered. We moved into another apartment shortly after and around this time we were about 20 years old. About a year before, one night I decided to type into Google the way I had been feeling in my body and it led me to YouTube videos of female-to-male transition videos. I immediately realized this was me, I was trans. I do not feel like a girl or a lesbian; I’m a boy.
About 6 months into living in our second apartment, I decided to come out to Alex. At first, she was upset. She didn’t know anything about trans individuals either, but once I educated her on the topic and showed her some videos of others who had transitioned, she had a better understanding and agreed it explained a lot of my internal struggles. However, she was scared for me to transition for many reasons. How would people treat me, how would people treat us as a couple? Would we be accepted? She was also worried she would be losing who I was and I would become a different person; would she miss the old me?
After several doctor’s appointments, psychiatrist appointments, counseling, etc., I was finally able to start my transition, but first I had to come out to my family. It was very hard for my parents, my dad more so than my mom. He lived several states away and had only seen me a few times over the years for brief visits. He did not see my day-to-day struggles growing up. Our relationship quickly took a turn for the worse and we didn’t talk for 2 years. My mom had time to process and came around to the idea not long after I had told her. I asked her if she wanted to help pick my name. My friends wanted me to choose the name Kyle and I liked Kaleb, the name I first chose when I was 5. My mom chose Kaleb and she felt like it was a good fit and wouldn’t be too hard to learn since it was so close to my birth name.
It took about a year for friends and family to stop calling me she/her pronouns and referring to me by my birth name. Another year later I was no longer mistaken as a female. I had broad shoulders, a deeper voice, and a slight beard growing in. It wouldn’t be until February of 2015 that I received ‘Top Surgery’ to remove breast tissue. If not for the support of friends and family who donated to my GoFundMe page I would not have been able to afford the surgery. My anger issues had ceased, I was finally feeling like myself, and my dad and I began to mend our relationship.
Shortly after I proposed to Alex we were married a year later on June 22, 2013. We bought our first house and began talking of starting a family. We knew we didn’t have the financial means to do fertility treatments to conceive, but we felt like we had all the love in the world to give to children, so we decided to become foster parents. We could care for and love these children and give them a safe and stable environment while their parents worked on improving their lives so their children could return home. During the home study, we were very honest about me being a transgender man and it didn’t affect us receiving children in our care. We received several placements over the next year and most of them went on to live with family.
One particular child had left our hearts shattered and we thought we would never be able to take a placement again. but then on June 15, 2015, we received two little boys. A 17-month-old and a 6-year-old. We had them in our care for about 6 months when we knew they were ours. The case went on for several years and by year 3 it was determined they would not be able to return to their birth parents and the parents’ rights were being terminated. After another long year of waiting, we were finally able to adopt them on January 22, 2018. They were ours forever.
That same year we decided to take the kids to our town’s Pride family night event, and I saw this adorable family of two dads and their son. The child was wearing a shirt with the word ‘E’kola’ty’ and had a picture of a koala bear on it. I turned to my wife and said, ‘I love those shirts, we should get some for our kids next year!’ Then it clicked. My kids are not even aware we are a part of this community, I’ve never told them I’m trans, I had struggled with telling them because of insecurities as a father. But why? why was I insecure to show them a family can look very different from one to the next, that love is love, and I’m no less their father just because I was trans?
Alex and I talked it over for several months, making sure this was something I wanted to be open about. I had transitioned for a reason, but I didn’t feel like I needed to hide my journey any longer. I didn’t feel I was setting a good example for my children. My younger of the oldest two struggles with how they identify, and I am always saying, ‘Be yourself, be proud of who you are,’ but was I? It was this question that made my decision. I came out to my kids and they were 100% supportive. If anything, they were sad I didn’t tell them sooner because my oldest said he didn’t like not knowing a part of me and he felt he could have been there for me emotionally if I would have told him sooner.
I decided I wanted to make a YouTube channel showing our unique family life, to show support to those who are struggling to come out as trans or worried they won’t have a family life. Maybe they are scared to come out to children they already have. I want to educate people who are unfamiliar with my lifestyle or don’t agree with it by showing them we are just like any other family. We love each other and are trying our best in this world to raise confident, brave, loving, accepting children.
About a year after we adopted the kids, Alex and I discussed the possibility of growing our family. We knew it would not be easy or cheap, but we jumped in by starting the process of IUI. In order to do IUI you need to purchase sperm from a sperm bank which ran us about $2,000 after shipping and another $2,000 for the procedure. With how much we spent and how close the swimmers were placed, we figured this would have to work. Alex had a clean bill of health and no fertility issues. However, it did not take. We had talked about trying again, but we could not keep paying each time. Alex also said she felt like a science experiment, and of course the procedure was not at all comfortable.
We ended up seeking help from a friend who was willing to donate. Less than two weeks later we had a positive pregnancy test. Unfortunately, at our 8-week scan it was confirmed Alex had suffered a miscarriage. After that, we went to a bit of a dark place and didn’t know if we would be able to keep trying. But we did, for several months we tried and tried, but her body needed time to heal. We took a break and recharged, sent some positive energy out into the universe, and the next month we discovered we were yet again pregnant. The doctor had us come in at 7 weeks due to our previous miscarriage. As we sat in the exam room waiting for the doctor, all we could do was hope we would hear a heartbeat, and to be honest, the fear from our last appointment sunk in and I expected the worst.
Not only did we hear one heartbeat, but two! We were having twins! How were we having twins?! We hadn’t done any more fertility treatments that would have led to twins. Alex conceived fraternal twins, a boy and a girl. The twins were born early at 34 weeks and spent 12 days in NICU, but were strong and healthy, they just needed to put on some weight before they could leave the hospital. Now we are a family of 6 and we are thriving. Don’t get me wrong, newborn twins are tough, four kids is tough, but I feel like our family is complete and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If I hadn’t chose the path I did, where would I be today? I can tell you I would not have been led down this road to parenthood, to do foster care, to adopt, to experience pregnancy with my wife. I wouldn’t have these four amazing children that I love more than anything in this world.
I know now I am meant to share my story, to be proud of the journey I went through that led to this amazing life.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kaleb Helvin. You can follow his journey on Instagram and YouTube. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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‘I’m so scared to be trans. I don’t want it to be true.’ I’d stare at myself and ask, ‘Who are you?’: Young man goes through coming out process, learns he’s transgender, ‘I finally feel free in my body’
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