Part-time comedy, full-time transition

Photo by Megan Bender / Clarion

As a kid, Caleb Kline wanted to follow in the footsteps of the women in his family and work in the medical field. Originally he decided this meant he would be a surgeon.

At the age of 10, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He thought being a pediatric endocrinologist, or someone who works with hormones, would allow him to help children like him.

Kline ended up changing his mind again and settled for nursing. After he realized he was too queasy and squeamish, Kline decided he would just be a biology major as a safety net.

Now, at 20 years old, Kline has made a decision: comedy and acting.

Kline, part-time Starbucks barista and part-time Citrus College student, said he grew up “the potato” of his friend group.

“As the ugly one of the group,” he said, “you develop a sense of humor.”

He made his dreams of being a comedian very clear, even at the age of 12 when he messaged Saturday Night Live on Facebook, “I’m gonna be on your show.”

“If it could all pan out,” he said. “I would definitely want to start with stand up comedy, SNL, and then branch out from there.”

In spite of finding his calling, the one thing Kline wanted more than being a surgeon, an endocrinologist, a nurse or a even a comedian, was to be a male.

Kline came out as male socially in May 2016. He had spent a long time making this decision and is now over a year into testosterone treatment.

For his mother, Margaret Kline, being a comedian was an obvious pick, this news, however was a shock. Caleb said he recalls coming out to his mom as transgender being a little rocky at first, like a grieving process.

“When Caleb shared his truth with me,” she said. “I felt stunned, very ill-prepared and completely lacking in how to support him.”

Margaret Kline said she went through a difficult period of sadness and loss, believing she had somehow lost her child.

“But the truth is, while his gender changed,” she said. “The person inside remained the same.”

“It’s not that she wasn’t supportive, it was just shock,” Caleb Kline said. “It felt like so long to me because I had been living with this information my whole life.”

Coming out as male felt right to him. Who he was at the time, as female, never seemed right to him for so long. He consistently reassured his mom he was not dead and was still the same kid she raised.

Dealing with his family and trying to explain gender dysphoria was difficult and Caleb Kline said he was not always patient.

“The fact that I finally got some clarity,” he said pausing with thought and frustration that others were not jumping on board with something he had always known.

“Imagine looking in the mirror and what you see does not at all match what you mentally imagine yourself as,” he said. “Like there’s nothing in common at all.”

Transitioning and taking testosterone had finally aligned whom he felt he was and what he wanted to see.

Margaret Kline said it took a lot of reading and conversation with Caleb to come up to “a steep learning curve” with him and his life changes.

She compared his transition to the growth of that of newborns in their first year and was grateful he spent it at home for her to witness.

”His deepening voice, the fat distribution, facial changes and all that body hair,” she said “ And he made it look easy, which I imagine is how it feels to finally be growing into the person you were meant to be.”

Margaret Kline recognizes that comedy has especially given Caleb Kline the platform to be open with himself and others, and change some minds about transitioning in the process.

“He has created some pathways for honest conversation with his willingness to be vulnerable about the ups and downs of transition,” she said. “Just ask him about watching porn.”

Watching porn is just one of Caleb’s themes in his comedy routine, including his gay mother, his gay grandfather and how transitioning when you’re “poor” isn’t quite as quick and glamorous as Caitlin Jenner makes it out to be.

He performed at the Flapper’s Comedy Club in Burbank in May and has another show scheduled for October. This club is also where he took his comedy classes.

His routine still closely follows what he practiced while learning, but possesses a strong message for his audience.

“A lot of it isn’t jokey material, but it’s more trying to teach in a funny manner,” he said. “That is one of my biggest goals, make people understand.”

Like with any comedian, he uses his personal experiences to create material and in turn it helps him cope with some of his transition process. Transitioning from female to male creates both physical and social challenges for Caleb Kline.

“Comedy is like therapy,” Caleb Kline said. “Taking testosterone is like going through puberty again, and going through puberty in your 20’s is not something I recommend.”

His next steps including getting female to male top surgery, a gender reassignment procedure for males that creates a masculine chest. In order to this he must have his diabetes under strict control.

“And growing a beard,” he said. “That’s mostly genetics but I am sick of these tiny baby hairs.”

Ironically for Caleb Kline, he said managing his Type 1 diabetes is a breeze under testosterone.

Margaret Kline said Caleb’s comedic talents existed even before his transition.

“He was voted ‘most humorous’ in his graduating class in high school,” she said. “He has learned how to be very comfortable in the telling of his story, and I think he’s opened a few minds with his comedy routine, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Caleb Kline said his next appearance is at the Flapper’s Comedy Club in Burbank where he will continue to share his experiences in hopes of opening the minds of others.

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About

Megan is on her second semester as Managing Editor and Ad Manger for the Clarion as well as a contributor for Logos magazine. She has served three consecutive semesters as the editor-in-chief previously for the Clarion and is now focusing on supporting her staff and leaving a substantial foundation for future student journalists at Citrus College. Megan has received a transfer degree in journalism and is finishing a second transfer degree in communications.


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