“The very second you are born, society deems you a boy or a girl. Society names you for the rest of your life,” said Jessica Lynn, a transgender activist speaking to a gathering of Chapman University students.
But for Lynn, that identity was all wrong.
“At a very young age, maybe 3 years old, I was not comfortable being a boy. I kept wondering, why do I want to be a member of the opposite sex?” Lynn said during a recent campus appearance. “It didn’t make sense and it ate me alive. Every single night, I was at my hands and knees begging God to turn me into a girl.”
Those honest and thought-provoking insights into her transgender journey were shared by Lynn during Chapman’s Human Sexuality Series, held in conjunction with LGBTQ+ History Month and National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11.
As a transgender advocate, educator and activist, Lynn has recounted her story through more than 750 presentations in 28 different countries. Her goal is to spread awareness of the discrimination that transgender people face every day. 0.6% of the global population is transgender and 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide. In collaboration with the Kinsey Institute, Lynn wants to challenge unconscious bias with training and education programs.
Lynn’s own journey was not without many struggles. Born as Jeffrey Butterworth in 1964, Lynn questioned her gender identity early on. Her parents consulted a transgender expert who discouraged Jeffrey’s parents from allowing him to transition.
For most of her childhood and adult years, Lynn felt she was living a double life. She threw herself into hobbies, but in later years, she says she exhibited destructive behaviors such as drug abuse and drinking—even attempting suicide.
“My way of escape was doing outside activities. I focused all my attention on my stamp collection which stopped me from thinking about wanting to be a girl. I got obsessed with different things to stop my mind from thinking about it. After that, painting became the best coping mechanism in the world. Then soccer. Whatever I did, I was obsessed with it. That’s very common in the LGBT world,” Lynn said.
In her 20’s, Lynn married a woman and they had three sons together. After her marriage fell apart, she began living as a woman in the spring of 2010. Lynn described how she blossomed after undergoing numerous gender confirmation surgeries.
“I was now living my true gender and it was phenomenal. I would go in stores and people would make fun of me, but I never once thought of suicide,” said Lynn.
Lynn’s happiness was cut short due to a custody battle that changed her life forever. After a judge in Texas decided that Lynn was unfit to be a parent because of her identity as a transgender woman, her ex-wife received full custody of their youngest son.
“Because I am who I am, I’m never allowed to be with my son ever again,” said Lynn.
Lynn’s ex-wife has kept her youngest and older sons away from her for years. Although she continues to struggle with this hardship, Lynn has hope for the future. She wants to teach the younger generation to spread love and educate others about what it means to be transgender, rather than spouting hateful rhetoric, she says.
“I want people to understand that we are all unique, let’s celebrate that fact and help the world understand,” she said. “Most of you here are going to become parents, and you might have a child that identifies as a different gender, and you’re going to say ‘It’s okay.’”