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Transgender Activist Visits CU

By Tsivia Chonoles
On February 11, 2016

    For the first time ever, Concord University hosted a transgender speaker and advocate on its campus. Jessica Lynn visited Concord and gave several talks. She also gave a lengthy presentation Thursday, February 4th, in the Concord University Ballroom, speaking very candidly and openly about her life and experiences as a transgender woman who, being assigned the male gender at birth, transitioned later in life, and was very well-received by those students that she spoke to.

    “It was so awesome to see Jessica Lynn’s presentation,” said sophomore student and Gay-Straight Alliance President Rebekah Weaver, “She’s a tough woman who has gone through many difficulties in life but has still come out of it all with a smile on her face and a joke on the tip of her tongue. I think what I may have liked best was how unashamed she was and freely spoke about every part of her life. She was very open to all questions which I think may have changed some people’s perspectives about transgender people to be more positive.” Jessica spoke of all of the joys and triumphs, as well as the challenges and tragedies that she faced, and how she has managed to find a positive outcome despite it all.

    Born Jeffrey Alan Butterworth in 1965, Jeffrey grew up in the 70’s, during a time when it was virtually unheard of to be transgender. Yet from the age of four, Jeffrey knew that he wanted to transition. Unsure of how to approach his parents, Jeffrey became obsessed with different hobbies and activities as a means of coping with the gender dysphoria, a practice common in members of the LGBTQ community.

    Jeffrey eventually found a girlfriend – Barbara Lynn Eldred – that he felt comfortable with, but still found it disconcerting that the only way that he could get an erection and be intimate with his girlfriend was to fantasize that he was in her position. Part of Jeffrey felt that being a man would somehow ‘fix’ him, but as his feelings of wanting to be a woman got stronger, he began drinking more.

    The first drastic change happened in 1985, when Jeffrey and Barbara were involved in a terrible automobile accident that killed Barbara and left Jeffrey devastated. After sinking into a depression and attempting suicide, he was taken by his brother to their parents’ house, where he learned that they had known about his desire to be a girl since he was five-years-old, and had planned on transitioning him until they visited Dr. John Money at UCLA. Since discredited, Money was a pioneer in the field of gender identity and was considered the “God” of transsexuality at the time; he informed Jeffrey’s parents that if they raised him as a boy, in a masculine way, then he would be boy. Learning this was the first step in Jeffrey considering to transition, and his first step in becoming sober. “I did not want to be a boy in a dress […] I wanted to be a girl with a vagina,” Jessica said in her presentation, “that’s what being one-hundred-percent woman meant to me.”

    He eventually met Rachel and they began to have a relationship. When Rachel became pregnant, Jeffrey debated transitioning, and ultimately decided that he did not want to let a child come into the world without a father, and he and Rachel were married in 1991; their son Jeffrey was born that same year. Rachel and Jeffrey had a second son, Bradley, in 1993, and a third son, Curtis, in 1999 after the two separated in 1996. Jeffrey took her to court when she tried to split up their sons and, after a hard-fought battle, won full custody of the three children. Rachel and Jeffrey eventually came to an agreement that, after their oldest son graduated high school, Rachel would take Bradley and Curtis to Texas and Jeffrey would stay in California and finally transition. After his family left for Texas, Jeffrey once again fell into a depression and attempted suicide; a doctor told him that he had to transition and asked him which was better for his children: a dead father, or a father who is now a woman? Jeffrey finally decided that it was time. When she told her oldest son, Jeffrey Jr. originally found it hard to swallow, but eventually came to accept his father as Jessica. Before telling Bradley, Jessica encouraged her son to do some research about transgendered people and to speak to some professionals, and he was able to take the news easier than his older brother; Jessica decided to wait until Curtis was older before telling him.

    Jeffrey met with Dr. Marci Bowers in Colorado, and a year later, on September 17, 2010, Jessica Lynn was born. Six weeks and one day after making the transition, Jessica had sex as a woman for the first time “and it felt good,” she said; she finally felt complete. When asked about her transition and if there was anything that she would want to do over again, Jessica had this to say: “There is a part of me that says if I would have come out when I was five-years-old, I would have led a much, much, much more comfortable life. And that is brought up a lot. That is one of the most popular questions that is brought up to me. It was brought up to me yesterday: Would you have done it? I said yes I would have done it with my kids, but they would have stayed with me at all times.”

    After years of nothing but phone calls with her youngest son, she decided that it was finally time to tell Curtis, now twelve. Rachel then cut all contact between Jessica and her two youngest sons and filed to have Jessica’s parental rights removed, prompting Jessica to fly out to Texas and bring Rachel to court again. Texas, however, is one of the only states where, unknowingly, Jessica could lose her parental rights for not being in Curtis’ life for a certain amount of time, invalidating California’s court ruling granting her full custody. After three years of not seeing her son, Jessica fought this, and fought hard, spending thousands of dollars on court-ordered evaluations and proceedings, only to eventually lose and be told that she could not have contact with either of her younger children. Rachel even went as far as removing her name from Curtis’ birth certificate. 

    “I thought her story was incredible,” said Tsion Tafesse, an international student at Concord after listening to Jessica’s presentation, “She is a strong woman and I hope she gets to see her son soon.”

    Now, Jessica is the cofounder and president of the non-profit organization, Your True Gender. Your True Gender found its roots in the used clothing boutique Jessica opened after transitioning. “My little clothing became known as a little hotspot for the trans girls. They felt comfortable,” Jessica said. One person who she helped through the transition was a 65-year-old woman named Peggy who came into the boutique looking for information; Peggy finally decided to transition and was the one who suggested Jessica start an organization to help inform people. Now, Jessica has visited dozens of schools, including the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and many conservative schools, and plans on visiting even more. Her goal is to visit every school in the United States, and to reconnect with Curtis when he turns eighteen in two years.

    When asked what she would say to those who may be struggling with their gender identity or sexuality, or with possibly transitioning, she said that “it’s difficult, especially in a conservative area like here. Never, never, never, number one, never give up. You can do it. If it means getting out of the area, if it means waiting a year, if it means it, you can do it...” She emphasized that what people think of you should not matter, that a person should “feel comfortable looking in the mirror. Go for it. That is my number one biggest piece of advice.” 

    Her final piece of advice was this: “whatever you do in life, never give up on your dreams.” 

    For more information on Jessica Lynn and her mission, visit her website at 

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