Jessica Lynn’s Transgender Journey
How one woman’s transgender journey gave her a life, but cost her a child.
November 7, 2016
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If you would have walked onto the 3rd floor of the Student Union last Tuesday, you might’ve been under the impression that Cal State LA was hosting a comedienne after hearing the rolls of laughter emanating from the Los Angeles Room. The Sociology Club, however, was hosting professional speaker and advocate, Jessica Lynn, who spoke on the topic of her transgender journey in ‘Sexual Identity: A Sociological Perspective.’
A woman with a candid sense a humor, Jessica took us on a tour of her own life’s journey, which conversely has been far from a laughing matter. Formerly Jeffrey Alan Butterworth, Jeffrey grew up knowing since about the age of three that something about him was not “correct” – he wanted to be a girl. After years of attempting to cope with and “cure” this feeling, Jeffrey finally started his transition from male to female at the age of 40. The journey was met with a number of obstacles, though, and even today at the age of 51 Jessica still deals with life-changing effects as a result of others’ disapproval.
Jessica Lynn travels across the country telling “[her] transgender story,” visiting various universities to advocate for transgender awareness education. At the start of her lecture, she quickly emphasizes that she is “not a spokesperson” for transgender people and she is not speaking for anyone other than herself. Her story unfolds, and she acknowledges trying to cope with this feeling of inadequacy in a number of different ways, including delving into various activities at very young ages. As a little boy, Jeffrey became obsessed with bugs, specifically caterpillars – as, like a butterfly, he would fantasize about going to sleep one day and transitioning into something more than himself. He would go on to paint, and win awards for it at the ages of 10 and 11. In his teen years he would play soccer – so well, that he would be asked to be on the 1984 Olympic team.
Jessica explains that in all of these areas Jeffrey easily excelled, but it was never enough to “cure” that feeling. She labels this ability to excel as a coping mechanism, and, although she admits to not being particularly fond of Caitlyn Jenner, she likened Jeffrey to athletes like Bruce Jenner, stating that she notices this trend – this ability to excel as a coping mechanism – in people who are transgender. Unable to quell this feeling, Jeffrey attempted suicide multiple times and even tried cutting off his penis at the age of seven. Later on he began a stint of heavy drug and alcohol abuse after his wife and best-friend, Barbara Butterworth, was killed by a drunk driver in December of ’85.
Jeffrey, would go on to have three children with another woman, Rachel, who, according to Jessica, was aware of Jeffrey’s desire to be a woman before they conceived their first child. Their on-again-off-again relationship finally came to an end when Jeffrey came out to Rachel, stating he was not attracted to women. In 2012, after Jeffrey fully transitioned to Jessica, Rachel commenced a legal battle for the custody of their youngest son, Curtis, which not only resulted in Jessica losing all parental rights to her son, but also resulted in her complete erasure from his birth certificate. Jessica can’t legally see her son until he is 18. He just turned 17 this past September.
Although legally there is no action Jessica can take to resolve this occurrence, she has used it as a motivator to encourage others to get educated in the “transgender experience.” By the end of her presentation, laughter had turned to sighs of disbelief, and an audience member asks why Rachel “did this?” – a question that remains unanswered for the audience as well as for Jessica. At the end of it all, Jessica passionately urges the audience to talk to others and get educated, and if they only take away one thing and nothing else, to “be the change.”
For more information about Jessica Lynn’s story, visit www.JessicaLynn.website.