When Cindy Gericke walked into a woman’s clothing store, she was not prepared for the owner’s incredible story.
I walked into a woman’s clothing store, every inch filled with fashion, but also much more. The owner, Jessica, greets my son with
sidewalk chalk and a race car, or bubbles and modeling dough. She shows me items she thinks I would like, or some I may be unsure of, but assures me I can wear them with confidence. She plays music for my son while I undress and redress in silence, privacy, and maybe just a bit more glamour than I usually afford myself. She knows more than me how tough being a parent can be; Jessica is a father.
Nearly fifty years ago, Jessica Lynn was born Jeffrey Butterworth, a middle child of a conservative family, but with a sense that he did not quite fit in with his brothers. His best friend was a girl, with whom he loved to play dress up using feminine items secretly borrowed from his mother’s belongings, and he ached to be just like all the other…..girls. His own male body felt foreign to his brain, a betrayal, a knife in his gut that could not be removed. Worse yet, the decade was 1970. Jeffrey could tell no one, he could not connect to like minded individuals over the Internet, and very little information was available locally even to doctors and psychiatrists, much less to the general public. So he obsessed over activities and hobbies typical to other boys his age in an effort to disguise his true feelings and to think about anything other than a growing hatred of his own body. He collected stamps, played soccer, and eventually dated girls to fit into a society that had little knowledge and even less acceptance of his truth: he was a girl trapped in a boy’s figure.
Time and protocol finally led Jeffrey to a trusted and loving female friend. He confided his deep desire to be a woman and, together they tried to make a life satisfactory to both. Fate intervened and his fiance and best friend was cruelly taken in a car collision, and his life was once again plunged into secrecy, denial, and, now, addiction. However, there was hope just around the corner. In the midst of what seemed a nightmare, a new girl, a pregnancy and a marriage ensued. His wife knew his story and she provided a listening ear, an understanding heart, a best friend to help purchase women’s clothing and make up, and even a research assistant to find like minded others and doctors willing to help. More importantly, she provided three sons who meant the world to this non traditional yet dedicated and loving father.
Unfortunately, her acceptance had limits. When Jeffrey made the final decision and specific plan to finally alter her male body to match her female brain, life became a mixture of brand new pleasures and intense pain. Jeffrey became Jessica in 2010 and had an amazing new outlook on life. For the first time she could live fully as a woman in a body that finally felt like her own, looking in a mirror at peace, a hard earned serenity, that she had never known. She quit the construction trade and opened a women’s clothing boutique. She dated. She even helped other young people like herself find their own tranquility and solutions through education and support groups. She was finally the hard won example of a successful and thorough sex change, and a healthy, sober, content woman with an amazing story to share.
The darkness sitting beneath the surface was no longer one of shame and confusion, but instead one common to any worthwhile parent. Jessica loved her kids, but only two were old enough to hear the truth and decide for themselves how to manage their relationships with a father who was female. They have made more than their peace; they have created a life of acceptance and support and, ultimately, love with their parent. The story of Jessica the Father was only beginning and we have yet to see the end. The youngest son has been denied the facts of Jessica’s operation due to his mother’s diligence. He has been denied the right to visit Jessica due to an intolerant court system in the state of Texas. The youngest has been emotionally, physically, and legally denied the right to a loving relationship with his father.
So the knife continues to twist in the belly of this woman, this business owner, this educator, and this parent. Eventually the youngest will no longer need permission to visit his father. Eventually, the truth will be told and the youngest will also choose between denial, dismissal, and acceptance of his father’s decision to live as a woman, to build a life in a physical vessel that finally feels like home. Home. No two are alike, but tolerance and love can be the ground floor.
Photos courtesy of Jessica Lynn
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