Kinsey Institute Global Ambassador Jessica Lynn’s Transgender Journey
On Thursday the 21st of February 2018 the university hosted a very insightful lecture by Jessica Lynn, a Global Ambassador of the Kinsey Institute and transgender advocate at the university’s ABC Hall in East London. Jessica Lynn travels all over the world sharing her transgender journey. The talk was part of a series of Dialogues organized by Stand as One – the Forum against Gender-Based Violence at Fort Hare. According to Salvador Vidal-Ortiz (2008:435) Transgender refers to people who refuse to take the gender binary as a “given”.. A transgender person is someone who identifies as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, based on the appearance of their sex organs. The transgender community are often victims of gender-based violence, as a result of prejudice against them. The reason for having this talk, is that educating our staff and students would assist in making the university (and our society) a safer place for transgender people.
Doing a little research, I found that many transgender people experience anxiety and distress that their gender — their personal sense of being masculine, feminine, or non-binary — is not reflected by the way they (or others) interpret their body. Some transgender people find significant mental, emotional, and physical relief when they begin using a name and pronouns which align more with their gender identity, rather than with their assigned sex. Trans people may choose to dress in a way that more accurately reflects their gender identity, and sometimes pursue hormonal treatment and/or surgery. After this talk, it occurred to me that there must be a few Fort Hare students that may find themselves in this position and I wonder what they are going through. At present, Fort Hare does not have any explicit support systems in place for such individuals, and there are many ways in which we could make our university more trans friendly – for example, unisex bathrooms, as well as incorporating the title ‘mx’ into our systems, would do a lot to make the university a friendlier space for non-binary individuals.
Jessica Lynn born Jeffery Alan Butterworth did not feel comfortable with being a boy at a very tender age. “I did everything to try and get my mind off wanting to be a girl,” said Jessica Lynn. She became a very good football player as well a drug addict. This was was her coping mechanism and a way of escaping this longing to be a girl, she said.
She mentioned that the transgender community is small and this is caused by the difficulty of explaining what it means to be transgender in a diverse community. When she got the courage to come out to her parents, they confirmed that they had always known that he wanted to be a girl since the age of 3 years. She then worked in construction to raise money for her transition.
In September 2010 Jessica had a surgery which she describes as the day she became herself, “I came out of my cocoon”. As part of her address Jessica Lynn urged those present at the event to celebrate diversity and that they should continue the conversation.