It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway across the world. Jessica Lynn hopes to make this sort of impact by sharing her story.
Sponsored by the Cal Poly Cross Cultural Centers in partnership with the Cal Poly Drag Club, transgender rights advocate Lynn spoke about her journey, June 4 in Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre.
According to Lynn, only about 16 percent of the United States population say they know someone who is part of the 3 percent of individuals who identify as trans.
“That’s a very, very, very small number. We have to change that,” Lynn said. “In our country right now there are 1.4 million people that fall under that transgender narrative. That’s 1.4 million different versions of that [word] ‘transgender’. No two of us are alike. I am but one of [those] 1.4 million people.”
Born as Jeffrey Alan Butterworth on January 29, 1965, Lynn always felt like something was wrong with her.
“At a very, very young age, I did not feel comfortable being a boy. I wanted to be a girl. It did not make sense,” Lynn said. “Every single night I was begging on my knees crying, saying, ‘God, please God, turn me into a girl.’ I didn’t understand it, this constant gnawing of wanting to be a girl.”
Lynn shared her stories of hardships and triumphs, explaining her battles with the justice system. A parent of three prior to her transition, Lynn had all her parental rights stripped away from her after she came out as trans.
“It’s my life story and what I’ve gone through with the courts. If your child comes out and says, ‘I want to be a boy/girl,’ we don’t want that child facing that discrimination that the government has been encroaching on,” Lynn said.
Lynn’s story is essential as part of a bigger conversation of actively dismantling transphobia.
“To live in solidarity with marginalized people, we must all act. Active allyship is important. We must all come out — come out in true active support of the LGBTQ community and we must come out in solidarity for justice in all of its forms,” San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon said. “And we must come out to create a more, fair, [just] and sustainable world. And when we come out together, queers and allies both, that is something that we will be able to be truly proud of.”
After Lynn lost all of her parental rights, she decided to become an advocate for trans issues.
“The point of the Butterfly Project is to dispel more ignorance and more myths about the transgender community, the gender spectrum and throughout the world to make societies more accepting of different kinds of people,” theatre alumnus and former Drag Club president Rotem Drori said.
Over the last several years, Lynn has traveled and presented her trans journey more than 600 times in 18 different countries around the world. At the end of each presentation, Lynn asked the audience members to go home and share her story.
“The butterfly effect is what we call it. I use it and I ask you guys to continue the conversation when you go home today because this is the way that we’re going to change the world,” Lynn said. “It’s up to the community, we all have to go out there to help change the world.”
After years of feeling uncomfortable in her body, Lynn now feels at home in her own skin. She has a vision of one day living in a world where there is no more discrimination against anyone, for any reason and will do almost anything she can to help make her dream a reality.
“It’s not just a story about what it’s like to be a trans woman, it’s a story that ultimately we all can relate to. It’s a story that calls us all to do the most difficult thing of all: to love ourselves, fully,” Harmon said. “Don’t ask what the world needs, but ask what makes you come alive and do it. Loving ourselves is the revolution. We all suffer when homophobia and transphobia occurs. We need to know how to [identify] these and we need to challenge them. All fights against oppression are truly linked.”
Lynn and San Luis Obispo community member Peggy Jones recently started a non-profit located on the California Central Coast called Your True Gender.
“We’re trying to bring the unity through these presentations. We need to continue this conversation,” Lynn said. “By educating as many people as possible around the world about transgender issues, we will have the best chance to help end the ignorance and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community on a daily basis.”