I love my three children; I love being a parent. You can imagine my devastation two years ago when I lost full parental rights to my youngest son.
Here’s my story.
As early as I can remember, something didn’t feel right within me. I felt very different because I didn’t like to play rough with my brothers and would rather dress up with my best friend Michelle. I was young and terribly confused. I felt disgusted looking in the mirror.
These awful, heart-rending feelings only intensified. When I was 7 years old, the pain got so bad that I took a razor to my penis after learning the difference between boys and girls. I cut myself but caused no permanent physical damage.
Never had I heard of someone wanting to be somebody of the opposite sex; it made absolutely no sense.
And I never told a soul — until I met Barbara.
She was an incredible woman, and I truly loved her. She told me she knew absolutely nothing about the subject but that we would work it out together. I proposed marriage to her on Christmas Day, 1984.
A year later, Barbara was killed when a drunken driver ran a red light, flipping us into the path of an oncoming 18-wheeler big rig. Once my jaw was no longer wired shut, I started drinking heavily and used illegal drugs to numb the pain.
A year and a half later, I learned that my parents knew the secret I thought I’d carried alone. My mother told me they had planned to pursue my transition in 1970 when I was 5 years old, but a renowned gender psychologist at UCLA advised them to pressure me to accept my masculinity and disincentivize the exploration of my femininity.
I married Rachel in 1991. We divorced in 1996, but my relationship with my children strengthened after the separation. I was an incredible parent. Being divorced also gave me space to explore my inner feminine feelings and desires. On days without the boys, I would dress as I’d dreamed and started frequenting a few local nightclubs.
After an unexpected sleepover on Christmas Eve in 1998, Rachel became pregnant with our third child. We tried to get back together, but it didn’t work for long. In divorce court, the judge ruled that he’d never seen such a more devoted father and granted me full custody of all three boys.
Around Memorial Day 2010 my name was legally changed to Jessica and I was living full time as my true gender. By September of the same year, I had my gender confirming surgery. I was elated! Finally, after all of those painful years, I was comfortable in my own skin.
Approximately two years later, I received a letter from the state of Texas stating that Rachel had filed to remove my parental rights over our youngest son, claiming I abandoned my child and that it would be dangerous for our son if he found out about my transition from male to female. I was devastated. I hired an attorney and we appeared in the Texas court where the judge ordered a full psychiatric evaluation. The 22-page document that resulted stated that I was a fantastic parent who had gone through transition well and that reunification with my child should begin.
Thus, I was stunned when the courts of Texas removed all of my parental rights to my youngest son, Curtis, in June 2013. Additionally, the ruling stated that my name be removed from my son’s birth certificate.
Since the day I lost my parental rights, I’ve been an advocate surrounding transgender issues.
Along with my friend Peggy, I established a nonprofit organization on California’s Central Coast. As the president of Your True Gender (www.yourtruegender.org), I collaborate with volunteers to establish educational gatherings that aid the transgender community. The organization works to establish a stronger networking of medical surgeons, psychologists, lawyers and more for members of the transgender community.
Our first Your True Gender Conference will be held Oct. 9 through Oct. 11 at Cal Poly. This conference will present some of the biggest names in the transgender community, including Janet Mock, Isis King, Dr. Jamison Green, Dr. Marci Bowers, Dr. Toby Meltzer and many more.
More information on the event can be found at www.yourtruegender.org or on https://www.facebook.com/yourtruegender.