Identical twins who were born girls have become brothers after they both came out as transgender and transitioned to male.
Jack and Jace Grafe, 23, were born Jaclyn and Jennifer in June 1995 and raised in a conservative Christian home in Baltimore, Maryland, however, they never felt truly comfortable.
As children, the twins cried themselves to sleep and prayed that they would wake up as boys – despite not understanding what it meant to be transgender.
But at age 18, the twins, who have since moved to Monroe, Georgia, came out to each other and decided to transition as a duo.
Since beginning the process and starting to take testosterone in April 2017, Jack and Jace, who have the same DNA, have both grown facial hair and undergone chest surgery.
Now, the criminal justice graduates, who both work in law enforcement, have shared their story to inspire others who feel similarly.
“As a kid, I would cry and pray to God that I would wake up in a male body, not even understanding that being transgender was a thing,” Jack, a deputy sheriff’s officer, said. “Now I’m the happiest with myself that I have been in my entire life. That uncomfortable feeling we had before has completely gone.”
“Our parents had never seen anything like it. They have never experienced gay or transgender people and my dad is a pastor.”
Jack also acknowledged the struggle he’s dealt with at work – and the bullying he’s faced.
“At work I have had my fair share of people calling me a ‘sh*t’ – she, he, it. Usually they just don’t understand.”
“People still refer to us as female. Whenever I hear ‘she’ or ‘her’ it is like a kick in the stomach. It hurts but I get it. At a young age, I was sceptical of it myself.”
“For some people, it is a hard pill to swallow.”
The 23-year-old even struggled himself – and used to wish that he was born “biologically male.”
“People say: ‘You will never be able to change your chromosomes, you can only change the outside.’ There are still times when I come home and break down.”
According to Jack’s twin brother, Jace, who is also a deputy officer and in the police academy, being a twin has helped make the process easier.
“Honestly, the twin thing has helped,” he said. “If I was to go back to when I was 15 or 16 I would never think in a million years that I would have got to this point.”
“It was a fantasy and I always wished it was going to happen but I wasn’t brave enough. I didn’t have the guts. Being a twin means I don’t feel alone. Somebody else is experiencing the exact same things as I am going through and that made me stronger.”
As children, the twins often dressed in boy clothing and felt attraction towards female classmates.
But their strict upbringing and religious schooling kept them from expressing their true feelings.
It wasn’t until the boys were 15 and decided to dress as male characters for cosplay conventions that they acknowledged it “felt natural” – before coming out to each other as gay a year later.
Now, both brothers are in serious relationships with female partners – a topic of conversation they’d originally been wary of having.
“It was even hard to tell each other that we liked girls, but when I told Jace and asked if he would have a different opinion of he he was like: ‘No, I feel the same way,’” Jack said. “When he said ‘me too’ I felt relieved and not alone anymore. It was scary. I was honestly terrified.”
Jace agreed – reflecting on his own fears about telling his twin, and his efforts to date men to see “if the feelings would go away.”
Although the twins dual-transition is rare, recent studies suggest that identical twins are more likely to simultaneously experience gender dysphoria than non-identical twins.
A literature review published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found 29 per cent of 23 monozygotic or identical twins were concordant for gender identity disorder – whereas none of the 21 non-identical twins were concordant, suggesting a possible genetic or biological link with being transgender.
As of August, the twins are now legally recognised as male by the state of Georgia, after they underwent chest surgery.
“It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Jack said. “Now it feels natural.”