Jen Rollins is a Utah native and currently lives with her husband, Josh, in Riverton. They will be celebrating their 26th anniversary this year. They have five awesome kids who have made life adventurous and rich. Jen currently serves as the activities committee chair and Josh serves as gospel doctrine instructor.

Enter Jen…

In my original article, “The Portrait of an LGBTQ Family – He is at the Helm”, I wrote about our firstborn child, Jessica, who came out as gay on her mission. In the concluding paragraphs, the article reads, “Jessica (she/her) is now Jace (he/him). After suffering severe gender dysphoria for nearly two decades, Jace embraced the reality of being transgender and began gender affirming care November 2022. Our trans journey is a whole other chapter.”

I have been asked by Leading Saints to write a little about this whole other chapter.

An Emptiness In Her Eyes

Our firstborn child; assigned female at birth and given the name Jessica Corrine. Her dad and I knew her as a girl, raised her as a girl and generally cultivated typical “female” gender roles. At about the age of 5, we began to see some different behaviors, desires and presentation. Getting ready for church, Jessica would put on black slacks, a white button-down shirt and a make-shift neck tie from her Build-a-Bear karate outfit. She wanted to dress like dad, not mom, and protested when we told her to put on a dress. Every Halloween Jess chose a stereo typical “boy” costume; Spiderman, pirate, Zorro, even Elvis. 4th-6th grade she wanted to shop in the boy section when buying clothes and wore football and basketball jerseys most days of the week. She gained the nickname “Cody” during those years as she presented more boy than girl.

Enter adolescence.

No interest in make-up, jewelry, nail polish. We pressured Jess into putting more into her appearance to look more feminine; as we were afraid she wouldn’t get asked to dances or on dates. And that’s when the anxiety and depression set in. We kept thinking it was situational, but, it became more pervasive. She seemed happy most days, but there was a distance, a wall, an emptiness in her eyes much of the time.

It continued as she prepared for her church mission. After 6 weeks in the mission field, she told us she likes girls. She continued to serve, and wrestle, but the anxiety and depression became very heavy around her one year mark. At 15 months, my mama’s heart and intuition told me to bring her home.

In the following months, Jess more deeply explored and embraced her masculine qualities. I began researching intersex conditions and body dysmorphia that often accompanies it. But, she came to reconcile that she is a male who was born into a female body.

Jess shared with me that at the age of four, she had her first experience with gender dysphoria:

“Everyone tells me I’m a girl. I guess I will grow up to be a woman. I guess I’m supposed to marry a man. But I want to marry a woman. How can I marry a woman without anyone knowing?”

Our precious child had to deal with this privately for nearly two decades. And now Jess is Jace, my son.

The Grief of “No Mores”

The following is a September 13, 2023, Facebook post I wrote addressing the complex emotions of having a transgender child:

“Tears have been close to the surface and, on multiple occasions, both in public and in solitude, have broken through the fragile dam that can’t seem to hold them back.
“The disenfranchised and ambiguous grief of having a transgender child has brought me to my knees more times than I can count. The grief of ‘losing’ the child you carried in your womb, prayerfully selecting a name and knowing in a specific way as you pass through one milestone to another. The grief of the no mores, the no longers and never agains. The grief of realizing all of the hopes and dreams the path and plan had ‘promised’ are not to be.
“There are a multitude of ‘why’s’ that confront the human experience, each bringing a varied level of pain, confusion, frustration, anger.
“This particular why isn’t a ‘why us’, ‘why our child’, ‘why God?’ In fact, the surrender and acceptance came quite quickly and naturally.
“But rather, it’s a ‘why does our child have to suffer so at the hands of others?’ The name calling (ie, ‘demonic’, ‘mentally ill’, ‘freak’, ‘crime against nature’, ‘pedophile’, ‘groomer’…), the persecution (boycotted, picketed, even eradicated), the inequality (rights and privileges afforded to cisgender people) by certain groups and individuals within those groups has me often screaming WHY?!!
“Then the lesser, but still painful why, of ‘why has my child been erased?’ The person who was a vibrant, enthusiastic, willing and faithful member of a community has been exiled into a shadow land.
“Jace is still that same radiant soul who is of infinite worth. Who has a profound wisdom, maturity, compassion, mercy and giving nature. Jace came to earth with a very special spirit, strength and light; the visual exterior and the assumptions we assign are the only things that are different.
“I express my deepest gratitude to those who call Jace by his preferred name and pronouns, even if just to be polite. Deeper gratitude to those who ask about him, especially to those who are genuinely interested. Thank you to those who seek to listen and gain greater understanding. Gender incongruence, gender dysphoria, intersex and transgenderism are complex issues.
“And my deepest gratitude for those who see him and strive for connection. Thank you for valuing his existence and the gifts he brings.”

The Impact of Sharing and Perspective

My hope and intent of sharing our story is to shed light on our experience and similar experiences of countless others. Perspectives change greatly when people move in and see that the lived experiences of trans and intersex people are more than a political issue to be debated, judgement to be passed or comedic fodder to be laughed at. As my wise friend, Pastor Stan Mitchell, puts it,

“Parents of gay and trans kids have their children’s beating hearts in their hands.”

I am doing everything in my power to keep my kids’ hearts beating while trying to repair my breaking heart from the challenges they have to face while walking this mortal journey and from letting go of the life I had crafted for them (how silly we parents can be).

Suicide and the LGBTQ Community

1.8 million LGBTQ youth seriously consider suicide each year. Among this demographic, one attempts suicide every 45 seconds. Trans youth are 2.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight classmates. There is more we can be doing as a body of Saints to help minimize the damage.

The Life Help section on gives some excellent pointers on how to lean in with Christlike love:

“Talking about feelings of gender incongruence can be difficult and confusing. Your loved one may not know how to talk to you about it. You may sometimes feel inadequate. Although you may not always know how to respond to the struggles someone else faces, you will not regret reaching out with love and understanding.
““If you have family members or friends who self-identify as transgender, pray for the love of Christ as you strive to follow the example of the Savior and love them. The commandment to love one another includes those who don’t experience the world the same way we do.”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband taught that people who experience transgender feelings,

“need to be encircled in the arms of their Savior and know they are loved. So often the Lord calls on us; He expects us to be His welcoming, loving arms. We need to encourage their friends to do the same.” (“Jesus Christ Is the Answer”, Evening with a General Authority, February 8, 2019)

No One Walks Alone

I love President Bonnie H. Cordon’s comments in her October 2018 talk about becoming a shepherd:

“Whether our sheep are strong or weak, rejoicing or in anguish, we can make certain that no one walks alone. We can love them wherever they are spiritually and offer support and encouragement for the next step forward. As we pray and seek to understand their hearts, I testify that Heavenly Father will direct us and His Spirit will go with us. We have the opportunity to be the ‘angels round about’ them as He goes before their face.”

While Jace still struggles to find any kind of acceptance and sense of belonging in the Church and among its members, there have been a few things that have made a positive impact.

Soon after Jace started transitioning, he visited his home ward to attend the Gospel Doctrine class his dad was teaching. Immediately after the lesson, one of Jace’s former young women leaders made a beeline to him and held him in the tightest hug saying, “It is so good to see you.”

Other former leaders, including members of the Stake Presidency, have asked about Jace; using his preferred name and pronouns. Our families—most are active members of the Church—have reached out with love and support.

Through the learning curves and growing pains, the dialogue has stayed open. My mom, Jace’s grandmother, even spoke in sacrament meeting about needing to do better to reach out, understand and love our LGBTQ—especially trans—brothers and sisters. These actions make it so Jace maintains a soft heart and is open to attending from time to time.

We also had a trans woman in our ward, who recently moved. But while she was here, the Relief Society presidency reached out in love and inclusion. They treated her like one of the gals! Several sisters befriended her and the bishopric and stake presidency called her by her preferred name and pronouns and reached out to her with love.

Getting To Know a Transgender Person

According to a recent survey, only 1 in 3 people (30%) personally know someone who is transgender. Getting to know a transgender person and hearing their lived experiences can open minds and change hearts.

I’ll conclude with the words of my transgender child, Jace:

“Blog post: Given in Time – September 2023
“I used to be known as Jessica. I think I am still known as Jessica to many of my hometown and that is very strange to apply my new face and name to the same soul. I don’t feel the emotions the same as I once did, perhaps it’s the hormones. Perhaps its maturation? I don’t know.
“I see my childhood friends making their way through life’s milestones that were placed before them. There is choice there and I respect the values that they are fulfilling. I think there is a misconception of the psyche and that the absolutes save us as a society but then again it has the same power to destroy communities.
“I watch the accolades and praise rain upon those who walked the same sidewalks as I did back in California [as a missionary]. I am a ghost of people’s memories and yet I am very much alive…I have dreams and aspirations that do not align with the world in the sense that these old connections may think. There is a certain anger, emptiness, and confusion when my words meant so much to what seemed like the entire neighborhood but now there are crickets when I share my current experiences on Facebook.
“The tears don’t come anymore. I don’t know if I overthink it objectively or if I truly have become accustomed to the silence. I have been re-exploring my relationship to God and yet there is still no call or beckon to return to the homes that I had been accepted into. Alienated and Isolated. Is this what Jesus taught? I left the chapel but I never intended to abandon your living rooms. Are you scared to get to know me?
“I returned from my mission in 2020. I was pretty lost in the sauce during that time due to conflicting feelings. My testimony was still so strong and I wanted to pursue a life with a man. However, have you ever felt so broken within that you no longer felt the need to be here? I would scream. I didn’t understand why my knees were bloodied from the grueling fifteen months and this was the result. I put my whole heart into the mission and I did get the blessings, but they were nothing like I was taught they would be. I had to change my perspective. I was wilting. My sunflower had wilted in the Sun. I didn’t understand. So I had to search for another life force.
“My screams would still come and go. I would usually let it out in the car. This was no clean break from all that I knew. It was messy. It was confusing. It was beautiful and chaotic. I was learning to dance in the light that once burned. Back in 2021 I cut my hair and something reignited within that I had repressed.
“Me transitioning wasn’t a clean break either. It wasn’t just a thing you could announce and then be on your way to the supermarket. It was messy. It was beautiful and chaotic. Having to say goodbye to the person you had lived with on the outside is a different grieving process. I knew that I had to eventually let Jace out. I was still wilting in the sun. I allowed myself to explore the possibilities and that’s what led me to the person I am today. I have the same soul of Jessica and the appearance of what it was always supposed to be.
“There are still so many questions I have about myself and what I have experienced but when I stop to converse with God I am caressed that all things happen for me rather than to. It’s all for the good of the collective then in turn the individual. What is it that you want to know that may change your perspective of me? What is it of my experience that has something to teach you? I’m open but not desperate. I’m sad but not devastated. I would love to hear back from you but if our ship has sailed then I’m at peace. It’s the flow, and to surrender and let go is all part of the cycle. Death and Rebirth is happening constantly. Given in Time we see where all this has taken us.”

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