Identical twins change gender together
MONROE, Ga. - Jack and Jace Grafe feel like they're standing on the other side of something huge.
"I look at myself in the mirror now, and I think, 'Wow. I'm finally me, like, this is me. This is who I was supposed to be,'" Jace Grafe says.
They're identical and inseparable twins.
They share the same friends, the same interests, and they even picked the same career paths, both working as corrections officers in neighboring East Georgia counties.
Jace just started at the police academy, Jack hopes to follow.
But, when Jack and Jace Grafe came into the world 23 years ago, things were different.
"I was Jaclyn,." Jack says, "J-A-C-L-Y-N."
"My name was Jennifer," Jace says. "Now I'm Jace."
They were born female, but they have never felt that way.
They've always felt male.
"It's like being in prison except it's in your own body," Jack Grafe says. "And the older I got, the harder it was to swallow. And I was like, can't do this for the rest of my life, I just can't do it."
For years, they lived as girls, secretly yearning to be boys.
As close as they were, the twins were too afraid to tell each other about their inner tug-of-war.
"Fear is like the biggest thing to keep you away from anything," Jack says. "That's what kept me in my box."
Raised in a small town, going to a private Christian school, the twins say they were 14 before ever heard the word "transgender."
They were 15 before they finally confided in each other that's exactly how they felt, transgender.
It was a breakthrough moment.
"With him there, we had each other's back," Jace Grafe says. "We looked out for each other."
A 2018 study by Emory School of Public Health Kaiser Permanente found more than half of transgender or "gender non-conforming" teens struggle with depression and anxiety, and transgender teens are more likely to consider suicide or harming themselves than their peers.
"I feel like we've saved each other from a lot of really dark and depressing moments," Jace Grafe says. "Sometimes, I wonder if he wasn't here, if I would have been by myself, if I would have had suicidal thoughts. I'm not saying I would have, but it's very possible. I would have been most definitely alone."
Until they graduated, Jack and Jace continued to be the Grafe sisters.
"But as soon as I got out of there, I cut my hair, and I changed my clothes," Jace says.
At 21, within a week of each other, the twins they started giving themselves male hormone injections, which has given them a deeper voices and more masculine appearances.
This summer they turned to Georgia Plastic Surgery's Dr. Sheldon Lincenberg for the final step in their transition.
On the same August day, the twins underwent male trans top surgery.
Dr. Lincenberg removed their remaining breast tissue and re-contoured their upper to give them as more masculine chest.
Dr. Lincenberg says the surgery will help them look the way they feel: male.
"Their identity is set inside themselves," Dr. Lincenberg says. "They're not trying to change that. They just want the world to see them as they are."
And there's another important factor.
The surgery has allowed the Grafes to legally change their gender in Georgia.
Both now have new driver's licenses that list their gender as male.
"It's real now, it's official," Jack Grafe says.
Two months out, after their surgery, the brother says it's the best decision they've ever made.
"It's like the biggest relief you could ever feel," Jack Grafe says.
The twins say they finally feel like they belong in their bodies.
"It's perfect to me, I'm finally perfect to me," Jace Grafe says. "I'm just excited to finally go out there and be exactly what I've been dreaming about for a long time."