‘Biggest relief you could ever feel’
IDENTICAL twins Jack and Jace Grafe never felt like themselves, they felt like they were born in the wrong bodies.
Since they were young the twins, who were born female, Jaclyn and Jennifer, respectively struggled with their sexuality, describing it as having been in prison "except it's in your own body".
When they were 15 the pair from Monroe, Georgia, both came out as transgender. Now, the 23-year-old men feel they've finally made peace with who they are after gender surgery, something they have been wanting to do for years.
The twins, who share the same DNA, have both grown facial hair since they began taking testosterone in April 2017, and underwent chest surgery in August.
"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 told Fox5Atlanta.
The brothers are inseparable; they like the same things, share the same friends and even chose the same career path in corrections and that's why they decided to take the next step together. But it hasn't been easy for the brothers. They remembered crying themselves to sleep as children and hoped they would wake up as boys.
They grew up in a religious Christian household with a father who was a pastor. At age 15, they came out to each other before coming out to their entire family three years later.
Both men admit the fear of coming out was huge and were even scared to tell one another. But they agreed having a twin going through the same experience provided incredible emotional support.
"Fear is like the biggest thing to keep you away from anything," Jack told Fox5Atlanta. "That's what kept me in my box.
"It's like being in prison except it's in your own body 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."
Despite the two coming out to each other, they continued to present as female until they graduated from high school.
"But as soon as I got out of there, I cut my hair, and I changed my clothes," Jace said.
The boys wanted to undergo the transition together - having only ever heard of the word "transgender" when they were 14.
When they turned 21 they began giving each other male hormone injections which deepened their voices and made their appearance more masculine.
And in August of this year, the twins underwent top surgery on the same day which removed excess breast tissue and contoured their chests for a more masculine shape.
"It's real now, it's official," Jack said. "It's like the biggest relief you could ever feel."
"It's perfect to me, I'm finally perfect to me," added Jace. "I'm just excited to finally go out there and be exactly what I've been dreaming about for a long time."
Georgia Plastic Surgery's Dr Sheldon Lincenberg performed the surgery.
"Their identity is set inside themselves,' Dr Lincenberg told Fox 5. "They're not trying to change that. They just want the world to see them as they are."
Fox5 reported that a 2018 study found more than half of transgender or "gender nonconforming" teens struggle with depression and anxiety, and transgender teens were more likely to consider suicide or harming themselves than their peers.
Jace said that he felt like he and his brother saved each other from a lot of really, dark depressing moments.
"Sometimes, I wonder if he wasn't here, if I would have been by myself, if I would have had suicidal thoughts. I am not saying I would have, but it's very possible. I would have been most definitely alone."
The twins, who are both police officers now, are both in relationships with women and they hope their story inspires others.