Parkite stays in town for difficult transition
Josh Stockwell’s many friends in Park City know him best for a ready smile and strong will. The 30-year-old Vermont native, born with Cerebral Palsy a neurological disorder that disrupts muscle movement became a prominent figure in Park City’s disabled sports community as a competitive ski racer with his eye, at one time, on the Paralympics. After an injury stalled his athletic dreams, he entertained Parkites as a Starbucks barrista with an easygoing nature and quick wit.
Behind the grin, however, Stockwell faced a complicated struggle beyond his physical disability, one that he kept hidden from most who knew him.
Born intersex, a rare condition in which he displayed both male and female genitalia, Stockwell experienced gender dysphoria, or extreme discomfort with his body, for much of his life. Though he was raised male, Stockwell knew by age eight that his mind did not agree with his body.
"Growing up was tough," Stockwell said in a recent interview for The Park Record.
"You’re different than every other boy. I’d rather have been playing with girls." Stockwell stressed that a common misconception about gender dysphoria is that it stems from sexual orientation. "It’s not about sex," she said. "It’s about being comfortable in your own body."
Stockwell first considered undergoing gender reassignment surgery as a teenager, a desire he eventually expressed to his parents. They placed their son in therapy, where Stocwell attempted to live comfortably as a male. But after decades struggling with what Stockwell considered a constant lie, Stockwell decided to unite mind and body to live as Jessica Ann Stockwell.
"Imagine that you have to act for everyone everyday of your life," she said of the struggle. "That’s really what it is acting. You can never just be yourself."
Stockwell noted that the openness of Park City residents bolstered her confidence in the decision.
"The education level of this town is great," she said. "People are open-minded."
For Stockwell, moving to a new city was not an option. "That would be easy." Nevertheless, she may soon be spending considerable time in San Francisco with a new job as a spokesperson for The Human Rights Campaign, a national civil rights organization.
Stockwell admits that staying in Park City will undoubtedly hold challenges as she reintroduces herself to the community as Jessica, but remaining here allows her to stress that she is the same person as Josh.
"That’s how most of my friends feel," she said. "Josh, Jess they just want you to be happy. It may take time to get used to it. You know, a shock to the system. But I decided that if I’m confident in what I’m doing, everyone else will accept it, too."
Some close friends have expressed relief.
"It was hard seeing him struggle," said Kevin Rail, a former colleague of Stockwell’s at Silver Mountain Sports Club. "He would never let anyone see it. I’m just glad to see he can finally be himself."
Stockwell concedes that some people will never understand the condition, but she feels fortunate to make her transition in an accepting community.
"I haven’t lost any work," she noted, and more importantly, "I haven’t lost any friends."
Friends and fans of Stockwell planned to honor her transition to Jessica Ann, and her 30th birthday with a pink-themed party last Friday at the Sidecar.
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