Amanda Schwengel and Jill McGranahan

June 17, 2022

Social Justice

A second chance at family

How finding a new support system has allowed transgender student Jayce Price to flourish.

Amanda Schwengel and Jill McGranahan

June 17, 2022

“You love me in a way that lets me know I’ll be OK,” says Jayce Price in his song “Saved.” It’s not every day that a young musician writes a love song to his family at age 18. But then, Jayce Price didn’t find his beloved family easily.

Price was born with female genitalia 22 years ago in Russia. The newborn was immediately taken to an orphanage, where he spent the first two years of his life before landing with his adoptive parents in Colorado. His new parents had a specific idea of the perfect family — and the perfect daughter — and ran a severely strict household.

But being seen as a girl never felt right. At 15, Price (who had a different surname at the time) came out as transgender to his adoptive parents. The announcement was met with extreme resistance: “I’d rather have a dead daughter than a trans son,” Price’s adoptive mother said.

MSU Denver Communications Studies student Jayce Price.
After 2½ years of living with the Prices and many stories of growth, love, understanding and forgiveness, Jayce has moved into his own place and couldn’t be happier. Photo by Amanda Schwengel

That began more than three years of abuse and a lifetime of humiliation, deprivation, denial of affection and other insidious forms of discipline. His adoptive parents refused to support hormone replacement, buy him clothes that were anything but feminine or aid Price as he worked through the emotions and hardships that come from being transgender.

“I was around 3 years old when I knew I was the wrong gender, but I didn’t know what to call it,” said Price, who plans to complete his degree in Communication Studies this summer at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “I finally found the word around age 15, and I knew immediately that was what was happening to me.”

Around age 17, Price met a fellow student at high school who invited him to his graduation ceremony. The student’s father, Brian Kennedy, also invited family friends Kelly and Daniel Price. Kennedy, who knew of Jayce’s difficulties at home, noticed how easily the Prices talked and laughed with Jayce. Kennedy spoke to the Prices about Jayce’s situation and said the teen could use some supportive adults in his life.

Kelly and Jayce met a few weeks later, and during their conversation Kelly asked, “Are you safe?” Jayce replied, “Depends on the day.”

Kelly could see that Jayce’s home life was volatile and, seizing on her intuition and easy rapport with the affable teen, told Jayce he would be moving in with the Prices. Three days later, that’s exactly what happened.

“I came home from my business trip and found out Jayce was living with the Prices,” Kennedy said. “I was gobsmacked. I was worried for Jayce. I thought, ‘If this doesn’t work, he has nowhere to go.’ Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.”

What followed was two years of learning to be his authentic self, becoming an overnight sibling to four, hormone-replacement therapy, buying whatever clothes he wanted for the first time and getting male frames for his glasses. All of these things allowed him to flourish.

Shortly after he moved in with the Prices, they introduced him to Anna Pesce, who’s also LGBTQ+. Their friendship was instantaneous.

“We just worked,” Pesce said. “He’s a very talented musician and showed me one of his songs called ‘Magic.’ He sings, plays guitar and piano, writes and records his songs. And they’re really good, too.

“Knowing Jayce has helped me grow as a person,” Pesce continued. “Being there for him through disagreements and reconciliation, I’ve learned what a healthy friendship looks like. And being there for him has taught me to be there for myself as well. It’s an unexpected but amazing outcome from a friendship I cherish.”

Jayce Kennedy Price and friend Anna Pesce.
Shortly after he moved in with the Prices, they introduced Jayce (right) to Anna Pesce, and their friendship was instantaneous. Photo courtesy of Jayce Price

After 2½ years of living with the Prices and many stories of growth, love, understanding and forgiveness, Jayce has moved into his own place with three roommates and two cats. Now, he and his mom Kelly have written a book about their family experiences.

“The book started as a sort of demented diary of Mom’s,” Jayce said. “She kept this journal of our adventures, and after about 100 pages we realized it was funny as hell and could maybe help others in my same situation.”

Somewhere Under the Rainbow” tells the story of becoming a family. Some of the stories are funny, some ridiculous and some heartbreaking. For example, the first time Jayce went on a clothes-shopping trip that didn’t end with anger and tears, Kelly asked him what kind of underwear he liked. Jayce thought about it for a minute and responded, “I don’t know.” He’d never had the opportunity to choose his own clothes.

With his cobbled-together family, Jayce couldn’t be happier.

“What I wish most for Jayce is exactly what is happening,” Pesce said. “I want to continue to see him let go of all his past trauma and grow the way he wants to. I want to see him living his best life.”

And Jayce feels optimistic about his life.

“I go through what is probably a pretty common thought process,” Jayce said, “that I am unlovable because I am trans. But I’ve met some wonderful women who are very accepting. Careerwise, I hope I can use my experiences in a nonprofit environment doing communications work. It’d be great to work with LGBTQ+ kids. I don’t know if I’ll have kids, but I’d like to pay forward the gift of a family that I’ve been given.”

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