Jazz Jennings, a transgender 14-year-old from Florida, has won praise for her efforts to bring awareness to the transgender community with her book, I Am Jazz, a children’s story about a transgender kid based on her experiences. She is co-founder and a board member of the advocacy group, TransKids Purple Rainbow, and was named one of the 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014 by Time.
Jazz’s journey hasn’t been easy. She was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder at the age of three and has been living as a girl since she was five. In an interview with BT, she revealed that she has the same worries and interests as many teenage girls.
“I love experimenting with different hair styles and going clothes shopping,” she said. Though boys at school don’t give her any attention, she has garnered a lot of fans online, thanks in part to her YouTube videos.
“A lot of straight and transgender boys get in touch with me through my website and social media,” she said. “They tell me I’m inspirational and beautiful. It boosts my self-esteem.”
Though she’s out as transgender at school, some of her classmates were not accepting at first. “Some children asked why I was dressed like a girl when I was born a boy. I’d say I felt as though I’d been born in the wrong body,” she said. “But at lunchtime some of the girls wouldn’t sit with me and some of the boys even called me ‘it’. When I got home I’d cry.
“I wasn’t allowed to use the boys’ or girls’ toilets, I had to go to the nurse’s office to use the bathroom. I felt so isolated.”
Things got easier with time. “I had a close group of girl friends who would stand by me, and the older I got, the more comfortable I became, so I tried not to let the bullies upset me.”
Jazz is currently taking testosterone blockers to stave off male puberty. “I had nightmares about growing facial hair and I hated the thought of my voice dropping and my body becoming more masculine,” she said. “The hormone blockers are reversible, so if I come off them I’ll go through male puberty. But there’s no way that’s happening — I’m too happy as a girl.”
Jazz’s parents and siblings support her, although it was sometimes difficult for her parents to accept that they had a daughter instead of a son. Jazz's transition was especially hard on her father, but he came around. “We’re so proud of her. We listened to Jazz and let her be the person she wanted to be,” said Jeanette, Jazz’s mother. “It was hard at first, but we saw how much happier she was living as a girl.
“Sometimes I mourn the loss of the idea of my son. But there’s a wonderful person with us now and Jazz knows how special she is."
Having a transgender daughter comes with unique worries for Jeanette and her husband, Greg. “I do worry now she's getting older. I've told her if she ever goes on a date she needs to tell the boy beforehand," Jeanette said. “I'm worried someone could turn on her, maybe even attack her if they found out further down the line.
“I won’t let Jazz go to other people’s houses if the whole family isn’t aware of the situation.”
Though Jazz appears to be flourishing, she doesn’t feel her transition will be complete until she has gender reassignment surgery, which she will undergo when she's 18. “The hardest part of being transgender is still having male genitalia. It reminds me I wasn’t born in a female body,” she said.
“I used to struggle with my self-esteem," the teen said. "But now I’m happy with who I am.”