I recently read the children’s book I Am Jazz, which was co-authored by a 16 year old teen and follows her childhood as a young trans girl. The book is colorful and positive, focusing on Jazz’s presentation as a girl. When you first start reading, you meet a happy and normal young girl that enjoys all of the typical things like dancing, singing, and playing sports. She has two best friends, named Samantha and Casey, that she has all kinds of fun with.
About halfway through the book, Jazz starts to delve into the realities of being trans. However, it is still light and clearly geared toward young children. I think that this book would be a great resource for parents that want to explain transgender identities to their children.
In her story, Jazz talks about how she tried to convince her parents that she was a girl at a very young age. They were very accepting and let her present herself as female at home, but not in public. It wasn’t until she visited a therapist that they fully understood their daughter’s identity.
Jazz’s parents let her change her public presentation and they immediately readjusted and began using female pronouns. I was happy to see how accepting the family in this book is, but I know that it isn’t a common reality for a lot of trans youth. That’s why I’m glad that Jazz and other teens like her are so public with their stories, because in a way they are a beacon of hope for their peers.
However, I Am Jazz is not the only work about this young woman’s story. Jazz’s original claim to fame was her TLC series also titled I Am Jazz. She also has a book called Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen. I have always been wary of TLC shows, because they seem to be exploitative toward different groups (ex. fat people) and not always a good representation of reality. I personally haven’t seen I Am Jazz, but I’m glad that Ms. Jennings had that platform to start her career and speaking on behalf of her community.
In May of 2016, Jazz did a piece for TIME about her life and transition. She talks about the question that she gets most often, “When did you know you were trans?” She explains that she has always known, but the real issue was getting her family and others to understand. I think this is one of the most important takeaways from Jazz’s story. Trans people are not cis people that decided one day to “switch” genders, they have simply always been the gender they identify as.