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September 29, 2019

Jazz Jenning Just being Jazz

by Lisa Koenecke

Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter “J” and the amazing Jazz Jennings. Jazz, in her own words from her Facebook page, “My name is Jazz and I’m transgender which means that I was assigned male at birth but was a girl right from the start. I expressed myself as a girl to my family by gravitating towards dolls, dresses, sparkles, and everything feminine. I didn’t just like girly objects, but I heavily insisted that I WAS a girl. All my family wanted was my happiness and they assured that by providing me unconditional love and support. As kindergarten approached, I would be heading to a new school and a fresh start was coming. We took this opportunity to begin my transition as a girl. I finally blossomed into my authentic self. Although this seems like it might’ve been the end of my story of me finally becoming a girl, it was only the beginning…”

I was lucky enough to meet Jazz in Portland, OR, at the Human Right Campaign’s “Time to Thrive” conference. She was coming back from Voodoo Donuts with her mom as we were heading out to get our own donuts. She was poised as gracious when I told her how proud I was of her. And of course I had to hug her! Why didn’t I get a picture with her? ARRGGG, I guess I thought these otters were cute…

Times are changing, but I still can’t imagine the strength, courage and support Jazz had and still has to this day. She knew she was born in the wrong body when she was 6 years old. When I was 6, I was playing with my tractors and my G.I. Joe, not appearing on television next to Chaz Bono. Read on to see how Jazz and Wisconsin crossed paths…

In 2015, the Wisconsin State Journal reported on the reading of I am Jazz in the small Wisconsin town of Mount Horeb, population 7,421:
MOUNT HOREB — In a turnout that stunned organizers, nearly 600 people filled the library here Wednesday night to hear a public reading of a children’s book about a transgender girl, with many in the crowd expressing strong support for a local family with a transgender child.

The library event — and another reading at the high school on Wednesday morning that drew about 200 — followed the cancellation last week of the reading of the book “I Am Jazz” at the Mount Horeb Primary Center, a public elementary school where a 6-year-old student had just transitioned from a boy to a girl.

School staff said they sought to read the book to the girl’s classmates to help them understand what was happening to a fellow student, and to help the girl feel safe and accepted.

The school canceled the reading after a conservative Florida-based group threatened legal action.

The centerpiece of the library program was the reading of “I Am Jazz” by its co-author Jessica Herthel, who flew in from California to support the family. As a straight parent, Herthel said she wrote her book with Jazz Jennings, a transgender girl who stars in a TLC reality show, in part because she felt there were not enough resources for parents like her to teach their children about acceptance.

She said she was overwhelmed by the community response in Mount Horeb.

“I think it’s a barometer of where we’re at as a society,” she said in an interview. “I think we’re more ready to hear about this issue from a child’s perspective, because we know a child isn’t making a political statement or rebelling against society. Kids don’t know not to tell the truth, and we’re getting more comfortable with that idea.”

“When people take the time to read the book, they realize that ‘I Am Jazz’ is about identity — who you are. Not sex — who you are attracted to. And the book’s message of ‘Be who you are, no matter what’ applies to all children,” Herthel said. Read the full article here.

Two Eleanor Roosevelt quotes come to mind when I think about Jazz’s journey: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” and “People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.” Jazz knew who she was at a young age, she is a courageous trailblazer.

Want to learn more about this amazing person? You can read her children’s book I am Jazz, you could watch her on YouTube, or check out I am Jazz” on the TV channel TLC. In 2017, the Tonner Doll Company announced plans to produce the first transgender doll. Please notice we use the term transgender and not transgendered. A person is a noun, not a verb! Right now in 32 states there is no state law protecting transgender people from being fired for being who they are. Only 18 states (CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, IL, IA, MA, ME, MD — effective Oct. 2014, MN, NJ, NM, NV, OR, RI, VT and WA) and D.C. currently prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Transgender FAQ from the Human Rights Campaign.

In our every day lives, you will hear more people identify as transgender or trans and becoming their true selves — comfortable in their skin and their bodies for the first time in their lives. You’ll have multiple opportunities to embrace and enhance your ally-ship, and I invite you to turn to me with any questions along the way. Ask questions, and share resources like this blog post with others. Please check out the book I am Jazz, or buy it and donate it to a school library. Thanks in advance!

~Lisa from Wisconsin (Lady Rainbow)



Read more from LGBT Resources A to Z

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