Jennings, Jazz. “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen”, Crown, 2016.
Quite a Girl
Jazz Jennings is a teen advocate and a trailblazer. She has already been named by Time Magazine as one of Jazz Jennings—named one of “The 25 Most Influential Teens” of the year. In her new book she shares her very public transgender journey and she inspires people to accept the differences in others while they embrace their own truths.
At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to tell her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview which was broadcast at a time in history when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. She has had other high-profile interviews, a documentary, her own YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series, “I Am Jazz” and she has become one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults.
In her book she shares how these public experiences and appearances have helped to bring about a new awareness of and a new attitude toward the the transgender community. We know that it has not been easy and Jazz has faced many challenges, bullying, discrimination, and rejection. She has persevered and she educates others about her life as a transgender teen. Her family has always been there for her on her journey and they have stood with her against those who don’t understand the true meaning of tolerance and unconditional love. Now that she is teen, Jazz must learn to navigate the physical, social, and emotional upheavals of adolescence (particularly high school) and this is complicated by the unique challenges of being a transgender teen. We can only imagine how difficult it is to make the journey from girl to woman when Jazz began her life in a boy’s body.
The message that Jazz writes and that she lives is so much more than the journey of the transgender person. We have universal themes here and we know that we are all a little different and we all have something within us that tends to isolate us. In reading what Jazz has to say, we begin to think about our own lives and anyone who was a bit different from the mainstream (whatever that means).
I must admit that I found it difficult at first to understand how someone so young (age 5) was able to identify as transgender at such a young age. What made this even more difficult is that I have a transgender nephew who transitioned at age 40 from female to male. It is interesting to see that Jazz felt female at such a young age and that she had to full support of her parents. Yet Jazz has dealt with puberty while being a public person and an advocate for the LGBT community. She was filmed for a TV show, spoke at conventions and conferences, wrote a book and became a role model while other teens were dealing with puberty and worrying about having pimples.
Jazz gives us a frank, realistic, and a-political insight into what a transgender person has to deal with. We can only hope that those who need to read this book will do so and I am speaking about politicians and fundamentalists.