The truly awesome trans teen on Time’s ‘Most Influential’ list
Earlier this week, Time magazine announced their “25 Most Influential Teens of 2014” list. From athletic standouts like Mo’ne Davis and Lydia Ko to musicians like Lorde, the list is a true “who’s who” of young men and women worldwide making a huge impact on the world. Joining the likes of Sasha and Malia Obama and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai is 14-year-old Jazz Jennings.
While certainly less of a household name than the Obamas, Davis, or Lorde, Jennings made history when she was named to Out magazine’s 2013 Out 100 and The Advocate‘s 2012 40 Under 40 lists. Jennings first came to the public’s attention when she appeared on OWN’s The Rosie Show in 2011, where she came out as transgender. In 2012, she was interviewed by Barbara Walters on ABC’s 20/20.
Since then, she’s quietly played the role of advocate for transgender rights and acceptance, and earlier this year, she co-wrote a semi-autobiographical children’s book titled, “I Am Jazz,” designed to help others better understand transgender individuals like herself.
“I wrote this book so I could help educate other transgender youth and families that it’s OK to be different,” she told the Miami Herald. “Hopefully it can make a huge impact in letting everyone know they have to accept each other because we’re all part of the same society.”
When she isn’t going to school, or at soccer practice, she’s giving talks and serving as a sounding board for other kids.
“I tell kids to be positive and stay true to themselves,” she told the Houston Chronicle in September. “If their parents aren’t supportive I tell them to find a friend or adult who will help them through their process. Sometimes I want to say to their parents, would you rather have a dead son or a living daughter?”
Jennings’ parents, Jeanette and Greg, have proven themselves to be model parents, demonstrating a level of love and acceptance for their daughter that many trans people are so sadly deprived.
“It’s very surreal to see your child featured in Time magazine, especially as one of the most influential teens in the world,” Jazz’s mom, Jeanette told the Herald.
Jazz was pretty excited herself. “With Time magazine, she was screeching, ‘Oh my goodness! I’m on the list with Malala!’ She felt the company she was with, she was not worthy,” Jeanette said. “But she is worthy.”
2014 has been a big year for transgender people. From Laverne Cox‘s rise to fame and Emmy nomination to the release of Janet Mock‘s critically-acclaimed New York Times Bestseller Redefining Realness, public perception of trans people seems to be trending in a positive direction. And having someone from a younger generation, like Jennings, only furthers awareness. She’s not just a voice for young transgender people now— like all the teenagers on the Time list—she also represents a voice of the future.