jazz jennings 2
Credit: Jazz Jennings /

As a transgender woman in the public eye, “When did you first know?” is a question 15-year-old Jazz Jennings hears more often than not. Though this is a complex question, Jazz always comes back with a simple truth: “Ever since I could form coherent thoughts, I knew I was a girl trapped inside a boy’s body.

For Time Ideas, the young woman penned an insightful essay describing the moment she knew she was transgender, her journey to embracing her true self, and what it was like feeling misunderstood by everyone around her. “There was never any confusion in my mind. The confusing part was why no one else could see what was wrong,” Jazz explains. “I have really strong memories of the emotions I felt before I could speak, as well as my actions.” She adds that, before she even began to walk, she figured out how to turn her onesie into a dress by undoing the snaps.

When young Jazz would take baths with her siblings, she remembers wishing that her penis would magically disappear and be replaced by a vagina. She even recalls having a “Good Fairy dream” about this transformation when she was 2 years old.

After a long morning of playing with Ari’s dolls, dressing them up and staring enviously at the smooth area between their legs, I took a nap in my sister’s bed. I had no idea that I was asleep – the world seemed crystal clear as a grown woman wearing a blue gown floated into the room. She wasn’t quite like the imaginary creatures you see in cartoons, but I knew instinctively that she was a fairy…explains Jazz. “I don’t remember her exact words, or even if she spoke out loud at all, but I knew why she was there. She promised to use her wand to turn my penis into a vagina.

After waking up from her Good Fairy dream, Jazz truly believed that her one wish would be granted. She was so excited that she ran to tell her mom about what had transpired. “When is the Good Fairy going to come with her magic wand?” Jazz asked her mom, who responded: “The who?” Jazz answered, “The Good Fairy, who will turn my penis into a vagina!” Jazz reveals that this was a turning point for her mom, who began to realize that Jazz wasn’t going through a phase.

After her dream, Jazz started to assert herself more than ever. When someone would say things like “Good boy” to her, she would immediately correct them by asserting, “No. Good girl.” Though her mom was aware of the transgender community, she didn’t know that a young child could feel so certain about being transgender at such a young age. That’s why she consulted Jazz’s pediatrician, who recommended that Jazz visit a child psychologist.

I was 3 when we went in for the appointment, and I liked Dr. Marilyn right away,” writes Jazz. “Dr. Marilyn pulled out two stuffed dolls that looked like fake Cabbage Patch Kids you’d find on the counterfeit toy market, with an important difference—they were anatomically correct. She asked what I had between my legs, and I pointed to the penis. She then asked what I wanted, and I pointed to the vagina.

During her appointment with Dr. Marilyn, Jazz heard the word “transgender” for the first time. She concludes, “I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of relief that there was finally a word that described me – a girl who had accidentally been born into a boy’s body.

Ultimately, Jazz’s words aren’t only brave and inspiring – they’re also informative. By sharing her personal journey with others, the young woman has educated countless people about something that’s not often discussed during everyday conversations. With Jazz’s help, we can see the world becoming a much more accepting, open place in the not-so-distant future.