Trans teen Jazz Jennings opens up about cruel commenters— and staying strong in spite of them
Jazz Jennings has been in the spotlight almost her whole life. The 14-year-old had her first media spotlight with an interview by non other than Barbara Walters at age 7, where she talked beautifully and precociously about being trans. Before then and ever since, her family has supported her along her journey and in the day-to-day trials that Jazz faces. Trans issues have had more visibility lately, but especially among Jazz’s young classmates and peers, there can be harsh and cruel comments from people who don’t understand and are not educated on LGBTQIA issues.
A composed teen with a sparkly smile, Jazz is currently starring in the TLC documentary-style show, I Am Jazz. Her family is supportive and loving, often taking Jazz to meet other trans youth and kids so they can bond and chat with the other families. Even in the midst of having a TV show filmed about her, Jazz is a normal, average teen girl, and that’s really the educational power of the show. She worries about school dances and plans movie nights with her friends. Jazz is showing the world that trans teens are just teens, not the mysterious other that they are so often reduced to. The most recent clip from an upcoming episode shows Jazz and her brothers reading some of the comments on her YouTube channel, where Jazz posts videos of herself swimming in her mermaid tails or talking about her life. Jazz, calm and composed, reads comments to her brothers, Sander and Griffen, who are shocked at the kind of hate Jazz gets just for being herself.
Jazz reads a few quickly, breezing through the ignorance. “You’re a boy and will always be male,” she reads aloud.
“Wow, that person needs some education,” her brother says.
One comment reads, “Someone please shoot it. If not I’m going to kill it myself and make it die a horrible, painful death.” Jazz scrunches her brow, slightly perturbed. “What the hell?” she asks.
Her brothers are more aghast. “Is ‘it’ referring to you?” one asks. They are protective and, understandably, dismayed, not sure what to do or how to help. You can’t stop strangers from writing terrible comments on YouTube.
Even in the face of threats from internet commenters, Jazz is open and brave. “I’m pretty sure everything there is to know about me has been written online, whether it’s in comments, or in articles or anything,” she says with a shrug later in the clip. She’s used to people talking about her, or to her in a rude way. It comes with the territory of being famous, and with being trans — at least, at the moment.
In another clip from the upcoming episode, Jazz and a younger trans girl swim in the mermaid tails that Jazz makes for her foundation for trans youth. The younger girl is clearly in awe of Jazz, who falls naturally into the role of an older sister. It’s a one-to-one example of the positive effects of Jazz’s courage in sharing her life, even in face of the threats and ignorant comments she receives. Exposure to different people, different lives, different struggles is what makes us compassionate and educated — we’re so glad that Jazz is willing to be herself on camera.
You can see the full clip below, as well as a video from Jazz’s YouTube channel where she talks about how she will deal with high school and the challenges she sees coming up in her future.
(Images via Jazz Jennings’ Instagram.)