Transgender rights activist Jazz Jennings spoke to us, and we now have hope
Jazz Jennings is 16 years old. She is a LGBTQ advocate, one who documents her journey as a transgender teen on TLC’s I Am Jazz. In case TV isn’t your thing, the young woman also wrote a book, I Am Jazz, which will open your eyes as to why Time named Jazz one of the most influential teens of the year — two years in a row. To give representation to the trans community, Jazz also has her own doll, the first transgender doll of its kind. If you need proof that a lot can be accomplished during the first 16 years of someone’s life, Jazz has that one covered, too.
With her upcoming season of I Am Jazz on the horizon — in which Jazz documents her gender confirmation surgery journey — I had the opportunity to talk to Jazz via e-mail. Though we are living in a world that lacks a certain softness (especially toward those deemed “different”), Jazz gives me hope that light will continue to shine through the cracks.
HelloGiggles (HG): When did you first feel that it was important for you to become a gender rights activist?
Jazz Jennings (JJ): When we first shared our story with Barbara Walters in 2007, I was too young to understand what was truly happening (or going to happen). I just thought I was going to be on TV! But then my mom explained that by sharing my story so publicly, I had the opportunity to help so many other trans youth. It was at that moment, I knew I had to continue being a LGBTQ advocate.
HG: What is one thing you feel the media or the world, in general, gets wrong about being transgender?
JJ: [The media gets it wrong when they say that being transgender] is a choice. We’re not sexual predators, we just want to use the bathroom.
HG: How did your show I Am Jazz come about? What ultimately made you want to put your life on TV?
JJ: We were approached by a production company and while we were hesitant at first, we knew this would be a great platform to share our story, and to help normalize what it means to be transgender. The mass media format has given me an incredible opportunity to share my story and promote visibility for the transgender community.
HG: On the upcoming season of your show, you deal with gender confirmation surgery. Why did you want to document this for your viewers?
JJ: I believe it’s important for others to learn what we go through as transgender people. I wanted to demystify the procedure and educate viewers on the process, so that they are no longer in the dark. If more people are informed, I hope we could remove the stigma.
HG: So much has happened to you and you’re only 16. Do you ever worry about being a young woman in the spotlight? Does it ever stress you out, and how do you deal?
JJ: Being in the spotlight can be very overwhelming, especially as I don’t really love attention. But, despite the anxiety and the pressure, I know that this isn’t an individual fight. We are all fighting together for equality. If by being an advocate, I change one person’s mind and/or save someone’s life, it’s worth it. I would always put my own fears and anxieties aside to move the cause forward.
HG: Bullying is something I’ve dealt with and I think it’s so meaningful that you spread awareness about it. If you could say one thing to everyone out there who is being bullied, what would it be?
JJ: Stay strong and keep moving forward. If you don’t feel supported by your network, know that there are organizations and resources out there that can and want to help. The most important thing to realize is that bullies aren’t right. You decide who you are and what makes you unique, and no one can take that away from you.
HG: Considering that you made important change happen after you took on the United States Soccer Federation, I’m wondering if there are other policies or changes you want to make happen in the world?
JJ: I think the LGBTQ community should have equal protection and rights, specifically in regard to bathrooms. Moreover, these laws should extend to the workplace and to healthcare initiatives. All transgender individuals should have coverage for lifesaving treatments and be protected by the government.
HG: You’ve been very open about your struggles with dating, which is something many (myself included) can relate to. What is one thing you’ve learned during your time in the dating world?
JJ: I’ve learned to be patient. If a date with someone doesn’t work out, you try again. I believe that if you keep your heart open, love will come your way. I always remain positive and hopeful that on the next date I’ll find the right person!
HG: You are exceptionally talented when it comes to all things makeup. What is your favorite drugstore product?
JJ: I love the L’Oreal Infallible Pro Glow foundation formula. It works really well on my skin. I use the Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Concealer because it really tackles those dark circles under the eye. Finally, my go-to eyeliner is the Physician’s Formula Eye Booster 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Eyeliner.
HG: You have a TV show, a book, a doll, and so much more — is there anything else you want to do?
JJ: There are so many possibilities, so I’m not sure what’s next! I’m open to opportunities that come my way, especially those that enable me to share my message and to continue promoting LGBTQ rights.
HG: What would your advice be to all the transgender people out there who are struggling in today’s world?
JJ: Remain hopeful! I know that being transgender can be challenging, especially when society doesn’t accept or understand our community. However, by raising our voices we can create positive change and progress in our world. I know that one day, being transgender will no longer be stigmatized — but rather, [it will be] something that is fully embraced. So, stay strong till then, love yourself, and know that you have a whole community that supports and is there for you.
I Am Jazz airs Wednesdays, at 9 p.m. ET, on TLC. You can order Jazz’s book here. And follow her on Twitter here.