Shortly after 14-year-old Jazz Jennings co-authored the book, I Am Jazz, TLC picked up the rights to adapt the book and the lives of the Jennings family for television. Now, the story of Jazz Jennings’ life, her struggles and experiences, are available for the world to see. While the transgender teenager has achieved a measure of celebrity and, as such, has experienced the dark, ugly side of humanity, she has also been held up as a role model and an example to other teens trying to understand their own non-traditional gender identities.
Wisconsin transphobia stirs a surprising reaction to I Am Jazz readings
In November, Wisconsin’s Mount Horeb Primary Centery had planned to introduce its students to Jazz Jennings via her book. A letter was sent out to parents, detailing the synopsis of I Am Jazz and informing them that the reading was to take place the following Monday. The school, in scheduling this reading, was hoping to create a less stressful school experience for the district’s one transgender student.
“We believe all students deserve respect and support regardless of their gender identity and expression, and the best way to foster that respect and support is through educating students about the issue of being transgender,” read a portion of the letter.
It seemed like an opportunity to teach tolerance and acceptance to growing children, but, unfortunately yet not all too unexpectedly, a group of concerned parents stepped in to stop this positive learning experience. Instead of taking their concerns directly to the school district, the parents contacted the Liberty Counsel, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBT organization and hate group.
The Liberty Counsel threatened the Mount Horeb school district with a lawsuit if the I Am Jazz reading was not immediately canceled. The statement submitted to the school board stated that educators were using the issues of anti-bullying, tolerance, and acceptance as an excuse to expose students to topics of sexuality and gender identity confusion.
The letter also attacks Jazz Jennings, describing her as a male child who has been exposed to harmful hormone therapy. Her book is also mischaracterized as a deceptive narration that seeks to confuse children and teenagers by introducing them to “radical” concepts about gender identity and sexual orientation.
American high schools introduce I Am Jazz to teens of all genders and orientations
As is often the case in an age where nothing goes unnoticed by the masses of internet users, the parents and Liberty Counsel of Mount Horeb have been judged by the rest of the country. The response? Over 24 school districts across eight states hosted readings of I Am Jazz this past Thursday in response to the intolerance of Mount Horeb parents. The readings weren’t just restricted to schools, either. Readings were held at community centers and churches as well.
Additionally, Mount Horeb rescheduled the I Am Jazz reading later in December and did not back down this second time. Jessica Herthel, who co-wrote the book with Jazz, even attended and participated in the reading.
“Mount Horeb parents and school leaders acted with courage and showed that love, indeed, conquers hate,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, a senior vice president for the Human Rights Campaign.
Meanwhile, TLC will be bringing Jazz back, along with the rest of the Jennings family, for a second season. The studio has ordered a season of eight more hour-long episodes for 2016. The I Am Jazz series will continue to follow Jazz Jennings, as she juggles school, relationships with her siblings and parents, sports, and everything else that normal teens try to adapt to, while she also copes with the challenges of being a transgender teen.
The season 2 premiere of I Am Jazz will air in July 2016 on TLC.
[Featured image by Kimberly White/Getty Images]