Jazz Jennings is only midway through her teen years, and at 15, the young transgender activist has already achieved success as an author, television star, and a social media celebrity, claiming two Barbara Walters interviews to her list of achievements, as well as a new book on the way and a second season of her TLC series, I Am Jazz. The attention Jennings has garnered has helped her to reach out to the transgender community and to provide a positive role model for other transgender teens, but that doesn't mean Jazz's life is the picture of a perfect existence.
Jazz Jennings Tells All In Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen
Between her live interviews and I Am Jazz, Ms. Jennings has really shown herself to be vulnerable and human, hoping that an honest look into her life with the TLC reality series and her writings would have a positive effect on other transgender teens. Now, Jazz is opening herself up even more in her latest book, Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen, a memoir that discusses the struggles of being a teenager in today's society as much as it gives even deeper insight into being a transgender person in high school. In Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen, Jennings addresses being bullied by other students and by adults and talks candidly of suffering from the depression brought on by those incidents of harassment and ridicule.
"I think it was really necessary that we added those aspects of my life because it really resonates with the fact that I'm just a normal person," Jennings said. "Just like everyone else, I'm not perfect; I go through challenges as well."
Jazz writes in her memoir that she has always felt like a girl and reveals that, even as an infant, she rearranged her onesies to look more like dresses. Ms. Jennings also reveals that she had asked her mother when the Good Fairy might grant her wish of making her a girl. Such early incidents prompted Jazz's mother, Jeanette, who holds a Master's degree in clinical counseling, to research gender dysphoria. From there, Jennings enlisted the help of mental health professional in helping Jazz to learn how to live life as her desired gender.
Jazz Jennings Deals With Bullying And Depression Just Like AnyoneAlthough her parents hesitated out of fear for her safety, Jazz recalls being allowed to wear a sparkling girl's bathing suit to her 5th birthday party. For Jazz herself, there was no fear, only excitement at showing herself as she had always seen herself.
"It was the happiest day of the first five years of my life," Ms. Jennings wrote in her memoir. "There was no nervousness or fear about how people might react. I couldn't stop smiling because everyone would finally see my real, authentic self in such a beautiful bathing suit."
While the birthday party was a success, there were also failures ahead, but Jazz Jennings faced them all with courage and raw determination. There was the time that she had a falling out with her best friend and recruited a new best friend without missing a beat and the time she overheard a pair of schoolboys gossiping about her at a school function.
"Have you heard of this boy in the sixth grade that thinks he's a girl? I think his name is Jazz or something," one boy said to the other.
"HELLO," Jazz responded. "I'm sitting right behind you. Don't talk cr-- about me!"
Jazz hasn't escaped such encounters completely unscathed, even though she may seem bold and unaffected to the outside world. Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen recounts Jennings' battles with depression, brought on by bullying and ridicule. In the book, Jazz says "existential dread that there is no meaning to life, that nothing matters because everyone dies someday and we're all just insignificant specks floating through the great unknown."
Ms. Jennings has overcome her depression with the love and help of her family and friends, in spite of the haters who still try to bring her down. Jazz doesn't focus on that negativity. Instead, the I Am Jazz star focuses on trying to be a positive light for other transgenders, especially those in need of an understanding voice.
"I always say I want to leave this world in a better state than when I arrived, and I continue to live by that message," Jennings said. "So I'm going to do what I can to make the world a better place, but also just make sure that I'm happy as well."
[Image by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for WE Day]