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Celebrating Pride: Jazz Jennings and family put human face on trans children

Celebrating Pride: Jazz Jennings and family show challenges of trans youth
Celebrating Pride: Jazz Jennings and family show challenges of trans youth

June marks the celebration of the victories won by the gay rights movement, but it also highlights current calls for equality and justice.

Just last month, The Trevor Project’s national survey showed 52% of transgender youth in the United States have seriously considered suicide.

In the latest story of our Pride series, Christian De La Rosa sat down with the mother of a trans youth icon — who tells us how she chose to have a living daughter over a dead son.

“I had dreams of this little boy and my three sons, going to go do this and that, and I had to change my whole philosophy and my whole outlook on what my family was,” Jeannette Jennings says. “In the end, it was her happiness that mattered the most.”

Jennings says that from age 3, her daughter Jazz, born a boy, identified as a girl.

“‘Don’t care, Mommy, what anybody thinks. Cause I don’t care, why would you care?’” Jeannette recalls her daughter saying. “A little kid! Telling me not to worry about what the neighbors think.”

“Jazz’s transition was a process, it wasn’t like overnight people are like, ‘Oh yes, so your daughter says she’s a girl she wants to wear a dress so you, you let her transition.’ It couldn’t have been more opposite than that.”

The Broward County family did what most would not. They went public with their struggle.

“Little Jazz was told in kindergarten, you can’t use that bathroom,” her mother says. “When Jazz was 8 she was banned from soccer, girls soccer. ... I think visibility is the key to all change.”

The family getting its own reality show — TLC’s “I Am Jazz” — allowed them to tell their story and put a human face on trans children and their families.

[RELATED: Cards for Chad: See how you can support LGBTQ teens who are bullied in South Florida]

These days, the Jennings are fierce fighters of state bills targeting trans youth rights from medical care, to the use of bathrooms and the ability to play in sports teams matching their sexual identity.

“You’re going after the most marginalized group of people, transgender youth,” Jeannette Jennings says. “They are bullied in school, they are harassed, they’re verbally harassed they are physically assaulted in school ... and their biggest bullies are the adults.”

Jazz Jennings, now 20, is taking a break from the public eye to focus on going to Harvard.

“Being her parent has been an honor, a true honor,” Jeannette says. “Everything about her has enriched our lives from the TV show to the advocacy work.

“She taught me the meaning of true motherhood, the meaning of unconditional love, I didn’t know what that truly meant, until I had her.”

ALSO SEE

Celebrating Pride: Miami attorney Elizabeth Schwartz is fierce warrior for equality

Celebrating Pride: Melanie and Vanessa Alenier helped change Florida adoption laws

Celebrating Pride: Ruth Shack laid groundwork for anti-discrimination laws

Celebrating Pride: Pedro Zamora fought stigma on our TV screens


About the Author:

Christian De La Rosa joined Local 10 News in April 2017 after spending time as a reporter and anchor in Atlanta, San Diego, Orlando and Panama City Beach.