Jazz (second from right) and the Jennings family at Thanksgiving | Photo Courtesy of TLC
Jazz Jennings is one of those poised, self-possessed teenagers that sort of shocks you. The subject of I Am Jazz, a documentary on Oprah's OWN network when she was 11, she sat with Barbara Walters a year later to discuss being trans and how she has taken control of her life starting as a child, when she was diagonsed with gender identity disorder after being assigned male at birth. She wrote a children's book, I Am Jazz (with writher Jessica Herthel), about her experiences growing up as a trans child that was published this past fall and was named by Time magazine as one of the "25 Most Influential Teens of 2014."
Jazz (center) with Zachary Kerr and Calliope Wong
I met her in 2013 when we photographed her for the magazine a few days before her 13th birthday, and she became the youngest person we'd ever featured in the Out100. I was impressed by her maturity and intelligence — seeming to possess a confidence well beyond her teen years. Now she and her family have decided to let cameras document their lives as she prepares to go to high school this fall.
According to a press release, the show will document "dating, sleepovers, as well as avoiding male puberty, all while she prepares to enter high school in the fall," and it includes Jazz's parents, her older sister, twin 17-year-old brothers and her maternal grandparents, Jack and Jacky who "live nearby and are very close with the family. At first, they had trouble understandingJazz’s difference, but have since fully embraced their granddaughter."
It's certainly going to be a watershed moment for trans visibility. With Laverne Cox on TV, that's one thing, she's playing a role. This will likely show all the difficult moments when siblings treat each other like crap and argue and laugh and cry.
“Jazz’s story is universal, yet unique, and we’re proud to partner with her family to share it with TLC’s audience. Jazz may beknown as an author and activist, but she’s first and foremost a teenage girl with a big, brave heart, living a remarkable life,” said Nancy Daniels, General Manager, TLC.
The show will premiere this summer. We can only say: We hope America is watching.