Jazz Jennings, who was named Jared at birth, was just a toddler when she first identified verbally as a girl. By age five, she was one of the youngest people diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, a qualification that allowed her and her parents to decide to fully commit to a gender transition.
Soon Jazz and her parents started opening up to the media about Jazz’s journey, which has helped pave the way for other transgender children, teens, and adults to feel comfortable with themselves, and be more accepted by the culture at large. Jazz has appeared on the Oprah network, and been interviewed by Katie Couric and Barbara Walters. Now 14, Jazz will be featured in her own TLC reality show called I Am Jazz, which will premiere around the same time as Caitlin Jenner’s reality show I Am Cait.
Jazz has dressed and socialized as a girl since kindergarten, and is now on hormone therapy to halt male puberty. When she turns 18, Jazz plans to undergo the surgeries necessary to transition fully to a female.
“I feel like people are finally starting to open their minds and I really see change occurring in our society,” she’s said in an interview. “I’m so thankful to be born in this era because I can just live my life authentically as who I am.”
When asked what she wanted to achieve through her reality show, Jazz responded with a lot of heart and inspiration. “This is about benefiting other people,” she said. “I hope one transgender kid could watch it and we could change their life, or even save their life. I just want it to be about my universal message of just loving yourself and living your life authentically. Finding happiness, finding love, and just spreading that.”
Jazz has also co-written an illustrated memoir, I Am Jazz, aimed not only at transgender children, but at anyone who feels left out or excluded. Additionally, Jazz has scored a modeling deal, as the face of Clean and Clear acne wash.
While her career has taken off, Jazz’s family still maintains some privacy by not revealing their real last names. Jennings, it turns out, is something of a stage name: Jazz was inspired to change her name to Jazz after she saw her older sister Ari play Jasmine in a school play.
I Am Jazz premieres tonight at 10/9 c.