“I Am Jazz” is a heartwarming look at a transgender 11-year-old

Sunday night, a remarkable hour on OWN marked the premiere of a new documentary, I Am Jazz: A Family in Transition. The program tells the story of Jazz, an 11-year-old transgender girl who, she explains, “[has] a girl brain and a boy body; I think like a girl but I have boy parts.”

Jazz has never thought of herself as anything other than a girl, gravitating toward “girly” things and getting upset when her parents put her in boys’ clothes. At first, her parents thought it would pass, but Jazz became even more feminine. Eventually, they took her to a specialist who confirmed that Jazz is transgender.

You may remember Jazz from an interview with Barbara Walters in 2007 — part of a 20/20 special on transgender children. At the time, she was six and the appearance was her parents’ first step in sharing the family’s journey, hoping to help educate the public on growing up transgender.

“At first we were so scared to bring our story forward but with the way Jazz was, she had such a positive message to give other children and she was happy because we allowed her to transition,” mom Jeanette reflects. “It was the best thing we’ve ever done.”

Now, as puberty approaches, the family faces a new challenge: the option of giving Jazz hormone-blocking medication to prevent her from developing male secondary physical traits like facial hair and voice change.

“It’s hard,” Jeanette says. “The whole hormone gamut is just uncharted territory. It’s considered experimental. But it goes with the territory. I’d rather have to do something like that than the consequences of having her body develop like my husband … I don’t want her to look like that, and she doesn’t want to look like that.”

The treatment itself is quite expensive — estimated at $18,000 per year — and insurance won’t cover it. While the family appeals the decision and explores other ways to pay for the medication, puberty gets closer. And that scares Jazz.

“One of my biggest fears right now is facing puberty,” she told The Advocate. “Ever since I was younger I had nightmares about growing facial hair and having hair all over my body. Now that the time has come where this situation might occur, I’m getting nervous and desperate to take hormones to prevent puberty from happening.”

Jazz knows that she’s lucky to have parents and siblings that support her happiness; that’s one reason she’s happy about the documentary.” I’m definitely excited to share my story, because I want to help other transgender people be true to themselves. A lot of transgender kids don’t have the support of a family like I do, and I just wanted to share that it’s OK to step out of their shadows and tell their parents how they really feel inside. So, I’m happy to tell other kids about my life and tell them that you can still be loved if you are transgender, and love yourself, too.”

I Am Jazz is a lesson in bravery and will be inspiring to anyone who seeks to live openly. And seeing the way Jazz is supported and loved in her journey is proof that the world is changing for the better. Check the OWN website for a schedule of future airings — this is one you don’t want to miss.

Did you see I Am Jazz? What did you think? Do you think Jazz’s story helps with acceptance of gender identity differences?

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