“I was born a confident person,” says Jazz Jennings, who for the past eight years has shared her extraordinary story with the public. At 14-years-old, Jazz is one of the young faces of the trans community.
Jazz was just six-years-0ld when she first told her story to Barbara Walters during a 2007 interview with 20/20. She was one of the first children to be diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria – a condition where a person’s physical gender does not correlate with the gender in which he or she identifies.
“I soon as I could talk. I really just expressed myself as a girl,” Jazz tells Fusion’s Alicia Menendez during a recent visit to her home. “I gravitated toward the dolls, the Barbies, everything girly—the dresses, high heels—and it was just who I was.”
It’s an experience Jazz shared in “I am Jazz”—a children’s book she co-authored and just released to the public. Jazz says she hopes that sharing her own stories will help both children and adults accept other transgender children who are going through a similar experience.
Explaining one’s trans identity can be difficult, at times painful, especially for someone so young. In fact, “the talk” –as Jazz calls it—served as the motivation for her book.
“For the most part, most people stick with me and they’re like you know, you’re the same person no matter what, and I’m still going to be your best friend and I still love you,” says Jazz.
But the responses aren’t always positive, though Jazz believes people can change if given time.
“If they can’t accept me for who I am then I won’t care about them until they change. I give people more opportunities,” she tells Alicia. “Every new moment is a new moment for someone to change or become a different person. And I’m OK with that.”
Like thousands of other trans teenagers, Jazz has turned to Youtube to connect with other teens and to help educate friends and family about her journey.
Over the past few years Jazz has been recognized for her advocacy on behalf of transgender children. Just this month, Jazz joined Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai as one of Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014.
But even with the countless awards, her parents, Jeanette and Greg Jennings say they try their best to let her have a normal teenage life.
“When she turns a certain age she’ll get her permit [and] when she is old enough, she’ll drive just like her older brother, just like her older sister,” says Greg.
As for dating, the eighth grader says she doesn’t want to think about it until she reaches high school.
Until then, she says she is simply happy to see that visibility is slowly turning into acceptance for the trans community.