I am not a fan of reality television. I don't want to keep up with anyone or watch people get wasted and get into fights on the Jersey shore. The men and women those type of shows centered around were uninteresting and (in my opinion) complete wastes of celebrity. They didn't do anything but further their own fame into nothing. So, when I was introduced to Jazz Jennings and her family, in TLC's I am Jazz I was not only surprised, I was grateful.
Jazz Jennings is a transgender teenager who came to national attention in 2007 when Barbra Walters interviewed her for an episode of 20/20. At six, she was the youngest person to become a national transgender spokesperson and joined activist like Janet Mock, Chaz Bono and Laverne Cox in trying to make the world a better place, which is the entire message of the show. The series follows Jazz, her mother Jeanette and father Greg her as well as her older sister, Ari, and older brothers (twins), Sander and Griffen. The dynamic of the family, which often includes Jazz's grandparents, Jack and Jacky, is so supportive, loving and accepting, it's beautiful and exactly what reality television should be.
Growing up as the "gay" kid and one of the first to publically come out in my little hometown, in high school no less, I feel I can empathize, at least to a certain extent, with what Jazz is going through. I am beyond impressed with the way her family has not only accepted her for who she is, but also with the fact that they have done so proudly and in a very public way. So many LGBTQ children are not only discouraged from being who they are, they are disgraced and discarded by the people who should love them unconditionally.
LGBTQ youth, especially those who are transgender have the highest suicide rate in the country. It's an issue, a very big issue and I'm so thankful for parents like Jeanette and Greg for helping to bring it to the forefront. Their love and support has given Jazz the opportunity to speak out to a generation that needs her. Just by loving their daughter and allowing her speak her truth, they are saving lives, litterally. It's easy for people to think that celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Chaz Bono, can be transgender because they have money, fame and the means to protect themselves from harm. They can also be written off as attention seekers who just want to cause waves and see their names in the papers. But, those people cannot say the same thing about a little girl in Florida, who just wants to play soccer and be as "normal" as all of her friends.
After the series finale, a special called The Family Tells All aired. It was an at home interview with Kate Snow that covered everything from Jazz's sexuality, which yes, is different than gender identify, to having reassignment surgery as well as other topics like dating and the cruelness of comments aimed at the Jennings family, not only on the internet, but in real life. "When I see hateful comments, it doesn't affect me," Jazz said to Snow after being asked if those things hurt her. "If people are going to judge me me without fully understanding the content of my character, then their opinion just isn't worth it." In a reality television world oversaturated with the worst of what America has to offer, it's refreshing to see such grace, poise and brilliance from a young woman like Jazz Jennings, so keep it up girl, you rock!
For more information about Jazz and her family, please visit http://www.transkidspurplerainbow.org a website started by Greg and Jeannette as a way to help other trans kids by spreading the message of tolerance and acceptance and most importantly, unconditional love.