Transgender reality star Jazz Jennings has slammed the anti-trans healthcare bills being introduced across the country, saying the hormone blockers she started taking at age 11 were ‘life-saving.’
The 20-year-old I Am Jazz star, who covers Variety’s Power of Pride issue, told the magazine that she is ‘very, very frustrated’ by conservative state legislators’ efforts to prevent trans youth from having access to gender-affirming healthcare.
‘So often people are like, “Kids don’t know better.” But the kids do know, and we should be listening to them, because they’re more connected to their spirit and to their soul than a lot of adults are,’ said Jennings, who transitioned from male to female when she was in kindergarten.
Using her voice: Jazz Jennings, who covers Variety’s Power of Pride issue, said she’s ‘very frustrated’ by legislative efforts to ban gender-affirming healthcare for trans youths
Wise words: The 20-year-old reality star, who transitioned from male to female when she was in kindergarten, stressed that trans kids know what is best for them
In April, Arkansas state legislators passed the nation’s first law banning gender-affirming treatments for transgender minors under 18, including puberty blockers, hormone therapies, and transition-related surgeries.
Jennings said starting hormone blockers before she went through puberty was the only thing that stopped her nightmares of beards and mustaches chasing her.
Dr. Jack Turban, a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine, told Variety being able to safely transition under the treatment of medical professionals can lower the high rate of suicidal thoughts in trans youth.
‘Nearly every major medical organization — from the American Medical Assn. to the American Psychiatric Assn. and the American Academy of Pediatrics — has voiced explicit opposition to this kind of legislation,’ he said.
‘This kind of national transphobic rhetoric dramatically impacts kids, resulting in worsening self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. … These bills truly represent a public mental health crisis.’
Identity: Jennings, pictured with her parents, started verbalizing she was a girl as a toddler
Looking back: Jennings, pictured as a child, said starting hormone blockers at age 11 was the only thing that stopped her nightmares of beards and mustaches chasing her
More than a dozen states have introduced similar bills this year as part of a growing effort to limit transgender youth’s rights.
On Wednesday, Jennings’s home state of Florida passed a bill banning transgender girls and women from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams in public secondary schools and colleges.
The LGBTQ activist took to Instagram that day to hit back at the legislation, sharing a photo of herself and her brother Sander posing in front of a double rainbow.
‘As someone who has experienced discrimination in sports, it makes me feel terrible about the message that laws like this send out to transgender youth,’ she wrote. ‘They may try to take away our sports, our healthcare, and our rights, but they can’t take away our #PRIDE!’
Jennings, who started verbalizing she was a girl as a toddler, recounted how she was forbidden from playing girls’ travel soccer when she was eight.
‘I was told that I was going to hurt the other kids,’ she told Variety. ‘I had friends on the team. Those were my girls and my teammates.’
Hard to handle: Jennings recalled how she was forced to play on the boy’s soccer team when she was eight because she was ‘going to hurt the other kids’ on the girls’ team
Open book: Jennings documented her gender confirmation surgery on the fifth season of her TLC series reality series ‘I Am Jazz’
She was forced to join the boys’ team, which left her feeling like she didn’t belong and unable to enjoy the game that she loved.
‘Soccer was my favorite sport, my pride, and joy,’ she said. ‘It was just a way for me to release, have fun and just be myself.’
Aided by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Jennings family battled with the United States Soccer Federation for two years until the organization created a trans-inclusive policy.
‘I’m hopeful that the bills will be dismissed, or something will be passed at the federal level that prevents these bills from being able to be passed,’ Jennings said. ‘It’s discrimination, you know?’
Jennings was 14 and about to start high school when her show I Am Jazz premiered on TLC — the same month as Caitlyn Jenner’s reality series I Am Cait debuted.
Proud: Jennings took to Instagram on New Year’s Eve in 2018 to share photos of her gender confirmation surgery scars. She had her first operation in June 2018
All smiles: Jennings had her third gender confirmation surgery in February 2020, pre-pandemic
‘She stole [the title] from us,’ the reality star said of Jenner, who chronicled her life post-transition on the short-lived series.
Jennings’s show is still going strong, and over the past sixth seasons, she documented her life as a transgender teen girl and showed viewers what gender-affirming healthcare looks like in real life.
‘I was learning that there were a lot of other kids like me out there who can relate to me, and who saw me, and learned more about themselves through seeing me and my experience,’ she said. ‘Once I learned about it in that way, I was like, “OK, that’s pretty cool.”‘
During the show’s fifth season, she gave fans a behind-the-scenes look at her gender confirmation surgery. She had her first procedure in June 2018 and later showed off her scars in a maroon one-piece in photos she shared on Instagram on New Year’s Eve.
‘It was hard to decide how open I should be just because so many large-profile transgender people don’t talk about their surgeries,’ she said. ‘But for me, I just think I wanted to educate as many people as possible on the experience and what it’s like to go through it firsthand.’
Mad: On Wednesday, she took to Instagram to hit back at Florida legislation after the state passed a bill banning transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams in public schools
Back in action: Jennings and her family will begin filming the seventh season of her reality series I Am Jazz this summer after an extended hiatus
Variety revealed in the cover story that I Am Jazz will officially go into production on its seventh season after taking an extended hiatus. The previous season ended with Jennings graduating from high school as valedictorian.
She announced on Instagram in October 2019 that she was taking a gap year before attending Harvard University.
The reality star explained that she wanted to ‘focus on self-care’ after a busy year that included her life-changing surgery.
Jennings also ended up taking a break from the show, which she hasn’t filmed since 2019.
‘I needed that break for my mental health and wellness, honestly,’ she admitted. ‘But I have had that time to really use self-care to boost myself up and evolve and grow as a person.
‘I still have so much more to go, but I just feel like I’m moving in the right direction.’