MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A new book that tackles the topic of transgender children is co-authored by a teenager from South Florida who has first-hand experience with the often misunderstood issue.
“I wanted everyone to look at me and say wow what a beautiful little girl,” said Jazz Jennings.
At a first look, Jazz appears to be like many 13-year-old girls.
Her room is filled with pink and purple accents and mermaids, but pictures of her lining the stairs reveal a more complicated past as a boy.
“That was the age when I felt like I was different and I knew that something was going on,” Jazz said.
Jazz’s parents quickly noticed a difference in their child too. Although physically and genetically born a male, Jazz would always pull dresses, high heels and dolls from the closets.
Jazz insisted he was a girl at two-years-old.
“We thought it was a phase, but a phase goes away and this was not going away,” said Jazz’s mother, Jeanette Jennings. “So we took her into a specialist and they confirmed, in fact, that she had gender identity disorder.”
The condition is also called gender dysphoria.
“I was shocked, I was sick to my stomach. I don’t want my child to be diagnosed with something. But we didn’t know what to do. We wanted to do right by her. We just cared that she was happy,” explained Jeanette Jennings.
Jeanette and her husband made the decision when their son was five-years-old to let him live privately and publicly as a girl named Jazz.
“I’m wearing pink, I have a big bow in my hair. I have longer hair and I don’t know I just seem happier,” Jazz explained to CBS4 Anchor Irika Sargent.
Researchers at UCLA’s School of Law estimated 700,000 Americans identify as transgender.
The numbers of young “trans” children are not as clear.
Doctors who specialize in transgender issues at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles tell CBS News more trans people are coming out at an earlier age.
Jazz and her family agree it’s not without major challenges.
“We have a birth certificate that says she’s male, but according to law, we cannot change that until she has surgery,” said Jeanette Jennings.
At times, Jazz has been banned from using girl’s bathrooms or playing on the girl’s soccer team.
“I was devastated,” said Jazz. “It made me feel like an outcast.”
Jazz’s parents fought the US Soccer Federation for two years until they allowed her to play on the girl’s team. That also led to changes for all trans players in the organization.
She still gets bullied by other children at school.
“Kids are mean. There’s no doubt about it,” Jeanette added.
Jazz’s escape is her room filled with mermaids and her backyard pool where she becomes one.
Jeneatte says she’s met many transgender children who are fascinated with mermaids because from the waist down, they don’t have to worry about whether they have male or female parts.
“They’ve been my favorite creatures for as long as I can remember,” said Jazz.
This confidence is now translated onto the pages of a book.
The teenager is sharing her life with the world by releasing a children’s book about her evolution from boy to girl.
“We feel this message is universal,” said co-author Jessica Herthel. “It’s about speaking your truth and not being ashamed about what makes you different.”
Jazz considers herself an activist, appearing at universities and national conferences, and with each year she lives as a girl, she plans on speaking louder.
“You just have to be proud of who you are and have confidence because you are beautiful no matter what,” Jazz said.
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