Being trans in the spotlight is important to Jazz Jennings.
The star of “I Am Jazz” is on the new cover of Variety for its “Power of Pride” issue, opening up about her own life and the growing acceptance of trans people in culture.
“I think it’s gonna keep me busy,” Jennings says of returning to her show for a seventh season. “I’m always happy to share my story and help as many people as possible.”
Jennings took a break from the show after its sixth season, explaining, “I needed that break for my mental health and wellness, honestly. 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.”
Looking back on her 2007 interview with Barbara Walters, the 20-year-old says, “I think there was, like, one kid from school who recognized me from TV. Maybe my confidence increased a bit because I was like, ‘I’m on TV!’ like any little kid would think about it.”
She also recalls being forced as a child to play soccer on the boys’ team.
“I was told that I was going to hurt the other kids,” Jennings says. “I had friends on the team. Those were my girls and my teammates. Soccer was my favourite sport, my pride and joy,” she sighs. “It was just a way for me to release, have fun and just be myself.”
Coming out publicly has made a big difference for many other trans youth, too.
“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,” Jennings recalls. “Once I learned about it in that way, I was like, ‘OK, that’s pretty cool.’”
Thankfully, now Jennings is no longer the only trans youth on television, about which she says, “It’s really cool to see that shift, that there’s some new people out there.”
Jennings also talks about the backlash to growing trans acceptance.
“There’s been a lot of progress, but I think with the abundance of love and acceptance, there’s also that contrast of hatred and cruelty,” she says. “People are more outspoken. People feel empowered to share their loving, and empowered to share their hatred.”
She adds of bills in several U.S. states targeting trans people, “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. It’s discrimination, you know?”