At age 14, Jazz Jennings has already accomplished more than many people two or three times her age. She’s fought for the rights of trans youth like herself; she’s co-written a children’s book based on her life, I Am Jazz; she was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014; she’s been interviewed by Katie Couric and she’s just getting started. However, it seems she’s not content with all of that — she’s also getting ready to take of our televisions. Just within the last two days, two big new projects were announced for Jazz that will hopefully help other trans kids and teens feel like they’re not alone, that they can be themselves and live a life that’s long and happy.
The first big news for Jazz came when TLC announced that she’ll be starring in brand new reality show following her life and her family as her teen years start to really hit their stride. The show, called All That Jazz, will air this summer and will feature Jazz, along with her parents Greg and Jeanette, her sister Ari and her brothers Griffen and Sander. For the most part, Jazz and her family have previously been pretty good at managing her public appearances and done a good job at making sure she isn’t exploited or subjected to insulting or overly ignorant interviews and by now, she definitely seems like she’s comfortable in front of a camera. So hopefully all of that will continue with this series.
If everything goes according to plan, All That Jazz could be an extremely helpful resource for families with trans kids, and for those trans kids themselves. When a network like TLC is showing off a young transgender teen with a happy and healthy family who supports her, it can serve the double purpose of giving any trans youth who see it hope that they too can find acceptance and happiness and also educating their family and hopefully making them more receptive to the idea of having a trans kid and ultimately supportive of that child.
Jazz isn’t stopping there, though. She’s also becoming the newest face of Clean & Clear’s “See the Real Me” campaign. In doing so, she joins celebrities like Keke Palmer and Skylar Diggins in sharing their stories and helping sell skin products. At face value, this might seem like a shallow accomplishment. But when you take a deeper look, you see that it’s actually a profound step for trans girls like Jazz.
Commercials like this show where our cultural definitions of beauty lie. In showing that a fourteen-year-old trans girl fits into that definition of beauty, they’re challenging the normal transmisogynistic narratives that say that, just by virtue of being trans, a trans woman is not as beautiful or worthwhile as a cis woman. When we have trans kids killing themselves because they’re bullied and they feel like they don’t have a chance to “successfully” transition, we need examples of society saying that trans lives are valuable and that trans people are beautiful. That’s what this commercial can do.
Obviously, reality shows and skincare commercials alone aren’t going to make things better for trans kids. We need to make sure they’re safe in their schools and in public bathrooms, we need to make sure they can get the medical treatment they need, we need to make sure that when they do end up homeless, they’re welcome in shelters that match their gender and we need to make sure that when they’re bullied or abused, others step in and stop it. What these commercials and TV shows do, however, is help to change people’s minds, and honestly, if one parent sees Jazz’s new reality show and learns to accept her trans kid or if one trans kid sees Jazz’s commercial and finally feels beautiful, we owe her huge thanks.