Jazz Jennings, trans rights advocate and 19-year-old star of TLC’s I Am Jazz, has always been open about her gender dysphoria. Her recent gender confirmation surgery allowed her to feel that her body and mind aligned with one another, and now, she’s turning her attention to helping other trans youth go on the same journey.
In the Feb. 11 I Am Jazz Season 6 episode, “Born This Way,” Jazz met with her friend, JoJo, and her grandmother, to do just that. While JoJo, another trans teen, believed breast augmentation surgery was necessary in order to quell her gender dysphoria, her grandma wasn’t convinced. When the conversation got a little heated, Jazz started to panic and had to leave the room in frustration.
Jazz’s friend explained that her gender dysphoria was worse than ever
During a trip to Butterfly World in Florida with her good friends Noelle and JoJo, who are also trans girls, Jazz told producers she hoped to help her friends along their own gender confirmation journeys.
After her surgeries, the I Am Jazz star explained that she was feeling motivated to help others. “I feel like I am in a really good place to help my friends who are going through their own transitions,” she said.
JoJo shared that her gender dysphoria was worsening, leaving her depressed on a daily basis. “My chest just isn’t where it’s supposed to be aligned with me,” the teen told Jazz and Noelle.
“My dysphoria has been pretty bad,” JoJo explained sadly. “It’s gotten to the point where I don’t want to go to work. I don’t want to get out of bed. I don’t want to do anything. I just want to stay in bed and wait until I blossom into a female.”
The ‘I Am Jazz’ star said she related to her friend’s pain
Jazz knew exactly the kind of pain JoJo was talking about. “I know how you feel, because at age 11, I started wearing bras and I would stuff them,” the I Am Jazz star revealed. “Then I started estrogen and I got really lucky that my boobs grew, but at first they didn’t grow.”
But while JoJo’s insurance had approved her for breast augmentation surgery, not everyone in her life was happy about it. While her mom, Heather, was completely on board and in favor of top surgery, her grandma Heather wasn’t convinced. “Unfortunately, my grandma is trying to hold me back,” JoJo explained.
“There’s a part of her that wishes I was still her grandson,” JoJo added, revealing that her grandmother had even admitted she sometimes hoped her granddaughter’s trans identity was “just a phase.”
Concerned for her friend, Jazz wondered if she might be able to help. “Don’t let her get in your way. You need to do what’s best for you,” the I Am Jazz star said. “I would love to talk to your grandma, honestly.”
JoJo hoped the young activist would be able to help her explain the importance of gender confirmation surgery to her grandma. “Growing up, I really only had my mom and my grandma,” she shared, “and I just want her to accept me for who I am. I love her so much, and I don’t want to lose her.”
Jazz sat down for a tense conversation with her friend’s grandmother about gender dysphoria
Heather, Jazz, Nora, and JoJo, as well as Jazz’s mom Jeanette Jennings, sat down for a heart-to-heart about top surgery and gender dysphoria. While Jazz and Jeanette said they didn’t want to “overstep any boundaries,” they explained that they hoped to help JoJo’s grandma understand why this was such a high-stakes situation for JoJo.
JoJo began the conversation by emphasizing that she’d known she was a girl since the age of three. “This is how I felt for so, so long, before I could even grasp boy and girl,” she said. “This isn’t a phase. I’m not aligning physically and mentally, and it’s causing me dysphoria.”
But Nora worried that JoJo couldn’t sort out gender dysphoria from teen angst and insecurity. “I think the tension, the conflict, comes from me being older and having raised kids,” she told Jazz. “When they hit those teenage years, nobody likes their body.”
JoJo’s grandma added that she thought her granddaughter was ultimately too young to make such a big medical decision. “At 15, especially at that age, I don’t think surgery is just the right answer like that,” Nora advised. “Wait until you’re 18.”
But JoJo reminded her grandma of her past suicidal ideation and severe depression around her gender identity and desire for top surgery. “I have the body of a male, and I did try to take my life a couple times because of it,” she revealed.
“It makes me so frustrated and so angry,” JoJo declared, “because I wish you would understand that this isn’t something that I just want. This is something that I need.”
Jazz told TLC producers she was frustrated with Nora’s reaction to JoJo’s heartbreaking story. She felt her friend’s grandmother was focused more on what she was going to say next rather than on listening to her granddaughter.
Looking distraught, Jazz made a quick exit as her panic seemed to build. With tears in her eyes, the I Am Jazz star said, “There’s a lot I want to say. But I gotta go for a sec.” On next week’s episode, it looks like Jazz will return for an even more intense conversation with JoJo’s grandma.