What does it mean to be transgender? Transgender people say that the gender of their body does not match who they feel they are as a person. Take Jazz Jennings, for example. She was born with a boy's body, but that's not who she feels she is inside. In her words, she has a boy's body but a girl's brain. That means she identifies as a girl. She says it's just how she was born. Jazz wants other girls to know that it's okay to be different and that we should accept people for who they are. Read Jazz's story about growing up transgender.
How old are you?
I'm 14 years old.
In your own words, what does it mean to be a transgender teen?
A transgender person is someone whose gender — the one on their birth certificate — doesn't match the gender that they identify as. For instance, I have a boy body, but I know I'm a girl inside. To me, being transgender makes me special. I'm proud of who I am.
When did you realize you were transgender?
I've always known I was a girl. From the moment I could express myself, I acted like a girl. Once I could talk, I told my parents I was a girl.
Will you share some of the challenges you've faced growing up?
When I started kindergarten, I wasn't allowed to use the girl's bathroom. I had to use the nurse's bathroom, which was surrounded by sick kids. Yuck! It wasn't fair. But by fifth grade, the school district passed a policy that allowed me to use the same bathroom as other girls.
When I was 8, I was banned from playing girls soccer. I didn't want to quit playing my favorite sport, so I joined the boy's team for a while, but that didn't feel right at all. My parents worked hard to change the rules for me and other transgender soccer players. When I was 11, the United States Soccer Federation passed a policy based on my case. It allows transgender girls and boys to play on the team whose gender they identify with. I was so happy to finally be able to play with my female friends again.
What is your advice for dealing with people who bully or aren't accepting of others?
Try to ignore the bullies, and don't let them get you down. Remember that other people's opinions don't matter. Focus on the people you love and who do accept you. I always like to quote [a line popularly attributed to] Dr. Seuss: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
Will you tell us a little bit about your work to raise awareness about the transgender community?
I speak all over the country at conferences and workshops. I often sit on panels so that others can ask me questions about my life. I also answer emails from kids all over the world who are having a rough time. I also appear in the media — TV, for example — to share my story. It really helps me spread my message of love and acceptance to more people.
What have been some of the highlights of your work?
The best feeling comes from helping others. When a young person tells me that I've changed or even saved their lives, it's very rewarding.
What can other teens do to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community?
Talk to others. Educate them. Let them know that LGBTQ kids are just like everyone else. We should support and accept everyone for who they are.
What is your advice for teens who may struggle with self-acceptance?
I just want to let transgender kids know not to be afraid to step out of the shadows. Know that you are not alone. You need to be true to yourself and live an authentic life. Just because you are different doesn't make you a bad person. In fact, I think it's the opposite. It makes you unique and special, which is pretty cool.
Do you have any tips for boosting self-esteem?
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I feel so bad for kids who aren't accepted by their families. I think it's so wrong. I want to hug them all. They deserve to be loved and accepted for who they are. I know a lot of schools have counselors that understand LGBTQ kids. If you're struggling, I encourage you to confide in an adult at school, and surround yourself with people who love you for who you are. And if you or a friend is feeling suicidal, call the Trevor Project for help 24 hours a day at 866-488-7386.
Content last reviewed July 06, 2015
Page last updated July 06, 2015