I Am Jazz, starring Jazz Jennings, debuted on TLC in 2015. It was a time of change in the LGBT community, with individuals seeking to be accepted in a world still uncertain of what it meant to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
But for Jazz, her parents Greg and Jeanette, and her siblings, the debut of I Am Jazz occurred after years of seeking to help others understand their child.
Jazz has been interviewed by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters, the latter of whom described Jennings as “a young girl who says she was born in the wrong body after being diagnosed with gender dysphoria at age five.”
I Am Jazz star’s mom Jeanette Jennings has a message for LGBT parents: Exclusive interview
Since the first season of I Am Jazz, the reality TV show has sought to portray both the challenges that Jazz faced living as a transgender girl, including her transition through medical methods such as surgery, and the challenges that her parents Greg and Jeanette faced.
In an exclusive interview, the I Am Jazz star’s mom Jeanette Jennings discussed with Monsters & Critics how she and her family felt when the show first debuted and what she wanted as an LGBT parent.
When I Am Jazz debuted, Jeanette and her family felt “very grateful to be given such a large platform to spread our message.” And that message is beautifully simple.
“We all just wanted to show the audience the true meaning of unconditional love,” said Jeanette. “We really wanted viewers to see that our family is very typical. We are just like everyone else!”
In addition, the mom of Jazz had a special message that she wanted to convey to other LGBT parents, “I personally wanted to let other parents know how important it is to embrace your child for who they are. I always say, parent the child you have, not the child you wish you had.”
It’s a statement that reflects the attitude of celebrity parents such as Angelina Jolie, who said of parenting her gender-fluid child Shiloh Jolie-Pitt: “I would never be the kind of parent to force somebody to be something they are not.”
Jeanette also revealed that her daughter had her own goal in agreeing to star on I Am Jazz. The now-19-year-old “really wanted to empower other LGBTQ youth to be true to themselves,” said Jeanette. “She wanted to give them hope and courage and let them know they are not alone.”
The show also has emphasized the importance of supportive family members for LGBT youth, from moms like Jeanette to grandparents to siblings.
— TLC Network (@TLC) February 12, 2020
And after six seasons of I Am Jazz, Jennings believes that the family has “achieved our goals and then some.”
I Am Jazz star’s mom reflects on how LGBT community has changed since show debuted in 2015
In terms of public perception and acceptance, Jeanette believes the LGBT community has come a long way in recent years.
“The biggest change I’ve seen is visibility,” she said. “The abundance of transgender youth who are sharing their stories makes me so happy. When we went public we barely knew any kids who had transitioned before kindergarten. It’s so different now.”
Jeanette, her husband, their children, and Jazz herself took on the role of showing “what it means to be transgender.” Even before I Am Jazz aired, mainstream news channels such as ABC News sought to communicate the world of Jennings and her family.
At age two, Jazz asked Jeanette when the “good fairy” would “come with her magic wand and change” her from having a male body into a female, recalled Jeanette.
Sex and gender issues therapist Dr. Marilyn Volker met with Jazz when she was young, offering male and female dolls. The youngster described the male doll as “me now” and the female doll as what she wanted.
Jeanette took on the role of educating both LGBT parents and the world, repeatedly seeking to “explain to others what it means to be transgender and repeatedly field questions and verbally educate people on the spot.”
In the years since I Am Jazz first aired, celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner have gone public. Jeanette pointed out that more members of the public now know someone in the LGBT community.
As a result, she feels people’s perceptions have changed hugely. “The public is much more compassionate and accepting,” she said, “because the conversations are open, the knowledge is there and the amount of advocates has increased greatly.”
Jeanette reveals her goals for and pride in her family and Jazz Jennings
Even though some of her children are adults, Jeanette admits that her top goal remains “to see all my kids happy.” She often feels that she is “only as happy as my saddest child.”
With regard to Jazz, who is scheduled to go off to Harvard, Jennings says she feels “more protective of her because she is the most vulnerable.”
“Jazz is so gifted in many ways,” she said. “I’d like to see her foster her talents so that she can be the best version of herself. I look forward to watching her grow and learn while she’s studying at Harvard. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.”
— TLC Network (@TLC) February 19, 2020
For Jeanette, it’s all about stepping off the “roller-coaster ride called my life” in order to spend more “quality time” with her husband. She also has hopes for LGBT youth, aspiring to see them “continue to share their messages to help make the world a better place.”
And for those who worry about the future, Jazz Jennings’ mom has a positive outlook. “I have faith that the amazing kids of today will create a positive shift in society,” she declared.
Jeanette also takes pride in her family, describing her kids as “self-motivated overachievers” who work hard. She’s never had to stress about their grades and loves that both her children and her husband are “all good people with golden hearts, who find joy in helping others and want to make this world a better place for everyone.”
I Am Jazz star’s mom reveals how she finds time for herself
Jeanette has four children, aging parents, and a busy husband. How does the mom of the I Am Jazz star find time for self-care?
“I know it may seem like there is no self care in my life, but I manage to squeeze in “me” time when needed,” said Jennings.
Among her self-care pampering pleasures are:
- massages (at least one a month)
- watching TV
- dining out
- enjoying a spa day
And Jeanette has a message to other parents of LGBT kids: While their youngsters “may lean on them a lot for support, guidance and love…they can’t lose themselves. Their kids need them to be strong, so it’s important to avoid parent burn out.”
I Am Jazz airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on TLC.