Jazz Jennings on Trump’s trans erasure and turning Viola Davis queer
Jazz Jennings has hit out at President Donald Trump and his anti-trans agenda, saying: “It feels like we’re going backwards.”
Speaking to PinkNews about the Trump administration’s policies, which include attempting to ban trans people from the military and erase them from federal documents, the 18-year-old trans activist and star of I Am Jazz said it was “really upsetting when your own government is not supportive of your community.”
“With Barack Obama and his administration, we were progressing so much and there was so much positive change. Now it’s like taking a step back,” said Jennings.
“When you’re transgender and being ostracised by society, it makes you lose hope in this world.”
— Jazz Jennings
Jennings added that many trans people had reached out to her for much-needed support while they struggle against Trump’s moves to invalidate the community, saying: “I hear from a lot of people who are hopeless and don’t believe in themselves and the world, and I don’t blame them.
“When you’re transgender and you’re being ostracised by society, and everyone is telling you that you can’t be who you really are, it makes you lose hope in this world.
“It makes you feel like: ‘Why am I even here? Why am I even trying to be myself when people don’t want to accept me for who I am?'”
Jazz Jennings speaks out about anti-trans hate
This rising anti-trans sentiment has led to 55 trans deaths in the US due to fatal violence over the past two years, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
The direct consequences of the Trump administration’s actions on trans people were shown starkly in October, when the revelation of a proposal to legally erase trans people was followed by suicide hotline Trans Lifeline receiving four times as many calls as usual and twice as many first-time callers.
Jennings, who turned 18 in the same month, knows what it’s like to face hatred for her gender identity.
The star has been in the public eye for more than a decade, ever since she became one of the youngest people ever to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
She said that being in the spotlight had “definitely been challenging. Growing up in the public eye in general is hard, let alone being trans.”
“I’ve received a lot of hate and discrimination online,” Jennings added, admitting that “I try not to read the comments, because it makes me lose a little bit of hope.
“When I see comments like that and people being cruel and ignorant, it’s like, why am I doing everything I do? Why haven’t people changed?”
But, she said, there was light at the end of the tunnel—even when that tunnel is based in the murky depths of the YouTube comment section.
“I look at the positive comments and I realise that people are learning, people are changing, people are supportive, and that’s what really motivates me,” revealed Jennings.
And when it comes to facing anti-trans hatred, the star has a clear approach. “Ignore the haters,” she said firmly.
“Let them wallow in their sorrows and live their negative lives, saying whatever they want. We need to focus on uplifting one another and remaining positive. I’m proud of being able to remain myself despite the hate I’ve faced.
“They’re on the losing side of this, because we come from a position of love and authenticity”
— Jazz Jennings
“It’s hard when you see these people who have these beliefs and it’s really discouraging, but all we can do is keep pushing forward, declaring who we are and making it known that we’re people too.”
After all, Jennings believes, “they’re on the losing side of this, because we come from a position of love and authenticity.”
Jazz Jennings shares her message of hope for trans people
The star, whose gender confirmation surgery will be featured on Season 5 of I Am Jazz, which premiered on TLC on January 1, has a positive riposte to the doom and gloom that has enveloped many trans people over the past two years.
“I know in my heart that this is just temporary,” said Jennings.
“Whatever Trump’s trying to do, it’s not going to work. Our community is not going to succumb to his policies and whatever he tries to do to bring us down.
“I know that despite what’s going on currently, in the long run it’s going to be okay for the trans community. It’s only going to get better.”
Addressing trans PinkNews readers directly, she said: “Remain hopeful. I know how hard and challenging it is; I’ve been in your shoes before; I’ve experienced discrimination first-hand. I know it’s rough.
“I have depression and anxiety, and when you’re in that situation you feel like there’s no hope, you feel like there’s nothing you can do to make things better, but things do get better.
“If you focus on just being your true self and not letting the opinions of others affect you, then things will turn out well.”
Jazz Jennings opens up about being pansexual
Jennings also identifies as pansexual, which she said “a lot of people don’t really understand, or they think I said it for attention.”
However, her willingness to speak out about her sexuality inspired Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis to make her character on ABC show How to Get Away with Murder, Annalise Keating, a queer woman.
Jennings said that reading this revelation from Davis in Pride Source in November was “so cool.”
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“I feel like by sharing my message, I’ve had this butterfly effect. I’ve seen that show, I think it’s awesome,” said Jennings.
“And it’s really cool knowing that just by being my true self, I can have that affect on people and inspire them to incorporate the message that I share into what they do.”
When it comes to her own love life, Jennings said I Am Jazz would see its star get involved with a relationship or two in Season 5.
“I can’t reveal too many details,” she said, “but my love life and dating is an avenue which will definitely be explored. There will be some storylines in that area.”
I Am Jazz Season 5 airs on TLC.