Clean & Clear, a line of skincare products, has announced its new spokesperson: 14-year-old Broward resident Jazz Jennings, a transgender youth who has in the past written a book and has spoken to Oprah about her transgender experience.
In a Clean & Clear video (below), she says middle school has been challenging and people called her "an 'it.'" Her ad campaign tagline is "I'm Jazz. See the real me."
The TV network TLC will also begin airing an 11-episode series on Jennings and her family this summer.
"I thought doing this show with TLC would be a great opportunity to spread my family's message of love, tolerance and acceptance," Jennings told the New Times today. "All the media I've done so far has been on a smaller scale, but this TV series will be a whole new level so I can reach more people."
LGBT rights activists believe that the show, which is expected to be titled All That Jazz, may help change the all too common tragic narrative of transgender children and teens coming into conflict with their families, such as Leelah Alcorn experienced.
On one cold night just after Christmas, 17-year-old Alcorn ventured outside her small town of Kings Mills, Ohio without the intention of ever coming back home. '
Out of feelings of alienation and loneliness, she walked in front of blinding oncoming traffic on Interstate 71, where she was hit by a semi-truck and killed.
A suicide note published on her Tumblr account revealed why she took her life:
"The life I would've lived isn't worth living in ... because I'm transgender. ... To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy's body, and I've felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally 'boyish' things to try to fit in."
Though Alcorn felt lonely, she was far from being alone in being transgender as there are thousands of youth across the nation who feel their physical bodies do not match their gender identity.
South Florida's own Jennings is one of them.
Jennings has helped open up the dialog on gender identity among children and youth with her 2014 book I Am Jazz, which chronicled her struggles as a transgender child. The back cover of the book succinctly expresses that she has the mind of a girl but the body of boy.
Unlike Alcorn, Jennings' family has made the progressive decision to allow her to live her life in what they believe is her "true" gender identity.
"Her parents truly support her," said David Zaret, who volunteers at SAVE, an LGBT advocacy group based in South Florida. "Faced with a child that knew at a very young age that their gender identity was not in alignment with their assigned sex at birth, they embraced it, faced the challenge head on, and chose love over ignorance."
Because of this supportive atmosphere, there is a hope among pro-trans rights activists that the TV series could spur enlightened conversations on gender identity, and perhaps advance policies in Florida that promote the understanding and defense of transgender youth.
Safeguards that Zaret believes are integral to ensuring transgender youth feel safe, particularly at school, where they spend much of their time.
"I would say that all youth should be protected and feel safe in schools. Transgender youth face obstacles to feeling safe when it comes to their school providing safeguards," Zaret told New Times. "Either their gender identities are not recognized or respected by school staff and administration, or their access to gender neutral bathrooms is unavailable. This poses significant concerns surrounding health and safety for transgender youth. Forcing some youth to attend alternate schools, some even going "stealth" which means they live in fear of being outed as transgender and feel the only way to be safe in schools is to keep their transgender identity a secret."
Indeed, these policies to safeguard transgender youth is also a priority for Equality Florida, another of the state's leading LGBT rights advocacy groups.
"Trans protection are important for our youth because more and more students are coming out earlier in their lives," said Gina Duncan, the transgender inclusion director for Equality Florida. "The school systems in Florida are way behind in having proper policy and protocols for our young people."
Last November Equality Florida honored Jennings for her activism for transgender people. During that time Jennings said she felt encouraged by the LGBT advocacy group's recognition of her efforts and that she would have to continue spreading awareness.
A promise she has kept now with her work with Clean & Clear and TLC.
"It's so rewarding to create change in our society, and I hope that my voice will have an impact on future generations," Jennings told New Times in October. "It would be so amazing if kids like me could all be free to be themselves. I wish we could all just be happy and love one another. Everyone should be accepted for their differences, and those differences should be looked upon as something positive instead of negative. I just really hope my message will continue to spread throughout the years and that one day things will get better and all people will have the freedom to be themselves."
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