What makes 11-year-old Jazz a girl is not her pink cleats or the fact that she sews. What makes Jazz a girl is the fact that she identifies as one. Despite the efforts of Ms. Barbara Walters’s in telling the story of Jazz, a transgender preteen on 20/20, Barbara ended up completely missing the bar and instead telling a completely sensationalized borderline transphobic version of Jazz’s story.
The interview begins with Barbara asking this young very well spoken girl “Are you a boy or are you a girl?” Jazz responded, “I’m definitely a girl, that is all I consider myself as” and at that point of the interview Barbara Walters should’ve ended the stupid sensationalism and problematic portrayal of Jazz’s story. She should’ve focused less on the fact that Jazz was “born male,” and more about the transphobia in our society, maybe about the injustice done to the trans community in terms of their rights, or maybe, just maybe, let Jazz tell her story.
But the interview continued, and continued to be v problematic. Walters just kept repeating and repeating the fact that she was “born male,” and kept stressing the fact that the “girly” activities that Jazz partakes in, are the reason why we can know that she’s a girl, not just the fact that she point blank says “I am a girl.”
This is really frustrating because it continues a pattern in our society in which we are viewing transgender individuals as “A girl trapped in a boys body” instead of teaching the general public that when it comes to transgender people, we should view them as what they define themselves as. Jazz is a girl. There doesn’t need to be a “but”, she is what she is, a girl.
This is equally frustrating because it reinforces the gender binary. Boys can like mermaids and pink things and sew, that doesn’t make them gay or transgender, just as girls can like nerf guns and skateboarding. This stupid gender binary not only works to pit the sexes against each other, but it also works to isolate anyone whose interests aren’t bound to their predisposed gender roles.
Another thing that I found troubling was the fact that Walter hero-worshipped Jazz’s parent’s and family. Was it necessary to refer to her parent’s decision to allow Jazz live the way she wants as “extraordinary?” Maybe I’m being idealistic but I feel like any rational parent who took his/her child to a gender therapy specialist and discovered that his/her child was transgender would of course accept him/her for who he/she/they are. Obviously that’s not always true, but I don’t think we should necessarily be applauding the family because they didn’t even seem phased by Jazz; they treat her as she wants to be, like any normal family should do.
Yes Jazz’s story is interesting, but Jazz is interesting because of how brave and outspoken she has been within the LGBTQIA community. Why couldn’t we focus on the things Jazz actually did herself, instead of the way she was born?
I guess what bothers me most with interviews about transgender individuals is that it leads the public to believe that this is the biggest “problem” in their lives. I really wish that Barbara Walters used this opportunity to talk with Jazz about how her uniqueness and bravery have allowed her to do the amazing things that she’s done, but that Jazz as a person isn’t merely defined by the fact that she is transgender. Many times interviews like this miss the bar as well by trying too hard to assert that Jazz is “just like other girls,” because the truth is Jazz isn’t like other girls, she is incredibly confident well-spoken and ridiculously not awkward for being an 11-year-old in general.
She has normal problems aside from being transgender, and the fact that this interview made it seem like anyone who accepts Jazz or any other transgender individual for who they are, should receive gold medals and trophies is ridiculous. (I really don’t think calling people by the pronouns they prefer and accepting them as the individuals they are is that difficult of a thing to do.)
I was also annoyed with the tone in which Barbara talked to her, I felt like it was very condescending, and I get that Jazz is 11, but after listening to her side of the interview you could tell she is very well spoken and mature well beyond her years.
Not to mention the language Barbara Walters chose to use was very problematic. Was it necessary to explain that the world sees transgender individuals as “freaks of nature”, or to explain that Jazz was fortunate that her parents and three siblings were able “accept her?” But the medal for most unnecessary comment goes to the last one of the interview, when Barbara asked Jazz how she’d feel if teenage boys didn’t like her because she was trans.
I found this interview to be vaguely insulting to not only Jazz and her family, but also the transgender community. Awareness is very important, but by focusing solely on the fact that Jazz is transgender we are giving her story and her struggles as a young woman a disservice. After hearing this young girl say, “people think I’m weird and shouldn’t have the same rights as them just because of what’s between my legs,” it became very apparent that she is graced with tremendous intelligence and a deep understanding of what it means to be special and unique and I wish that was what the interview focused on.
But despite any of the ignorance Jazz has had to deal with in her life she clearly has a good head on her shoulders and hearing her say, “personally I don’t like the word disorder, I prefer special or unique because that’s what I think being transgender is,” has given me hope that future generations will be much more tolerant and accepting. We should be thankful that we have at least one girl like Jazz in the world to compensate for all the ignorant “Barbara Walters” our society is unfortunately plagued with.
Here is a video Jazz uploaded to youtube explaining her story herself, she really is the bomb.
What do you think about the Barbara Walters interview? Also how amazing is Jazz? Let us know what you think in the comments below.