We Are the Youth is a photographic journalism project chronicling the individual stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in the United States. Through photographic portraits and "as told to" interviews in the participants' own voices, We Are the Youth captures the incredible diversity and uniqueness among the LGBT youth population. We Are the Youth addresses the lack of visibility of LGBT young people by providing a space to share stories in an honest and respectful way. Below is the story of Jazz.
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By Jazz, as told to Diana Scholl
I'm proud to be a girl, and proud to be a transgender girl. I wouldn't change myself at all. Being transgender makes me who I am: a strong person, a confident person. Being transgender gives me my personality.
I'm the youngest of four siblings and the baby of the family. My family just treated me like anyone else growing up. They taught me that everyone has a special and unique trait about them, and that mine is that I have a girl brain and a boy body. I knew I was a girl from the time I was a toddler, and my family always taught me that being transgender was OK and I should be proud of who I am.
As I got older I learned about how some people treated their transgender children, and I was shocked. I couldn't understand how someone would leave their child and throw them on the street. I was always taught you give your kid unconditional love, and if you don't, something's wrong with you, for real. It's your child, and you really have to be there for them all the time.
One of the things my parents did was advocate for me when I was banned from girls' soccer team and I had to play on the boys' soccer team. My family knew I had the skills for soccer and should be playing. My mom and dad spoke to a lot of people. I don't know how they did it, but as a result, they passed a trans-inclusive policy for all transgender people in America. When you're 8 years old you're not talking to the U.S. Soccer Federation.
That changed me a lot, playing with the boys. It lowered my self-esteem and made me feel like I was a boy all over again. I really just didn't like that. A lot of times I would just be sitting on the field, chewing on my nails or twiddling my fingers. Normally I'm better than that.
Now that I play with the girls, I like soccer again. I like to do a lot of things. I play lacrosse. I'm interested in writing and creating and things like that. I like to do charcoal portraits and pencil portraits. I used to act, sing and dance. I like to write. I don't really like school; it's OK. It's not that I get bullied or anything. I'm just not the most social person.
It's very overwhelming here at the Philly Trans Health Conference, but it's a lot of fun. I get to meet a lot of other kids and interact with them. It's not something you get to do every day, so I definitely take advantage. It's one of the best times of the year.
I wish I saw my friends from the conference more. We share the same experience. We can talk about our medications and our bodies without being too uncomfortable.
I just want to let trans kids know not to be afraid to step out of the shadows. I do whatever I can to help other trans kids. I speak a lot, at a lot of places, a lot of big events. I was on Oprah's channel. I didn't get to meet her, but she tweeted about me. I also did two 20/20 specials with Barbara Walters, Rosie O'Donnell's show, the Dr. Drew show, and many other TV programs and magazines. It's a lot of fun, and it's mostly just about sharing my story.
I share my story to help other people. I know people need someone to be a role model and help them along the way.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Philadelphia, 2013.
Follow Diana Scholl on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dianascholl