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The tragedy of Jazz Jennings

The reality-TV star's story is a terrible indictment of so-called gender-affirming care.

Malcolm Clark

Topics Feminism Identity Politics World

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In 2003, Jeanette Jennings, a mother from Florida, noticed that her son, who was three years old, kept opening up his onesie. To most parents, this might not have seemed like a big deal, but Jennings became convinced that her son, Jaron, was trying to make his onesie into a dress. So began what would become the rollercoaster career of an icon of the trans lobby and a teenage darling of America’s liberal media.

At the age of five, Jaron socially transitioned to become a ‘girl’ and was renamed Jazz Jennings. Aged 14, he started fronting his own hugely successful reality-TV series, I Am Jazz. Now in its eighth season, the series has charted the lives of Jazz, his family and friends as well as the long and complex medical procedures of his gender reassignment, from puberty blockers to eventual castration and the creation of a ‘neovagina’.

If we are to believe the trans lobby, for whom Jazz is now a prominent advocate, he is walking proof of the importance of early ‘affirmation’ of transgender identity in children. But like so much of the propaganda churned out by the trans movement, the true story of Jazz is much darker than we have been led to believe. Now 21 years old, Jazz has become a tragic figure. Obese, depressed and often suffering from anxiety attacks, he has struggled to form anything remotely like an intimate relationship.

Jazz was first introduced to the public at large in 2007, in a special edition of 20/20, the storied ABC primetime news series. In ‘My Secret Self Complete’, Barbara Walters interviewed three families with children who were convinced they had been born in the wrong body. The show began with a cute six-year-old who we were told believed he was a girl – namely, Jazz Jennings.

What’s remarkable watching the show now is how Walters accepts everything his mother, Jeanette, says at face value. One obvious example of this failure to exercise normal journalistic scepticism is when Jeanette alleges that her son, at the age of four, told her he wanted God to replace his penis with a vagina. I once asked my dad how I could get laser vision like Superman. He told me to finish my dinner. If only Jeanette Jennings had done the same, her son might still have his genitals. Instead, she sought out the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of mental health, and became convinced her little boy was a transgender female. ‘I diagnosed her before ever taking her to see a professional and then had it confirmed’, she would often say.

In the show, when Jazz is just a six-year-old boy, Jeanette says that transitioning, including ‘sex change’ surgery, will be critical to his happiness. You’d think a mother would take a lot of advice before telling her son he would be happier once he lost his penis. Not so with Jeanette.

She went online and found a British organisation called Mermaids. Later, Jazz would say that the controversial pro-trans campaign group gave his mother the confidence to allow him to socially transition. Another legacy would be Jazz’s life-long obsession with mermaids, the mythical creature. In a 2019 interview, Jazz explained that he loved designing mermaid tails that he could swim in. He liked mermaids, he said, because they have no genitals.

If you or I heard that a kid wanted to have no genitals, we might recommend his or her parents seek professional psychiatric help. Jeanette reached out instead to Marilyn Volker, a Florida-based sex therapist who claimed to specialise in trans issues. Jeanette claims Volker was ‘instrumental in who Jazz is today’. In the 20/20 show, Volker insists that when she met Jazz she could tell that he ‘clearly’ had a female gender identity.

What exactly does Volker mean by ‘female gender identity’? Often this just refers to discredited sex stereotypes. There’s a clue that this is what we’re really dealing with in the opening lines to ‘My Secret Self’, delivered by Walters herself: ‘Gender organises our world into pink or blue. As we grow up most of us naturally fit into our gender roles. Girls wear dresses and play with dolls. For boys it’s pants and trucks.’

Volker goes further. She relates what she says happened when she showed a five-year-old Jazz two anatomically correct dolls. He apparently pointed to the doll with male genitals and said, ‘That’s me now’. He then pointed to the one with female genitalia and said, ‘That’s what I want’.

Now, anyone possessed of half a brain might have at least entertained the idea that this small child was unwell and in need of help to feel comfortable in his own skin again. But those ‘counselling’ Jazz merely pushed him further down the path towards irreversible surgery.

Jazz’s penis has been sliced apart and inverted inside a hole that’s been carved out between his rectum and his prostate. It’s taken three agonising operations to give him his fauxgina. After the ops, this wound masquerading as female genitalia has to be kept open by dilation for the rest of his life – essentially, using a dildo to stop it sealing. It’s apparently very painful. In a notable scene, in series six of I Am Jazz, Jeanette revealed to friends that she often had to bully Jazz into doing his dilation: ‘I have woken Jazz from a dead sleep and taken the dilator and put lubrication on it and said, “Here, you take this and put it in your vagina. If not, I will.”’ Maternal love, eh?

Jazz’s physical problems go deeper still. He has been on puberty blockers since the age of 11. These drugs stop the normal process of development that happens during puberty, such as the growth of genitals. So when it was time to do his ‘sex change’ surgery, his surgeon discovered Jazz’s penis was tiny. The vaginoplasty was invented for adults with adult-sized genitals, not boys who had never gone through puberty.

When surgeons invert an adult penis they hope to retain as much of the sensation as possible. Given that Jazz has never had adult male genitals with sexual sensation, it is almost impossible for him to have sexual sensations now. It is also pretty inconceivable he’ll ever be able to orgasm.

This may explain the curious shadow that hangs over I Am Jazz. Over the years, he has attempted three brief ‘relationships’. Just one of them led to even a kiss. In all of them, poor Jazz behaves like a curious visitor from another planet, trying to decode the strange rituals of human beings. In series eight, Jeanette and a friend discuss whether Jazz might be asexual. ‘She’s all over the place’, opines Jeanette. I wonder why.

The potential link between Jazz’s sterilisation and his lack of a sex life is not the only elephant in the room. The connection between Jazz being given cross-sex hormones and his repeated binge-eating, episodes of anxiety and severe depression is also not discussed in the show. Many transwomen I’ve spoken to say that taking oestrogen has given them episodes of uncontrollable emotions which leave them floored. Then there are puberty blockers. In the only animal trial ever conducted on puberty blockers, young male sheep who received them became far more anxious than those who weren’t given them. Those and other cognitive side effects appear to be permanent and irreversible.

Jazz Jennings was sold to us by the LGBTQ+ lobby as a shining example of the success of early gender reassignment for children. In truth, he’s been left sexless, sterilised and physically mutilated. Jazz is not an example to follow. His tragic life is an indictment of the trans movement.

Malcolm Clark is a TV producer.

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Topics Feminism Identity Politics World

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