Jazz Jennings has spent most of her life in front of the camera, sharing her story as a transgender teenager on the show I Am Jazz. From her mental health to medical appointments, Jennings has remained open about her struggles along the way, and in the upcoming seventh season, the LGBTQ activist gets candid about her weight.
“I think it's just something that's been apparent. Like people have seen images of me heavier and I haven't really discussed how I've gained all this weight, why I had gained the weight,” Jennings tells Yahoo Life.
On June 19, Jennings shared a photo on Instagram that showed an almost 100-pound weight gain in two years. She cites a binge-eating disorder as the cause, and let fans know that they can follow her weight-loss journey on the show. “I have the power in me to lose the weight, and I intend on sharing my progress with all of you,” wrote Jennings.
Last summer, Jennings posted a photo of herself wearing a swimsuit on the beach, after doctors suggested that she lose weight before having a medical procedure. “That moment last year was really important because I was showing my scars from the surgery — the gender confirmation surgery. Because I had to undergo a special surgery, they had to use extra skin grafts, so most people don't have scars like that, but because of my special surgery, I have those scars and I'm proud of them.”
Though Jennings has gained weight since taking that photo, she assures fans that her focus on weight loss has little to do with vanity. She remains committed to living and eating better for her health, not her size. “I love myself and my body every shape and size that I am. You know, even being a bigger girl now, I still love my body and I love being me,” says Jennings.
Sharing her personal journey in front of cameras is second nature to Jennings, who launched her reality show when she was just 14 years old. Since then, Jennings has become a national figure for trans rights, and has been featured as the youngest person ever featured on Out's "Out 100" and Advocate's "40 Under 40." Today she continues to be inspired by the reach and impact of I Am Jazz.
“We wanted to really create an atmosphere where trans people could be accepted for who they are, and to be able to see that our show has been able to create that change is incredible,” Jennings says. “To be able to continue working on a project that creates that difference. It means a lot to me, it means a lot to my family, and it means a lot to everyone involved in the project.”
At a time when there are more than 144 bills across the nation threatening transgender rights, Jennings has stepped even deeper into her activism, speaking out publicly against the anti-trans athletic bill passed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida. She also continues to spread awareness about proposed legislation that threatens access to medical care, including access to medications like estrogen and testosterone, for the trans community.
“The medical bills are really, really concerning because you know, this is kind of life or death for a lot of transgender people. These medical surgeries and procedures and medications that we use to help us transition are so needed. Otherwise we have to experience puberty of the opposite sex and that just creates more dysphoria and more feelings of depression and discomfort,” says Jennings.
“No one should have to go through puberty of the opposite sex and feel trapped in the wrong body," she adds. "So it's really, really hard knowing that these life saving medications, procedures, and surgeries are being banned in certain states.”
Now 20, and after taking some time off after high school, Jennings is ready to tackle her next challenge: dating. Identifying as pansexual, Jennings says that the only thing she is looking for in a potential partner is authenticity. “I look at a person's soul and energy rather than their exterior shell. I think the body is just a vessel and that a person's core lies within, and I'm just more attracted to a person who has a beautiful soul. So whether they're transgender, cisgender non-binary, whatever their religion, sex orientation is, it doesn't really matter to me. I just love a person for being them," says Jennings.
In fact, everything comes down to love for Jennings. When she feels weighed down by the world, she finds empowerment from her family and staying rooted in her community. “It may seem like the whole world is coming down on us with all these medical and sports bills and bans, but we have to keep just pushing forward and remain united in love because that's what our movement is all about.
"It's all about love, and love always wins, no matter what," says Jennings. "So we're on the right side of history and we just have to continue pushing forward."
—Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove
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