Jeanette Jennings always knew her children were special. She just didn’t know how much.
As the mother to transgender teenager Jazz Jennings, Jeanette has spent the better part of the past decade working with her youngest daughter to understand her transition and to help educate the rest of the world about the struggles facing transgender kids.
It was a shock to hear that her two-year-old son wanted to be a girl but Jeanette’s love never wavered. She took the change in stride, embracing Jazz for who she is and consistently standing beside her. Now, Jeanette, along with the rest of the Jennings’ family is being featured on the TLC show I Am Jazz, showcasing the day-to-day obstacles and achievements of the group. Here’s what you need to know about Jeanette:
1. Jeanette Has Been One of Jazz’s Biggest Supporters
Although Jazz’s diagnosis with gender dysphoria was certainly a shock for her mother, Jeanette has been one of her daughter’s biggest and most vocal supporters for over a decade.
Jeanette regularly appears with Jazz and media events and is focused on education others on her daughter’s transition. In a recent interview with Glamour, Jeanette discussed what her first reaction was to finding out that Jazz identified as a girl at such a young age:
People would say, ‘Oh, how would a two-year-old know?’ but you know, one of the first things you teach your kids are, ‘Where are you eyes? Your nose? Where’s your mouth?’ And you teach them all their body parts. She wondered why she didn’t look like her sister. People don’t give enough credit to two-year-olds. They know what they want.
At just 14 years old, Jazz has not undergone any kind of surgery to change her gender but, with the help of her parents, is currently undergoing hormone treatment to stave off puberty. She’s also taking estrogen to help develop a more feminine body.
2. She Helped Create the TransKids Purple Rainbow Charity
In her effort to support Jazz no matter what, Jeanette, along with her husband Greg, helped found the TransKids Purple Rainbow Charity in 2007. The organization works to educate, fundraiser and support transgender children and teens across the world, sharing Jazz’s story.
Both Jeanette and Greg have worked to expand the foundation, joining forces with the families of other transgender kids, to provide a welcoming and tolerant environment in a world that sometimes does not provide that.
TransKids Purple Rainbow also works prominently with licensed mental health counselor Deborah Eve Grayson who has helped developed the organization’s therapy and counseling programs.
3. Jeanette Jennings is Not Her Real Name
Jazz made her first TV appearance on 20/20 in 2007 when she was just six years old, telling Barbara Walters that she was living life as a girl. From there on out Jazz became the de facto face of trans kids around the country and the world and the Jennings family took steps to make sure that they maintained some sense of privacy.
Those steps began with alias names. The family’s last name is not actually Jennings and in early interviews Jeanette and her husband Greg were quoted as Renee and Scott.
Even with an in-depth docu-series airing on TLC this summer, the family has not divulged where they live either. Although they mention living in South Florida, the group never gives any exact location and does not describe their home town very often.
4. Jennings is a Vocal Presence on Social Media
Just like Jazz, Jeanette boasts an platform on on Twitter with nearly 4,000 followers to date and the mom of four is incredibly vocal on the social media site.
Jeanette frequently uses Twitter to spread education and awareness surrounding the trans community, often highlighting the work that Jazz and their charity do throughout the course of the year. Most recently, that’s also included the #JazzHands movement, which encourages users to post photos of themselves making the well-known dance move. For every photo that is posted, with the hashtag, TLC will donate $1 to the Jennings’ family charity, TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation.
5. She & Her Husband Fought to Let Jazz Play on the Girl’s Soccer Team at her School
After Jazz made her first-ever public appearance as a girl at her fifth birthday party, stepping outside in a pink bathing suit, Jeanette, and her husband Greg, have made every attempt to make sure that their daughter has the same opportunities as every other kid her age.
That includes the chance to play competitive sports.
Jeanette and Greg helped Jazz take on the US Soccer Federation for a nearly two-year fight until the organization allowed her to play on the girl’s team. That also helped paved the way for other trans athletes in a handful of different sports. Now, the long-time married couple are hoping that Jazz’s fight off the field will help her find some confidence on it.
Jeanette spoke with Jazz’s soccer coach in a recent I Am Jazz preview, saying, “In her real life she’s very confident. I wish in soccer she had the same confidence.”