"I wouldn't change myself at all," says Jazz, the latest young person to be profiled by We Are The Youth. Since 2010, lifelong friends Diana Scholl and Laurel Golio have been traveling across the country to photograph and interview LGBT youth. Here's what Jazz, who was interviewed by Scholl at the Philly Trans-Health Conference, had to say about coming out as trans with the support of her family:
"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 just 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 transkids to know not to be afraid to step out of the shadows. I do whatever I can to help other transkids. 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."
Jazz's savviness about gender and identity may seem surprisingly precocious, but Scholl, who recently spoke with BuzzFeed, says, "I think the way that young people talk about identity is just a really fluid in way that we didn't even — I'm 28 — that we didn't even see when Laurel and I were really young, so it's just really, I think, it's become less of a binary in both the gender and sexuality, so that's exciting to see."
That maturity, however, isn't always met with the same kind of support Jazz has experienced. Other We Are The Youth profiles — some of which have been excerpted below — reflect a diversity of experiences, by turns inspiring and heartbreaking.
Jahmal, 20, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Emily, 20, Minneapolis.
"I moved out of my family's house my junior year of high school. I was doing a lot of outside things my family didn't agree with, and they gave me the ultimatum. At that point, I could support myself through ballet and modeling for the adult entertainment industry. Ironically, the modeling was also the thing they didn't agree with." — Jahmal
"I came out to my parents last year. When I told them they started asking awkward questions that if I were talking about a boy they would never ask. Like, 'Are you attracted to her?' Ummm, yeah. I thought my mom would be more understanding because she was on a softball team. But they didn't let me bring home a girl for dinner, and I'm not allowed to tell my sister. And my mom was like, 'Just because guys don't like you doesn't mean girls will.'" — Emily
Dohyun, 19, Atlanta, and Kell, 19, New York.
"Ever since I've come out, I've been very proud of who I am. My first kiss with a guy was the summer after I came out, the summer between sophomore and junior year. A guy who's now a really good friend of mine. We went out for a week. He didn't think gay rights was really a thing. I helped him come out of the closet and become more active." — Dohyun
"The first time my mom saw a guy kissing me was with my ex-boyfriend. I thought he was the one. It was the only guy I could say I loved. I gave up everything. I told my parents, 'He gives me everything you guys don't.' We're still good friends. Two Christmases ago, he broke up with me. What hurt me is, I love kids, can't wait to have kids. And he told me, 'You can't bear my children. I want a wife. Blah blah blah.' I'm over him, but you know you'll never love somebody as much as this person. I know it was my first love." — Kell
Michelle, 20, Bronx, N.Y., and Maddy, 16, New Rochelle, N.Y.
"I can't say I don't miss my family. I will miss them. Especially my little brother. They don't pick up their cell phones. I've left emails, messages, etc. It really hurts. But I have to live with it." — Michelle
"Now, I'm very proud of my identity as pansexual, and also, though I discovered this later, my identity as genderqueer. I've always been too masculine to feel like one of the girls and too feminine to feel like one of the boys. And, if you think about it, just what is a girl or a boy anyway? If it was really all about what organs you had, then why should so much else be attached?" — Maddy
Anna, 19, Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Patrick, 18, Auburn, Ala.
"When I started high school, I was 14 and shouting that I was a lesbian from the rooftop. I became the big lesbian on campus and the big activist. I helped found the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, and started my school's participation in National Day of Silence." — Anna
"I actually did enjoy my high school experience. I never experienced the whole 'Everything sucks, I hate everything' thing of high school. I've never really experienced bullying. I don't know why. I'm pretty flamboyant, so you would think I'd be the ultimate target for anti-gay slurs. But ever since coming to Auburn, this big, football school in the Bible Belt, I haven't even gotten a word. I'm sure there's comments behind my back. I'm not that dumb or idealistic. I joke that maybe it's because I'm a long-haired Mexican person so everyone thinks I'm in a gang." — Patrick