Whats Worth Watching: ‘I Am Jazz’ on TLC for Wednesday, July 15
I Am Jazz, “All About Jazz” (Wednesday, July 15, 10/9c, TLC)
What’s most impressive about the domestic world depicted in the docu-reality series I Am Jazz is its unremarkable normalcy. Which is why it’s so startling when, during a pleasant lunch 14-year-old Jazz Jennings is sharing on a restaurant patio with her mom Jeanette, we hear a classmate walk by and call out Jazz’s name, followed by the taunt of “tranny freak.” Jazz keeps her cool in the face of such blatant bullying, but it’s all she can do to keep Jeanette from making a scene.
And so it goes as I Am Jazz repositions one of the most visible young transgender personalities (having been interviewed by Barbara Walters on 20/20, among other national appearances) as a reality-TV star, getting a jump on Caitlyn Jenner’s own E! series later this month. Jazz is poised and charismatic in all situations: self-consciously shopping for bathing suits with her older sister; bantering with her protective older twin brothers, who decide that anyone uncomfortable with dating their sister isn’t good enough for her anyway; gossiping with her BFFs about boys and boob size (“definitely an issue with the girls,” Jazz declares).
The most dramatic scene in the first episode occurs at the doctor’s office, as mother and daughter await the result of blood tests determining Jazz’s estrogen levels and discuss the viability of boosting hormone treatments (which could stunt her growth) and putting off gender-reassignment surgery until her body stops developing. (These issues were also dealt with recently in Frontline‘s fascinating “Growing Up Trans” special on PBS.) “This is experimental stuff,” Jeanette says, becoming emotional as she considers the largely uncharted path her daughter is taking, while insisting, “I’m going to do whatever it takes to make you happy.” With a family this supportive—even her stymied grandparents are learning the technical lingo—Jazz may even survive the spotlight of reality TV.