On the “Born This Way” episode of Jazz Jennings’ show, things get dicey when Jazz meets with her friend, JoJo, a transgender teen who experiences gender dysphoria. Having been there herself before going through surgery to bring her body to the place it’s always been in her brain, Jazz was ready for anything when it came to helping her friend. Much in the way she advocates for transgender teens around the world, she stood by JoJo’s side, too. And that meant she had to bring JoJo’s old-school grandmother’s views into the light.
As a trans rights activist, Jazz believes in helping everyone whose physical gender doesn’t line up with how they identify – but namely teens who struggle, as she’s been there herself. Her friend, JoJo, is not as far along as Jazz in her physical transformation but believes a breast augmentation would help end the battle between her mind and her body. This is the case for many trans teens. When a person looks in the mirror, especially someone going through puberty (a drastic enough change in itself), it is extremely unsettling for your reflection not to match what your mind wants to see.
Luckily, JoJo’s mom was on board with the decision for breast augmentation. As someone who grew up with her mother and grandmother as her main support system, their approval is something JoJo direly needed. But unfortunately, JoJo’s grandmother, Nora, wasn’t so enthused about the idea. She blamed JoJo’s mindset on typical teenage angst and the fact that she is still so young. When Jazz and her mother sat down with JoJo, her mother, and her grandmother, this is what Nora had to say: “I think the tension, the conflict, comes from me being older and having raised kids. When they hit those teenage years, nobody likes their body.”
Yes, teenage angst is a real thing and a lot of people going through puberty dislike their body. They feel unhappy with their reflections. But that is not the same thing as experiencing gender dysphoria or identifying as transgender. Nora was stuck on the fact, though, that JoJo is still so young. “At 15, especially at that age, I don’t think surgery is just the right answer like that,” Nora advised. “Wait until you’re 18.” JoJo had an argument for that, though. She said that she’s been feeling like she’s in the wrong body ever since she was three years old. “This is how I felt for so, so long, before I could even grasp boy and girl,” she said. “This isn’t a phase. I’m not aligning physically and mentally, and it’s causing me dysphoria.”
The conversation soon got heavier, with talks of JoJo’s past suicidal thoughts and attempts. “I have the body of a male, and I did try to take my life a couple times because of it,” she said. Jazz, feeling empathy towards her suffering friend, was growing more and more frustrated. She’s been in the same boat and was desperate for Nora to see JoJo’s side of the story. She told JoJo, “I know how you feel, because at age 11, I started wearing bras and I would stuff them. Then I started estrogen and I got really lucky that my boobs grew.” It’s not a matter of age. It’s a matter of mental health bodily identity.
JoJo felt as if her grandmother was holding her back. She even said that Nora has admitted to wishing that JoJo were still her grandson, instead of her granddaughter, adopting the commonly-used line that JoJo’s new identity is “just a phase.” refused to let her friend be walked over, though. By the end of the conversation, she was fuming and had to leave the room. While welling up with tears, she said, “There’s a lot I want to say. But I gotta go for a sec.” The saga isn’t over, either. Next week, Nora and Jazz go for round two, where Jazz hopefully will bring her into the 21st century.