I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings is a picture book that tells the story of Jennings, the nom de plume of Jaron Bloshinsky, who was born male yet believes herself to be female. She claims to have known this ever since she was two years old, sensing that “she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body”. I question the ability of any two-year-old to know this about himself, as I dispute the claim that transsexualism exists in children. That Bloshinsky favoured pink over blue and high heels and princess gowns does not a girl make. In spite of the book’s aim which is to allow children to grow up free of gender roles, it is overloaded with gender stereotypes, pushing effeminate girlness as the true expression of one’s femaleness.
What the author–and Bloshinsky’s own parents, of all people–failed to see is that the free expression exhibited by pre-Jazz Jaron were not manifestations of a nascent transsexualism. In this age of instant gratification where people demand immediate answers, parents who seek answers for their child’s atypical gendered preferences find the most expedient solution from those who are all too willing to provide the answer. Any psychiatric assessment is too complicated when you can find a therapist whose diagnosis of transgendered child seems to fit the bill. There you have it. Jaron is really a girl born into the wrong body. How enlightened is our toddler to know this.
I Am Jazz is a book intended for very young children, whose parents will likely be reading it to them. I cannot imagine who the real target audience would be…other little boys who like to wear their mother’s clothes? I would instead seek books that celebrate a child’s right to self-expression and, yes, ones that shatter gender stereotypes. I would not however read a book about transgender identity to a young child. This could only lead to deleterious consequences, reinforcing the idea that an atypical gender identity must lead to a transgender identity. I am no psychiatrist–so take what I have had to say with a grain of salt–but I believe Jazz’s current weight issue (she is now morbidly obese) is a direct consequence of the mental highjinks she has been subjected to throughout her entire life.