Jazz Jennings: Another “transgender star” for America’s media to exploit?

It’s not an easy thing to write about transgender children and teenagers, especially if you are an adult. Unless, of course, you have degrees in psychology and child psychiatry.

Sure, everyone can offer their opinions based on their own childhood experiences, whether you are a trans person or not. And you can speculate on whether shows like I Am Jazz, a reality-TV show about a trans teen making its debut tonight, might create gender identity confusion in some children who might not otherwise have ever thought about things like that.

But few of us are fully qualified to speak about children’s psychological issues, which is probably why so many LGBT advocates stay away from the subject of trans kids, except to show our support when they are in the news.

Many media outlets and some TV networks in the United States have hopped on-board the transgender bandwagon big time, and they are busy creating “transgender stars.”

Is there an element of exploitation there in the name of drawing clicks and viewers?

Well, consider this excerpt from a new piece on the Time site: “While some may feel like transgender issues are being exploited or overexposed by (reality) show producers, putting people like (I Am Jazz) Jennings on TV can serve a vital purpose for other young people who are questioning or grappling with their gender identity — that innate sense of being male or female that doesn’t always match up with what the doctor proclaims in the delivery room.”

Seems noble on the surface, doesn’t it?

Yet, in the same sentence, the writers unwitting fuel the fear being expressed by conservative groups like One Million Moms when they don’t ask how the show might affect other children, the ones who aren’t innately trans and, in the conservatives’ opinion, could be left feeling confused about their own gender identity after watching the show.

It’s a relevant issue because conservative types have been voicing their concerns about it for some time, and it needs to be addressed in objective reports. One quote from a psychologist or psychiatrist could have gone a long way to reassuring concerned parents — and one hopes the show itself will deal with that particular issue. Yet Time — and others — avoids the issue in their article, titled Meet TV’s Newest Transgender Star. Why?

I have no doubt that the show has, as Time says, “the potential to make a big difference for viewers who need an example to live by (that might make life seem more livable) and to provide some basic education about LGBT issues for others.”

But in the stampede to create a new star, some media outlets may be less than objective.

— Jillian Page, LGBT Perspectives editor

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“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey

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