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November 25th, 2011
10:00 AM ET

Born a boy, raised as a girl

"Ever since I could express myself, I always knew I was a girl."

So said Jazz, an 11-year-old boy who was raised as a girl and is now going through puberty as a female. Early on, her mother said, she sought medical help and was devastated that her child's ideas about gender identity were a diagnosed disorder. Indeed, psychological and medical opinions about transgender kids are "all over the place," Dr. Johanna Olson said. In medical schools, the discussions are just starting.

Jazz's story is featured in the documentary "I am Jazz: A Family in Transition," which will appear on OWN on November 27.

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Filed under: Gender • How we look • Who we are
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Noxious.Sunshine

    I used to work in ESL at an elementary school.. My 2nd year there, we got a major influx of Karen refugee kids from Burma. One particular pair of sisters, were the only set of siblings with no brother in the family.. The older one was waay into all things girly once she grew accustomed to life in the U.S. – hair bows, make up, sparkly accessories, etc. The younger sister (who was my absolute -fav- child) dressed very much like a boy – think Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. She refused to let her hair grow out, hated the color pink, and preferred to hang with the boys. Whether the girls' parents raised her that way due to the lack of a son in the family, or the little girl really does prefer to be tomboy-ish on her own without any prodding or influencing, I don't know. Let kids be kids, just don't do anything to try and permanently, physically alter them.

    December 21, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Wow...

    Just another example of stupid parents who should not be allowed to breed. It's obvious the mother not only encouraged it, but forced it. Look at that brain damaged heiffer. The child is a victim of abuse.

    December 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Levi

    We are living in a sick SOCIETY, and no one knows the truth except GOD.

    December 21, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. kayjulia

    I still don't get why some people get so upset about transgender issues. I must be missing something in the conversation. This isn't about you it is about another human being trying to live in the gender they feel best presenting themselves. There are no other issues. No one is forcing anything on this child. In the past I have known of children who were beaten repeatedly and ridiculed ceaselessly over this issue by so called "well meaning adults". Adults who were totally out of control and totally criminally abusive to a child. Now this is not so often the case, just the form of abuse has altered a little bit by denying that their feelings are true or that they are wrong somehow. I just don't get the anger directed at the transgendered people ....why?

    December 20, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lacey

    how is "he" going through puberty as a "she"? having a period out his rectal cavity or his p3nis? thats absurd.

    December 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Annie

    Bravo to the mum for actually listening to her daughter. I wish her the best for the future.

    December 13, 2011 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Charlie

    I hope she finds peace and happiness.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. WATCHER

    The Lord of the Flies works out so well in the end. Lets let children make all the decisions. Sheesh talk about stupidity.

    December 12, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Guy

      Jazz will look like Piggie in a few years at this rate.

      December 16, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. Hmm...

    I'm not really concerned about the transgender issue. I have my feelings, but I'm more concerned that no one is raising the issue that hormonal therapy in grown and mature adults is risky and full of potentially serious side-effects. I find it hard to cancel out a natural process on the basis of an 11-year-old's current feelings. At 11, I wanted to be the leader of band. I also wanted to be a scientist. I also wanted to travel...get my point. These are irreversible changes they are proposing (the testes won't grow, vocal cords won't lengthen, etc.). Facial hair could be dealt with via electrolysis (at least it isn't THAT damaging). Voice deepening could be dealt with via vocal coaches (the same as adult transgendered individuals use). That gives the kid the life he wants now while still preserving his chance to make a change at an adult age...if he so chooses. At least then, if he doesn't want to live as a woman, he can change. If he wants to live as a woman, he can undergo the hormonal therapy then.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bridget

    How exactly does that work? How do you raise a member of one gender as the opposite gender? What are these parents doing?

    December 10, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kae

      The parents are letting the child have a normal life – a life that is right for Jazz. Obviously this isn't something she just woke up one day & decided on, she has felt like a female in a male's body from the start.... she should be allowed to live as a female.

      December 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
      • Howie

        No, no, no, you have it all wrong. These parents are enabling a harmful delusion and are proposing irrevocably damaging their child's natural development. These people are the worst kind of abusers, they should be jailed and their child given to someone who will protect him and nurture him and try to undo some of the damage these evil people have caused. Seriously, this is disgusting.

        December 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Yeabuddy!

    If the kid was born a male and has a gender crisis, wouldn't that be considered gay if they view themself as a female. Hetero females are attracted to males, so if he's psychologically a hetero female, that would make him gay. It's a lot easier than saying transgender. I don't think the OBGYN that delivered him was wrong...just throwing that out there.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeabuddy!

      By the way...I don't mean for my use of the word "gay" to be offensive. So anyone who is thin-skinned don't get offended.

      December 10, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bridget

      I guess he wants funbags to play with in addition to liking guys, but he wants to keep his toolbox male.

      December 10, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • Yeabuddy!

        Yea Buddy!

        December 10, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cory (Humanzrstupd)

    This is why I'm glad I don't have kids.

    December 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Latinnno

    I always knew that I was a Martian.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. Chris L.

    Listen to the his concerns. He says he's scared of growing a beard and mustache. Scared of a deep voice.

    He's obviously got an undiagnosed psychological condition. Something in his life has taught him to be afraid of men. Afraid of anything male. And as a defence mechanism, he's pretending he's a girl. Therapy is the answer, not hormone therapy. That shouldn't even be allowed. It'll screw up any chance of a normal life for the poor kid.

    December 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Casey

      That or she just doesn't want to be a boy. Her mind is a female's even if her body is male. This isn't some 'disorder' to be 'fixed'.

      December 10, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
      • Howie

        You don't get to choose that one, you are what you are born. Maybe the mental issues can't be fixed, still does not change the fact that this child is a boy.

        December 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
      • Guy

        'Jazz' is a dude. The mother should be ashamed for naming her child 'Jazz' in the first place. What happened to names like Tom, Harry, Barnaby, Andrew, and Joe. Society is going downhill fast.

        December 16, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Len

      Actually...it's just the disorder. It's normal for children who have this issue. I doubt she has any other 'mental' issues.

      December 20, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  15. KatyaKatya

    Nobody here is really interested in truth concerning the genetic conditions corresponding to an extra X or an extra Y chromosome, or a missing one, so I am not explaining anything. Just let me tell you, nothing of the kind. Generally speaking, if you have a Y chromosome, you are male; if you don't, you are a female. Extra/missing ones will affect development to varying extent and in many cases interfere with reproduction, but this is biology. Has nothing to do with an inner feeling of being not what your body is. Where are the skilled psychologists to comment on that?

    December 5, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leo

      And what about the people with XY chromosomes who develop COMPLETELY as females? And the ones with XX chromosomes who develop physiologically as males? IT HAPPENS.

      Please, educate yourself and look up XX Male Syndrome, Swyer Syndrome, and other such things. There ARE people who are inters.ex, where some parts develop "male" and other parts develop "female." And sometimes, brain structure and chemistry develop along one gender line while the body develops along the other gender line. It happens.

      December 12, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Disgusted

      God doesnt make mistakes. There is no such thing as an extra y or x chromosome or missing one. If God made you a girl u are a girl if He made u a boy u are supposed to be one. Stop trying to pretend that this is right or normal. Its not right before Gods eyes and you can go around it and find all the explanations you want it is a sin and dont come.with the whole God made love thing cuz God made love between a man and a woman and said that it was an abomination for a man to lay with another man. And also sodomy is an abomination.

      December 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
      • Janie

        There certainly is such a thing. People can be born with a single X, three X's, XXY, or XYY in additon to the normal XX or XY. It's the same genetic process that causes Down's syndrome which is caused by an extra copy of a specific chromosome. That doesn't mean these people are a mistake, but they generally can't have children and may have both male and female anatomical characteristics, or be underdeveloped.

        December 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
      • Howie

        I'm not down with the God fallacy, and you are probably incorrect about the science, but on at least one point you are 100% correct. If your bits are on the outside you are male, if they are on the inside you are female. Period. In a very few cases (unbelievably rare), you may be born with both, otherwise it is completely unambiguous. Rather than dangerous medical treatments, how about investing in some therapy to see why the boy's self worth is so low that he wants to essentially kill himself and be reborn as a girl?

        December 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
      • Religious People Strike again

        Can't you people calm down? Stop trying to force your bull on everyone.

        January 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Absynthe

    I'm glad this is being addressed at earlier and earlier ages. You can't force anyone to be something they aren't – that's truly cruel and inhumane. Let them flourish, become who they are instead of being forced into the wrong body. Too many have died, depressed, beaten down.

    And, yes – I'm one of the lefties who was told they were Satanic growing up, simply because of my handedness. I can only imagine what these innocents go through.

    Giving them the help they need, don't judge them, don't drag your "god" into this, and all will be fine. For God loves US ALL.

    December 3, 2011 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Jonathan Samuels

      "Wrong body," you say? You use nothing more than your own experiences and your emotions to come to conclusions. The child has fully functional male genitalia. You can open your chest cavity and bleed as much as you want to but you cannot refute this fact. A cleptomaniac has a compulsion in him to steal. Should he then listen to said desires and steal? There are those born with impulses to kill others. Should they then answer these impulses and follow through? Certainly not. Along this same vein of clear thought, this child should have been informed that sometimes what we feel is correct may not be correct. Instead, this poor child's mother decided that she should abet her child's incorrect assessment.
      This is why critical thinking and in-depth analysis must never be abandoned.

      December 4, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
      • JJ

        Please don't compare a crime like stealing to being transgendered.

        December 4, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Jonathan Samuels

    It is inconceivable to me that society could have degenerated to point where even parents are aiding in the confusion of their progeny. No doubt this gender misidentification was caused by lax Western moral values. This woman's puerile understanding of biology is laughable. She deserves to be severely punished for encouraging such a notion that sprang forth from her SON's naïvete. A male is a male because he possesses a "Y" chromosome. A female lacks the "Y" and hence is classified as a female. This is nothing more than an incoherent woman's interpretation and her implementation of "compassion" for the child. If she was truly compassionate on the child, she would have corrected the false conclusion that the child came to.

    December 2, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • max

      almost as ridiculous as the concept of praying the gay away. there have always been people who, even at a young age, find themselves identifying as the opposite gender. its not a new phenom. you cant really judge the mother unless you have been in her shoes.

      I know some f you think you have divine guidance and are thus infallible but the rest of us require some kind of proof. if the mother is harming the child, prove it.

      December 5, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  18. Marlene

    I am going thru this right now with my 17 yr old grandson who told us 6 months ago he had felt like a female his entire life. Our family has been totally devastated by this!! I love him with all of my heart but I have told him as long as he lives with us he will dress like the male GOD MADE HIM!!! I am grieving the loss of the hopes and dreams I had for him. GOD does not make mistakes!

    November 30, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Iconoclast

    Why does gender dysphoria "stress" you out so much? Why do you think that 97% of humaity is "stressed" out. It just tells me that you have no compassion and no understanding of the issues these people face. You are the one who needs to get over it and deal. Really, even if you just say "it's someone elses problem" why do you feel you have to make any changes to your own life? Live and let live.

    November 30, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Carmen

    I just want to congratulate her mother for supporting Jazz
    and wish you both the best God Bless you.

    November 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guy

      First, there is no God.

      Second, your comment is idiotic.

      December 16, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  21. Hopeful Realist

    Show some human compassion for the little ones who suffer. To fully understand and empathize with these innocent youngsters, I suggest you watch the Barbara Walters special from about 4 or so years ago. I believe it was called "Born with the wrong Body". http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=3072518&page=1 It is available for viewing somewhere in the article. You can see with your own eyes the beauty of each child, their sweet and pure wishes for their own lives, the joy the get from being allowed to simply be the person they are. I am not transgendered. I am happy as a female, always have been. But that does not make me impervious to comprehending that these children simply are not comfortable in the gender that they were born into. I can only give them my compassion. I wish them all the happiness they are seeking. We can give them hope, there is always hope that all of us will find the happiness we seek.

    November 30, 2011 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
  22. Cleareye

    You are the one who is sick. Just because you do not understand something it is supposed to be wrong? You are the kind of person that would exile cancer victims, or force left handed kids to do everything right handed. You only need to learn more about the condition and then you could be of help instead of adding suffering to an already difficult situation.

    November 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  23. pdigger

    Well, Brittany, all the means is that 9-year-old and 4-year-old are different from this kid. What makes you think one size fits all when it comes to raising kids? Simplistic thinking like that could end up stifling genius or, in a case like this, a child's true personality.

    I have a feeling someone will call your 9 y.o. ignorant, and it'll be entirely due to his PARENTS' limited realm of understanding the wide world we live in.

    November 27, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Tania Nelson

    You simply do not understand transgenderment. By the time a child is four, they will begin to identify, and know inside themselves that something isn't quite right. Transgender people are also chromosomally different. They will have an extra y or x chromosome, making them internally female or male, but externally the opposite. It has nothing to do with being 'taught' anything. We knew our youngest son was gay by the time he was four. When he did 'come out' at 15, we were not surprised in the least. Oh and he played with cars and trucks, my dear, not dress up and dollies.

    November 27, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • msadr

      that's complete bull.

      November 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • monopoly

      your claim that transgender people have extra chromosomes is false. however, people with extra chromosomes are MORE LIKELY to be transgender, in addition to other so called "disorders"

      December 5, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris L.

      You are fascinatingly wrong. You're on the internet, so I don't see how you can be that wrong unless you are willfully ignorant. Wiki: XYY Syndrome for example. It's normally asymptomatic, but there is sometimes a marked decrease in IQ.

      Triple X Syndrome girls are almost always retarded and infertile. XXYY boys are sterile and have autism.

      There are also single-X, as well as quad- and quintuple X girls. But it's all down syndrome and deformity from there. It has nothing to do with who they like or who they want to be. That's all in the mind. Read a damn book, lady.

      December 9, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Leo

      You're mixing up "transgender" and "inters.ex,' but I'm glad you're open-minded, and glad you're supportive of your son.

      Not all transgendered people have a chromosomal abnormality. Some do. Some have other physiological quirks. Some developed perfectly "normal" in the physical sense. Some didn't. Just like the rest of the population.

      Inters.ex people have physiological traits that are "in-between" genders. They're born with it. They might look more like one gender than the other, or they might appear completely androgynous. Some are happy exactly as they are, and others take hormones or undergo surgery so they'll align more with one gender or the other.

      December 12, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |