I'm definitely not a reality television fan. But that seems to be the current rage, especially on the topic of transgender people.
I am Cait will debut July 26 on E! Becoming Us is appearing on ABC Family.
And beginning tonight at 10pm TLC will premier I am Jazz.
Jazz is an appealing guide to her own life, confident but with a kid’s awkwardness and dorky sense of humor. She’s remarkably self-possessed for a 14-year-old, likely a product of having grown up in the media. Besides her video series, she cowrote a children’s book and was one of TIME’s Most Influential Teens of 2014. But it’s not until the fifth episode, as Jazz gives a book reading, that the series presents her as “the leader of the trans kids’ movement”–in her coauthor’s words–rather than as she first describes herself in the premiere: “I am a teenage girl.”
I Am Jazz allows that audience plenty of surrogates beyond the Jenningses, choosing to teach to the curious rather than preach to the converted. In a later episode, Jazz’s twin brothers argue with a friend who believes that being transgender is a “choice”–literally, “I thought when she was born they gave her a choice, do you want to be a boy or do you want to be a girl?”
The show could easily have given him a villain edit. Instead the brothers explain that Jazz identified as a girl from her earliest memories. He feels badly for making the assumption, we move on, and the show is better for giving him, and by extension audience members, the room to make a mistake and grow. I Am Jazz is an engaging story of a teen girl who has transitioned. But it is also the story of everyone else, transitioning.