After legal threats by an anti-LGBT hate group forced a school in Mount Horeb, WI, to cancel plans last month to support a transgender student by reading “I Am Jazz,” a book by transgender teen and HRC Youth Ambassador Jazz Jennings, more than 600 residents showed up at a public reading organized by a parent to show the six-year-old and her family that the community respects and cares for them.
Days later, the school board adopted measures to fully accommodate transgender students. Said one board member: “We will not be intimidated, and we will teach tolerance and will be accepting to everyone.”
Today, inspired by Mount Horeb’s unequivocal repudiation of the Liberty Counsel’s bigotry and censorship, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program and youth advocates across the country are hosting readings of “I Am Jazz” in more than two dozen schools, churches and community centers in eight states -- from Tacoma, WA, to North St. Paul, MN; and Dallas/Fort Worth, TX, to Washington, D.C.
Jessica Herthel, co-author of “I Am Jazz”, is hosting a reading at a library in Orange County, CA, and Debi Jackson, the loving mom of a transgender daughter, is hosting one in a Kansas City, MO, church.
“Mount Horeb parents and school leaders acted with courage and showed that love, indeed, conquers hate,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training. “Today, in communities across the country, people are standing up and supporting the full humanity of transgender children and youth by lifting up the values of respect, compassion and love. They are helping all of our children thrive, and become better human beings for a better tomorrow.”
In a new video, Jazz, a Youth Ambassador for the HRC Foundation, the educational arm of America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, thanks the caring people reading her book today. Growing up transgender, she says, can be challenging, and kids--all kids--need the support, compassion and kindness of their parents, schools and friends.
HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program offers professional development tools, lessons and resources that help elementary schools across the nation to embrace family diversity, be LGBT-inclusive, prevent bias-based bullying and gender stereotyping, and support transgender and gender expansive students. Welcoming Schools has created this guide to help organizers of “I Am Jazz” reading events build more affirming and supportive spaces for transgender and gender-expansive youth across the country.
The story of Mount Horeb and its support for the young student and her family will be featured during the HRC Foundation’s annual Time to THRIVE conference Feb. 12-14 near Dallas—and Jazz Jennings will speak. The conference is held in partnership with the National Education Association and the American Counseling Association.