Post submitted by former HRC Digital Media Manager Helen Parshall
As educators get ready for students heading back to school, consider joining HRC's Welcoming Schools program and the National Education Association for our annual Jazz & Friends National Day of School and Community Readings on February 27, 2020.
“Jazz & Friends is teaching kids about different identities that exist within our community and about how to allow people to be respectful of others’ identities,” Jennifer Herdina, Welcoming Schools lead for the Madison Metropolitan School District, told HRC in an interview. “We’re normalizing these topics and correcting a lot of the stigma and misconceptions that have existed within our communities for a very long time.”
After a national anti-LGBTQ hate group bullied a young transgender girl in rural Wisconsin in 2015, her community rallied behind her by hosting a community reading of “I Am Jazz,” a book co-written by transgender trailblazer and former HRC Youth Ambassador Jazz Jennings about her experience as a transgender girl.
Mount Horeb’s unwavering support of transgender youth sparked an annual international movement commemorating their community’s allyship and the resilience of transgender youth.
“With Jazz and Friends and the Welcoming Schools program, we see students feeling more and more comfortable just being their authentic selves,” said Herdina, who attended the first reading in Mount Horeb. “This important message is being spread not only to the kids but to their families as well, who might not know how to talk about being transgender.”
In honor of the original event, each year communities across the country and around the world join HRC and the National Education Association to celebrate gender-expansive youth.
“To hear the impact that a reading has had on even one person makes it all worthwhile,” Herdina continued. “It’s so impactful for me, and I can’t imagine how validating it would feel for someone who is trying to grappling with their identity to see themselves reflected in a classroom lesson and to walk into a school where they can feel and see that kind of inclusivity and love embracing them for who they are.”
Lee Young, an attendee of the 2019 Jazz and Friends reading at the Madison Public Library, described the experience as transformative both for him and for his daughter.
“Since the reading, my daughter has asked many questions. It prompted deeper conversations about gender, and her understanding is far beyond what it was before she read about Jazz,” Lee said in an interview. “Even though my daughter may not remember that day years from now, I know she felt the love in the room and will forever be better for it.”
Registration is now open for the 2019-2020 school year, so don’t wait. Join HRC's Welcoming Schools program and the National Education Association for our next annual Jazz & Friends National Day of School and Community Readings on February 27, 2020.
Sign up now to host a reading in your community at hrc.im/JazzAndFriends.