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Op-Ed: Stand With Jazz and All Kids Like Her

by Chad Griffin January 14, 2016

In an op-ed in The Advocate today, HRC President Chad Griffin wrote about the need to send today's youth messages of hope and support rather than hate.

"LGBT equality took a small but remarkable step forward recently in the rural town of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin after an incredibly brave six-year-old walked into her primary school class and identified as a girl for the very first time," Griffin wrote.

"As part of a thoughtful effort to support her and to carefully guide her young classmates at this sensitive moment, school administrators planned a reading of the children’s book I Am JazzIn it, teenage author Jazz Jennings shares her own story of growing up transgender—a story she began telling at the same age as the courageous Mount Horeb student. By design, it’s a book to teach kids—and their parents—about understanding, compassion, and kindness."

"But after the school notified the parents that there would be a reading, Liberty Counsel, which is labeled an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, threatened to sue the school if it proceeded," Griffin explained.

Fortunately, the Mount Horeb community was ready to commit to creating safe spaces for all of its students and close the book on hate.

"The organization’s goal was to stifle the acceptance and inclusion of a transgender student by her peers and their parents, but its action had the exact opposite effect," Griffin wrote. "Although Mount Horeb has only 7,000 residents, 600 people packed the Mount Horeb public library in December for a reading of the book organized by a supportive mom.  While the book was never read in the classroom, the library event featured I am Jazz co-author Jessica Herthel, reading as young children sat cross-legged in front, listening intently."

Communities across the nation were inspired by the small Wisconsin town and decided to arrange community readings of their own.

"Today, inspired by Mount Horeb’s repudiation of bigotry and show of support and love for the young transgender student and her family, readings of I Am Jazz are taking place in schools across the country—from Tacoma, Washington, to North St. Paul, Minnesota; and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C. Jazz, in a video released this week, thanks the caring people who are reading her book today. Growing up transgender, she says, can be challenging, and kids—all kids—need the support of caring parents, schools and friends."

Read Griffin's op-ed in full here, and for more information on organizing your own community reading of I Am Jazz, visit hrc.org/IAmJazz.

Chad Griffin
Chad Griffin


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