Reality star Jazz Jennings was barred from girls soccer as a transgender child

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Christi Carras
·3 min read
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Jazz Jennings posing in a patterned dress
Reality TV star Jazz Jennings arrives at the 2018 GLAAD Media Awards in Beverly Hills. (Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press)

As Trans Day of Visibility approaches, reality TV star and activist Jazz Jennings is opening up again about a barrier she faced as a transgender child.

On Monday, the 20-year-old star of TLC's "I Am Jazz" recalled a period during her childhood in which she was not allowed to play girls travel soccer because of her trans identity. To illustrate the toll the discriminatory ruling took on her and her loved ones, Jennings tweeted a video of her father tearfully defending her rights.

"When I was 8 years old, I was banned from my playing girls soccer for over two years," Jennings tweeted along with the clip from her TLC series. "The ban made me feel excluded, had no merit and negatively affected me and my family."

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In the video, Jennings' father fights to keep his composure as footage of his daughter dribbling and dodging her opponents flashes across the screen. Also featured are photos of 8-year-old Jennings posing with her soccer ball and uniform.

"Your decision has taken away a piece of her heart and her parents'," her father says in the clip, addressing the organizers of the league. "Please let her play girls travel soccer presently, or let me know what reasonable steps we must take for you to change your position."

In the full segment, which first ran in 2015, Jennings' father said his daughter told him, "Why don't you tell them that just because I'm a little different does not mean I should not have the right to play with my team. Tell them it's not fair." More than two years after her family protested the rule, Jennings said a trans-inclusive policy was introduced.

"It's very upsetting, 'cause if I go to the games to support my team, I know that I'm not gonna play, and I'm just sitting on the bench," Jennings said in the episode.

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Jennings chose to resurface the scene from "I Am Jazz" after lawmakers from Montana, Mississippi and South Dakota passed bills this year prohibiting young trans athletes from joining sports teams that align with their gender. She also encouraged her followers to take action by signing petitions urging state representatives to protect the rights of trans youth.

"People argue that transgender [women] have competitive advantages," Jennings captioned the video. "This is not true. My personal experiences and many statistics prove this. Today in 30+ states ... they are trying to ban transgender people in sports. These bills are discriminatory, increase exclusion, and have no merit."

"No kid should ever be excluded from playing sports just for being themselves," Jennings' mother added on Twitter. "Let kids play!"

The author and YouTube star has also used her platform recently to condemn legislation preventing trans children from accessing gender-affirming healthcare. On Monday, Arkansas became the first state to prohibit healthcare professionals from providing gender-affirming care to young trans patients.

"This is not okay!" Jennings tweeted Tuesday. "Gender-affirming care saved my life and is so important to transgender individuals."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.