Jazz Jennings reveals the reason behind her love of mermaids

Jazz Jennings started researching how to make mermaid tails when she was seven years old. For the trans activist’s eighth birthday, she went to a mermaid amusement park and watched as mermaids performed, live, underwater. “And I just remember it being surreal experience for me because I wanted to be just like them, I wanted to be a mermaid, too,” Jennings remembered via YouTube. It didn’t take her long to order a sewing machine and to sew up her very own tail. She wore it every time she went into the water. “It was just a magical experience,” the TLC’s I Am Jazz star says.

By the time she was 12, Jennings had found an online community called the MerNetwork, where she started learning how to make silicone mermaid tails. “I put a lot of research and love into the project,” says Jennings, “I was able to create this beautiful yellow, green, and blue tail that was just a joy to swim in.” It’s this tail that is now on display at the Smithsonian’s Girlhood exhibit, along with Jennings’ hand-drawn mermaid-tail schematics. It’s not just that mermaids are mythical, magical, and magnificent. As Jennings grew up, sure that she belonged in a woman’s body, mermaids became a symbol of acceptance and hope.

Why mermaid tails are important to Jazz Jennings' journey as a woman

“Most of all I loved mermaids … I felt a pull towards [them],” explains Jennings, “It’s so cool how there’s this deep connection between mermaids and the transgender community because they have no genitalia, they just have this long, beautiful tale to replace that body part that dictates who we are so often, and mermaids are practically genderless.” 

As it would turn out, mermaids would play more than just a symbolic part in Jazz’s transition. “My mom .. found a group online called ‘Mermaids’ in the earlier stages of my transition,” Jennings recounted, “they confirmed that transgender people did exist, and that gave her the green light to say, ‘okay, maybe I need to help my child out by transitioning from he to she pronouns, and socially transition by growing my hair out long and just being able to express myself as the girl that I knew I was.'”

When Jennings finally succeeded in making her first silicone tail, she felt what can only be described as a sense of pride and relief. “Making this tale at age twelve represented my girlhood so much to me because, obviously, we all want to be strong, independent proud women,” she reflected, “this mermaid tale just erases my gender completely and … allows me to flow and express myself underwater as this beautiful creature.”

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