When I first saw Jazz Jennings, nothing struck me as peculiar. She looked like any other vibrant, charming and charismatic teenage girl. I assumed that her age and on-camera presence made her an ideal candidate as a representative of Clean and Clear. She fit the mold of what you see for something targeted at younger audiences. Teenagers get pimples and she’s a teenager – it works.
It’s not until it’s mentioned that Jennings is transgender that people start to stir, debate and wonder why a brand of face wash tries to “force” our youth to accept something so perverse. The backlash from parents is horrifying. I was used to seeing opponents attack adults on the Internet, but Jennings is a child. “Concerned parents” were saying that we should burn “it” at the stake, that she is wearing dresses to get attention or that she should just admit that she is a homosexual boy. Teaching children that saying these hurtful things about others will influence them far more than a commercial will.
I’ll admit I came late to understanding what transgender really means. It’s our reflexive instinct to associate sex with gender, but they are entirely separate. According to the Journal of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, sex refers to biological differences; chromosomes, hormonal profiles and organs. Gender describes the characteristics that a society or culture defines as masculine or feminine.
If a boy in elementary school decides to wear a dress to class, parents fear he’ll grow up to be gay. But did that boy decide to wear a dress so he could make a bold sexual statement? Probably not.
By this same context, what is so wrong with a transgendered child promoting face wash? The #SeeTheRealMe campaign is a move that asks people around the world to share their personal coming-of-age stories through social media. In a video for the brand, Jennings tells her story about growing up and learning about her identity.
She isn’t asserting that we should all have the same story as her. She isn’t saying that children should be transgender. Instead, we should celebrate our different stories.
Jennings isn’t the face of the campaign in an attempt to push some sort of agenda. She’s the face of the campaign because she’s different. By our own convictions, we reject what we don’t understand. It’s part of nature, and the concept of transgender is still relatively confusing for people. Instead of reacting to different people with violent threats, we should listen to them.
We shouldn’t react to these campaigns with hostility. We should accept that not everyone is going to fit a binary that our society creates.
If you don’t want to buy pimple cream because you don’t agree with its spokesperson, don’t. That’s your choice. That’s how a free market works.
When Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy said he didn’t support gay marriage in 2013, people who disagreed decided not to eat there. When Oreos made an advertisement in support of gay marriage in 2010, people who disagreed stopped buying Oreos.
Don’t support a business you don’t believe in, but don’t attack a teenage girl because she is representative of something you don’t support. The faces of campaigns are still human.
Column by Carly Besser, Opinion Editor