Jazz Jennings' Mom Jeanette on Raising a Trans Teen in Florida: 'We Were Prepared to Fly or Drive Anywhere'

The mother of I Am Jazz star Jazz Jennings shares that she was committed to traveling anywhere necessary to get gender-affirming care for her daughter, and encourages other Florida families to not lose hope

Jeanette Jennings and Jazz Jennings The Paley Honors: A Gala Tribute to the LGBTQ+ Achievements in Television, New York, USA - 15 May 2019
Photo: Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix/Shutterstock

Jazz Jennings may be all grown up now, but her mother, Jeanette Jennings, continues to advocate for transgender youth — especially as they face more discrimination and restrictions to health care across the country.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the I Am Jazz star revealed her family was ready to go anywhere necessary to get their daughter the doctor and care she needed in her transition. As Florida continues to tighten restrictions against gender-affirming health care — including banning puberty blockers and hormone treatments for youths — Jeanette had a word of advice for concerned parents and transgender youth.

"I would say, 'It looks bleak right now, and I'm really sorry that you're going through this, but you have to work together with your family,'" Jeanette tells PEOPLE. "And there is medical care out there, and there are people out there willing to treat you."

She continues, "They may not be in this state and you may have to travel. It's very inconvenient, but you know what? You got to do the right thing. You have to take care of your gender-affirming care if it's what you need now, you have to pursue it in a way that you wouldn't traditionally pursue medical care because you could find it in your own state."

Jazz Jennings instagram
Jazz Jennings instagram

Living in Florida while Jazz was growing up, the Jennings family also struggled to find the right doctors to help their daughter, who knew she was a girl from 3 years old.

"When Jazz started off on her journey, there were no doctors in our state," Jeanette says. "We were prepared to fly or drive anywhere because I would go anywhere for my child. And then finally we found a doctor that would treat her."

She added, however, that she "had it in her back pocket" that if the family needed to, they would "go to the ends of the Earth to make sure she had gender-affirming care."

Jazz Jennings' Mom Tearfully Recalls 'Putting Out Fires' Since Daughter's Pre-K Years and Encouraging Her to 'Be You'

Jeanette continues to advocate for transgender youth through her foundation, the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, which promotes awareness and acceptance of transgender children.

The company was founded to help parents understand how to assist their trans children and to provide resources as needed. Jeanette said their main purpose is to donate money to other organizations that are "more hands on" in their efforts and bring them a platform.

"Sometimes the best source of information are other parents that are going through what you are going through," she says. "And that's what I try to do, bring people together and give one-on-one contact, extra loving care to these parents that just want to talk to another parent that have never spoken to one, and I can provide that for them."

I Am Jazz

In addition to providing her own help to these parents, Jeanette runs Facebook groups where she helps caregivers meet each other and share tips between them.

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Jeanette said her foundation and Jazz's advocacy cannot stress enough the importance of having access to gender-affirming care — as the cost can be a transgender youth's life.

"I just want people to understand that that is a life-and-death situation for these children," Jeanette says. "The ones they can't afford to go out of state, they're not going to get the medical treatment that they need. This is life-altering. There are kids out there that will become suicidal and lose their lives if they lose their gender-affirming care."

I Am Jazz airs Tuesdays 10 p.m. ET on TLC.

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