In this special series, LGBT celebrities and public figures talk to Tim Teeman about the Stonewall Riots and their legacy—see more here.
Jazz Jennings is a YouTube personality, spokesmodel, television personality (I Am Jazz), and LGBT rights activist.
When/how did you first hear about the Stonewall Riots, and what did you make of them?
I spoke at a local Stonewall museum event when I was 10 years old and was able to learn much about the history after reading the exhibits. My thoughts were more simple at the time, but I remember being very upset and surprised at the way people were treated just for loving who they loved or expressing their identity differently.
It put into perspective how far we had come since then but made me also focus on how people currently treat the LGBTQIA+ community and what more we can do to further the movement for equality.
What is the Stonewall Riots’ significance for you now?
To me, the Stonewall Riots are incredibly significant and relevant, now more than ever perhaps. When I think of the riots, I specifically focus on the energy and chaos of the whole scene. I think about the attitude of the patrons, how fed up they were, and I can overwhelmingly feel their frustrations and passion for seeking out justice.
I think about how empowering and also terrifying it must have been to be there. All of their anger toward being discriminated against had accumulated over time, and once the lid popped off the can, everyone just went balls to the walls.
I think what occurred at Stonewall is similar to what is occurring today in a way. Many people have the same demand for equality, and I believe this demand will only grow stronger and stronger in the face of injustices.
“I think in a thousand years, humanity will be full of genderless, pansexual unicorns. In 50 years? I don’t think we’ll achieve unicorn status quite yet. But I do foresee a lot of positive change.”
How far have LGBT people come since 1969?
We have come so, so far. Stories like mine are representative of the change and progress since Stonewall. I’ve been privileged to flourish as my authentic self, thanks to the love and nurturing of my parents. If it weren’t for the Stonewall Riots and subsequent gay liberation movement, the needle wouldn’t have moved forward, and the knowledge and awareness wouldn’t have been there for my parents to assist me in my transition.
Beyond my story, there is an overall greater understanding of LGBTQIA+ people in society at large. We are more visible than ever before, and we never intend to hide again like we were forced to in 1969.
What would you like to see, LGBT-wise, in the next 50 years?
I think in a thousand years, humanity will be full of genderless, pansexual unicorns. In 50 years? I don’t think we’ll achieve unicorn status quite yet. But I do foresee a lot of positive change. Love always wins, and we are on the side of love. We are merely trying to be free and limitless in who we love and how we identify. Many people don’t understand that and let their opinions take them away from a state of empathy, but one day they too will realize the truth. At least most of them.
Ultimately, we are all human beings, and those who don’t presently understand will come to see that you can’t put other people in boxes and tell them what to do. You control you, and they control them. Just allow people to be who they are, and love them no matter what.
It’s not worth trying to project your ideas of the world on to others, because that is not your place to do so. We all need to foster a deeper connection with one another on a human level and have more empathy for each other. I know we will get there, and I think by 2069 the world will be much more loving than it is in 2019.