Being an adolescent today is a tough place to find oneself in. Trying to be yourself with all the rules, norms, expectations and stereotypes that exist in modern society is frustrating at the best of times. Yet imagine being an adolescent and being trapped in the wrong body type. The confusion and frustration of a transgendered youth trying to find their place in the world is insurmountable. Elizabeth Copeland has given us some insight to the problems of such a youth with her novel Jazz.
I see my reflection in a window outside of Zellers. With my hair short, I may just have a chance in hell of passing as a guy.
I jump on the bus. Find a seat in the back where I can sit alone. Where I can think. Where I can enjoy this final ride from my past into my future.
I swallow the knot of fear that sits like a golf ball in my throat. Time to take stock of what I have. I dig down into my back pocket. Feel the envelope that was Auntie’s gift. Pull it out. Rip it open and count. One hundred dollars.
What else do I have? Three tokens. A ten-dollar bill. Two loonies. Three quarters and a dime. A penknife. My library card. My health card. My cell phone. Half-charged. And no charger.
I check the pockets of the black windbreaker. Five dollars. A few pennies. A coupon for Burger King. A half pack of Trident gum. Mint. And a paperback.
On the subway platform, I flip open the book and begin to read. Perfect. A book about Thomas Cromwell. Overarching ambition. Nefarious plotting. Betrayal. All leading to a rise to power, and then. Off with his head! A bad omen. I leave it on a seat in the subway car when I get off at Yonge station.
Copeland has given us great insight though her telling of the story of Jazz. Being born a boy in a girl’s body, Jazz makes his way from the suburbs to the downtown core to find an identity that is more suited for his emotions. Along the way, Jazz deals with a collection of people – employers, social workers, street people, roommates, – that makes Jazz’s odyssey a combination of heartache and humour can’t be forgotten.
The coffee tastes bitter. But’s it’s free. No cream or mil. Just powdered creamer. Mixed with three teaspoons of white sugar, it’s not so bad. I slip two packages of Dad’s cookies in my jacket pocket. For later.
Revived by caffeine and sugar, I start in on the form. The first page is basic stuff. Name. Jazz Gupta. Address. The streets. Phone. My cell. Employed. No. I added three years to my age. Scribbled in my Medicare number. My medical history as best I could remember it. Reason for your visit? To be discussed.
Another swig of coffee. This stuff grows on you. I turn the page. Hold up. These are pretty personal questions. Had I experienced any early childhood trauma? Was I sexually active? If so, in a committed relationship or with multiple partners? Had I ever suffered from depression? Been diagnosed with a metal illness? Been hospitalized? Had I ever tried to commit suicide? To all of them I answer – none of your business. Then scratch it out. Better to leave it blank.
The language in the book is simple and frank – perfect for describing the world around Jazz. We empathize with him as we witness the trials, the pitfalls and the joys the frustrated youth endures to achieve his new identity. Readers gain an understanding of transgendered individuals no matter who they are or where they live.
I’m back sleeping on the cot at the back of the salon. From the frying pan into the fire.
Sister Mary is nowhere to be found. When I call her office, Carrot-top says that she is unavailable. Yah right.
Rosa finished her course at the ballet school, and has gone home to her boyfriend in Kingston. What an idiot I am. I should have known better than to think a girl like that could want me.
Kim is not happy to have me back and is getting on my last nerve. Always making snide comments. Sticking in the knife.
“You’re late. Your attitude sucks. You need to get it together.”
And my favourite one. “Are you stoned?” Hell yah.
Jazz by Elizabeth Copeland enlightens readers about the world of today’s transgendered youth. It is a novella that uses frank and bold language to tells it’s bold tale. A stunning read.