Jazz Jennings is ready to just be herself.
The I Am Jazz star and transgender advocate is opening up about her recent gender confirmation surgery. In a new interview with ABC News' Juju Chang, Jennings detailed the "surreal" experience -- and complications that followed.
"It was like a dream. It was. This is a moment that I had always envisioned and just experiencing it was so surreal. I was like, 'I can't believe this is happening,'" Jennings, who started transitioning at the age of 5, said.
The 18-year-old, along with her parents, decided to medically intervene her puberty with hormone blockers when she was 11, halting any male development. Soon after, when she was on the verge of high school, she started taking estrogen.
"I have no regrets because it allowed me to prevent myself from going through male puberty," Jazz said. "I feel like that's why my dysphoria hasn't been so bad is because I look in the mirror, and I see the girl that I am on the inside. But not every transgender person has the opportunity to do that."
Jennings' use of hormone blockers proved to be an obstacle when it came to her surgery, however. And she also needed to lose 30 pounds for the operation.
"Being on the blockers is something that I don't regret at all. But the only, you know, downside to it was that I didn't have enough growth down below. So there wasn't enough tissue to work with when it came to the surgery," she recalled. "And it was very challenging to find a doctor, a surgeon who was willing to perform the operation on me just 'cause I'm such a difficult case."
The teenager and her family decided a new, groundbreaking technique would be the right fit for her.
"They’re using the tissue I have, the peritoneum, and also, they may take a skin graft as well. I say it's going to be like a patchwork vagina, Franken-vagina," she said with a laugh. "So yeah, as long as it's functional, that's all that matters."
"And I want it to look somewhat pretty, just 'cause it's my body," she added.
Jennings has since made a full recovery, but as she told ABC News, it wasn't without setbacks.
"There was just an unfortunate event and setback where things did come apart, and there was a complication," Jazz revealed. "I had to come back in for another procedure, but it was just all part of the journey. The good thing though is that it was only cosmetic and external so it wasn’t too dramatic."
"My life wasn’t in danger. I had the guidance of two incredible surgeons, and they really just supported me throughout the entire process and took control over the matter," she continued.
Now, Jennings hopes to continue to spread the word about transgender issues. "I've been criticized for sharing too much information, and yeah, it is personal and uncomfortable for some individuals. But how are we going to learn if someone doesn't step up to the plate and share their story and personal details?" she asked.
"This is really the last thing that will validate my identity as a woman," she added of her surgery. "There is nothing else after this. I just get to be myself, be in the body that I've always wanted. And then I can live my life as just Jazz."
The fifth season of her TLC reality show, I Am Jazz, premieres in 2019.
See more on Jennings in the video below.
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