Jazz Jennings Hopes to Inspire Other Transgender Kids with New Picture Book
09/16/2014 AT 05:00 PM EDT
But the Florida-based teen made it through – and is sharing the lessons she learned with others.
Jennings, now 14, has coauthored a new children's book, I Am Jazz, and hopes it can assist other kids facing a similar struggle.
"I hope this book will help them to be who they are and stay true to themselves," Jennings tells PEOPLE. " I want them to know it's OK to be different and unique, and that they should be proud of themselves and who they are."
The book was released Sept. 4 and recaps the triumphs and hardships she faced on her transgender journey.
"There are so few books for little kids that actually mention the word transgender and explain what it is in simple terms," she says.
Despite being born a boy, Jennings considered herself a girl for as long as she can remember.
"From the moment I could express myself, I acted like a stereotypical girl and insisted that I was a girl," she says. "I wasn't just a boy who liked girly things – I knew I was a girl."
It took a little getting used to for Jennings's parents, Jeanette and Greg.
"We were initially shocked when Jazz was diagnosed with gender identity disorder [now called gender dysphoria], in 2004," they told PEOPLE via email. "We recognized this was an incredibly complex issue, and since very little was known about transgender children at the time, there would be daunting challenges ahead."
The challenges were significant, but Jazz and her parents overcame them – and want other families to know they have support.
"For transgender kids who are struggling, I want them to know they're not alone," Jazz says. "They shouldn't be afraid to step out of their shadows."