Nine-year-old trans girl Avery Jackson made history this week by being the first openly transgender person ever to grace the cover of National Geographic magazine. Jackson’s appearance heralds an entire issue dedicated to “Gender Revolution” including articles examining gender roles and rituals across different cultures, interviews with gender non-conformists and a glossary of gender-related terms like “genderfluid,” “intersex” and “transgender.” The issue hits newsstands on December 27.
When asked about her publication’s decision to cover gender so extensively, Susan Goldberg, editorial director of National Geographic Partners and editor in chief of National Geographic magazine, told NBC Out:
“National Geographic is almost 130 years old, and we have been covering cultures, societies and social issues for all of those years. It struck us, listening to the national conversation, that gender was at the center of so many of these issues in the news.
“We wanted to look at how traditional gender roles play out all over the world, but also look into gender as a spectrum. There’s lots of coverage on celebrities, but there wasn’t an understanding on real people and the issues we face every day in classrooms or workplaces in regards to gender.”
In preparation, the magazine spoke to over 100 young people about their views on gender. Goldberg said:
Avery Jackson standing outside of the Equality House which gets painted in the colors of the trans flag every November in commemoration of the Trans Day of Remembrance.
“Youths are articulate and smart and key observers, and they don’t have a social veil. They’ll tell you what they think, and that is a true reflection of how societies really are. It’s harder to get more candid responses out of adults. We wanted to understand how gender plays out in society, and what are the limits, or lack of limits, they think they have because of their gender.
“It’s heartbreaking that, almost in 2017, 9-year-old girls, no matter they live, already see their potentials limited.”
That’s part of the reason that young trans people like Jackson are so important — they challenge preconceived notions of how boys and girls should look and act. And if Jackson looks familiar, maybe that’s because she was also the cover girl for Equality House’s crowdfunding campaign to set up a Trans Equality house next to its rainbow-colored Equality House in Topeka, Kansas, the one right across the street from the rabidly anti-LGBTQ Westboro Baptist Church. Up to now, that campaign has only raised $11,370 of its $70,000 goal.
In addition to the magazine itself, National Geographic will release a two-hour documentary, also called “Gender Revolution”. In it, cisgender journalist Katie Couric will interview the “parents of trans kids, people undergoing gender-confirming surgery and individuals who are intersex.” According to NBC Out:
The documentary also contains interviews with various activists, including Kristina Olson, director of the TransYouth Project; Georgiann Davis, an activist for intersex individuals; and Gavin Grimm, who’s involved in a Supreme Court case that could determine whether transgender people will be able to have equal bathroom access.
Here’s the trailer for the documentary which includes a young trans girl of color:
The magazine has published continuously since 1888 making it one of America’s oldest general interest magazines.