National Geographic became a virtual Moses this week when they split the waters of the internet by immortalizing a 9-year-old transgender cover girl for their January subscription edition, releasing it as a special issue focusing completely on gender. Since news of its impending release, readers and non-readers alike have chosen their sides and prepared themselves for a virtual battle of digital rage.
Traversing the narrow path between the two sides – one side praying for her, the other side praying for her demise – however, is a 9-year-old transgender girl named Avery Jackson.
A transgender person, like Avery, is someone who identifies as the opposite gender they were assigned at birth, or no gender at all. If a child was assigned male at birth but identifies as a female, they are known as trans women or transgender women. If a child was assigned female at birth and identifies as male, they are called trans men or transgender men. Often forgotten on the gender spectrum are those assigned either male or female at birth and identifying as non-binary, meaning they are not male or female, or they are both.
Judging from some of the questions on GLAAD’s web page for transgender-related issues, the nature of who transgender folks are, and why they are, can sometimes be a difficult subject to approach, even for them.
Avery, however, speaking with a vocabulary of a typical 9-year-old, had a simple response to explain who she is.
“The best thing about being a girl is, now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy,” she told National Geographic.
Avery and her family are experiencing a wide range of support on the internet after news of the cover surfaced this week. However, with the good, the bad was soon to follow. While Jackson’s supporters continue to grow, so does her opposition. In typical internet fashion, both sides took to the comments sections of various news sites and Twitter to make their cases.
Avery supporters lauded the girl and her parents, while non-supporters offered their dismay at the decision to place a transgender girl on the cover of National Geographic.
Some tweeters displayed their disapproval.
You are pandering to a small group of supporters. I am canceling our subscription for my daughters
— Todd (@T_Squared68) December 19, 2016
I'm done renewing Absolutely nonsensical exploit of a confused child & to call it 'Revolution'
Perfect example of Idiocy
— mojave rattler (@PennyHicks13) December 19, 2016
Others came to Avery’s defense.
— AceOfJades (@JaidenHull) December 19, 2016
1)Transgender children are not being told who they are, they're telling you. And we have two choices: We either listen,love&help
— Tina Console (@TinaConsole) December 21, 2016
National Geographic also stepped in, defending their decision to use Avery Jackson on the cover of their January edition.
“We wanted to look at how traditional gender roles play out all over the world, but also look into gender as a spectrum,” Goldberg told the Huffington Post. “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 addition to the January edition of National Geographic, there is also a two-hour documentary hosted by Katie Couric, according to NBC News. In it, Couric talks with transgender children and their parents, transgender folks who are seeking gender confirmation surgery, and others. Katie released a statement to NBC News offering a glimpse into her motivations for hosting the documentary.
“It’s hard to avoid hearing about some aspect of gender these days. Every time you check your phone, turn on the TV or scan Twitter, there’s another story that’s challenging our preconceived notions of what gender is, how it’s determined and the impact these new definitions are having on society,” Couric said in a statement to NBC News. “I set out on a journey to try to educate myself about a topic that young people are living with so effortlessly — and get to know the real people behind the headlines. Because the first step to inclusiveness and tolerance is understanding.”
Whether or not Avery Jackson, her mother, Debi Jackson, or her family are in the documentary is unknown. What is known is that for the first time in the history of National Geographic, a 9-year-old transgender girl sparked a national, if not global, conversation about gender identity in children, all while wearing pink pajamas.
[Featured Image by David McNew/Getty Images]