Cover girl

Why ‘National Geographic’ put a trans girl on its cover

There’s a wonderful post over at National Geographic, explaining their groundbreaking new cover. The image is of Avery Jackson, a 9-year-old girl in Kansas City. She’s the first openly trans person to appear on the cover of the magazine, and people are freaking out. (Both good and bad.)

“More than a few have vowed to cancel their subscriptions,” the NG editors write. But they felt that it was important to include her in this issue, which focuses mainly on how gender roles are affecting young people. Inside the magazine, there are portraits of 80 9-year-olds from 8 different countries, and the editors hail Jackson as “strong and proud.”

The issue notes that the very concept of gender is in a state of evolution — far from when Freud declared that gender is destiny. “Many of us learned in high school biology that sex chromosomes determine a baby’s sex, full stop: XX means it’s a girl; XY means it’s a boy. But on occasion, XX and XY don’t tell the whole story,” writes Robin Marantz Henig.

The piece concludes that particularly now, in the digital age, young people face new opportunities (and challenges) brought about by growing flexibility when it comes to self-identifying. On balance, the editors seem confident that that is a good thing: they hope, they write, that the cover can spark conversation about what’s changed and how much more progress remains.

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