cover national geographic

National Geographic features a 9-year-old transgender girl on its front cover and controversy ensues

Many have applauded the decision. Others accuse the magazine of supporting ‘child abuse’

In February 2014, clinical therapist Caroline Gibbs, director of the Transgender Institute in Missouri, had the following conversation with Avery Jackson, then 6 years old:

‘Can you tell me something about yourself? Are you a boy or a girl?’

-‘I’m a girl,’ A.J. said.

-‘What makes you think you’re a girl?’

-‘I just am,’ she said.

-‘Is it what you wear or what you play with?’

-‘No. I just am,’ she said.

-‘Your parents say “my son” and “him”. How does that make you feel?’

-‘I’m really a she,’ A.J. responded, ‘’cos I’m a girl. I’m a daughter.’

The American Psychiatric Association defines gender dysphoria as severe unease or conflict with assigned, expected gender roles and a person’s identity. Although this condition is quite rare, it has been diagnosed in children.

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One of those children is Avery.

Avery is nine and lives in Kansas City. She features on the front cover of a special edition of National Geographic dedicated to gender. Beneath the picture is her quote: ‘The best thing about being a girl is, now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy.’

Since National Geographic revealed the cover for its January issue on Twitter, the debate about transgender children has burst into life once again.

Susan Goldberg, National Geographic’s editor-in-chief, wrote in an editor’s note that reactions to the magazine cover were diverse, ranging from ‘expressions of pride and gratitude to utter fury’.
Some on social media have accused National Geographic of ‘trying to brainwash young people into thinking this kind of degeneracy is normal’ and even of encouraging ‘child abuse’.

‘In children, gender solidifies at about 3 to 6.’ Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre psychiatrist Patrick Kelly told The Washington Post in 2012. Avery, whose biological sex at birth was male, has lived as a girl since she was 5, something that LGBT advocacy organization Freedom for All Americans has celebrated: ‘We’re cheering on Avery Jackson, a 9-year-old transgender girl.’
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‘Avery captured the complexity of the conversation around gender,’ wrote Goldberg. ‘We thought that, in a glance, she summed up the concept of “Gender Revolution”.’

The special issue of the magazine focuses ‘mostly on young people and how gender roles play out around the world,’ wrote Goldberg, going on to state that ‘beliefs about gender are shifting rapidly and radically. That’s why we’re exploring the subject this month, looking at it through the lens of science, social systems, and civilizations throughout history.’

Avery’s portrait marked a first for National Geographic, which had never featured a transgender person on its front page before.

 


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