In a time when we're struggling moving forward with LGBTQ equality, the transgender community faces specific barriers and obstacles when it comes to health care, housing, employment, and social acceptance. That's why it is so important and inspiring to see National Geographic feature an openly transgender person on their cover. That's right: For their January 2017 issue, National Geographic will feature 9-year-old Avery Jackson, making her the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of the magazine. (Bustle has reached out to Avery's mother, Debi Jackson, for comment.)
Avery is depicted on the cover of NatGeo hanging out on her couch; her hair is dyed pink and purple, matching her outfit (and also probably making her the idol of literally every 9 year old in existence). Her own words accompany her image on the NatGeo cover, and frankly, I can't think of a better way to put the message: "The best thing about being a girl," Avery's caption reads, "is now I don't have to pretend to be a boy."
This isn't Avery's first time in the spotlight. In 2014, her mom, Debi Jackson, went viral for a powerful speech she made supporting her daughter as part of the series Listen to Your Mother; then, earlier in 2016, Avery and the organization Planting Peace crowdfunded the Transgender House, a companion project to the rainbow-painted Equality House, which works to, as Bustle's Claire Warner put it, "counter the actions and rhetoric of the Westboro Baptist Church."
And now, she's done another incredible thing before she's even reached double digits: She will be the first transgender person ever to appear on National Geographic's cover in the magazine's 128-year history. (The first issue was released in September 1888.) The January 2017 issue, which will hit newsstands on Dec. 27, 2016, is known as the "Gender Revolution" issue; according to a press release, the single-topic issue will examine "the shifting landscape of gender" with a focus on "cultural, social, biological, and personal aspects of gender." Features will include "Dangerous Lives of Girls," which documents the lives of young women in Sierra Leone, and "Rethinking Gender," which looks at how science can "help us navigate the shifting landscape of gender identity."
National Geographic is also releasing a special two-hour documentary on the subject of gender. Called "Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric," the documentary will cover "everything you wanted to know about gender but were afraid to ask." Couric explained to IndieWire that the documentary will “go beyond the headlines to examine the why, the how and what it all means, with intimate stories of the people who are at the forefront of this new frontier. We’ll also explore how it’s impacting almost every aspect of our lives, from bathrooms to boardrooms, and from colleges to competitive sports."
NatGeo is making a huge stride by featuring Avery on their cover; representation matters, and one of the most venerable publications in the world finally making this move is a big help. (To be fair, it probably should have come sooner, but change occurring later is better than no change occurring at all.) Featuring a transgender child is particularly powerful, given the disproportionate amount of challenges trans kids face in their everyday lives, from bullying at school to difficulty accessing the bathroom of their choice to having teachers and authority figures respect their pronouns.
Here's hoping we'll see more stories like this one soon!
Images: Getty Images; National Geographic