Avery Jackson became the first transgender person to be featured on a National Geographic cover for their January 2017 issue on gender revolution. The caption under the nine-year-old forth-grader from Kansas City reads: “The best thing about being a girl is, now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy.”
According to the 128-year-old magazine’s editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg, “It seems that the discussion about gender is really at the center of our national conversation. It is playing out in our education system, legal system, the military. Everywhere you look there is this conversation.”
According to Avery’s mother, Debi Jackson, Avery started to become “sullen and depressed” around age three and four. She got angry, withdrawn and hated going to preschool and “she started talking about death a lot.”
Avery would start to brighten up when she’d wear a princess dress, so her parents thought their child was a gay boy and “it would be okay.”
During a shopping trip at Target, Avery said to her mother: “You call me a boy, you think I’m a boy, but you know I’m a girl on the inside, right?”
After that, Avery attended pediatrician visits, sessions with a genetic therapist and they let Avery dress as a girl on the weekends. When Avery was asked to put on boy clothes for a weekend birthday party, she said “No, I don’t want to pretend to be a boy.” She dressed as a girl from then on and was “excited about going to school for the first time in months.”
The issue also tells the story of Georgiaan Davis, 36, who was born with the intersex trait CAIS (complete androgyn insensitivity syndrome) meaning she was born with a vagina, internal and undescended testes and XY chromosomes. The term CAIS wasn’t identified until she was a teen.
When Davis was 13, she was taken to the doctor for abdominal pains. There, they noticed she had testes, not ovaries. Her family and the doctor didn’t tell Davis about this development.
“They told me I had early onset cancer of the ovaries and would need surgery before I turned 18,” she said. The “cancer” surgery Davis had at 18 really removed her testes and forced Davis into early menopause as a teen.
Davis didn’t discover the reality of her surgery until she was in her 20s and looking at her medical records while searching for a new physician.
The Nat Geo issue will examine gender from the perspectives of addressing gender identity, sexuality, coming of age, and the threats those face by not conforming to traditional gender notions. A two-hour documentary Gender Revolution will be co-produced and hosted by Katie Couric, premiering on Nat Geo Feb 6 at 9/8c.
“We hope these stories about gender will spark thoughtful conversations about how far we have come on this topic – and how far we have left to go,” Goldberg wrote on the Nat Geo website.
The gender issue hits stands December 27.
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