NatGeo transgender youth cover

Avery, a 9-year-old trans girl, as the face of the Gender Revolution. Photo by Robin Hammond.

National Geographic magazine, which has been around since 1888, is catching up to modern gender issues with its January 2017 issue, titled “The Gender Revolution.”

The cover of the magazine features Avery, a 9-year-old transgender girl from Mississippi. She looks into the camera, her cascading coral locks falling around her face as she perches on a chair. She says, “The best thing about being a girl is now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy.”

Alfia Ansari, Mumbai, India. "We won't get education in school, but boys will be educated, and therefore they can travel anywhere, but girls can't." Robin Hammond for National Geographic.

Alfia Ansari in Mumbai, India. “We won’t get education in school, but boys will be educated, and therefore they can travel anywhere, but girls can’t.” Robin Hammond for National Geographic.

The issue, which hits newsstands Dec. 27, will focus on the “cultural, social, biological and personal” aspects of gender identity, according to a statement from NatGeo. Editor-in-Chief Susan Goldberg told NBC that they were inspired by the constant conversation surrounding gender in the last year.

National Geographic is almost 130 years old, and we have been covering cultures, societies and social issues for all of those years. It struck us, listening to the national conversation, that gender was at the center of so many of these issues in the news,” Goldberg told NBC Out.

“We wanted to look at how traditional gender roles play out all over the world, but also look into gender as a spectrum. 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 an effort to shed more light on a topic that has been at the center of social and political debates all year, National Geographic will be debuting a new magazine and accompanying documentary dedicated to examining gender around the world. The January 2017 cover of National Geographic's issue on gender, which will also be examined in an accompanying broadcast documentary, "Gender Revolution, a Journey with Katie Couric," airing February 6th on National Geographic. National Geographic "National Geographic is almost 130 years old, and we have been covering cultures, societies and social issues for all of those years. It struck us, listening to the national conversation, that gender was at the center of so many of these issues in the news," Susan Goldberg, editorial director of National Geographic Partners and editor in chief of National Geographic magazine, told NBC Out. Avery Jackson, a nine-year-old girl from Missouri, graces the cover of the magazine, making her the first transgender person to be on the cover of National Geographic. "We wanted to look at how traditional gender roles play out all over the world, but also look into gender as a spectrum. 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." The magazine issue, titled "Gender Revolution," covers a wide range of topics, from examinations of traditional gender roles and rituals of manhood or womanhood, to conversations with people who do not identify with these traditional roles. While putting together this January issue, National Geographic spoke with more than 100 children and teens around the world. Alfia Ansari, Mumbai, India. "We won't get education in school, but boys will be educated, and therefore they can travel anywhere, but girls can't." Robin Hammond / National Geographic "Youths are articulate and smart and key observers, and they don't have a social veil. They'll tell you what they think, and that is a true reflection of how societies really are. It's harder to get more candid responses out of adults. We wanted to understand how gender plays out in society, and what are the limits, or lack of limits, they think they have because of their gender," Goldberg said. Goldberg told NBC Out there was a stark pattern of young girls, regardless of where they were located in the world, telling National Geographic that they felt they were not treated equally because they were female. "It's heartbreaking that, almost in 2017, 9-year-old girls, no matter they live, already see their potentials limited." Goldberg hopes that one of the things readers take away from the issue is a deeper understanding of the gender spectrum and those who do not identify with traditional gender binaries. As part of that hope, the issue begins with a glossary of a multitude of terms related to the subject of gender identity, including definitions for "genderfluid," "intersex" and "transgender." When Massachusetts twins Caleb (left) and Emmie (right) Smith were born in 1998, it was hard to tell them apart. Today Emmie says, "When we were 12, I didn't feel like a boy, but I didn't know it was possible to be a girl." At 17 Emmie came out as transgender, and recently she underwent gender-confirmation surgery. She plays down its significance: "I was no less of a woman before it, and I'm no more of one today." Lynn Johnson / National Geographic


Massachusetts twins Caleb (left) and Emmie (right) Smith were born in 1998. Emmie says, “When we were 12, I didn’t feel like a boy, but I didn’t know it was possible to be a girl.” At 17 Emmie came out as transgender, and recently she underwent gender-confirmation surgery.  “I was no less of a woman before it, and I’m no more of one today.” Photo by Lynn Johnson/National Geographic

To put together this important issue, NatGeo spoke with more than 100 teens from around the world.

“Youths are articulate and smart and key observers, and they don’t have a social veil. They’ll tell you what they think, and that is a true reflection of how societies really are. It’s harder to get more candid responses out of adults. We wanted to understand how gender plays out in society, and what are the limits, or lack of limits, they think they have because of their gender,” Goldberg said.

Related: India’s First Trans News Anchor Brings Visibility to Country’s Trans and Hijra Folks

Sadly, a pattern noted by girls all over the world — be it a developing country or a major player in the global economy — was that they felt they were not treated equally.

“It’s heartbreaking that, almost in 2017, 9-year-old girls, no matter they live, already see their potentials limited.”

The magazine issue precedes an upcoming NatGeo documentary hosted by Katie Couric, set to air in February.

“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. “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.”

The documentary focuses on the lives of transgender folks and activists.

“What I really like about the story about people who identify on the gender spectrum is that it isn’t about famous people. It’s about regular people who are making this journey. I commend their bravery for letting us into their lives,” Goldberg said.

 

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