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.”
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.”
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.
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.