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Nat Geo makes mark with first transgender girl cover

by Siomara Germain - Copy Editor
Tue, Jan 31st 2017 12:05 am
Photo taken from NJ AIDS HIV STD Line on Twitter.com
Photo taken from NJ AIDS HIV STD Line on Twitter.com

 Avery Jackson, a nine-year-old girl from Kansas City, recently graced the cover of National Geographic. However, not many people are happy about the magazine's decision to put her there. Now why would people be furious about a nine-year-old girl being on the cover of a magazine highly distributed in schools and used for educational purposes? Well, Jackson is a transgender girl. 

This is not only a chance for students to learn about the social constructs of gender but also a chance for them to be confident in themselves, unafraid to stand out. What was supposed to be an historic step for the magazine soon resulted in backlash from some of its subscribers. 

The magazine's Editor-in-Chief Susan Goldberg wrote in an explanation, titled "Why We Put a Transgender Girl on the Cover of National Geographic": "We published an issue focused on gender at a time when beliefs about gender are rapidly shifting. Today that and other 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."

However, a lot of subscribers aren't ready for the change; they are boycotting the magazine for its decision to put a transgender adolescent on its cover.

"More than a few have vowed to cancel their subscriptions," Goldberg said.

Let them cancel their subscriptions. National Geographic is a magazine that is unique in its own way and if these consumers believe that they will find better content elsewhere that will educate them on world culture, history and geography, then good luck to them.

I get that some people don't like the fact that Jackson is only nine years old but deeming the action of the magazine to be child abuse because of the personal beliefs that children aren't old enough to know better and her parents should not support her decision being that she is so young, is ignorant. 

According to The Washington Post article, "Applause and anger greet nine-year-old transgender girl on January cover of National Geographic" by Ben Guarino, "The age when parents should support a child's desire to socially transition — such as wearing clothes or using the bathroom of the child's preferred gender  — may be difficult to determine."

The fact that Jackson knew what she wanted and knows who she is prompted her parents to support her. 

Many people have different opinions on people from the LGBTQ community. Some accept them. Some don't understand it but give the people in the community the respect they deserve. Others don't accept them at all.

Some people believe that a transgender female or male is transgender because it's their choice and it is not the right way of life, while some people are open and understand it's who they are. Many people from the LGBTQ community have spent a majority of their lives being discriminated against and have faced backlash because of who they are. Some have committed suicide because they couldn't take the attacks anymore.

It's safe to say that if it was a choice that they made to be who they are now, a lot of people who have been attacked would choose to not be a part of the community because of how they are treated.

What a lot of people fail to see is there is absolutely nothing wrong with people from the LGBTQ community, but rather themselves. They believe their way of life is the right and only way to be.

Individuals who have expressed their dislike for people whose sexual orientation differs from them should be ashamed of themselves. We are all human beings and we are all unique in our own way. National Geographic published the issue with a transgender girl on the cover because they want to continue the conversation.

"Our January issue focuses mostly on young people and how gender roles play out around the world," Goldberg wrote. "For one of our stories, which we also turned into a series of videos, we went to eight countries and shot portraits of 80 nine-year-olds, who talked to us in brave and honest ways about how gender influenced their lives," Goldberg said. 

People often don't think about how gender influences their lives and instead of taking the opportunity to learn about it, they choose to boycott it because a brave little girl wanted people to hear her story and to show people how comfortable she is to know who she is.

"We thought that, in a glance, she summed up the concept of 'Gender Revolution,'" Goldberg wrote.

Indeed she does.

According to the ATTN article, "National Geographic Features Transgender Kid on the Cover" by Lucy Tiven, the "National Center for Transgender Equality's 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that supportive families significantly improved transgender individuals' mental health as well as their access to housing and employment."

As a nation we should aim to evolve, not be stuck in the past. This is the perfect time for this issue to come out because it's important for people to know about gender, especially kids around the same age as Jackson. Gender is a constant topic everywhere and conversations are not slowing down anytime soon.

It's time to embrace and support all individuals, rather than dividing them especially at a time like this. 

The confidence and courage that Jackson contains is much more than some people will have in their lifetime.