National Geographic finally put a transgender girl on the cover

For the first time ever, National Geographic put a transgender girl on its cover. Just in time for 2017, when transgender people need more visibility and understanding than ever. In a gorgeous portrait, 9-year-old Avery Jackson lounges on a chair in all pink above the caption, “The best thing about being a girl is not having to pretend to be a boy.”

National Geographic’s “Gender Revolution” issue coincides with a documentary featuring Katie Couric that airs in February. The doc will “explore the roles of science, politics, and culture on gender, giving viewers a greater understanding of what is becoming a rapidly evolving issue,” Courteney Monroe, CEO of National Geographic Global Networks, told IndieWire this summer when the doc was greenlit.

You might recognize Avery. When she was 7 years old, her mom, Debi Jackson, shared a YouTube video of her sharing her experience. Avery’s dad, Tim, wrote a New York Times essay in 2015 about being the parent of a young transgender girl, saying that after talking to doctors and experts, he and his wife decided they “would much rather have a happy, healthy daughter than a dead son.” They are her biggest advocates, and Avery is walking proof about how important family support is for transgender individuals.

According to the The National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, transgender people with family support are more likely to be employed, less likely to experience homelessness, less likely to have “psychological distress,” and less likely to attempt suicide. Having family support is key to the mental health and safety of transgender people.

Sure, having a transgender girl on the cover of a magazine won’t change opinions over night, but it’s a big step in showing the world how normal being transgender is. Showing the “everyday” aspects of being transgender (or any gender, or no gender) is exactly what the magazine wanted to do.

“We wanted to look at how traditional gender roles play out all over the world, but also look into gender as a spectrum,” National Geographic magazine editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg told NBC. “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 more people know about gender, the more parents like the Jacksons can exist, and the more transgender people can rest easy. It’s not going to be simple given how backwards many people still are, but if we keep talking about the issues transgender kids face, it’ll be harder to hear all the idiots.