National Geographic magazine announced last week that it will feature its first transgender model on the cover in January, a 9-year-old “girl.”
“She has lived as an openly transgender girl since age 5, and she captured the complexity of the conversation around gender,” wrote National Geographic editor Susan Goldberg in a letter announcing the issue. “Today, we’re not only talking about gender roles for boys and girls — we’re talking about our evolving understanding of people on the gender spectrum.”
Avery Jackson, the 9-year-old transgender from Kansas City, Kansas, will appear on the cover wearing hot pink cheetah-print pants. Confident, laid back, and poised with pink-dyed stripes through shoulder-length hair, she does indeed look like a girl, but is 9 — or 5! for that matter — an old enough age to determine one’s own gender? Especially if it is opposite her biological sex?
The magazine’s issue focuses on the “Gender Revolution,” pointing out 80 different 9-year-olds in eight different countries. It hits shelves on December 27, and is guaranteed to stir up controversy.
Indeed, shortly after the announcement, a Twitter user named Mark Romano declared, “I used to love National Geographic. Unfortunately, it has become nothing but a cesspool of Left-wing insanity.”
I used to love National Geographic.
Unfortunately, it has become nothing but a cesspool of Left-wing insanity. https://t.co/RATyeX1yI3
— Mark Pantano (@TheMarkPantano) December 17, 2016
Beneath Avery Jackson’s picture stands the single quote, “The best thing about being a girl is, now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy.”
“The portraits of all the children are beautiful,” Goldberg wrote. “We especially loved the portrait of Avery — strong and proud. We thought that, in a glance, she summed up the concept of ‘Gender Revolution.'”
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) December 16, 2016
Indeed, the transgender movement could be considered a “revolution.” It represents a fundamental rejection of the traditional — some would say scientific — understanding of the relationship between gender and biological sex.
Some have criticized the movement as “neo-Gnosticism,” as it elevates a personal feeling about gender over the genetic makeup of a person’s body. Denial of the concrete facts of biological sex does not make them any less true.
In August, researchers at Johns Hopkins reported that people are not “born” homosexual or transgender. There are a number of factors that contribute to such identities later in life, and transgender surgery can do more harm than good.
Many former transgender people have spoken publicly about how hormone therapy and transition surgery have harmed them, physically and emotionally.
Indeed, many fear that the transgender movement may be targeting potential recruits among the disabled. Children and teens who struggle with autism or Asperger’s syndrome — with the social complications stemming from their mental development — can seem transgender when they actually are just distressed.
Those who struggle with gender dysphoria certainly deserve compassion, but it is entirely possible that encouraging their gender “transition” — or, indeed, “revolution” — will do more harm than good.
Parents who see 9-year-old transgender children on the cover of National Geographic should not take that as a sign to adopt transgender ideology. It is possible to love and steward confused children without encouraging them to change their identity.
It is entirely possible to “affirm” your child’s worth and dignity without pressuring her to consider herself a member of the opposite sex.
The culture is pushing toward transgenderism, and parents cannot ignore this trend. Navigating these waters can be particularly difficult — your children may have transgender friends, your tomboy might be pressured to consider herself an actual boy, and your kids will be pushed to conform their understanding of gender to this narrative of a “revolution.”
The recent struggles of churches underline just how difficult it will be to balance transgender ideology in government with a culture — or marginalized subculture — that affirms biological sex and preserves the physical integrity of the bodies of men and women.
Transgender surgery often involves cutting off otherwise healthy organs — making decisions which are irreversible. Even hormone therapy can have long-lasting consequences. Children below the age of 18 — and especially those at ages 5 and 9 — should not be subjected to such things, even if they are convinced they are transgender.
What happens if Avery Jackson later realizes she would prefer to be a man, as her body is? What if she comes to that conclusion after years of hormone therapy and irreversible sex-change surgery? How ashamed will she then be, looking back at this cover of National Geographic?
If this movement does more harm than good to thousands of people, how ashamed will Americans be as a culture to have recklessly encouraged so many to alter their healthy natural state? Parents and children should learn that there are negative consequences, as well as positive ones, associated with transgenderism.
Americans should have a serious discussion about whether or not it is really good or just to publicize the transition of children — who are too young to understand what gender really means or what the consequences of “transition” may really entail. This magazine cover may one day be seen as a grave injustice, to Avery, to parents, and to children.