National Geographic has for the first time featured a “transgender” person on its magazine cover, igniting widespread discussion about gender and prompting some readers to cancel their subscriptions.
Published continuously since 1888, National Geographic is an influential magazine that covers geography, science, history, and culture. For the January 2017 issue, the magazine’s editorial team decided to do something unprecedented in the publication’s 128-year history: spotlight a “transgender” person on the cover.
“We published an issue focused on gender at a time when beliefs about gender are rapidly shifting,” explained Susan Goldberg, the magazine’s editor in chief.
The cover of the January 2017 issue shows Avery Jackson—a 9-year-old boy from Kansas City who believes he is a girl. In the cover image, he is shown wearing pink girls’ clothes and pink-colored hair.
“So proud of our @NatGeo Jan issue, 100% devoted to exploring gender,” Goldberg posted on Twitter. “We’re grateful to all who let us into their lives. #GenderRevolution.”
Another individual spotlighted in the special National Geographic issue is Gloria Steinem—a vocal, 82-year-old feminist. She believes culture’s gender norms are “very limiting” and that it would be good to get rid of the idea of gender altogether.
“The more polarized the gender roles, the more violent the society,” she propounded. “The less polarized the gender roles, the more peaceful the society. We are each unique and individual human beings. We are linked; we are not ranked. The idea of race and the idea of gender are divisive.”
One of the articles in the January 2017 National Geographic issue promotes the concept of “gender fluidity” and urges people to “break out of assigned categories.”
“Once we recognize that gender identity and expression exist along a spectrum, why should we cling to the rigid categorization of men and women?” writes Anne-Marie Slaughter. “The ultimate goal, surely, is to let all people define themselves as human beings, to break out of assigned categories and challenge received wisdom.”
While some readers reacted positively to the special National Geographic issue, many others expressed dismay at the magazine’s decision to celebrate such a controversial subject.
“National Geographic is trying to brainwash young people into thinking this kind of degeneracy is normal,” one person posted on Twitter.
“Please cancel any affiliation I have with National Geographic,” one commenter wrote. “There are so many wonderful stories you could have published besides this one (gender). Those who are confused about their gender need love and counseling, not encouragement in their confusion. I have never been so disappointed with National Geographic!”
From a biblical perspective, manhood and womanhood are not incidental, says Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.
“We may feel a visceral response to sin and its effects, but this response must never quiet our instinct to show mercy to lost people,” Strachan wrote in an article for Answers Magazine. “Transgender individuals will be increasingly common in our neighborhoods and communities. We have a choice: we can sinfully avoid them, or we can seek to reach out to them in kindness and conviction and evangelize them.”
Ultimately, the gospel is what’s needed more than anything, Strachan concluded.
“It makes sense of our humanity,” he wrote. “It restores our dignity. It calls us to be men and women who see our body as a gift, a vessel by which we may give glory to our Maker and Redeemer.”