National Geographic Debuts Issue and Doc About The Gender Revolution


In a new magazine issue and documentary, National Geographic will explore the complexities of gender expression throughout the modern world.

Gender has been at the heart of many issues in our modern world. In many ways, it affects how we interact with one another, both within our culture and with people in other societies. Throughout history, gender has wielded a low of power that can either elevate an individual or bring them to unprecedented lows.

Now, with gender becoming an ever more candid topic of discussion, National Geographic is publishing a special issue examining just that. The cover of the special issue is also groundbreaking for the magazine: Avery Brooks, a 9-year-old girl from Missouri, is the first transgender person ever on the cover of National Geographic.

Susan Goldberg, editor in chief of National Geographic magazine, said that “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 that end, this issue will explore the experience of everyday people as they navigate new gender possibilities. Writers and photographers also worked to understand current ideas surrounding gender. These include traditional rituals and beliefs about masculinity and womanhood, as well as the ways in which gender affects children.

While putting together this issue, they spoke to over 100 teens and children throughout the world. During the course of this work, Goldberg noted a distinct global trend amongst young girls. They clearly recognized the ways in which their gender restricts their opportunities. Alfia Ansari, in Mumbai, India, said: “We won’t get education in school, but boys will be educated, and therefore they can travel anywhere, but girls can’t.”

The accompanying documentary, also titled “Gender Revolution,” will be hosted by Katie Couric. She will talk with transsexual kids, intersex people and others who are outside of traditional norms of gender as dictated by society. “[I wanted] get to know the real people behind the headlines,” said Couric in a statement. “Because the first step to inclusiveness and tolerance is understanding.”

“[I wanted] get to know the real people behind the headlines,” said Couric in a statement. “Because the first step to inclusiveness and tolerance is understanding.”

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 11: Journalist Katie Couric speaks onstage during the AOL Build, Makers and Sony Celebrate Women Creators Panel at Paley Center For Media on July 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for AOL)

Both Goldberg and Couric stated that they hope both the issue and documentary will help promote understanding. The struggles faced by individuals both inside and outside of the gender binary may, unfairly, seem distant. Hopefully, their focus on everyday individuals seeking to live peaceful lives will work to that end.

Though experiences lived by celebrities can be helpful, they also bring a certain remoteness. It may be hard for, say a transgender person’s mother, to relate to the experiences of Laverne Cox. She’s a successful transgender actress who, to them, may seem impossibly glamorous and distant from day to day life.

However, if said mom sees the experiences of someone closer to home, it might strike a chord. They could easily be her neighbor or child.

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The new issue will hit newsstands in January. More information about the print issue is available here. Plus, the two-hour documentary will premiere on the National Geographic channel this coming February.