Debi Jackson Looks Back On Nine-Year-Old Trans Girl’s National Geographic Cover Model Days

Only six years have passed since the pink-haired and sincere-faced 9-year-old Avery Jackson created history by becoming the first transgender individual to feature on the cover of National Geographic magazine. The now-famous photograph accompanied a compelling quote: “The best thing about being a girl is, now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy.” However, in several respects, the cover seems to belong to a far-off era.

Avery’s involvement in the “Gender Revolution” issue sparked positive and negative reactions, including a frightening doxxing incident targeting her family. However, with the introduction of anti-trans bills in 44 states in 2023 (of which 11 have become laws), Avery’s mom, Debi Jackson, now finds the national discourse “much scarier.”


Photographer Robin Hammond captured the family in their Kansas City, Missouri home, and the shoot was enjoyable, with the family playing with Nerf guns during breaks. The magazine’s photographers preferred natural light, so the family moved around the house to capture the best lighting amidst the stormy weather. Debi praises Hammond for his excellent work with children.

The Making Of The Cover Photo

Debi, a self-identified conservative, Southern Baptist Republican from Alabama, gained public attention after delivering an LGBTQ advocacy speech for her child Avery in 2014. National Geographic editors contacted the family due to their activism. She says she was unaware Avery’s photo had been selected for the subscriber’s cover (a different image appeared on newsstands) until the magazine contacted her in late 2016 to let her know.


The Cover’s Reactions

At nine years old, Avery did not fully comprehend the global significance of being on the cover of National Geographic but still found it “cool.” According to Debi, Avery considered the cover to be for the entire trans community, not just themselves. Avery has always been proud of their identity and supportive family and wanted to spread the message that it’s acceptable to love and support your child regardless of gender identity. Despite seeing Avery’s quote, which she had told Hammond when she was out of the room, Debi was even more struck by the image that “nailed it.”