With reporting by Madeline Roth
Like most children her age, Avery is happy, active, and enjoys a wide range of interests, from Girl Scouts and gymnastics to "being a ninja."
In a video diary called "Avery Chat," Avery admits she's "just a normal girl." However, she also explains what makes her different, and in the process, sets an amazing example of tolerance and acceptance.
“When I was born, doctors said I was a boy, but I knew in my heart I was a girl," she says. “Even though I was a girl, I was afraid to tell my mom and dad, because I thought they would not love me anymore or throw me out or stop giving me any food or anything.” (As you'll soon see, nothing could have been further from the truth)
“Finally I had to tell my mom and dad I was a girl, because it was so frustrating, I could not hold it in," she says, with an eloquence far beyond her years. "It was so hard to not be who I really was and have them treating me like a boy when I really was a girl.”
Not everyone was accepting of Avery's transition, she admits. “When I started to dress like a girl in preschool, my friends were cool with it, but their parents weren’t. They thought it was contagious, like Transgender Pox or something.”
However, Avery has taken the changes in her life in total stride. “My new friends know me as the girl I am in my heart and brain," she explains.
As for people who question things like whether Avery should use a women's restroom, she fires back with the perfect response: “Who cares about my body parts? I don’t ask what’s in your underwear!”
Supporting Avery through this transition are her incredible parents, Tom and Debi Jackson. In the Times feature, Tom penned a moving essay explaining how and why he and his wife have supported their daughter from the start.
"My wife and I decided that we would much rather have a happy, healthy daughter than a dead son," he wrote. "In the time since her transition, a spunky and confident little girl has emerged."
Debi has echoed the same sentiments, first in a moving speech where she opened up about her daughter's transition, and then in an email to MTV News, in which she explained their brave decision to share Avery's story with the world.
“Until 10 days ago, we didn't show Avery's face or even use her name,” Debi told us. “So for the last several months she was pretty shielded from attention. But then she saw an article online about nine trans kids and she was the only one who wasn't smiling at the camera. She said, ‘Why aren't we showing me? I'm proud of who I am. I don't want to hide. I want to tell my story and help change the world!’ With that, we tentatively posted a couple of photos on Facebook and she was thrilled at seeing a couple of hundred ‘likes.’ She then said she should start doing ‘Avery Chat’ videos about being trans. 'Avery Chat' is something she's done for several months just for fun playing around with an iPad.”
In doing so, Avery’s been able to form meaningful connections with people around the world -- something Debi says she's incredibly thankful for.
“The best part about sharing her story is the amazing friendships we have developed," she said. "I'm now connected to people on six continents. She has met several trans kids her age, something we hadn't experienced in the first three years after her transition. Those relationships let her see that she isn't alone and really boosted her confidence.”
As for Avery’s future, Debi believes her daughter will continue to help others and be a positive role model for fellow transgender kids.
“We see that she may have a future as a public advocate,” she tells us. “She’s already been through plenty of hurt and rejection, and she's determined that other kids shouldn't have to experience it, too. She has a very outgoing personality and loves to entertain people, so we have had a feeling for a while that this day would come.”
If you're wondering how Avery's family might be dealing with any ignorant would-be trolls, they turned to inspiration from (who else?) Taylor Swift: