It is hard to not have heard about this “controversial” story in the media within the past few weeks. 8-year-old Shiloh, daughter of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie appeared on the red carpet at the premier of her mother's film Unbroken, as an act of support and encouragement. However, there seems to be more ridicule than support offered to this 8-year-old. Dressed in a suit and tie, short hair slicked back, Shiloh mirrored the image of dad, Brad Pitt, and her 2 older brothers.
It's been a known fact that Shiloh has been a tomboy since birth and prefers being called John. Both Brad and Angelina have mentioned that Shiloh first expressed the desire to be called John at age 3. Therefore, John (I will call him as he wishes to be called, because calling him otherwise would be disrespectful) has been identifying as male for the better part of his life. However, John's appearance at the Unbroken premier has caused a great scandal within the media and society as a whole, and I just don't understand why.
Born female, John has been identifying as male since age 3. He does not respond to his given name Shiloh. Both parents have stated that he views himself as one of the brothers within the family. He wears his hair short and wears boys clothing.... Why would John show up in anything other than a suit to a red carpet event?!
What I do find shocking however, is how this event has caused such an uproar. It seems as though parents Brad and Angelina are being bashed by all sides. There are obviously those who do not believe in freedom of speech or self discovery and who are labeling the celebrities as terrible parents, stating that this type of behavior should not be accepted from a little girl. These individuals blame the entire situation on them nurturing their child and state that it is the parents' fault that their little girl is identifying as male. What I find intriguing about this point of view is, albeit the fact that all six children have been raised by the same parents, John is the only child to identify as the opposite sex. John has not been raised any differently from his 3 brothers and 2 sisters, yet he is the only one to feel this way. John's 2 sisters walk around in dresses and pig tails, therefore we see that Brad and Angelina have no objections to girly clothing. However, John refuses to wear any of them. Therefore, this situation cannot be solely caused by "nurturing," could it? Let's move on.
There are then the individuals who I would like to call the “hopefuls.” They seem to think it is just a phase and that John will snap out of it at some point. Stating that John looks up to his older brothers and wants to be just like them, and therefore decided to act and dress like a boy. This group of people do not call John 'him' nor 'her,' but call him 'they'- assigning John to no particular gender, since they believe John is “confused.”
On the other side of the spectrum, there are individuals who feel as though Shiloh is transgressed, such as Amber Rose. These individuals are overjoyed to see such a young and vibrant individual stand up for themselves and live their truth. However, neither Brad nor Angelina have ever used this term to describe their child. As soon as the term “transgendered” was associated to John, the media flared up once again, stating that Amber Rose crossed the line with this claim and that it is completely false.
What I would like to suggest however, is a group of people... who don't give a shit! We are speaking of an 8-year-old child who is discovering themselves. We should let this child be a child and find his own path instead of ridicule him on the cover of every magazine and tabloid possible. As if the path to self discovery isn't hard enough, the last thing John needs is the opinion of a million strangers telling him who he is and what he feels. Evidence suggests that John may or may not be transgendered, and guess what....John is the only one who can figure this out. The one thing this child needs while he is doing that is support, which from what I can see, he is only getting from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I guess they're not terrible parents after all, are they?
Gender is learned behavior. It is not something you are born with. You are both with a sex. This is anatomical and determines whether an individual is male or female. Gender however, is a whole different ball game. It is a set of behaviors that is learned through observation and helps one distinguish between being a girl and being a boy. However, boy and girl are no longer the only two genders out there, which is what I feel not everyone understands or cares to admit. Gender is a beast within itself, and if you cannot understand the beast, you should keep your opinions to yourself because you clearly don't know what you're talking about.
I would like to switch gears for one moment and present a case study that I feel will help me make my point. We have all heard of the recent tragedy that struck Ohio's 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn who committed suicide on December 28, 2014. This transgendered teen was born by the name of Joshua and her parents never accepted the fact that she was transgender. She states that her parents deemed it as a phase and told her that “god doesn't make mistakes.” They also went as far as sending their child to Christian therapists who tried to talk her out of her transgressed feelings. Not allowed to live freely as herself, Leelah walked into oncoming traffic and ended her own life. Her suicide note reads:
“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.”
I would like to make it clear that I am not drawing parallels between these two situations in order to prove that John is transgressed, because no one knows that this is true at this point in time. All I am suggesting is that we/society/media needs to be more conscious of how we treat people. Just as Leelah mentioned in her note above, she wanted to be treated as a human, with rights and feelings. How is it that the tabloids have not been able to treat John as a human in favor of exploiting this child and offering their opinions on who and what he is, or is not, and the way he is being parented? John is not a toy. He has taken the decision to wear boys clothes and to identify as male. Society is to respect this and move on. These are his feelings and these are his rights- they are not for society to play with or bend.
Another excerpt of Leelah's suicide note states:
“Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. [...] Fix society.”
This is the major point here. Education. There is so much to be learned about gender that no one ever discusses and everyone is left to figure it out for themselves. Well guess what, it's time to discuss! This ties into my earlier point that if one does not understand the beast that is gender, one should not comment. The year is 2015, the world has changed dramatically since our parents' generation and even more so since our grandparents'. I guess I can understand older generations' ignorance about gender, but millennials should know better, and it is our job to teach them better. This is the only way to “fix society” as Leelah asks.
All of us, living here on Earth, are humans. We all have the same basic needs, we all breathe the same air and look up at the same sky and most importantly we all have rights. We are all free. I therefore believe that John, and anyone else in a similar situation, should be treated with respect and be left to discover themselves, free of judgement and scandal, because in the end....Who cares? We are all the same, we are all human. I do not ask that you share my point of view at this time. However, I do ask of you one thing. Open your mind before your mouth.