Am I the only one who thought Shiloh Pitt was a boy…. all this time?
It’s embarrassing, but it wasn’t until I saw a friend share her thoughts on the Pitts’ kid wanting to be called “John”, that I realized this. I’m not even kidding – I’ve written stuff in the past assuming Shiloh was a boy. But now that I’m experiencing this mindblow, I don’t even think I’ll go back and edit my past work. First, because it’d be like I’m trying to erase the reality of my own derp-ery. And also, in retrospect, it’s hilarious in that it just looks like exaggerated sarcasm.
But I had a good reason for my confusion. Apparently Shiloh’s been experimenting with cross dressing and the like since an early age. And while I think it would be 100% supercharged insanity to let a kid do a surgical switcheroo to seal the deal (and you’d be hard pressed to find a doctor willing to commit such a heinous act), I’m open to at least considering the muted down version where you just acquiesce to calling them a different name or pronoun informally.
I mean, I see Gwen Stefani’s son wearing tutus and girly stuff all the time.
I’ve also had more than a handful of tomboy classmates throughout school who went by boy nicknames like “Max” or “Sam” or “Jo”. While those seem acceptable and interchangeable across the genders, it really doesn’t seem like a big deal what you call the kid. So long as you don’t make anything permanent. Or official. I think that’s the biggest thing here. Shiloh, who started blurring the gender lines early on (age three, according to the article I read), is a good example of how it might be just a phase and it might not.
Some of my gay and trans friends detail feeling different very early on. I’m not grouping those two together for any other reason than the fact that both usually meet resistance from parents terrified their kid will be crucified and impaled with the nails of social norms they’re meant to meet. The fear’s understandable, but it also might be counterproductive to what parents are trying to accomplish. It also might be a moot point, if the kids are anything like most of the gay and trans friends I’ve known. Most of them will tell me they felt different from a very early age – like Shiloh (or John, whatever) here, and that being laughed at or chastised didn’t help change that.
Some of my friends sounding off on his have good points – saying “it’s too young to decide.”
And they may not be wrong. I’m not the kid in question or their mom or dad, so that’s not for me to say. But what I would say, is that if it were my kid, I’d definitely feel like it was too young to make a big deal out of it. Whether that’s a legal name change or even just discussing it in an interview to be broadcasted to the world and all of your fans who have opinions they’ll try to interject. The advantage I have of being a child-woman with a negative level of maturity is that I can remember what it was like to be a kid. And as a kid, when I was going through a phase, validation (especially from parents) had everything to do with where it went.
For example, telling me condescendingly that “it was just a phase” did two things.
First, it made me feel like I wasn’t a real human being; it’s hard for a kid to accept the fact that they’re still “developing” once they become self-aware – you just feel kinda like you’re not part of humanity, which is really lonely. Second (and tangent to the first thing), it also questioned my commitment to my early formulating ego. It was like questioning how dedicated I was to installing my own personality software. So – in an effort to prove I was indeed part of humanity – I’d indelibly carve in this personality facet as best I could. Even if it started as just a phase – I wanted to become one of the herd, with my own distinct character traits. So, I’d commit to something I was only ever lukewarm about.
On the contrary, I also remember that being overly applauded for something small could sway me too.
Kids like pleasing adults. So if I saw that I was doing that, it’d make me repeat a habit over and over to get the same reaction. A Jim Carrey impression. Singing everything from Madonna to The Little Mermaid. Poem writing. Cartooning. Mind you, validation can be good for those kinds of things – because they often plant the seeds for a career or hobby. But I don’t remember ever getting any applause for dressing super-girly just because I was celebrating being born with lady parts in this society. Why should I? It’s expected. Thus, if what you’re really championing is a kid being open minded, branching out, dressing uniquely, (and all that meaning them embracing these since-birth gender tendencies a lot of them end up claiming they’ve always had later in life), then there’s no reason to go overboard with the reaction. At least not any more than when your cheerleader daughter throws down her pom poms and tries out for football.
Or when your son does the opposite.
Save the praise for when you tell them to give whatever they do 100%.. and they deliver.
It sounds ridiculous – not emotionally injecting yourself into it to push the kid either way, but when it comes to hot topic issues like sexual identification, I think it’s important to give a good zone of inhibition. Maybe ask more questions – like the motivating factors behind it and how their friends feel and all that. Sometimes if you hit on a good line of questioning, the kid might realize whether it’s really the right decision or not. Forcing them to answer – or at least ponder – something of this magnitude is far better than telling. If nada else, asking kids serious questions (and I’m going only from the experience of having been a child once) makes them feel important. It’s the antidote to that whole “not feeling like a full human being” I mentioned above. (“You’re asking me? Like my opinion matters?”) The times my mom or dad did that with me, I felt like I was sitting at the head of a board room table in a suit not unlike Shiloh’s here. And, man, I did not want to eff that up by acting like a foot-stomping child. It was the cause for some real early-soul-searching – versus some regurgitation of what T.V. and magazines were dictating at the time. I feel like that’s a good practice to get them into.
In the end, I can’t suggest anything to “John”’s parents (though it totally sounds like I am). Not just because they’re a woman and man who I don’t know beyond some artificial images – but also because I’ve never had kids of my own and advice offering when you’ve got no child-rearing experience will probably just fall on deaf ears anyway. But as a note to myself, if I ever put this feminine manufacturing plant inside me to use: I hope that I remember how deep a kid’s need to be validated is, how they pick up on your subtlest reactions like an effing mentalist, and to act accordingly so they can become themselves – not some fear motivated manifestation of what I want.
That way, I can be ready to wade through these stages without swaying them either way.
Hey, maybe my obliviousness in gender identifying will really help me with my “react lax” outlook:
“I want to be called John.”
“I feel like I’m a boy.”
“Wait…you’re not a boy?”
Afterthoughts: Maybe we’re jumping the gun here.
Maybe this kid is just a tomboy.
Who only wants to be called “John” ’cause of what happens when you switch the first letters of her first and last name.