When I was in line at the grocery store this weekend I picked up the most recent issue of Star Magazine and thumbed through it because Shiloh Jolie-Pitt was on the cover. I hate Star Magazine. I love Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. She reminds me of my son, only opposite.
Shiloh is a girl who likes boy stuff. My son, C.J., is a boy who likes girl stuff. He’s gender nonconforming, which means he doesn’t conform to “traditional gender norms.” His sex (male or female based on what the genitalia indicates) and his gender (male or female based on what the brain indicates) aren’t in total alignment. As C.J. explains it, he’s “a boy who likes girl stuff and wants to be treated like a girl.” He’s five and a half years old and he’s been this way for more than half of his life.
Certain media outlets have chronicled Shiloh’s journey along the gender spectrum. She went from liking dolls to dinosaurs when she was two years old. That’s the age when C.J. went from liking trains to Barbies. That’s the age when parents stop selecting toys and the children start doing it for themselves. At age three, Shiloh started wearing some clothes from her brothers’ closet and C.J. started wearing my tank tops as tank dresses. A year later, when Shiloh begged for a short-cropped hairdo, C.J. wanted to grow his hair out like Rapunzel. Shiloh is sometimes mistaken for a boy (because apparently some people don’t keep up on the Brangelina brood like I do) and C.J. is sometimes mistaken for a girl. Our kids are total twin-sies, but different.
From what I can tell, Shiloh is gender nonconforming. From what I can tell Brad and Angelina are okay with it. They were the first example that I ever saw of a family raising a gender nonconforming child out in the open. If you aren’t a family like ours with a child like ours, then you have no idea how good it feels to see a family that you can relate to – especially when that family is happy, out and owning it.
Having a gender nonconforming child will never be in fashion. I don’t think that we are hipsters because we have a child who fluidly plays with gender presentation and roles and I certainly don’t think that Brad and Angelina glamorize it, but they do make it seem a little more okay, at least they do for us. They’ve taught me to be, where C.J.’s gender expression is concerned, totally unapologetic.
“We are SO Brangelina,” I’ve told my husband more than a few times.
We aren’t like Brad and Angie because we are famous, ridiculously good looking, immune to the aging process, have a mansion in France, have more money than we know what to do with or partake in philanthropy. We are like them because our child likes to wear clothes and play with toys marketed to or considered by society to be for the opposite sex.
We walk with that child, in those clothes, clutching those toys proudly, with our heads held high, not open to the negative opinions of others or judgmental looks from naysayers. Brad, Angie and Shiloh helped us to get more comfortable with doing that and we thank them for that.