Few know this, but in my youth I was more than just a tomboy. I wanted to be a boy. I envied them their simple tastes in clothing, their laid-back attitudes, their (sometimes vulgar) humor, and the camaraderie that came with being a part of an almost-exclusively male circle of friends. I dressed in baggy, comfortable clothing. I even asked my dad to call me "son" once, although he never actually acknowledged my requests. Later on, around the start of my teenage years, I even dated a girl.
I eventually discovered that this was to be only a phase. Over the course of time and through several different life experiences in which I became more familiar with who I was, I went on to realize that despite possessing some very masculine personality traits (which I still embrace to this day), I didn't really have a strong desire to change sexes... or sexual orientation for that matter.
I was too fond of being a woman; having curves, wearing high heels and form-fitting clothes, putting on lots of eye makeup, growing my hair long and coloring it whatever I wanted, painting my nails, having children. Not that a male couldn't do any of those things, but I embraced my vision of my self this way - I was a woman who enjoyed acting like a woman, except I was one who, at times, tends to think, speak (and yes, sometimes behave) in a more masculine way. Perhaps this has helped me to be more objective and understanding of everyone, or so I'd like to believe.
Thankfully, that experience for me was one from which I took away invaluable lessons in part due to the support and respect I received from my family regardless of what my choices or beliefs were. They allowed me the time and space to explore my options, while offering guidance and insight in whatever area I was curious about. They never chided me for thinking the way I did, nor did they scoff when I ultimately decided that being a guy just wasn't for me. They let me figure things out my way in a safe, supportive environment where sound and indiscriminate guidance was only a question away.
In a world where those like the dubious Duggar family are promoting hateful intolerance towards self-exploration, LGBTQ lifestyles and outdated patriarchal gender roles, it's nice to finally see a couple of public figures have the right attitude towards child-rearing. Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt have been shining examples when it comes to their child Shiloh John Jolie Pitt, one of two of the couple's biological twins who was assigned a female at birth but now wishes to identify as a boy named "John". They have not only fully supported their child's decision by letting them wear a suit with hair cut short at the last function they attended, but also are keeping the proverbial doors open by referring to John as "they" if John ultimately decides to change opinions.
Stark contrast from the teachings of the fundie Christian right-wingers, who tend to favor methods like "praying/beating the gay away" or otherwise punishing their children should they dare to question their "God-given" gender or sexuality. The types of draconian punishments they inflict on their children do far more harm than they could ever do good, yet this backwards country is home to thousands of people who actually believe they not only work, but to impose them is an act of love. That scares the living sh%# out of me, and am sure every other educated person as well.
If more people raised their kids like the Jolie-Pitt family, perhaps America would be better off. Then again, that's probably why they moved to France... they couldn't stand American parenting.
Trust us, we'd all be over there if we could afford it. All of us who think progressively, anyway. I mean, a large percentage of the population here rejects the idea of evolution, for f*&%'s sake. We're pretty much doomed.
The lesson here for parents is this: let your kids be who they are. It doesn't matter if it changes or not - you never know what's just going to be a phase, and what is going to be who they become. It's okay if they're exploring and learning about their own identities. It's okay if they are testing their boundaries. It's okay if they haven't figured it out yet, and it's okay if they have. The best thing you can do is support them and let them know they are unconditionally loved no matter what the circumstances. When they ask for advice, give it in the most open-minded way possible. Present every viewpoint - even ones that you might not agree with. Arm them with your knowledge so that they are equipped to handle the battles they must fight to find themselves, and no matter how long it takes, they will. You fought them once yourself, and you know it's a tough fight. It's one that can take years, even decades in some cases, and some fight it multiple times throughout their life. Doubts, criticism and hatred are the last things you need bogging you down on that battlefield; you need all your strength to finish whole, without regrets.
You are not helpless. You can get them to the other side. All it requires is your love and support.
Here's hoping John finds the way that's best for them, and that one day, kids around the world will never again have to fear confiding in their parents when they know they just aren't quite "normal".
Because, really, there is no normal. There is only you - and you are natural and awesome just the way you are.
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