John Jolie-Pitt: How long is a phase?

Posted on Dec 27, 2014 | 1 comment

John, center, with dad and brothers at the 'Unbroken' premiere. (Photo: Matt Sayles, Invision/AP)

John, center, with dad and brothers at the ‘Unbroken’ premiere. (Photo: Matt Sayles, Invision/AP)

In the last couple of weeks, the story of Shiloh/John Jolie-Pitt has made the rounds of the internet. Thanks to having such famous parents and appearing in photos wearing boys’ clothing in the last few years, there has been ongoing speculation about John for a very long time.

Most of the coverage, though, has taken quotes from an article from the UK and a rather dubious “expert.” (I’m not going to link to those stories because I don’t want to lend credence to the stated opinions.) In these articles, Brad and Angelina are quoted as saying John has been using this name at home since the age of three. John is now eight.

Five years. Five long years of consistently asserting a male identity and using the name John.

However, the “expert” wants everyone to know that most kids will explore gender roles. She misses the fact that the exploration would encompass both male and female roles, while John has exhibited a very strong male role almost exclusively all this time. She also muses that poor John might have been emulating older male siblings and that once younger siblings (girls) were in the house, might have been acting out to gain attention. But wouldn’t you think that younger female siblings would get the bulk of the attention — purely because of how time-consuming it is to care for infants — so John would revert to female behaviors to compete with the sisters?

She concludes by saying parents should watch and see what happens, accepting the child as he or she presents. If the child is seeking attention, the behavior will go away. Further, if what the child is saying is “real,” the parents are giving the child time to “make up their minds.”

Well, John seems to know. For FIVE years, the behavior has been consistent. How much longer does this expert want parents to “wait and see”?

The Jolie-Pitt family seems to be doing the right things. Aside from not switching pronouns, which I am trying not to begrudge because it’s often the last thing a child requests and the hardest one for parents to do, they are supporting John on this journey.

However, my fear is that people reading this expert’s words will decide that if their child is exhibiting the same sort of behavior, they can always wait and hope the child grows out of it. They might not be so open to allowing a child to change names or clothing because if five years is a phase, their child’s insistence of only two years surely isn’t something to take seriously.

Or what if the insistence starts around puberty? If a child starts experiencing severe distress over going through puberty because of the realization that their body does not match who they feel they are inside, will those parents wait five or more years while all of the physical changes of puberty take a toll on their child because the “Jolie-Pitt interview expert” said it was okay?

Phases are NOT five years. Think about the phases your child has gone through. Wanting to wear only sweatpants, watching a new favorite cartoon obsessively, wanting to be a Ninja Turtle (an imaginary character…this is not the same as asserting your gender identity),  the need to dip every food — not just cookies — in milk. These things last how long…a couple of weeks, a few months? They are not five years of consistently and persistently declaring an identity.

Want to compare John’s behavior to another child’s? This is one article that did. And I’m happy for the comparison.

Do you see the similarities in the consistent, insistent, and persistent behavior?

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for the spot-on insight.

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