Every time I hear a story about a child who is living the gender that they rightly feel they are and not the gender they were assigned, I feel the very essence of my own misconfigured conditioning fire. I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach and feel slightly nervous and confused. And then, I remind myself that this is simply a physical response of years of conditioning that came from growing up during my formative years in South Central Texas in a deeply phobic environment. So I push it aside and embrace the information that is being presented to me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Jolie-Pitt family this holiday season. Partially, this is because the media keeps it front and center but partially it’s because I think having such a prolific and well-known family make their acceptance of their child’s desires to change genders public is a wonderful thing. I remember back in the day when Chaz Bono (when he went by Chastity before he decided to align himself with his true gender) went on his journey publicly, it’s like our entire world went a little nuts for a little while because this hadn’t happened nearly enough and no one really knew what to think. The daughter of an incredibly famous couple was admitting that she was not the correct gender and that she was going to fix that. Like, Bill and Ted, Whoa. In some ways, it was questionable as to whether our society was really ready for this kind of announcement.
Since then, we’ve had some very strong non-celebrity families step forward to tell their stories of acceptance of their young child’s decision to change genders. One such family is the Whittington Family who supported their son’s desire to change his gender from female to male; a desire he’s expressed as soon as he could speak.
In the wake of sweeping national acceptance of LGBTQ, now is the time for change. So, why is John Jolie-Pitt so important to this change? Why should any of us care whether or not Angela and Brad are supporting their child’s decision to identify as another gender? I believe that they are an essential stepping stone to moving to a world where gender is not an issue, just as Harvey Milk was an essential stepping stone to LGBTQ people demanding equal rights and protections.
In some ways, the bigger the celebrity, the better it is for our society. Due to the social psychology concept of para-social interactions, people tend to gravitate towards learning information about specific public figures and emulating them. The majority do this as a , “sign of humanity that we can relate to and that feels familiar to us, despite how far away, unreal, and unattainable such lives really are.” (The Psychology of Celebrity Worship, Grohol). For some, finding out about John, a six year old child born a female who is seeking to be identified as person named “John” who wears “boy” clothes, opens up a level of self-acceptance that they may not have been able to access before. If the Jolie-Pitt family can openly accept their child’s changes, then perhaps the average person can accept their own changes or their children’s changes. It pushes the pendulum in a direction of greatness.
Of course, there’s going to be backfires. There’s going to be the people who cannot accept themselves and therefore cannot accept other people who are willingly working toward the balanced center of love and equality. The good news is that people look towards celebrity-figures who support these issues and make a decision about themselves and their own levels of acceptance and choose to move either closer or further away. But without these types of events, for some people, there are not many other opportunities for one to examine how they feel. In general, provocation rarely happens on its own when you have created a safe comfortable place for you to live out your life based on your beliefs. Some people require provocative situations in order to examine their belief structure.
Brad and Angelina’s outward acceptance and treatment of John will move us forward into a world where this sort of thing is a non-issue, and that’s really important to our Society as a whole.