The oldest biological child of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, named Shiloh and assigned female at birth, has for years been stepping out at red-carpet events and family outings with the multicultural family in sharp suits, boyish attire, and ever-shorter haircuts.
Around the age of 3, the now-8-year-old informed the family that they want to be called John — and everyone in the family has obliged, according to U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. (As such, this article will use the name John Jolie-Pitt, as well.)
When Pitt recently walked the red carpet at the premiere of Jolie's latest directorial effort, Unbroken, the star was accompanied by three of his children — Pax, Maddox, and John — all dressed in suits and ties.
Jolie first discussed her first-born's tendency toward things generally considered masculine in 2010, when the Academy Award-winning actress told Vanity Fair that her child "wants to be a boy. … She thinks she’s one of the brothers."
The Telegraph used its recent coverage of the Jolie-Pitt family to offer readers advice on how to respond to children of any age who express a desire to be a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. Drawing on an interview with clinical psychologist Linda Blair, the newspaper stresses that it's most important for parents to accept their child exactly as they are, and not overreact to what some could see as cross-gender tendencies.
It's possible that children who consistently express a desire to be another gender (rather than simply a preference for toys and clothing commonly associated with the opposite gender) will grow up to be transgender or otherwise gender-nonconforming, but they may also just be exploring their own identity.
"To explore what it means to be both genders is also totally normal," Blair told the Telegraph. "But the problem is we have suppressed it for so many generations, that people are still uncomfortable with it. You can’t become what you are until you know what you’re not."
Whether the young Jolie-Pitt will grow up to identify anywhere along a gender-nonconforming or LGBT spectrum is impossible to tell, but one thing is certain — having parents that embrace a child's curiosity, independence, and self-direction is sure to make that young person's life easier as they go through the fundamentally human process of discovering who they truly are.
Editor's note: This article uses "they" as a gender-neutral, singular pronoun in an effort to respect the young Jolie-Pitt's gender identity, whatever that may end up being.