The following column appeared this morning in the Dayton (OH) Daily News. It’s a very positive opinion piece on gender non-conforming children.



A bunch of folks are having a conniption over a certain oft-photographed celebrity’s unconventional fashion choices. “Appalling!” they crow. “Why can’t she dress like a NORMAL girl?” they caw.

Who could “she” be? Lady Gaga? Kristen Stewart? Serena Williams? No, no and no.

Despite having her face plastered all over websites, magazines, tabloids and newspapers around the world, this “star” hasn’t had a hit song, starred in any blockbuster movies, or won an international sports championship. In fact, this blonde beauty probably is just beginning to master the fine art of coloring inside the lines. (No, it’s not Paris or Britney, either.)

Meet Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, the gender-bending, tom-boy-chic fashionista … and thumb-sucking 4-year-old. Spawned from the two-headed entity known as Brangelina, little Shiloh is making headlines with her short­-cropped locks and preference for britches over ball gowns. According to Mama Jolie, the tot “dresses like a little dude … she likes track suits, she likes regular suits. She likes to dress like a boy.”

So what’s the big deal about a little girl who likes pants and button-down shirts? No doubt it’s Jolie’s follow-up comment that “she wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.”

I repeat, “What’s the big deal?”

Maybe it’s that the idea that a child so young adamantly refuses to conform to traditional gender roles. Perhaps it’s the notion that her parents are comfortable with, and accepting of, her choices. Or maybe the thought that Shiloh’s male-identified persona might not change as she grows up brings out people’s fears about their own children.

When I was Shiloh’s age, I, too, wanted to be a boy. Like her, I grew up with two older brothers whom I idolized and imitated. Had I been dolled up in some frilly nonsense, there’s no way I could have executed an effective knee-drop while playing “Big Time Wrestling.” Plus, I envied my brothers for not having to run home while playing to answer a call of nature. (My attempts to imitate them in that respect were less successful.)

Yeah, I wanted to be a boy. I also wanted to be a hamster, Muppet and one of the Supremes. Four-year-olds are barely beginning to identify as humans, much less grapple with gender identity.

We have no idea who this preschooler will be as she matures — a diehard tom-boy or a hearts-and-flowers girly-girl. And if she does turn out to be transgender — like Cher’s daughter, Chastity, who’s now her son named Chaz — I say better an alive, well-adjusted man with loving, accepting parents than a self-hating woman who, worst-case scenario, finds life not worth-living.

Shiloh’s apparel won’t change the fact that her parents see her as “one of the goofiest, most playful people you’ll ever meet,” instead of just a haircut and boy’s clothing. If anything, she’ll grow up to be charismatic and independent-minded, instead of just another brick in the wall. So hey people leave her alone.