What to do when your daughter wants to be a boy

Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, the daughter of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, made the news yesterday because she got a fucking haircut.

Not just any haircut, she got a short haircut. 

I’m assuming this was important enough to share with the world because said hairstyle makes Shiloh look more like a little boy instead of a girl and this breaks the rules. Speculation about Shiloh abounds throughout media outlets on an almost weekly basis. 

I’ve read everything from people calling her “sick,” to criticizing her parents for leading her down the wrong life path, to calling the allowance of this self-expression child abuse.

Child abuse?

Because a little girl who allegedly feels like she’s a boy got a short haircut and wears androgynous attire, and her parents accept her?

Are you fucking kidding me?

Look, I shouldn’t have to say this, but not everyone believes there is just one path in life. SURPRISE. We’re all individuals. We think, feel, act, and lead different lives. We’re not the same. This absence of similarity should not be condemned, it should be celebrated. 

We’re human beings, and we can’t be forced into boxes with neat labels. 

Maybe Shiloh feels like she’s a boy, and she’ll grow up and get gender reassignment surgery and live life as a man. Maybe she won’t. But it really doesn’t matter, because it’s Shiloh’s life, not yours. 

Rumor has it that Shiloh’s parents support her and allow her to express herself how she feels most comfortable. Imagine that?! Instead of making every little decision for your child, you empower them to make their own unique choices! 

You give them the confidence to voice their questions and concerns. You follow them down their own authentic path, however unfamiliar the route may be to you. 

You trust them, and support them no matter what. 

You love and accept them unconditionally, even when you don’t immediately understand them. You honor them as individuals. You ask them questions, and invite them to open their little hearts to you. You gain their trust, and they tell you everything. For the rest of your life, you have an incredibly strong relationship with your child, built on a foundation of unbreakable trust. 

This might sound unfathomable to helicopter parents who insist on smothering their children and micromanaging every detail of their lives. Parents who would feel like utter failures if their child turned out to be gay or transgender. Instead of embracing something original, they resist accepting it altogether and punish their child for toeing the line. 

These parents prohibit certain behaviors that are not conducive to the child’s assigned gender. They don’t support unconventional decisions about hairstyles, toys, and clothing choices. They are rigid in their mindset about what is feminine and what is masculine, because there couldn’t possibly be any such thing as gender fluidity.

Lack of tolerance doesn’t mean that you’re somehow powerful enough to prevent your child from living their authenticity. 

Shaming, especially anything related to a child’s identity or sexuality, pretty much guarantees you will have a superficial relationship with them- if you even have one at all.  

I’ve preferred to have a boyish appearance since I was three years old. I didn’t have names or labels for my feelings back then, I simply felt more comfortable thinking of myself as a boy. It felt natural. 

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I remember playing catch outside when I was seven years old with my brother one day. It was a hot summer afternoon, so he decided to take his shirt off. I thought that was a fantastic idea, I was also hot, so I took my shirt off too. It made sense. 

My step-mother flew out of the house as soon as she saw be take my shirt off, and shouted at me to put it back on. She explained, “Little girls can’t take their shirts off outside, it’s inappropriate!” 

I didn’t understand, but I shrugged, and put my shirt back on. I realized the people in my life viewed me differently than I saw myself.

The reaction I got that day made me more careful, and I retreated inward. 

Being forced to suppress my true feelings made me distrust adults. They seemed afraid of what I was going to do or say next. On several occasions I was discouraged from wearing “boy clothes,” and I was criticized for even considering it. 

While I didn’t understand why I wanted to look differently than other little girls my age, not having the support of my family made life very difficult. Because they didn’t understand my choices, my family couldn’t support me. I felt alone, and hopeless. 

I became so introverted my stomach hurt whenever I had to be around other kids in school. I had feelings of self-loathing, and I lacked the confidence to engage in basic tasks that involved interacting with other people, so I avoided them. I feared their judgment too much. 

What kind of future was I going to have?

Turns out, a pretty fucking incredible one.

Being an introvert allowed me to use my imagination better than most kids my age because I had so much free time to think by myself. I dreamt up assorted versions of the life I wanted to live, and my ideas were limitless. 

If a negative thought flooded my mind, I simply countered it with an insanely exciting replacement.

When I struggled to love my body, I thought about all of the amazing ways I could display my physical prowess, and strength.

Then I trained myself and won my first bodybuilding competition as a senior in High School. 

When I panicked at the thought of never finding a good paying job because people would judge me based on my ambiguous appearance, I instantly thought of half a dozen business ideas to negate those fears. 

I started my own private fitness business in 2006.

When I feared I would never fall in love, I immediately imagined the most gorgeous woman I could conjure up in my mind. I thought about how much love, and passion we would share. 

Then I married her on top of the Empire State building in 2012.  

Colin Cowie Steph & Lela

Life is what YOU make it. 

There will inevitably be all kinds of different sized hurdles in life that threaten to knock you down, distract you, and prevent you from moving forward, but it’s up to you to blast through that shit like a freight train.  

It’s up to YOU, to recognize your worth.

You can never allow anyone or anything to prevent you from living the life of your dreams. If you succumb to the judgment being thrown at you, it will ultimately become your reality. If you constantly have to ask for permission and approval, you’re doomed to live a life of someone else’s creation. 

I used to care deeply what people thought about me. I feared their criticism, and I desperately tried to conform so they would accept me. I was miserable. Life became my own personal nightmare. As soon as I took ownership of my situation, I was rewarded with exactly what I had always wanted; loyal friendships, love, and respect. 

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” 
― C.G. Jung

As for Shiloh-Jolie Pitt and her short haircut; most of the naysayers out there won’t ever live half the life that Shiloh will, whether she lives it as a man or a woman. Those who spend their finite energy tearing down another human being, especially a child, usually don’t amount to much.  

From this angle, it appears that Shiloh is surrounded by love and support. Her parents aren’t enabling a “mental illness,” they are showing their beloved child kindness and empathy so that she can grow into a confident, capable adult who loves herself. They are doing the right thing.

I only wish half as many parents of LGBT kids could have the support that Shiloh has. I wish that my family would have known how to support me in the same way, but I’m grateful for the love and compassion that they showed me when I was finally ready to tell them who I was.