We Need To Cool It With Obsessing Over Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s Gender Identity

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Hi everyone, how you feeling? Up for a quick chat? Good, because we really need to discuss Shiloh Jolie-Pitt‘s gender identity. Sorry, may have stuttered back there — I think we really need to discuss the way we talk about Shiloh’s gender. The identity part is up to her.

And yes, that’s right, I said ‘her’. Not in order to make a point or to reject anyone’s gender identity, but merely because I’m working off the most recent information I’ve received.

Just to catch you up, in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, there have been a lot of claims lately across the media that Shiloh self-identifies as male and that her family has been honoring her request to be referred to as ‘John’. As such, many sites have begun using the pronoun ‘he’ or the gender-neutral ‘they’, so as to respect any and all choices that Shiloh has made or is in the process of making. Here’s an example from The Advocate:

“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.”

And on many levels, that is so great. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to live in an era when so many outlets can respectfully speculate on the gender identity of the child of two ultra-famous people without letting criticism or judgement slip in. But at the end of the day, we are still speculating, because the claims about Shiloh/John’s identity aren’t coming from her family, they’re coming from The Telegraph.

It’s true that both Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have spoken about Shiloh wanting to be called ‘John’ in the past, and talked about her predilection towards suits and short haircuts, but those interviews were years ago. Here’s Brad in 2008, when Shiloh was two-and-a-half:

“She only wants to be called John. John or Peter. So it’s a Peter Pan thing. So we’ve got to call her John. ‘Shi, do you want…’ – ‘John. I’m John.’ And then I’ll say, ‘John, would you like some orange juice?’ And she goes, ‘No!’ So, you know, it’s just that kind of stuff that’s cute to parents and it’s probably really obnoxious to other people.”

And Angelina in 2010:

“She wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.”

That represents a significant time frame of Shiloh leaning toward more ‘boyish’ choices, sure, but it doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate for us, as strangers, to speculate about her gender identity. This is a child we’re talking about, and one whose parents have proven time and again that they’re supportive of her self-discovery, so I suspect they’ll let us know when there’s a new pronoun we need to be using in regards to Shiloh.

Until then, I’m going to stick with ‘she’, because it’s the last pronoun that Angelina used to describe her daughter in an interview. Girls can wear suits and boys can wear dresses without it fundamentally changing their gender, so maybe we should cool it on the pronoun talk until we get the definitive word from the family. We can say it’s ‘not a big deal’ as much as we want and be well-intentioned, but until we’re actually treating it as such, we’re exposing more about our own issues with identity than we are about Shiloh’s.