One of the things I love most about being a Tía is sitting down with my nieces and nephews for one-on-one conversations. They love to talk to me because I listen to them and ask questions with the same undivided attention I’d give any adult. I believe it helps them to know that their thoughts and ideas are important and should be valued. I also believe that it teaches them how to express themselves.
My 10 year old nephew and I were having one of those conversations just last week. He was explaining the game he had made up, while I listened intently. Out of nowhere, as if he just had a random thought (so much like his aunt), he said, “Hey Titi, did you know Justin Bieber is gay?” I was taken aback and had to take a second to regroup before replying in the same conversational tone, “Hmm…that’s interesting. What makes you say that?” “The kids at school say that he’s singing Baby, Baby to a boy.” He paused and got a quizzical look on his face as if he was considering something and then said, “Yeah, but it could be to a girl, right Titi? Or a boy,” very definitively as if to say, whatever, doesn’t matter either way.
I was so proud of him at that moment for not caring whether Justin liked boys or girls. Now, I don’t know if that means he’s aware of the meaning and open to it, or he just doesn’t know and therefore doesn’t care. All I knew at that moment was that we as a family were doing a good job in helping our children maintain their sense of innocence and openness to the world.
A few days later I read an article about a blog post that had gone viral. The post was the blogger’s very eloquent and oh-so-on-point response to other’s reaction at her five year old son’s decision to wear a ‘girl’s’ costume for Halloween.
It immediately made me think of all the blogs and tabloids I’ve seen discussing Brangelina’s decision to allow little Shiloh to wear ‘boy’s’ clothes. Now I’ve never been one to swoon at the sight of Brad Pitt and was Team Anniston all the way, so it’s difficult for me to admit that I respect them in this regard, but I do.
Forget their celebrity, they are parents, who just like the mother of the five year old, are allowing their child to express herself and find her own identity, something that isn’t definitive in childhood.
Might Shiloh and this little boy grow up to be lesbian and gay respectively? Sure, just like that little girl in dresses and bows and that boy dressed as a police man for Halloween may. The point is that it’s what they will have to deal with as adults when their sexual preferences matter [to them]. For now, let’s stop giving children labels sewn from antiquated gender identities and allow them to be and explore who they will be without fears and boundaries.