Celebrity Kids: Gay, Straight, Transgender – It Doesn’t Matter to Mom
The shift in attitude of celeb parents like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow might be just what we need right now.
-Piper Weiss, Yahoo! Shine
When Warren Beatty’s teenage daughter came out as transgender last year, the 74-year-old actor remained tight-lipped to the press and was rumored to be struggling with accepting his daughter’s lifestyle.
The new generation of Hollywood elite would have probably handled it differently. In fact, they already are. Angelina Jolie says 5-year-old daughter Shiloh Pitt “thinks she’s a boy,” and encourages her to embrace all the male-oriented trappings – from cargo pants to swords- as she pleases. Gwyneth Paltrow seems to be following in Jolie’s parenting practices: she’s not concerned what her daughter Apple’s interests may mean in terms of sexual orientation. In this month’s Harper’s Bazaar, she ruminated on whether her 7-year-old, who loves feminine outfits, could be a “lipstick lesbian.” And despite have a child count of zero, Blake Lively told Elle Magazine, she’s hoping if she has a son he’ll be a “trannie” so she can dress him up in girl’s clothes.
Let’s be honest, some of this is magazine pull-quote talk. Celebrities love dropping off-handed remarks they later say are taken out of context. Both Lively and Paltrow were really referring to how much they themselves love clothes, and how that might be reflected in their real (or imagined) kids. Nevertheless, it’s a reflection of an attitude shift among some of the world’s most well-known parents.
“It doesn’t make any difference to me,” says Kate Winslet of her 7-year-old son’s chosen preference in a mate. She’s already made it clear he can choose to be and love whoever he wants. “But that he knows,” she says “It’s a real privilege.”
While child psychologists disagree on a clear-cut age for defining gender identity and sexual orientation, there is scientific evidence that accepting parents makes for healthier kids. A 2010 study by San Francisco State University found that LGBT adolescents with accepting parents were not only more confident, but at a much lower risk of depression and substance abuse.
“As support for equality continues to grow, parents – both celebrity and not – are realizing that it’s best for their kids if they encourage them to just be themselves,” Herndon Graddick, GLAAD’S Senior Director of Programs, tells Yahoo! Shine. “By sending messages of acceptance, parents are not only helping to create a more loving environment, they’re contributing to their child’s overall health and esteem.”
Support for kids struggling with their sexual identity is growing beyond the fenced-off homes of the rich and famous. A report in 2007 found that kids are coming out at a younger age because their parents are more open to their choices. As a result they’re able to combat school bullying by building confidence within the family unit.
Still, a debate surges over whether parents pushing their own assumptions about their very young children’s interests too far. Critics of Jolie have accused the superstar of pushing her child towards a chosen identity before she’s ready. After the little girl got a bowl haircut, the question “Why is Angelina Turning Shiloh into a Boy?” was blasted across the cover of Life and Style.
The reason, implied by Jolie’s past statements, was simple: Shiloh wanted it.
“We can learn a whole lot about [young children's] gender selves—who they feel themselves to be and how they want to express themselves by listening and watching,” Diane Ehrensaft, Director of Mental Health, Child and Adolescent Gender Center, tells Shine.” That does not mean that this is their permanent status or that there might not be evolution over time.”
But allowing a child to express his or her own chosen identity, even at a pre-school age, can prevent frustration and anger problems down the line, according to Ehrensaft. “A pre-schooler who tells you insistently, consistently, and persistently, ‘Mommy, I am not a boy, I’m a girl’ is telling that Mommy something very important and she should listen,” she says. “It is not a matter of labeling or projecting into the future, but knowing who your child is right now.”
In that sense, Jolie’s approach to parenting is right on the money. Lively, however, may be jumping the gun a little.
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