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Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have spoken openly about their decision to support their child, aged eight, who has announced they self-identify as John Jolie-Pitt.
John appeared on the red carpet for film Unbroken in a tuxedo and with short hair, drawing international attention. All of the Jolie-Pitt children took to the red carpet for the premiere wearing mactching tuxedos, which The Independent considers a sign of the family’s support of John’s ‘exploration of gender identity’.
Though John’s chosen name has been mentioned in the past, the appearance of the children in matching outfits, and with John’s short hair, indicates a public display of this chosen identity.
Pitt first spoke about his child’s choice of name on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2008 (when John was just two years old): ‘She only wants to be called John. John or Peter.
‘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!”‘
Angelina – who was apparently unable to attend the premiere because she had chicken pox – has also spoken in the past about John’s wishes. In 2010 she said to The Daily Mail, ‘Some kids wear capes and want to be Superman and she wants to be like her brothers. It’s who she is. It’s been a surprise to us and it’s really interesting, but she’s so much more than that – she’s funny and sweet and pretty.’
That same year, she told Vanity Fair: ‘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.’
As reported in You Magazine, Angelina said, ‘Hopefully I’m giving my children the sense that they are deeply loved and deeply safe. At the same time we are hopefully encouraging their individuality as they get to know who they are, and not getting in the way of that.’
In the past, Perez Hilton reported that Angelina was unhappy with Brad’s mother buying ‘girly’ clothes for John.
Media attention has been mixed, with outlets such as Fox News misgendering John repeatedly, while some LGBT publications have used gender-neutral or male pronouns. Like The Independent, we have opted to use gender-neutral pronouns for John, until they decide which pronouns they prefer us to use, although unlike The Independent we have opted not to report on the child’s former name (known as a ‘deadname’ in the transgender community).
According to the same Fox News article that misgenders John, CEO of Divamoms.com, Lyss Stern, is quoted as congratulating parents Brangelina, saying that all parents should make their children ‘feel comfortable in their own skin’.
Over at The Christian Science Monitor, Lisa Suhay writes, ‘Jolie and Pitt are doing something very wise and brave by setting an example for other parents to get past the idea that boys will be boys and girls will be princesses, by allowing their child to explore who she is and trust they will recognize her, not by her dress, but by who she is day-to-day – their child.’