Growing up in the South, Fox was labeled a tomboy. When her peers were playing dolls, she was playing outside, climbing trees and getting dirty. Being called a tomboy informed her sense of self and is still present in her life.
“Much of my ego has been constructed around this idea that I’m not like most girls”, says the 31-year-old mother of three boys with husband Brian Austin Green, 44. “I’m somehow more masculine, tougher, less permeable or feminine.”
Fox is not into labeling herself or others, especially her children. The “Transformers” actress faced backlash in the press and on social media after her oldest son, Noah, now 5, was photographed wearing princess dresses.
“When I became pregnant with Noah, I could feel, through my mother’s intuition I suppose, that he was not subscribing to gender stereotypes, so I decided to provide an environment for him early on that would allow him to discover how he wanted to express himself,” she says.
Don’t set limits
Kids are creative by nature.
“If a boy loves princesses and a girl loves baseball, that’s not indicative of their sexuality,” Fox says. It’s indicative of their communication and creative expression. We can’t limit children by telling them how they should play.”
Trying to control how kids play sends them subtle, constant messages that their instincts are wrong. All those attempts to control, “will only lead them down a complicated and difficult path full of self-criticism and emptiness,” she says.
Her advice? If a child’s innocent play triggers a negative emotion, use the situation as an opportunity to expand their awareness and heal old wounds.
Giving kids space
Fox encourages other parents to implement non-gender binary lifestyles for their children. Start by giving kids “the space to find the things that resonate with them,” she says. Then encourage them.
For example, when a boy shows interest in painting or dancing, he should be given an art set or signed up for a dance class.
“Don’t insist on buying him a football for Christmas,” she says, explaining a child’s soul is pure and knows what feels right.
She emphasizes parents need to respect children as individuals and not try to control them.
“It’s not our job to shape them into the people we think they should be,” says Fox. “It’s our job to receive, with grace, the lessons they bring us. Children are mirrors that reflect back to us our shadow selves, our shame and our insecurities.”
She concludes, “It’s our job to love and nurture the child as they are so they can thrive as adults.”
Give kids validation
Speaking out about raising gender neutral kids can be both risky and rewarding.
“I think most mothers feel a pull on their hearts to let their children be who they are but because of their own conditioning and because of their current enviornment they acquiesce to pressures to raise the children in a more rigid traditional way,” says Fox.
She wants other parents to know it’s okay to let kids be themselves. “If by speaking out, I can validate any of those latent feelings, any of those small whispers in a mother, then I am incredibly grateful to have used my voice for something so honorable.”