Seven-year-old Jake is the gender non-conforming star of TOMGIRL, directed, shot and edited by Jeremy Asher Lynch and produced by Stephen Przyblowski. It’s a kind and inquisitive look into what happens when a child is left to be himself, plain and simple.
Jake’s family friends have a hard time describing him in the beginning of the piece, which seems like the best way to show that the lexicon and what might be considered politically correct or polite, doesn’t quite exist yet to describe this situation. To those who know him, “Jake” will suffice.
Luke, a family friend, comments on how amazing it was that Jake knows exactly who he is, while Luke is still trying to figure himself out. During the film one is asked to consider that perhaps it’s not a surprise that the older we get, the farther and farther away we drift from knowing our most authentic self. We find ourselves thinking for far too many moments that we don’t know we are or simply that we can’t be who we are.
We live in a society that perhaps succeeds all too well at compartmentalizing most of us into uncomplicated ideas, as is human nature to do. However, watching TOMGIRL is a learning experience and a plain look at the type of support system needed to nurture a child in this completely non-judgmental, still-considered “open minded” way.
Perhaps the time we spend as children, if we’re lucky enough to have a parental unit that encourages our most genuine sense of self expression, are our most authentic years. TOMGIRL is a protest against being pushed around by any outside expectations. Adults watching this film might wonder, “Do the expectations I have for myself today actually come from myself?”
“I hear people bring up the word transgender, or homosexual or transvestite,” said D’Angelo, Jake’s stepfather, says plainly during the short. “As far as what Jake is, I don’t care, like I don’t care. Like, I don’t define, and I don’t think normal parents do define their kids, like, ‘Oh, here’s my son, he’s heterosexual.’ As long as he’s safe and he’s fulfilling himself in life and he’s happy, that’s all I care about. I don’t care about the titles.”
“Kids aren’t born with the notion that men open doors and women cook dinners. Children are born with the need to help, to learn, to love, to play,” says Shyn, Jake’s mother. “That’s what they’re born with.”
The short inspires its viewers to just be. To move throughout a mostly gender binary-conforming western society as a person who now might care a little less about what a man is supposed to do on a second date or how a woman is expected to act in the board room. TOMGIRL takes years of ingrained societal expectations and throws them out the window, if just for a moment, to tell a story of discovery, to inspire viewers to not only be themselves, but to let others be, to let their children just be, as well.