Feminists and the Left have long purported to reject sexual stereotypes. Yet their current gender agenda actually reinforces regressive, old-school stereotypes. Worse, they turn these stereotypes into straightjackets, encouraging those who don’t conform to traditional ideals of femininity or masculinity to think that they need to alter their physicality to become the “right” sex.

Parents are often lectured that dressing girls in pink and boys in blue is cultural conditioning, and companies are scolded for having separate aisles for “boy toys” (trucks, army men, and robots) and “girl toys” (dolls, stuffed animals, and many crafts). Those of us who have defended these sex-segregated aisles as harmless argue that there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging these common differences in preferences. 

More importantly, these groupings have no power over children. Kids aren’t getting the message that one set of preferences is better than the others or that one must stay strictly in any designated aisle. Girls confidently browse the selection of robots and light sabers; boys shop among the stuffed animals and dolls.

Yet increasingly today, the pendulum has swung in the other direction and in a much more disturbing way. Now, rather than recognizing some preferences are typically associated with one sex, but that members of both sexes can pick from either aisle, we send the message that the preferences themselves determine the individual’s sex.

A girl who finds herself gravitating toward that “boy aisle” or who otherwise doesn’t neatly fit into the typical girl mold is encouraged to ponder if she might in fact be a boy. If she doesn’t like long hair or dresses, or struggles with socially navigating the complicated social dynamics between girls, she must be anything but a girl, perhaps even non-binary or gender fluid.

One of the growing number of financially-successful gender clinics will offer such girls gender affirming care to support these preferences and their new sense of self. That can include extreme medical interventions, puberty blockers, cross-hormones and even surgeries that leave these girls permanently altered and even sterile.

Certainly something is encouraging young girls to consider that they might be in the wrong body. School lessons and materials teach children that doctors assign gender at birth, but sometimes get it wrong. Emotionally vulnerable girls susceptible to this ideology can feel pressured to choose a different identity.

Today, a rapidly growing percentage of girls consider themselves non-binary or gender fluid. For example, in a 2021 study from Pittsburgh of nearly 5000 high school students, 9.2% reported “incongruence” between their sex and their gender identity. Another study from Minnesota found that 3% of ninth and 11th grade students identified as transgender or gender nonconforming.

Pediatric gender clinics have quickly opened in response to the increased number of children presenting with gender dysphoria. While the first such clinic opened in 2007, there are now more than 50 pediatric gender clinics across the U.S, in addition to the doctors and organizations, including Planned Parenthood.

Girls have been particularly affected, which contrasts sharply with historic trends. As described by a premier gender clinic in London: “In the late Sixties, 90% of transsexual adults were male. Fifty years on and the latest published figures from the Tavistock clinic indicate that child referrals are almost 70% female.”

Missing in this dialogue is how much individual children’s preferences and behaviors change as they grow. Ask parents of daughters and many will likely tell you that girls’ relationship with traditionally “female” pursuits often ebbs and flows. Girls who loved pink princess dresses as kindergarteners often reject pink, sparkles, and dresses around fourth grade and favor sporty clothes.

But this is often a temporary phase too. Once girls have moved through puberty, they once again may become more comfortable with traditionally feminine preferences.

This applies to many, but certainly not all, girls. Some never lose a love for pink and some never have it. Yet girls and women who loathe makeup and frills are still women, and we shouldn’t send a message otherwise. Girls with lagging social skills who struggle to navigate girl cliques at school should not be pressured to reject their sex.

Of course, we need to have compassion for those who truly feel they have been born into the wrong body. Yet today, we are using antiquated ideas and sex-based stereotypes to encourage many young people – and particularly vulnerable girls–to think that if they don’t conform, that they need to change themselves physically.

That’s sexist and cruel.

The mental and physical damage we are inflicting on our girls and young women, unlikely their preferences, may not be transitory, but could haunt them for their entire lives.