Amid the swirling gender politics of our time, one mother is calling on society to be more accepting of tomboys, reminding adults that many young girls with boyish interests still appreciate their biological femininity.
Taking to the pages of the New York Times this week, author Lisa Selin Davis detailed her own daughter's experience as a less-feminine young woman — one who hangs out with boys, rejects princesses and keeps her hair short — but still fully embraces her girlhood.
In an op-ed titled, "My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She's a Tomboy," Davis writes:
My daughter wears track pants and T-shirts. She has shaggy short hair (the look she requested from the hairdresser was "Luke Skywalker in Episode IV"). Most, but not all, of her friends are boys. She is sporty and strong, incredibly sweet, and a girl.
And yet she is asked by the pediatrician, by her teachers, by people who have known her for many years, if she feels like, or wants to be called, or wants to be, a boy.
Those well-intentioned adults, Davis explains, send the message "that a girl cannot look and act like her and still be a girl."
"Somehow," she argues, "as we have broadened our awareness of and support for gender nonconformity, we've narrowed what we think a boy or a girl can look like and do."
That observation is key.
The ascension of transgenderism, a concept that invites society to question the sexual binary, has lead to the development of a social reflex that kicks people out of their gender for not conforming to its boundaries. The effect, of course, is to reinforce the very boundaries that concept questions in the first place.
It is chilling to imagine the experiences of today's young tomboys moving through our public school system, subject to the dictates of political correctness. Of course, those who are sincerely questioning their sex should seek appropriate assistance. But imagine the others who, like Davis' daughter, are confronted by well-meaning counselors and teachers and coaches assuming they are confused. That must only create much more confusion.
Some girls grow out of those phases, others do not. Either way, most still understand, accept, and appreciate that they are women. That is not because of restrictive social norms, it is because they genuinely feel that way. And that must be respected.
Many tomboys grow up with unique perspectives to offer, shaped by their experiences spending more time in the dirt, on the court, or just hanging out with boys in their childhoods. Parents around the world can testify to that.
Though Davis and I likely fall on different sides in the overall debate over sex and gender, her call for caution in this particular area is an important reminder for all of us.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.