A current TV ad for Pantene shampoo opens with a woman blow-drying the very long hair of a 12-year-old child. The following words are superimposed: “For LGBT kids, hair is more than how you look. It’s how you are seen.” Cut to the woman, Ashley, sitting on a couch with her lesbian spouse, Ellie. The child, Sawyer, she tells us, “happens to be a transgender girl.” The first time Sawyer went out in public in girl’s clothing and long hair, says Ashley, “she kind of was herself.” Then comes the key sentence. “And that,” she says, “was the first day where I saw her.” In other words, before Sawyer started wearing girl’s clothing and grew her hair long, he was invisible to Ashley. Which compels one to ask: did Sawyer feel unseen? Is that why he decided to grow his hair long and wear dresses?

If so, he’s not saying. Sitting between his mothers on the couch, Sawyer declares with preternatural self-assurance that growing long hair “made me feel good and confident. And it made my insides match my outsides. . . . My advice is to just be yourself and don’t let anybody tell you who you are.” Is this really a pre-teen child speaking his own mind? Or is Sawyer parroting what he’s heard from Ashley and Ellie? Or reciting a script by somebody at Pantene’s ad agency?

Such questions don’t plague the official gay media, which have celebrated the ad unconditionally. “At a time when transgender people are being used as scapegoats by conservatives in false arguments about women’s sports,” wrote Tracy E. Gilchrist in the Advocate, “the hair care company Pantene has released an ad with a heartwarming, affirming message that features a trans girl and her lesbian moms.” Donald Padgett of Out Magazine called it heartwarming, too. “This touching ad,” he promised, “will have you wiping away the tears as Sawyer and her queer mothers, Ashey and Ellie, explain the importance of hair in the young girl’s gender affirmation.” The notices at LGBTQ Nation and the British website Pink News also used the word “heartwarming.”

Sorry, but there’s nothing heartwarming about this. More like heartbreaking.

As a gay man, I have no problem whatsoever with lesbians. I do have a problem with lesbians who have a problem with having a little boy rather than a little girl. But perhaps Ashley and Ellie didn’t overtly push Sawyer into deciding he’s a girl. Maybe Sawyer just picked up on the vibe in the room. Either way, it’s breathtakingly reckless of these two women to buy so fully into the notion that Sawyer is female. A lot of little boys put on girls’ clothes. Some turn out to be gay. For others, it’s just harmless dress-up. Only nowadays do adults stick their noses in and decide that those boys are girls. Not a few of them do it because they’re less uncomfortable with having a trans daughter than with having a gay son.

As for kids who explicitly announce that they’re trans—the number of whom has skyrocketed in recent years, strongly suggesting that this is nothing more than a trend—the overwhelming majority will eventually snap out of it, some after a year or two and the rest when puberty hits. Such a phase need not cause lasting damage unless the parents are so gung-ho about it that they put their child on puberty blockers and hormones. Alas for Sawyer, Ellie and Ashley—who gush that Sawyer “has always been super gender creative”—come off as precisely the kind of parents who would do that.

To be a parent is a privilege. Ellie and Ashley are abusing that privilege. They’re robbing Sawyer of his childhood innocence. Nor are they doing him any favors by taking him on TV and using his almost certainly temporary conviction that he’s female to push a product and promote an agenda. Also bearing a responsibility here are the manufacturers of Pantene, Procter & Gamble. Like many other major corporations, P&G has not only embraced trans ideology with staggering speed but turned it into a marketing tool—and thereby done a disservice to all kids still in the process of figuring themselves out.

Most people, I suspect, reject the idea that armies of American children, many of whom still believe in Santa Claus, are suddenly discovering that their innate gender identity is at odds with their chromosomal sex. But many of us have already grown numb to this stuff—or we’ve just decided to tune it all out and keep quiet, lest we be seen as bigots. But we can’t afford to stay silent about kids like Sawyer, whose numbers are legion, and whose childhoods are being destroyed by selfish adults.

Photo: ShotShare/iStock


City Journal is a publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (MI), a leading free-market think tank. Are you interested in supporting the magazine? As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, donations in support of MI and City Journal are fully tax-deductible as provided by law (EIN #13-2912529).

Further Reading

Up Next