The Boy Scouts of America isn’t exactly known for being progressive when it comes to inclusion. Although they have eventually come down on the side of equality, it can seem like a reluctant shuffle rather than a bold leap. That’s why I was so pleased by the BSA’s recent announcement to allow transgender boys.
The announcement came about a month after a transgender boy in New Jersey was kicked out of his Cub Scout pack. According to the BSA, the child did not meet eligibility requirements, as the organization uses the information on the child’s birth certificate and their “biological sex.” The Girl Scouts, by contrast, welcome transgender girls who are recognized by family and school and live culturally as a girl.
In the statement released in late January, the BSA reversed their birth certificate rule, deciding instead to accept members based on the gender they indicate on their application. This means that boys like Joe Maldonado, the 8-year-old transgender boy who was removed from his troop, can officially participate. And participate he did, becoming the first openly transgender member of the Boy Scouts just one week after the policy reversal.
This was a relatively quick about-face for the Scouts, considering it took several decades for them to accept lesbian, gay, and bisexual scouts and troop leaders. It wasn’t until 2013 that the Scouts ended their ban on openly gay youths joining the organization. It took two more years for them to allow openly gay adult leaders.
When I was in college, I remember my mom’s best friend explaining that the Mormon Church had an alternative scouts program ready to deploy if the BSA ever accepted LGBT people. I can appreciate the pressure the BSA feels from conservative parents and supporters who threaten to leave. However, I have a hard time comprehending how including transgender children could hurt anyone, whereas a ban does hurt someone: the child who is excluded.
At the end of the day, the Boy Scouts of America did the right thing. This is a Good Turn, and a move in the right direction.