Boy Scouts of America Introduce New Transgender Policy
It’s time to interpret gender differently
The Boy Scouts of America announced this past January that it will now be accepting and registering transgender youth into its organization. This new transgender policy will apply to both the Boy Scouts and the Cub Scouts. It also marks the reversal of a policy that has been in place since the Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910.
Previously the Boy Scouts policy for enrollment in its’ boys-only’ programs required that the gender listed on the child’s birth certificate be used for enrollment. However, under the new policy the organization said it will begin basing enrollments solely on the gender a child or parent lists on their application.
"After weeks of significant conversations at all levels of our organization, we realize that referring to birth certificates as the reference point is no longer sufficient. Communities and state laws are now interpreting gender identity differently, and these new laws vary widely from state to state," chief scout Michael Surbaugh said in a recorded published Monday to the organization's website.
Need for change
Although the statement the Boy Scouts released last January also said that they’re decision to make the change in policy was made because of the larger conversation about gender identity going on around the country, many people believe that it was an 8 year-old from Secaucus New Jersey who got the organization’s attention about a need for change in the first place.
Joe Maldonado, an 8 year-old transgender child from north New Jersey who identifies as a boy, was asked to leave the Boy Scouts last fall because he was born a girl. His story, which was first reported in The Record last December, spurred a national debate over the Boy Scouts' gender policy.
According to advocates for gay and transgender people, Joe is believed to be the first child to be banned from the Boy Scouts for being transgender. The issue of transgender Scouts was never properly addressed when the organization overturned bans against gay Scouts and gay Scout leaders a few years ago. The Scouts have also never had a formal policy in place related to transgender children either.
In a statement posted to social media, Zach Wahls, co-founder of the group Scouts for Equality, called the announcement an historic decision.
Doing what’s right
"The decision to allow transgender boys to participate in the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts is an important step forward for this American institution," Wahls wrote in his statement, "We are incredibly proud of Joe Maldonado, the transgender boy from New Jersey whose expulsion last year ignited this controversy; and his mother Kristie for their courage in doing what they knew was right. We are also proud of the Boy Scouts for deciding to do the right thing."
The Boy Scouts of America have been moving toward more inclusiveness and equality for quite some time now. The leaders of the organization lifted a blanket ban on gay troop leaders and employees in July 2015, and prior to that, the organization had decided to allow openly gay youth as scouts in 2013.
The national Girl Scouts organization, which is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts, has been accepting transgender members for several years already.
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