A much-needed glimmer of hope and progress was brought to us courtesy of the Boys Scouts of America this week. According to a statement made by BSA spokesperson Rebecca Rausch, the organization will begin allowing transgender students who identify as boys to join — effective immediately.
A historically conservative Christian organization, the Boy Scouts made their first progressive step towards inclusion in 2014, when they began allowing openly gay youth to join. In 2015, BSA also lifted their long-standing ban on gay troop leaders and employees.
And now, after an 8-year-old was recently told that he could no longer be a scout — simply because he had been born a girl — another policy has changed.
Joe Maldonado was enjoying his experience as a Boy Scout in the Secaucus, New Jersey chapter until it came to light that he had only transitioned to living as a boy two years ago. Due to the BSA’s previous policy of only allowing “boys” as determined by their birth certificate, Joe was told he could no longer participate in Scouts.
Joe looks like any boy you’d see playing outside or riding his bike. Yet despite meeting his Boy Scout requirements for honor, loyalty, and work ethic, he didn’t “meet the eligibility requirements to participate in this program,” according to BSA Director of Communications Effie Delimarkos. All because of his birth certificate. But now Joe and other boys like him are no longer banned from organization.
In explaining the impetus behind the change, BSA Spokesperson Rebecca Rausch said that the “approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”
Boy Scouts of America may also have been influenced by its sister organization, the Girl Scouts of America, which already declared that transgender girls are welcome to join. Its official policy states that “if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.”
With as many as 1.4 million people in the United States identifying as transgender, it is crucial that the organizations vowing to teach our children how to be good citizens welcome them. These are kids desperate for a place to feel loved and welcomed. They did not ask for this life or this confusion, but they are living it and trying to forge a path for themselves where they have friends and a safe community.
So kudos to both BSA and GSA for essentially saying “you, too, are welcome here, with us.”
As Joe’s mom Kristie Maldonado tells Babble, she’s grateful for the policy change, and eternally proud of her son’s bravery in speaking out:
“I am glad that Joe and I did not give up and kept fighting for his rights. No child should feel different — they just want to feel accepted by others and not be excluded. I am so proud of him for showing people that no matter how old you are, you can stand up for yourself and be who you truly are.”
Sadly, though, the wound is deep for Joe; and understandably so. He was heartbroken at being forcibly removed from the Boy Scouts, which he greatly loved. He says that despite the new policy, he’ll never return to his old chapter, but may consider another one. We sure hope he does — and is welcomed with open arms.More On