In the three years that my son’s been enrolled in Boy Scouts, he has made two fab Pinewood Derby cars (one of which won the championship), constructed a boat that floats on its own, learned how to safely handle a firearm, and practiced various survival skills. He has learned about caring for our Earth, respecting himself and others, and always telling the truth. Boy Scouts has been a valuable part of my son’s childhood, and thanks to a recent change in by-laws, his younger sister can join him too, if she so chooses. In fact, so can all kids — earlier this year, BSA also began allowing kids who identify as transgender to join.
And apparently, that’s not all: In a press release issued Wednesday, the organization announced that in its efforts to welcome all kids, Boy Scouts will officially change its name to Scouts BSA in February 2019.
For an American institution that’s been historically conservative, BSA has certainly changed its tune over the past few years, starting with lifting its ban on gay members in 2013 and allowing gay troop leaders just two years after. Bigger waves were made when the organization announced that transgender youth were now welcome, too. But I have to say, I was most surprised by all the anger that came once BSA declared girls could join.
After all, people argued, the organization is called Boy Scouts of America — and what about that other cookie-selling group next door called the Girl Scouts? Why couldn’t the girls just stay there?
BSA was pretty frank when admitting one big reason they’re now inviting girls: registration numbers are dropping. According to TODAY, the organization now has 2.3 million youth members between the ages of 7 and 21, but that number is down from 2.6 million in 2013.
“If the best fit for your girl is the Girl Scouts, that’s fantastic,” said CEO Mike Surbaugh. “If it’s not them, it might be us.”
Furthermore, opening up BSA to all kids alleviates an issue that transgender children could face when wanting to join either Girl or Boy Scouts. If both genders are permitted to participate in BSA, then any child — regardless of which gender they identify with and which gender they match anatomically — can be a scout.
“Dropping the ‘Boy’ in Scouts will allow boys or girls to simply identify themselves as scouts without referring to gender,” Surbaugh said.
Taking the gender out of BSA is an important move as our society continues to put less and less focus on gender identity when it comes to our kids’ activities, clothing, etc., and instead offers gender-fluid choices for all kids.
Personally, I think it’s fantastic that Boy Scouts of America (soon to be Scouts BSA) is practicing inclusion and telling all kids — regardless of gender or sexual orientation — that they are welcome to enjoy and learn from all that BSA has to offer. For my son, this extra curricular activity has brought him friendship, bonding opportunities with me and his father, education experiences, adventure, and discussions about what morals and values matter most in a contributing member of society.
Surely, all kids can benefit from those lessons.
So if your daughter wants to stay in Girl Scouts, great. Mine is pretty content there for now, making crafts, singing songs, going on nature walks, and more. But if the Scout BSA scene is more her jam one day, she can check it out and officially join the ranks next year. I’ll fully support her; and I’m glad to know others will, too.