Care2 Success! The Boy Scouts Will Now Accept Trans Children

After years of campaigning to bring equality to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the association has finally announced that it will allow trans boys to join its troops.

In a statement posted to the official BSA website on January 30, the group confirmed circulating reports that it will now admit trans children. The declaration reverses a prior stance that stated only children who were assigned male at birth could be eligible for membership.

Under the heading “BSA Addresses Gender Identity,” the statement reads in part:

Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application.  Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child.

The Boy Scouts of America is committed to identifying program options that will help us truly serve the whole family, and this is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible – all while remaining true to our core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.

BSA Chief Executive Michael Surbaugh also issued a video statement explaining the reasons behind this change. The thoughtful response highlights that while gender identity can be a complex topic, the BSA’s primary goal has always been “serving children and their families.” In order to live up to that goal, the BSA recognizes that it must help facilitate the growth and development of all male-identifying children, regardless of their birth-assigned gender.

You can watch that video below:

Readers who have followed this issue closely will know that the decision represents the culmination of concerted efforts to bring greater equality to the BSA. The organization has long stood as a bastion for conservative American ideals, but many families and children themselves had begun to feel that the strict heteronormative mindset of the BSA no longer served them, particularly as children who identified as gay and bisexual were treated with a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” style-silence.

In 2013, under the notably progressive leadership of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the Boy Scouts began to allow openly gay youths to participate in the organization.

In 2015, the BSA also took another, albeit tentative, step by affirming a policy of nondiscrimination against members and leaders on grounds of sexual orientation, thereby ending the BSA’s longstanding ban on openly gay scout leaders. However, that change came with a number of caveats.

The BSA deferred to local groups, meaning that those affiliated with religious organizations could continue to pick their leaders based on their own ethos. The other drawback was that there was no mention of gender identity, which LGBT rights advocates claimed put the BSA significantly out of step with the modern legal landscape.

It’s undeniable that this change is not entirely motivated by goodwill. Gender identity protections have grown in strength over the last few years, helped by an Obama administration that was willing to defend trans rights.

While the BSA as a private member organization can discriminate in its practices, it is not guaranteed the right to operate in any city or state if it directly contravenes state and federal policies. As such, states keen to affirm gender identity protections and wider LGBT rights protections may have made life increasingly difficult for the national organization if it failed to address these topics.

A recent case highlights both the fraught legal position that the BSA occupied, as well as the real-world discrimination created by its ban on trans children. Eight-year-old Joe Maldonado of Secaucus, New Jersey, joined a Cub Scout troop in the autumn of 2016 but he was soon forced to leave when parents and local leaders realized that he had been assigned a female gender identity at birth.

While the backlash for barring this eight-year-old was severe, the BSA remained mindful that if it altered its policy the repercussions from religious conservative groups — already angered by the organization’s position on gay scout leaders — could also be difficult.

Predictably, conservative commentators have slammed this new position on gender identity, claiming that it will be the end of the BSA. Some critics have even said that religious affiliated groups should pull their support for the organization and defect to Trail Life USA. The organization was established in the wake of the BSA’s acceptance of gay youths and purports to instill a “Christ-centered” view of morality  in its charges — which seems to translate to no gays allowed.

Nevertheless, the BSA’s new policy has won significant praise, too.

“From our perspective, they clearly did the right thing,” Zach Wahls of Scouts for Equality stated. “My team and I knew that they were considering a policy change, but we are both heartened and surprised by how quickly they moved to change the situation.”

While the change may provoke some conservative ire, the BSA has now brought its policy in line with one that the Girl Scouts have been operating for a number of years. Hopefully the BSA’s decision signifies yet another step toward ensuring equal opportunities for all children, regardless of their gender identity.

Care2 Success!

Thank you to Peter Tomaszewski and Kevin Matthews for starting Care2 petitions calling on the BSA to end their discriminatory ban on transgender children. Combined, those petitions generated over 30,000 signatures demanding change and kept the pressure on the BSA to accept all children, regardless of their gender identity.

Inspired to take action on an issue you care about? You too can create a Care2 petition quickly and easily! Here’s a handy guide to get you started.

Photo Credit: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious/Flickr

60 comments

Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing

SEND
Amanda G
Amanda G2 months ago

Thanks for posting

SEND
Carl R
Carl R2 months ago

Thanks!!!

SEND
Melania P
Melania Padilla2 months ago

Awesome!

SEND
Maureen Heartwood
Maureen Heartwood3 months ago

Good.

SEND
Fred Campbell
Fred Campbell3 months ago

Thank for the update!

SEND
Philippa P
Philippa P3 months ago

About time!

SEND
Janis K
Janis K3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Karen H
Karen H3 months ago

Faith v, when the Roman Centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant, the term he used translated to "male lover". Jesus didn't chastise him; he simply healed the man. His followers obviously missed that message. To the closed minded here: We are born LGBTQ. Ignorance and intolerance are learned and can be changed if you open your minds and hearts just a little.

SEND
natasha s
natasha s3 months ago

Hallelujah! took long enough.

SEND