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Boy Scouts Pivot on Transgender Issues

Cherie Cullen

Cherie Cullen

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“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”

This is the oath taken by all members of the Boy Scouts of America. While practical and centered on mental and physical self improvement, the fine text between the lines presents an extremely unattractive caveat. After all, how many young boys taking this oath will want to assume that the obligation to be morally straight also implies a requirement of being sexually straight?

The organization has definitely had a notable history of anti-LGBT discrimination, in contrast to the Girl Scouts of America’s long-held “don’t ask, don’t tell” non-exclusionary policy in regards to sexuality and gender. Not only have they actively barred GBT boys from membership, they have also given scout leaders the boot for expressing interest in other men, and they have, according to a San Diego court case in the year 2000, banned gay couples from public parks under their jurisdiction.

In 2003, an entire California troop was kicked out of their charter for declaring itself non-discriminatory. And this isn’t even the bottom of the barrel of instances in which they have attempted to purify their establishment of sexuality/gender nonconforming people.

Legally, they’re completely allowed to do this. In the 2003 Supreme Court ruling of the Boy Scouts of America vs. Dale, James Dale, who had been a member of the Boy Scouts since he was eight, was fired from his position as assistant scoutmaster due to having taken another man to prom. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, ruled that this type of behavior is permissible.

This also makes sense due to how most of their financial support comes from religious organizations— mainly Mormon and Catholic.

On July 27, 2015, however, the association decided to lift their ban on gay members— yet still allowing religious sectors of the organization itself to decide on the rate of their exclusion. As disappointing as that condition was, the holistic event was a huge step towards progress.

And on January 30 of this year, another monumental step was made.

Kristie Maldonado, a mother from New Jersey, filed a civil rights complaint against the Northern New Jersey chapter of Boy Scouts for kicking out her eight-year-old transgender son Joe once they discovered that he had been designated female at birth. A week later, the Boy Scouts of America announced that it would finally be accepting transgender members, and would begin to refer to the gender listed on the children’s enrollment application rather than their birth certificates.

“I’m ecstatic for everyone that they don’t have to go through what my child went through,” said Maldonado to TIME magazine.

And the times are indeed changing. For the Boy Scouts to concede their previously discriminatory stances so quickly was revolutionary, in comparison to the court battles they have fought to defend those same stances in the past.

What does this mean for our nation?

First of all, the Boy Scouts of America have always symbolized the role models of American posterity. They are the ideal American boys— resourceful, adventurous, and morally inclined. For gay, bisexual, and trans boys to be included in this definition is a massive push against the demonization of the LGBT community.

Plus, LGBT children now have apt representation. The majority of the LGBT community can relate with growing up and watching gay and trans coded characters end up being the villains in the story— from the Powerpuff Girls to the Little Mermaid. The message sent to children who consume this seemingly innocent media is clear: LGBT people are malicious and not to be trusted.

Now, the archetype of the transgender boy and golden boy can exist synonymously. While this boosts the confidence of children who are already LGBT, this also opens the door to parental acceptance. According to a study done by San Francisco State University, LGBT children who don’t have support from their parents are 8.5 times more likely to attempt suicide.

Of course, not all religious families will suddenly change their minds about the inherent goodness of LGBT people. However, there is a possibility that many more religious families may become more open minded, considering that acceptance has come from such a conservative organization.

While GBT boys will be getting more adult support, they will also be finding more boys within their own community to support them. An inclusive troop means that there will be gay boys interacting with other gay boys, and transgender boys interacting with other transgender boys, and the comfort of finding someone from one’s own relatively smaller community is astronomical.

Meanwhile, straight and cisgender (not transgender) boys will grow to be more tolerant people due to being exposed to GBT boys and their struggles.

At the end of the day, this momentous decision will bring the youth of America together— thus bringing the future of America together.

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Boy Scouts Pivot on Transgender Issues