Organisation now bases enrollment in boys-only programs on the gender listed on application to become a scout
The Boy Scouts of America now allows transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in its boys-only programs.
The organization said on Monday it had decided to begin basing enrollment in its boys-only programs on the gender a child or parent lists on the application to become a scour, rather than birth certificate.
Rebecca Rausch, a spokeswoman for the organization, said the organization’s leadership had considered a recent case in Secaucus, New Jersey, where an eight-year-old transgender child had been asked to leave his Scout troop after parents and leaders found out he is transgender, but that the change was made because of the national conversation about gender identity.
“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the statement said.
“However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”
Rausch said the enrollment decision went into effect immediately.
“Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child,” the statement said.
Boy Scouts of America leaders lifted a blanket ban on gay troop leaders and employees in July 2015.
Transgender boy removed from Boy Scouts troop in New Jersey
Joe Maldonado is at the center of the first known case of a trans child being banned from organization
Joe Maldonado wanted to join the Boy Scouts because many of his friends were a part of it. The eight-year-old went to school with the boys in the group, hung out with them and played on the basketball team with some of them, said Kristie Maldonado, his mother.
But about a month after joining Pack 87 in Secaucus, New Jersey, Joe was asked to leave because he is transgender, according to Kristie Maldonado. His case is believed to be the first known in which a scout was rejected based on their gender, Justin Wilson, the executive director of Scouts for Equality, told NorthJersey.com.
“Because he wasn’t born a boy, he was no longer able to go back into the Boy Scouts,” Maldonado told the Guardian.
Maldonado said she was unaware of any issues with her son until she received a call from a scouting official, asking whether Joe was born a girl. “At first, well, I didn’t answer him. I just said, you guys didn’t ask for a birth certificate. I said no one had ever seen my child naked,” she said.
The call came as a surprise to Maldonado because Joe was open about his gender identity and had been accepted as a boy at school. The other kids in the troop had never had an issue with him, Maldonado said.
But the official told her that some parents had mentioned Joe’s name had previously been Jodi, and that Joe could no longer be a part of the troop, Maldonado said.
“If they had said right from the beginning, because I know it’s a touchy subject and I know it’s a private organization, I would have said, OK, we can’t join. We can’t do it this year. I would have made an excuse for Joe,” she said, “But you don’t accept a child, then a month later you throw them out.”
The Boy Scouts of America endured years of controversy before ultimately lifting bans on gay scouts and leaders in recent years. Maldonado said she took this as a sign that her son would be allowed to join. “I took it as, OK, if they’re accepted, why not transgender?”
But a spokeswoman, Effie Delimarkos, said in a statement the organization considered transgender children as a separate issue.
“No youth may be removed from any of our programs on the basis of his or her sexual orientation,” she said, but added: “Gender identity isn’t related to sexual orientation.”
The Boy Scouts declined to directly address Joe’s situation or say whether there was a written policy on transgender participants. The statement said Cub Scout programs were for those identified as boys on their birth certificates.
Wilson told NorthJersey.com that the Boy Scouts of America organization was not known to have rejected any scouts due to gender identity prior to Joe’s case. He knew of at least two transgender boys who were Cub Scouts in other states and did not know of any instances in which scouts were asked for birth certificates as a condition of membership.
Eric Chamberlin of the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts acknowledged having called Maldonado last month, NorthJersey.com reported. He declined further comment and referred questions to the scouts’ national office, saying the issue involved “our membership standards”.
Earlier this year, the Boy Scouts told the Associated Press that it would admit transgender children to its coeducational programs, but not to programs that are for boys only, like the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
By making the family’s story public, Kristie Maldonado is also hoping for change. “The change is I want for them to go not by birth certificate or what they’re born with, but go by their identity. Our definition of identity is how you feel,” Maldonado said. “When they say identity, they’re going by the birth certificate.” She wants transgender kids to be included, “no questions asked”.
The national Girl Scouts organization, which is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts, has accepted transgender members for years.
The Boy Scouts did not respond to questions about whether the group would accept a transgender girl whose birth certificate indicated she was assigned male at birth.
Boy Scouts of America ends ban on gay and lesbian troop leaders
On the heels of gay marriage legalization, the organization’s new policy allows local units to select their leaders to appease both liberal and religious groups
The national governing body of the Boy Scouts of America has ended a blanket ban on gay adult leaders while allowing church-sponsored Scout units to maintain the exclusion because of their faith.
The new policy, aimed at easing a controversy that embroiled the Boy Scouts for years and threatened the organization with lawsuits, takes effect immediately. It was approved on Monday night by the BSA’s 80-member national executive board in a teleconference.
The ban pitted leaders and members of the 105-year-old organization against each other, often fragmenting according to faith. The new policy seeks a compromise between more liberal groups, such as the New York City scouting group, and regions whose groups are run by staunchly conservative faiths, such as the Mormon church.
Under the new policy, local units will be able to select their own leaders according to their own standards, meaning church-run groups can “choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own”, according to a statement from organization executives.
“It is not a victory but it certainly is progress,” said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and executive director of Scouts for Equality, told the Guardian earlier on Monday. “I think this is the most progressive resolution we could’ve expected from the Boy Scouts.”
Wahls noted that the organization had banned gay people since 1978, and that its decentralized structure – religious organizations charter about 70% of Boy Scout troops – means some prejudices have deep roots.
“What really has to happen is change in the sponsoring organizations,” he said, adding that his concern was not with specific religious groups but for full inclusion.
“I’m not worried about Mormon units not allowing gay leaders as there aren’t a lot of openly gay Mormons anywhere,” he said. “But discrimination sends a harmful message to gay youths and straight youths, and it has no place in scouting.”
Scouting law says that a boy scout is cheerful, so we’ll be OK
Zach Wahls, Scouts for Equality
On 13 July, the organization’s executive committee, headed by president and former defense secretary Robert Gates, unanimously approved the resolution, saying there had been a “sea change in the law with respect to gay rights”.
“The BSA national policy that prohibits gay adults from serving as leaders is no longer legally defensible,” the organization said in a statement earlier this month. “However, the BSA’s commitment to duty to God and the rights of religious chartered organizations to select their leaders is unwavering.”
The vote took place only a month and a day after the US supreme court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the US, striking down state bans and punctuating the swift progress of gay rights with its 5-4 vote.
The board’s vote also follows only two years after a long and bitter debate at the organization’s 2013 meeting in Texas, where 60% of some 1,400 scout leaders voted to end the ban. The organization said at the time that it had no intentions of revisiting the issue.
But earlier this year the New York City chapter hired a gay camp counsellor, and said it would force the issue in court if necessary to keep the counsellor employed.
The Boy Scouts has about 2.5 million members between the ages of seven and 21, as well as 960,000 volunteers in local units, according to the organization. Membership has steadily declined about 4-6% each year for several years, contributing to the internal crisis over what to do.
John Stemberger, chairman of the breakaway Christian youth outdoor program Trail Life USA, told Reuters on Friday that lifting the ban was an affront to Christian morals and would make it “even more challenging for a church to integrate a [Boy Scouts] unit as part of a church’s ministry offerings”.
But major Catholic and Mormon supporters appeared to approve of the new policy. On its site, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting said that the Boy Scouts did not endorse homosexuality. The committee then wrote: “Any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”
The Mormon church meanwhile reasserted itself earlier this month, saying in a statement that it has “always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs”.
- Boy Scouts of America Allows Transgender Children Who Identify As Boys To Enroll, The Guardian, 31 January 2017, by Associated Press https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/31/boy-scouts-of-america-transgender-children-identify-boys-enrol
- Transgender boy removed from Boy Scout troop in New Jersey, The Guardian, 29 December 2016, by Nicole Puglise https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/28/transgender-boy-scouts-new-jersey
- Boy Scouts of America ends ban on gay and lesbian troop leaders, The Guardian, 28 July 2015, by Alan Yuhas https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/27/boy-scouts-gay-troop-leaders-ban-gay-marriage