It seems that with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), it's two steps forward and a dozen back when it comes to acceptance. First there was the long debate over whether or not the Boy Scouts should allow gay scoutmasters — an issue that was only resolved after immense public pressure to overturn this archaic policy in July of 2015. Now, the Boy Scouts have turned away Joe Maldonado, a transgender boy, from participation in scouting activities on the basis of parent complaints over his inclusion as a transgender boy.
Maldonado's story was first reported in December. The 8-year-old Maldonado was registered with a troop in Secaucus, New Jersey. According to his mother, Kristie Maldonado, who spoke with a local CBS affiliate, she received a call from the head counsel of Boy Scouts of America about a month after Joe joined, telling her that he would be removed.
Bustle reached out to Boy Scouts of America about Joe Maldonado being removed. Spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos responded in an email with a statement, which does not specifically name Joe:
Recently, a family started the process of registering their child for Cub Scouting. During this process, it was brought to our attention that their child does not meet the eligibility requirements to participate in this program, so Boy Scouts of America (BSA) leadership reached out to the family to inform them and share information on alternative programs. For instance, the BSA also offers co-ed programs through Learning for Life, STEM Scouts (in markets where available) and Venturing, a program for young men and women ages 14-20.The BSA grants youth membership to Cub Scouts to boys in the first through fifth grades, or 7 to 10 years of age. If needed, we defer to the information provided for an individual’s birth certificate and their biological sex.Scouting teaches its youth members and adult leaders to be respectful of other people and individual beliefs.
The Boy Scout's response to Maldonado's effort to join proves it has a lot of progress that needs to be made, especially when compared to the Girl Scouts, which courageously rejected a $100,000 donation to turn away transgender girls applying for membership to their organization. The Girl Scouts' policy on transgender members, as stated on its website, is:
Placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis, with the welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the troop/group in question a top priority. That said, 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.
I firmly believe the actions of the Boy Scouts towards Joe are directly in conflict with the values the organization expects its Cub Scouts to follow. Consider how at the beginning of each den meeting, the boys recite the following Scout Oath:
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.
All of these are fine values to uphold, but the trick is that you actually have to follow those rules for them to be effective. To that end, it seems that the Boy Scouts of America have forgotten how they even explain their oath on their own website:
To help other people at all times … Many people need help. A friendly smile and a helping hand make life easier for others. By helping other people, you are doing a Good Turn and making our world a better place.
Rejecting transgender boys because of an ‘F’ on their birth certificate is squarely not helping to ‘make the world a better place’. Nor is it “a friendly smile and a helping hand [to] make life easier for others”.
If the scouts truly believed their own lesson on honesty, I believe they would understand his plea and follow their own advice by doing the right thing by letting Joe participate again.
As the Boy Scouts website explains the next line on their website:
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight … The last part of the Scout Oath is about taking care of yourself. You stay physically strong when you eat the right foods and get plenty of exercise. You stay mentally awake when you work hard in school, learn all you can, and ask questions. You stay morally straight when you do the right thing and live your life with honesty.
Ironically, the Scout Oath perfectly describes transgender people much in the same way that we describe ourselves.
As a Cub Scout once many years ago, I was in direct violation of this part of the oath. I wasn’t living my life with the type of honesty that honors my pledge. I was living my life in fear of being judged for having feelings that I was a girl and not having the courage to talk to anyone about it when I was young.
If the Boy Scouts truly believed their own lesson on honesty, I believe they would understand his plea and follow their own advice by doing the right thing by letting Joe participate again.
The lessons in scouting are interspersed with teachings on how to be a good community member, selflessness and being helpful even when it seems nobody else is willing to be. Needlessly discriminating against transgender boys contributes to the feelings of anxiety and separation felt by all trans people and is not indicative of a constructive program that values leadership.
Ultimately, whether the Boy Scouts allow Joe back into their good graces or not is entirely up to their national leadership. However, what I believe is obvious from the Boy Scouts’ recent rubs against social progress and their unwillingness to embrace change is that they clearly need to reflect on their values. Is their doctrine important enough to them that they will act in concert with it, or will they continue to struggle in a world moving too fast for their pace?
The Scouts need to decide whether they intend to practice what they preach and live up to the expectations of their members.