Boy Scouts of America, or BSA, is historically a conservative and Christian organization. Until 2014, openly gay male children could not participate due to BSA’s historically discriminatory “values.” The ban remained in place on openly gay BSA employees and troop leaders until 2015. Now, as of 2017, the organization has taken another progressive step: BSA will allow transgender boys who were born as girls to join the Boy Scouts. However, it has not always been this way.
Previously, eligibility requirements to join the Boy Scouts were based in part upon one’s gender on their birth certificate. Many boys were banned from BSA, despite meeting the qualifications for honor, loyalty, and work ethic, because of having been born into a female body. In the case of Joe Maldonaldo of New Jersey, one boy scout was told he could no longer participate in the Boy Scouts when it was discovered he had transitioned to living as a boy two years previously.
BSA Spokesperson Rebecca Rausch explains that now, gender identity is being interpreted differently by law across the country: gender binary norms are being done away with, and the trans umbrella is finally, rightfully, being recognized. Community and state laws are finally reflecting this truth. While these progressive changes vary greatly from state to state, Rausch says that BSA recognizes that its former discriminatory approach towards eligibility to join the scouts no longer sufficient. This decision comes at a time when those who fall under the trans umbrella across the country have been suffering all kinds of discriminatory distress from issues surrounding which restroom to use.
The decision may have been influenced by the Girl Scouts of America (GSA), which has already allowed transgender girls to join the Girl Scouts.
Joe Maldonaldo may need some more time to consider rejoining the Scouts, due to the emotional wounding caused by his extirpation. If he does rejoin, he will not join his previous chapter, but may consider entering into another one. Unfortunately, Joe is not the only child who had to go through this. Discrimination and exclusion are something transgender children experience from a very young age, and it may have very damaging consequences. The policy change is a rightful step towards making a safe place for children to learn how to become valuable, respectful citizens. Transgender children didn’t ask for the life they were born into, but it is who they are; they deserve this opportunity just as much as cisgender children.