Joe Maldonado had been a member of his local Cub Scout troop for a little over a month when his mother, Kristie Maldonado, received a phone call from the Scouts telling her that her son, who is transgender, could no longer be a member because he was born a girl.
Maldonado says that the fact that her son was transgender was not a secret — in fact, he has been living as a boy for over a year now and is accepted as male by his school. She also said that none of the boys in his troop ever made Joe feel unwelcome: “Not one of the kids said, ‘You don’t belong here,” she said in an interview with NorthJersey.com. It was a few of the parents who complained about Joe, proving once again that when adults make discriminatory decisions on the basis that they are “protecting their children,” they are often ignoring what their kids feel and are, instead, protecting their own bigotry.
The Boy Scouts have been behind the curve on equality and fairness. It was just last year, in July of 2015, that they finally lifted their ban on gay adult scout leaders (although local scout groups and those sponsored by religious organizations still have the right to make their own decisions about hiring gay men because, apparently, the Boy Scouts believes that their members should have the right to be hateful).
This is the first known incident of transgender discrimination in the Scouts, which has refused to say whether not they have any written policies on the issue (we’re going to go ahead and put our money on “no”). They recently began allowing transgender kids into their co-ed programs, but not into the Cubs or Scouts. Meanwhile, the Girl Scouts admitted their first trans member in 2011 and address the issue on their FAQ page, saying that applications from transgender girls on considered on a case-by-case basis with the child’s safety in mind, but that if the child has been living as a girl and is recognized as a girl by her community, then “Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.”
The Boy Scouts, who seem to be making this all up as they go along, told NorthJersey.com through their communications director, Effie Delimarkos, that the group would use birth certificates to “confirm legal status.” This will be news to every other parent of a boy in the Scouts, who we’re sure has never been asked for their child’s birth certificate to prove their gender. Delimarkos also stated that the issue of trans kids is different from that of gay kids because “gender identity isn’t related to sexual orientation.”
Excellent try, Boy Scouts. It’s sadly hilarious that just a few years ago you wouldn’t allow gay boys in, but now you’re citing your protection of their rights as a defense for why you won’t accept trans kids. Your policies of discrimination just get narrower and narrower as the world becomes bigger and bigger. And your new birth certificate policy is going to end up biting you in the butt because, as Justin Wilson, the executive director of Scouts for Equality points out, this “new, unfair, arbitrary standard” would, therefore, allow transgender girls to join the Boy Scouts.
We have no doubt that public pressure will once again force the Boy Scouts to do the right thing. It’s just unfortunate that good kids like Joe Maldonado, who loved your organization and couldn’t wait to be a part of it, have to be hurt in the process.