The Boy Scouts of America once again landed under the harsh glare of the media spotlight for their policies on LGBT children.
Recently, a woman from New Jersey has been speaking to local media about how her transgender son was removed from his local Boy Scout troop because of his gender identity.
Kristie Maldonado, of Secaucus, N.J., told the Record newspaper that none of the children in Cub Scout Pack 87 had a problem with her 8-year-old son’s participation — but their parents did.
“Not one of the kids said, ‘You don’t belong here,’” she said.
Her son, Joe, said, “I had a sad face, but I wasn’t crying. I’m way more angry than sad. My identity is a boy. If I was them, I would let every person in the world go in. It’s right to do.”
The brouhaha finds the Boy Scouts in familiar territory in which the LGBT community and its allies take issue with traditional institutions they consider to be antiquated and in need of reform. To these advocates, a ban on transgender membership is a discriminatory policy and should not be tolerated.
Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, a leading transgender rights nonprofit, said the Cub Scouts is not the place where children should be taught to discriminate. Instead, she said, they should be taught about discrimination and how to welcome people.
“This child seems like so smart and awesome. We’ve seen this a million times in schools and Cub Scouts: It’s always parents claiming to speak for their children,” Keisling told Yahoo News. “C’mon, it’s an 8-year-old. Let kids be kids.”
Keisling, who was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout in her youth, said it’s sad that the Boy Scouts did not learn their lesson after excluding gay people. She said it’s great that the Boy Scouts recognize that gay rights and transgender rights are two different issues, but also highlighted what she considers their similarities.
“I’ll tell you what’s the same about them: whether or not you’re an inclusive, welcoming organization or a stuck-in-the-past exclusionary, unwelcoming organization, the Boy Scouts seem set on being the latter,” she said.
The Boys Scouts grant youth membership to boys who are in first through fifth grades or between 7 and 10 years old, and revealed — amid the controversy — that the group defers to the child’s biological sex as recorded on his or her birth certificate.
When contacted by Yahoo News, the Boy Scouts of America shared a statement from the director of communications, Effie Delimarkos, declaring that Joe does not meet the organization’s requirements for eligibility.
“If needed, we defer to the information provided for an individual’s birth certificate and their biological sex,” Delimarkos said. “Scouting teaches its youth members and adult leaders to be respectful of other people and individual beliefs.”
The Boy Scouts are no strangers to controversy over gay rights. The group’s previous bans on gay adults and children on joining the organization generated tremendous outrage as the nation increasingly embraced liberal perspectives on LGBT issues.
But Joe’s removal is likely to be the first high-profile case of someone being removed from a troop because of gender identity.
According to Delimarkos, the group was unaware that the child was not born with male biological sex characteristics when the family started the registration process for Cub Scouts.
“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,” Delimarkos said.
The group suggested that the family could look into the organization’s co-ed programs, such as Learning for Life, STEM Scouts and Venturing.
A spokesperson for the Scouts for Equality advocacy organization said the organization is deeply disappointed in the decision to remove Joe from scouting and hope that it will be reversed quickly.
“This is the first time a youth has been removed from the BSA because of his gender identity, and the BSA now finds itself at a pivotal moment as an organization,” the spokesperson said via email. “We hope they will choose to be on the right side of history. Joe is not the first openly transgender Cub Scout, and he will not be the last. We urge BSA president Randall Stephenson to take immediate action to end this discrimination before it’s codified into a formal policy.”