JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Local Boy Scout leaders say they support the Boy Scouts of America's new policy to allow transgender children to join Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts based on gender identity.
The statement by Jack Sears, Scout Executive/CEO of the North Florida Council, says:
"As one of America’s largest youth-serving organizations, the Boy Scouts of America continues to work to bring the benefits of our programs to as many children, families and communities as possible.
“While we offer a number of programs that serve all youth, Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting are specifically designed to meet the needs of boys. 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. 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.
“Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application. The North Florida Council will help find Scouting units in our area that can provide for the best interest of the child.
“The BSA is committed to identifying program options that will help us truly serve the whole family, and this is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible – all while remaining true to our core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.”
The statement is nearly identical to the statement released by the Boy Scouts of America.
The members of Jacksonville Transgender Action committee say they were thrilled to hear Monday night's announcement:
"It is important for trans and gender nonconforming people to have safe spaces where they can be their full selves. We will continue to resist oppression in all its forms and rally around those who are most marginalized. Lastly, we welcome the parents and members of Boy Scouts here in Jacksonville to speak with us to learn more about trans, intersex and gender nonconforming identities. Asking questions and taking the time to learn is the first step, and we welcome those who wish to take it."
Eight-year-old Joe Maldonado was asked to leave his scout troop in Secaucus, New Jersey, last fall after parents and leaders found out he is transgender. The organization's statement did not specifically mention Joe's case, but said it changed the policy because of the larger conversation about gender identity taking place around the country.
Kristie Maldonado, Joe's mother, said she had mixed emotions Monday night when a Boy Scouts representative called to tell her the organization would allow her son to re-enroll in his troop. Maldonado said she would like her son to rejoin the Secaucus troop, but only if the scout leader who threw him out of the troop leaves.
She said Joe, who will turn 9 on Wednesday, has spoken publicly about the incident. She called him a "ham" and noted he had a big birthday party on Saturday with the mayor of Secaucus in attendance.
"I'm so grateful, I really am, that they're accepting and that there won't be any issues. They (other transgender youth) won't have to go through what my son went through," Maldonado said by phone Monday. "It's a big change for everybody that all are accepted now ... I'm so delighted that they finally called and they did say this, but I'm still angry."
Maldonado said the decision to remove her son from the troop made him feel different, and she wanted to make sure he knew the troop made a mistake. The Boy Scouts said the enrollment decision goes into effect immediately.
This step by the Boy Scouts is not completely unprecedented, but it did receive applause from a number of human rights groups.
"They've been moving in this direction for some time now," said Dan Merkan, the chair of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality. "A few years ago, they allowed openly gay scouts and then scoutmasters so this is just a logical progression that they are going to allow transgender males into their organization. It just kind of shows their commitment to American values of inclusion and equality."
Boy Scouts of America leaders lifted a blanket ban on gay troop leaders and employees in July 2015 amid intense pressure. The group decided in 2013, after heated debate, to allow openly gay youth as scouts. The national Girl Scouts organization, which is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts, has accepted transgender members for years.