In a welcome move announced last night, the Boy Scouts of America announced that they would accept new scouts “based on the gender identity indicated on the application,” paving the way for transgender boys to join the organization.
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. Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child.
That’s a huge step, and one that is in line with the BSA’s incredibly-slow-but-very-welcome move toward more inclusivity. After allowing openly gay scouts in 2013, and openly gay scout leaders in 2015, openly trans boys will now get to experience the same benefits as everyone else in the group.
The move comes about a month after an 8-year-old boy was banned from the Scouts because he wasn’t born that way:
… Effie Delimarkos, director of communications for the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement that Joe [Maldonado] “does not meet the eligibility requirements to participate in this program,” and that the Boy Scouts referred him to alternative programs.
So let’s celebrate the BSA’s move. They’re bound to get tons of backlash from religious organizations that sponsor troops, and that can’t be easy to deal with, but bigotry is easy to fight against when you know you’re doing the right thing.
All that said, it’s worth pointing out that the BSA still bans openly atheist scouts from joining the organization at any level. The Scouting Oath calls on boys “To do my duty to God and my country” while Scout Law honors “reverence.” If leaders find out you’re an atheist, they can kick you out (and they’ve done just that).
Which is odd since last night’s press release suggested that the group wants to expand its reach:
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.
If that were true, they wouldn’t be excluding the growing number of non-theistic boys in the country.
To be clear, the BSA is a private organization and they can set their own rules. But when the U.S. President serves as the group’s honorary President, and they have a congressional charter as a civic group, and they recruit kids at public schools, there shouldn’t be any religious discrimination happening whatsoever. If they want to keep it up, they have no business getting the support of our government and shouldn’t have access to public schools.
All of this is to say there’s still reason to protest the BSA, even though they took an important step forward today.
Maybe in another two years, they’ll finally accept atheists as well.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)