The Boy Scouts of America have announced that they will now accept transgender boys into their organization, a move preceded by a series of controversies regarding eligibility requirements in the Boy Scouts.
The issue of transgender membership in the Boy Scouts reached the national spotlight in December 2016, when Joe Maldonado, an eight year old transgender boy, was barred from membership at a local New Jersey chapter after participating in the program for a month. The Boy Scouts informed his mother, Kristie Maldonado, that eligibility for the program was based on the gender listed on Joe’s birth certificate, which in his case was female. The Maldonado family then sued the local chapter, generating attention from news outlets across the country.
The Boy Scouts of America organization is no stranger to controversy: Until January 1st, 2014, the organization banned gay youth from participating in any level of the Boy Scouts. The ban was finally lifted after years of debate, with a high level of controversy among members of local affiliates. On May 23, 2013, the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America voted overwhelming to end the ban of gay youth in the Boy Scouts, allowing youth such as Pascal Tessier (MD) to become Eagle Scouts, the highest rank for youth in the organization. Still, openly gay adults were not allowed to serve as troop leaders until 2015, when the Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America ratified the National Executive Committee’s vote to end the ban on openly gay adults in the Boy Scouts.
The Boy Scouts of America announced on January 30th that they would no longer be enforcing their ban on transgender youth, according to the organization’s chief executive, Michael Surbaugh. He clarified that the organization would begin a policy of accepting new members with the gender written on their individual scouting applications by their parents or guardians.
For youth such as Joe, the decision is a victory. Maldonado has become the first open transgender boy to join the Boy Scouts, setting the precedent for years to come. However, the decision has not been universally applauded, with critics like Federalist journalist Bethany Mandel commenting that, “It’s too early to say how the decision will affect the Boy Scouts’ future, although the situation brought to mind another piece of Americana, the circus, and how its decision to surrender to outspoken left-wing activists proved to be its undoing.”
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