The New York Times alert on my phone has recently increased in frequency, and its content typically consist of a new Trump attack on the tenants of democracy and human decency. But last night, in between memos about Sally Yates’ firing and Jeff Sessions’ hiring, there was a good post. The Boy Scouts Of America, the country’s “largest and most prominent values-based youth development organization," a century-old institution whose aims are “providing programs for young people that build character, train[ing] them in the responsibility of participating citizenship and develop[ing] personal fitness," passed a decision to admit youth based on their gender identity, as opposed to the gender listed on their birth certificate.
I was positively surprised. As a large portion of America is trying to re-define “American Greatness” as extreme nationalism and homogenization of straight, cis, white people, it came as a surprise that such as traditional male institution would review and change its stance on transgender issues.
It was like being on a crowded bus falling backwards off a cliff to its imminent death and having someone jolt it one inch forward, reminding us there is a path ahead if we band together.
Perhaps that is dramatic view, but the daily barrage of what are at worst human rights infringements and at best #alternativefacts have turned any glimpse of good news into a holy grail.
The Boy Scouts of America have spent the last decade re-interpreting their mission to fit the larger context it finds itself in. In 2015, the group ended its ban on openly gay adult leaders. This came under fire of religious institutions, which provide much of the organization's support.
The New York Times stated, “Mormons use the Boy Scouts as their main nonreligious activity for boys, and the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts units they sponsor accounted for 17 percent of all youths in scouting in 2013, the last year for which data have been published.”
Personally, I find it rich that institutions such as the Mormon and Catholic churches oppose including gay and trans people in the Boy Scouts, when they have proven incidences of adult molestation by leaders who do not identify as homosexual (or sexual, for the matter).
The NYT caught my eye when it said that Rex Tillerson “was involved in getting the organization to accept gay scouts and leaders. He was the national president of the Boy Scouts of America from 2010 to 2011 and served on its executive board in 2013 when it voted to lift the ban on gay scouts.”
This momentous change might not be a change of heart from the organization, but a result of lawsuits from families and “states that prohibit such discrimination in employment.”
An 8-year-old transgender boy named Joe Maldonado was asked to leave his Cub Scout troop in New Jersey after members found out he was born a girl has been lauded on many sites as being the trailblazer for the decision passed on Monday night.
According to ABC News, Joe's family filed a legal complaint after “other parents and leaders forced the 8-year-old boy out after they found out he was born a girl.”
"I want them to be comfortable with how I am, what my destiny is, and what my identity is," Joe told ABC News.
Let’s hope we are able to stand up to prejudices at a local level and enact change on a national scale.
Top photo: Facebook/Boy Scouts of America
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Jen Pitt, originally from Brazil, is a Brooklyn based writer and performer. She covers feminism, arts, and Brazilian culture.