Boy Scouts reverse transgender ban, ask Secaucus boy to return
An 8-year-old North Jersey transgender boy who was forced out of the Cub Scouts because he was born a girl was asked to rejoin in what amounts to a major shift in policy for the Boy Scouts of America, which issued a statement Monday night indicating that it’s opening its membership to transgender children.
“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 Boy Scouts said in the statement. “Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child."
Kristie Maldonado of Secaucus said she received a call on Monday night from the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts telling her that her son, Joe, would be welcome back as a Cub Scout.
Joe’s story, first reported in The Record in December, led to a national debate over the Boy Scouts' policy at a time when the organization appeared to be emerging from a period of turmoil after its decisions, amid heated internal discussions, to overturn bans against gay Scouts and gay Scouting leaders in recent years.
His mother said she was surprised by Monday’s call, when she was told that the Scouts would change their policy and no longer go by the gender on a birth certificate. Last year, in response to questions by The Record, the Boy Scouts said they check birth certificates to determine eligibility for programs that are restricted to boys, but on Monday night they said in a statement that “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.”
LGBT advocates had said they were unaware of the Scouts' ever asking for birth certificates, and Kristie Maldonado said she was never asked for one. On Monday, when leaders told her they no longer require birth certificates, she said she asked them: "So what did you change?”
She said she filed a civil rights complaint with state officials against the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts last week, charging the organization with discrimination, and was considering going ahead with it. Joe had been a member of the pack for a month when a council official called her last year to tell her he would no longer be allowed to belong.
Joe apparently was the first child to be banned from the Boy Scouts for being transgender, according to advocates for gay and transgender people. The Scouts, they said, never had a formal policy related to transgender children, and the issue was not brought up when the organization overturned bans against gay Scouts and gay leaders that had been in place for decades.
Some of Scouting’s top leaders, including its current president, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, had been in favor of overturning the bans. They had cost the Boy Scouts millions of dollars as major donors stopped giving money to the organization.
In recent weeks, U.S. Senator Cory Booker's office had been in conversation with the Boy Scouts about developing “a formal policy that is fully inclusive of transgender youth,” according to a spokesman for the senator. Booker issued a statement on Monday night saying he was "happy" about the Boy Scouts’ decision to “include transgender children. This is the right thing to do for an organization that does so much to instill character in our youth.”
Justin Wilson, executive director of Scouts for Equality, an advocacy group, called Monday’s news “a great surprise and great news.”
Joe received support from around the world when the ban was first reported late last year, with a Scouting leader from the United Kingdom saying he wanted to make him an honorary member of his pack. A North Jersey Cub Scout leader said he would petition New Jersey Scouting officials to allow Joe in his group, Pack 20 in Maplewood and South Orange. Garden State Equality, an advocacy group, started a petition on Joe's behalf.
His mother also read numerous comments on social media questioning her judgment for allowing her son to live as a boy and doubting the very concept of transgenderism — despite its acceptance by a large segment of the medical science community. At the time, she said she was prepared for the criticism, and that the people writing those comments “need to be educated.”
She said on Monday that the leaders who called her at first suggested that Joe join a different Cub Scout pack to avoid possible “friction” in the Secaucus pack. She had said a Scouting leader previously told her some mothers in the pack complained about her son. But she said she believed Joe should be allowed in whatever pack he wanted to join. Some of his friends from school, where he has been out as a transgender boy for more than a year, are members of his former pack.
The response from leaders, she said, was noncommittal. “They said, ‘We’ll talk,’ ” she said.