Here's how the Girl Scouts are fighting transphobia
Last week, the American Family Association launched an online petition imploring the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) to reverse its policies on accepting transgender girls. To date, the petition has acquired over 38,000 signatures — but rather than give into the demands of the American Family Association, the Girl Scouts have now taken an even stronger stance in their support of trans and gender-nonconforming youth.
“Girl Scouts has valued and supported all girls since our inception in 1912,” Chief Girl Expert, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, wrote in a post titled, “The Meaning of ‘Serving All Girls’” on GSUSA’s blog earlier this week. “There is not one type of girl. Every girl’s sense of self, path to it, and how she is supported is unique.” Heck yeah!
This isn’t the first time that the organization has insisted that anyone who identifies as a girl should be allowed to be a Girl Scout. When a troop in Colorado let a transgender girl join its ranks in 2012, it caused major backlash and even sparked a cookie boycott. People were quick to criticize the organization for its decision, calling into question GSUSA’s judgment and expressing concerns for the “safety” of other Girl Scouts. But GSUSA stood by their troop, and has since supported any and all girls who want to join the organization. The blog post was a reaffirmation of that support — and it couldn’t have come at a more important time.
According to non-binary peer support organization FORGE, about 50% of transgender individuals will have experienced sexual violence in their lives. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that one in five transgender people will be homeless at some point. A 2013 report on hate crimes from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that of all LGBTQ+ homicide victims, an overwhelming majority were transgender. While trans visibility is gradually on the rise, transphobia is still very much a reality with heartbreaking and unacceptable consequences for far too many people. If a Girl Scout troop can be a safe space for a young transgender girl — while helping to create a more open-minded and accepting new generation — it has the potential to do immeasurable good.
But the American Family Association doesn’t agree, and their petition more or less echoes the same sentiments of GSUSA’s 2012 critics.
“Boys in skirts, boys in make-up and boys in tents will become a part of the program. This change will put young innocent girls at risk,” the petition reads. “Adults are willing to experiment on our kids — both the boys who are confused and the girls who will wonder why a boy in a dress is in the bathroom with them.”
The petition implies that the gender we are assigned at birth is definitively the gender we are, and that anyone who claims they are transgender is simply confused about their identity. This is an incredibly closed-minded and dangerous way of thinking that perpetuates harmful stereotypes for all people. By approaching gender in such a binary way, we leave so many people out of the picture. Violence and discrimination against non-cisgendered youth remains as prevalent as ever, and we need to work towards reversing it. We couldn’t be happier to see GSUSA taking such a solid stance on the matter, and the organization has made it clear that the safety of all Girl Scouts is their top priority.
“Placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis, with the welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the troop/group in question a top priority,” their website FAQ reads. “That said, if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.”
And in case that wasn’t clear enough, Dr. Archibald was more than happy to clarify in her post earlier this week.
“Our mission to build ‘girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place’ extends to all members, and through our program, girls develop the necessary leadership skills to advance diversity and promote tolerance,” she wrote. “As we face a complex and rapidly changing 21st century, our nation needs all girls to reach their full potential, which has been our focus for more than 103 years.”
We couldn’t think of a more essential mission for young girls everywhere.