If he talks, looks and acts like a Girl Scout, is he a Girl Scout?
Along with taking a stand on trans fat, palm oil and rain forests, now you need to clarify your position on gender identity before biting into your Thin Mint this cooking-selling season.
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They may look innocent in their sashes and badges, but the Girl Scouts are causing trouble again. This time, they've admitted a transgender 7-year-old boy into their ranks, prompting a call to boycott GS cookies.
Bobby Montoya, whose request to join a GS troop in Colorado was initially rejected three months ago, wears his hair long and likes to play with dolls. He identifies as a girl, but his mom says he was turned away by GS because he has "boy parts." The Girl Scouts of Colorado later revoked the decision and told Bobby he was welcome, saying the troop leader had been ignorant of GS policy.
"If a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout," the chapter said in a statement.
A Girl Scout in California disagreed. Pointing out that being a GS for eight years taught her to advocate for her beliefs, the teen posted an 8-minute video this month asking her fellow scouts "who want a true, all-girl experience" to refuse to sell or buy the cookies. The teen complained that acceptance of transgender boys is deceptive, violates GS safety standards and goes against research that shows girls thrive in all-girl environments.
Her video provoked online cookie outrage, with pro and con videos spreading as quickly as my hips after eating a box of Samoas. My favorite so far comes from a college-age former GS who vows to eat a diet of Ramen noodles so she can afford to buy twice her usual number of GS cookies. She calls the California teen a bully and accuses her of failing to uphold the GS law, which requires members to be considerate and caring, respectful of others and "a sister to every Girl Scout."
It's true that all-girl experiences benefit girls. But it's also true that GS prides itself on being an inclusive organization, with a long history of acceptance.
When she founded the Girl Scouts movement 100 years ago, Juliette Gordon Low brought girls of all backgrounds into the outdoors, giving them the opportunity to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness. Contrary to the practice at the time, girls with disabilities were included.
In the 1950s, during an aggressive internal campaign to integrate GS troops, Martin Luther King Jr. called GS "a force for desegregation." The GS elected their first African American national president in 1975; currently a Hispanic woman is the national nonprofit's CEO.
Today, there are GS troops for daughters of mothers in prison, girls in detention centers, girls living in rural areas and girls living in public housing.
Contrary to the Boy Scouts of America, which prohibits atheists and agnostics from joining, the GS adopted flexibility in the wording of its promise 19 years ago, encouraging girls to substitute their own spiritual beliefs in place of "God" if they felt inclined.
And unlike the Boy Scouts, who have taken the position that homosexuality is inconsistent with the Scout oath and law calling for boys to be morally straight and clean in word and deed, the Girl Scouts issued a statement in 1991 emphasizing that it has no membership policies on sexual preference because it "respects the values and beliefs of each of its members and does not intrude on personal matters."
There are lots of reasons to debate the GS acceptance of transgender kids, but for me it boils down to the treatment of a little boy who simply wants to hang out with girls. At the age of 7, this isn't about sexuality or jeopardizing virtues. It's about making bracelets and singing songs around the campfire. It's not boys like Bobby who make girls feel uncomfortable or reluctant to be themselves.
My daughters have been Girl Scouts for the past four years. They've picked up trash on the beach in Key Biscayne, camped in freezing temperatures, learned how to snorkel and find their way in the woods with a compass, thrown a Halloween party for homeless children in Wynwood, learned how to give CPR, sung carols for the elderly living in a senior citizens home near Little Havana …
Sometimes I wonder if any of this has made a difference in their lives, but now I have proof that the most basic GS message has indeed sunk in. When they heard about the cookie controversy and one girl's efforts to keep 7-year-old Bobby Montoya out of Girl Scouts, they had one response: "That's just mean."