The Boy Scouts Just Took A Huge Step For The Rights Of Transgender Children

After more than 100 years.

The Boy Scouts of America is making a big change in the name of equal rights. The group, founded in 1910, announced on Monday that it will now accept transgender boys as members, looking at the gender identity listed on the child's application rather than their birth certificate.

"For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual's birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs," the organization announced on its website. "However, 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."

In a recorded statement, Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh vowed that the Scouts would work with families to find units to best fit each child, adding, "I hope you will join with me in embracing the opportunity to bring scouting to more families and children who can benefit from what our program has to offer."

The Boy Scouts has gradually improved its stance on LGBT rights over the past few years. As the New York Times sums up, in 2013 the organization ended its ban on openly gay youth, and two years later the ban on openly gay adult leaders was finally lifted. (Although it should be mentioned that exceptions were still allowed for religious groups.)

In a time when transgender rights are at the forefront of American political discussion, and trans people of all ages continue to face discrimination from their communities and government, this is an important step forward.

This is also big news for Joe Maldonado, an 8-year-old boy from New Jersey who was kicked out of the Cub Scouts last year for being transgender. According to USA Today, Joe's mother Kristie received a call Monday night from the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts informing her that her son would be welcome back. She apparently filed a civil rights complaint against the group just last week.

Although the group suggested Joe join a different unity to avoid "friction" from the mothers in his former pack who complained about him being a member, Maldonado believes he should be allowed to join his friends from school. "They said, 'We'll talk,' " she said of the leaders' response. 

Let's hope Joe's local scouts, and units all over the country, will truly provide transgender youth with the equal treatment they deserve.

Cover image: a katz / Shutterstock, Inc.

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