Scout Law says: a Scout must be kind. Mostly. Sometimes. Or not.
December 28, 2016 2:53 PM   Subscribe

NJ Boy Scouts kick out 8-year old Joe Maldonado who is transgender. “It made me mad,” Joe, said. “I had a sad face, but I wasn’t crying. I’m way more angry than sad. My identity is a boy. If I was them, I would let every person in the world go in. It’s right to do.”

The position of Boy Scouts of America, "No youth may be removed from any of our programs on the basis of his or her sexual orientation. Gender identity isn’t related to sexual orientation," and that "the classification on the participant’s birth certificate” would be used to “confirm legal status."
posted by Mike Mongo (130 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
When questioned by New York CBS Local, [extremist hate group] American Family Association agrees with the Scout’s decision. “Simply because the girl thinks she’s a boy doesn’t make her a boy,” a spokesman told CBS2. “She’s a girl.”
posted by Mike Mongo at 2:57 PM on December 28, 2016


Just because you call yourself the "American Family Association" doesn't mean you're not unamerican or anti-family.

Fuckers.
posted by notsnot at 3:05 PM on December 28, 2016 [160 favorites]


"[I]f 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."

Once again, Girl Scouts are so much more awesome than Boy Scouts.
posted by hades at 3:07 PM on December 28, 2016 [158 favorites]


Unreal that this kid is getting thrown under the bus by these so called "leaders." Disgusting and shameful.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:10 PM on December 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Argh. Why would anyone ask American Family Association for a comment.

Things will keep getting worse before they get better. The girl featured on the cover of National Geographic and her family have been receiving threats as well. Murder rates have been at record highs (though some of that is due to increased difficulty in posthumously erasing a person's identity with social media and things). Multiple US states are gearing up for or have already passed transphobic legislation. It's just a bad time; society has never been very accepting and the BSA has a bad track record on LGBT stuff.
posted by byanyothername at 3:12 PM on December 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


I grew up in the Scouting community. I left it back in the late 90s and it has changed quite a bit, not for the better in my opinion. I've written a few letters expressing my dissatisfaction with the way they have run their organization. If you feel so inclined:
Mailing Address: PO Box 152079, Irving, TX 75015-2079
Office Phone: 972-580-2000
Let your voice be heard, let them know that this is not acceptable.
posted by Fizz at 3:13 PM on December 28, 2016 [23 favorites]


I had briefly considered supporting a Scouts group at my church when they relented on gay members, but you know what? Fuck 'em. There are better groups out there.
posted by emjaybee at 3:13 PM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also, hey, just as a rule of thumb, can we maybe try to avoid misgendering people, even when it's clear that it's a direct quote from bigots?
posted by byanyothername at 3:13 PM on December 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


Would you have us rewrite direct quotes? I'm not sure what solution you are proposing, byanyothername.
posted by jferg at 3:18 PM on December 28, 2016 [35 favorites]


[" just as a rule of thumb, can we maybe try to avoid misgendering people, even when it's clear that it's a direct quote from bigots?"

Would you have us rewrite direct quotes? I'm not sure what solution you are proposing, byanyothername.

I think there's a strong case to be made that cleaning up bigots' language for them aids in papering over their bigotry; there's also a strong case to be made that allowing bigots to speak hatefully in public advances their bigoted cause and hurts specific individuals. So I don't think there's a clear, correct decision and I think people can make cases for either side of the issue (and I personally think there's a strong situational element to consider). If you want to have a community discussion about how we ought to handle this sort of quote, which is a real problem, that would be a great discussion for MetaTalk and we'd be happy to facilitate that. But let's not have that policy discussion here in the thread.]

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:20 PM on December 28, 2016 [42 favorites]


Joe has more moxy in his little finger than the losers who won't allow him to participate. They are shorting themselves of what this young man has to offer. I hope he finds a better scouting organization.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 3:27 PM on December 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


This is one of those things where you can't actually pin it on Trump but it somehow still feels related somehow? It said Maldonado was kicked out one month ago? Like...hoooooow one month ago? One month After Trump or one month before it?
posted by corb at 3:30 PM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yeah, makes me proud to have been a Girl Scout; they have only gotten more awesome. I do understand that many people are deeply confused by, and uneducated about transgender facts. But who cares what's underneath their jeans? The Boy Scouts have long had an issue with molesters who are drawn to a pool of boys and they haven't always, don't always, deal with that. But, sure, worry about that 8 year old. Think about your priorities.
posted by theora55 at 3:31 PM on December 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


This just seems so... pointless. He wasn't bothering anyone. He was just living his life, being in the Cub Scouts, like any other kid, and the parents had to bully him out of the group.
posted by deanc at 3:36 PM on December 28, 2016 [27 favorites]


Speaking as a former Boy Scout, fuck the Boy Scouts in general, but especially fuck them for kicking Joe out for a bullshit reason.
posted by SansPoint at 3:37 PM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


When the point of the quote is to draw attention to how bigots are misgendering people, I think the answer is No, you can't avoid using the wrong pronouns.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 3:38 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


"What is inside someone else's pants is none of my business." Needs to be part of the creed of the Boy Scouts, but bigoted people everywhere.
posted by jfwlucy at 3:42 PM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


When the point of the quote is to draw attention to how bigots are misgendering people, I think the answer is no, you can’t avoid using the wrong pronouns.

I agree. On the other hand, the friendly bracket can certainly drive the madness home.

“Simply because the [boy] thinks [he’s] a boy doesn’t make [him] a boy,” a spokesman told CBS2. “[He’s] a girl.”
posted by Going To Maine at 3:43 PM on December 28, 2016 [22 favorites]


Or I might go with: "“Simply because the girl [sic] thinks she’s [sic] a boy doesn’t make her [sic] a boy,” a spokesman told CBS2. “She’s [sic] a girl [sic].”" Drives it home a bit better to readers who aren't as familiar with the issue of misgendering, IMHO, and who might think replacing "she" with "[he]" was replacing a longer phrase or putting in a skipped word, rather than fixing a misgendering.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:48 PM on December 28, 2016 [31 favorites]


Argh. Why would anyone ask American Family Association for a comment.


Because "news" programming is professional wrestling in business suits, without the wrestling.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:50 PM on December 28, 2016 [23 favorites]


Or just say "The American Family Association spewed its usual bigotry, here's a link if you want the specifics."?
posted by Etrigan at 3:52 PM on December 28, 2016 [17 favorites]


FFS. I hope the whole troop quits.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:55 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I do understand that many people are deeply confused by, and uneducated about transgender facts.

Bloody facts, confusing us by thinking they can just *decide* their gender - real facts don't have a gender, they just are!

All kidding aside though, this is fucking atrocious. The Boy Scouts are not covering themselves in glory.


On quotes: maybe just not getting or reporting an AFA quote on trans issues would be the way to go, or burying it behind a link if you absolutely have to? I mean, we're not in the habit of asking neo-Nazi organisations what they think of decisions relating to Jewish holidays, or asking for a BNP soundbite on British-Polish issues as a general rule either...
posted by Dysk at 3:56 PM on December 28, 2016 [18 favorites]


This story was on the cover of The Record this morning, along with an editorial on the Opinion page. The Record has published a number of feature stories on transgender student issues, they're really shining a light.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:56 PM on December 28, 2016


Let's quote Joe instead:
He said he was “disappointed” that he can no longer be a Cub Scout but would not want to go back without receiving an apology.

“How dare they judge me?” he said, adding of his gender identity: “I don’t have to explain it. It’s the way I’m born.”
He sounds like he knows what's what.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 4:00 PM on December 28, 2016 [87 favorites]


I left Scouting back in the early 90s when I became persona non grata to them in multiple dimensions. I refuse to look back until they commit to serving all boys with the only conditions being a desire to participate and act according to the Oath and Law.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:04 PM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Why don't they rename both boys' and girls' organizations as "Scouts" and -- as they are neither a swingers club nor fertility support circle -- allow CHILDREN to participate without attempting to assess their gender?

Are they afraid a non-segregated youth character building/bonding experience will result in an unacceptably high rate of secret making out? Isn't that a possible danger even now, among homosexual children? Is that a very big worry?

I just don't see how sex enters into it. I was in Scouts as a kid and I never got any action there. Not even a boundary-pushing shoulder massage.

Gender isn't relevant to Scouting unless you're doing it wrong.
posted by Construction Concern at 4:14 PM on December 28, 2016 [24 favorites]


Ugh, I wish I could say I was surprised this is happening. As a gay Eagle, it was such a bittersweet victory to get the BSA to let gay youths stay, let alone the volunteer leaders over 18, because of how many members had to be dragged kicking and screaming over that line. I move that the BSA leadership be dissolved and the GSA (hah!) take control, because clearly they've got these issues on lockdown.

Also this is clearly a violation of friendly, courteous, cheerful, and helpful.
posted by Lykosidae at 4:14 PM on December 28, 2016 [25 favorites]


Gender isn't relevant to Scouting unless you're doing it wrong.

Well, that's just the thing, see ...
posted by kafziel at 4:15 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Seeking "balance" from blinkered idiots is an inherent tendency, but it assumes a particularly abhorrent and abusive form when it happens to marginalised and persecuted people.

TV news long ago bought into the notion that all perspectives are entirely untrustworthy, and that, since everyone is lying, "balance" means presenting a range of lies in the hope that truth will somehow magically emerge. It apparently never occurs to them that some perspectives are honest, properly considered and well-founded in fact.

So, as a starting point, just as the views of climatologists are regarded as no more valid than those of some oil company shill, the opinions of trans* people on the issues affecting their lives are seen as no more important than the opinions of the bigots who hate them. Of course, that starting point grossly understates the difficulties encountered by trans* people, whose experience of and testimony about their own self is consistently regarded as suspect, if not downright wrong, not to mention the myriad other forms of persecution they routinely encounter in our societies.
posted by howfar at 4:15 PM on December 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


Yeah the saddest thing to me was that you need to join a boys' organization to camp or do science projects.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:15 PM on December 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


These sorts of stories will continue over the next four years. Republicans made it a wedge issue after they lost Obergefell and screamed and shouted as the Obama administration continued to emphasize that civil rights laws on gender equity and discrimination applied to transgender as well.

2017 will be the year you see those enforcement of those protections shut down. I'm willing to bet we will see outright signed legislation that explicitly removes those protections.

We have to continue to fight and normalize transgender individuals for broader acceptance in society.
posted by Karaage at 4:18 PM on December 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


Another gay former Eagle Scout here.

Burn the whole organization to the ground, and salt the earth that it came from. I've long given up hope that Scouting will evolve to the point where it treats its members fairly, and protect its most vulnerable members. Everything I've seen suggests that the organization is toxic to the core, and the organization's strong political and religious ties make it impossible for them to actually enforce the core values that they purport to hold.

I can't think of another organization that is as actively harmful, yet held in such high regard as Scouting is. I continue to be flabbergasted that a secular/apolitical alternative to scouting has not emerged.

Don't buy things from BSA fundraisers.

Don't put your kids in scouts.

If your friends or relatives have kids in scouts, gently suggest that they find an alternative.

Shut. It. Down.
posted by schmod at 4:26 PM on December 28, 2016 [60 favorites]


Heartened by the Record's editorial, but if we're going to put Joe in the spotlight (which he is handling with bravery more than becoming of a scout), I hope there is some equally hard hitting reporting outing the piece-of-shit parent who decided to snitch to higher-ups and introduce bigotry to the pack. He plays on the boy's basketball team, he goes to school with their children. If this sort of outing is appropriate, than a name-and-shame of the offending parties seems more than justified. Why do their principles deserve anonymity?
posted by Chipmazing at 4:42 PM on December 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


Just because you call yourself the "American Family Association" doesn't mean you're not unamerican or anti-family.

They also aren't very sociable, so they are really leaning on the "Ass" part of their name to carry them.

More seriously, how is it possible for the Girl Scouts to get it right over and over while the Boy Scouts have to be dragged into the 20th, never mind the 21st C?
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:46 PM on December 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


More seriously, how is it possible for the Girl Scouts to get it right over and over while the Boy Scouts have to be dragged into the 20th, never mind the 21st C?

Girl[ scout]s rule, boy[ scout]s drool?
posted by Dysk at 4:48 PM on December 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


How is this not a violation of the US's civil rights codes?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:49 PM on December 28, 2016


I recall from some threads earlier this year that the Girl Scouts also have some serious problems at the national level, but the controversy there is about questionable fundraising practices. Isn't their success predicated on the awesomeness of the local troupes, and opposed to the best efforts of the national org?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 4:50 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


"How is this not a violation of the US's civil rights codes?"

Unfortunately, gender identification and sexual orientation are not protected classes. (Although the EEOC and Dept of Ed (rightly, IMO) treat them as such under the general rubric of "sex.") (Also I think you could make a strong argument that sexual orientation is after Obergefell but it hasn't percolated through to other areas yet, so ...)

In terms of gender/sex in general, that is a protected class but the law hasn't been construed to limit the availability of single-gender groups, especially for schoolchildren, as long as they meet certain requirements.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:57 PM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


How is this not a violation of the US's civil rights codes?

Sadly, sexual orientation and gender identity aren't protected classes under federal law, and many states can't or won't pass laws to fill in the gap. Conservatism in the US is in many ways as heartless and vindictive and cruel as ever, and even many libertarians refuse to step in over a variety of (ultimately meaningless) excuses.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:58 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


2017 will be the year you see those enforcement of those protections shut down. I'm willing to bet we will see outright signed legislation that explicitly removes those protections.

They'll call it something like the "Defense of Gender Act" or something equally nauseating.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:58 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


MetaTalk.
posted by lalex at 5:05 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


When the first person who identifies as female but whose birth certificate says 'male' applies to a Cub Scout troop, you'll see the policy rewritten and "clarified" so fast that it'll make your head spin.
posted by delfin at 5:07 PM on December 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


More seriously, how is it possible for the Girl Scouts to get it right over and over while the Boy Scouts have to be dragged into the 20th, never mind the 21st C?

Do you want a real answer? Because the Mormons hijacked the organization for their own purposes, salted the leadership with their members, and effected a bloodless coup.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:08 PM on December 28, 2016 [42 favorites]


I recall from some threads earlier this year that the Girl Scouts also have some serious problems at the national level, but the controversy there is about questionable fundraising practices.

Unless there's something big I missed, the main "controversies" with the Girl Scouts are 1) protests by conservatives of the organization's ties to reproductive rights and support of trans girls and 2) parents angry that cookie funds were used for employee pension shortfalls (because God forbid women get paid for their work and not do everything purely for love of the children). It really isn't comparable at all to an organization that has repeatedly shown itself to tolerate homophobia, transphobia, and abuse.
posted by thetortoise at 5:09 PM on December 28, 2016 [33 favorites]


> how is it possible for the Girl Scouts to get it right over and over while the Boy Scouts have to be dragged into the 20th, never mind the 21st C

They're separate organizations. Many families will have kids in both, but the two don't have any official affiliation.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:18 PM on December 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


This saddens me. I thought the Boy Scouts had moved past gay and religious issues and now this, complete with obfuscation from the upper management.

I posted on FB awhile back about how when I was a Boy Scout in small-town Montana in the mid-1970's I told my Scoutmaster that I would no longer say the parts of the Scout's pledge or the pledge of allegiance that referenced a God. My Scoutmaster said, "Whatever." and Scout Life went on. I had a great time in Scouts, learned lot of good things and did some great trips.

On FB, my Scoutmaster said, "Yeah, our troop had athiests, Jehovah Witnesses, Catholics, Lutherns, Mormons, etc. and nobody cared. Scouting should be about kids doing and learning stuff." Many of my former troop mates chimed in with stories of great trips.

"Don't buy things from BSA fundraisers."


What spurred my FB post was that I have a lot of problems with Scouts but when a nervous twelve-year-old knocked on my door and asked me to buy over-priced popcorn, I did. Because I remember being that kid selling door-to-door to raise money for trips. I asked him what fun things he had been doing in Scouts and he told some stories and I told him some of the great things we had done.

Someday he will be old enough to recognize the evils of discrimination but on that night, I bought something from a kid who was brave enough to give his speech doing door-to-door sales.

"If your friends or relatives have kids in scouts, gently suggest that they find an alternative."


YMMV, but in a lot of rural and semi-rural areas there really isn't an alternative. I and my friends stayed as Scouts into our teenage years because our families weren't going to take us camping in the mountains for a week, or spend a weekend teaching us how to survive camping in sub-zero weather or take us to Minnesota to go canoeing in the Boundary Waters for 10 days or teach us how to rappel or all the things we learned earning merit badges.

My troop mates all agreed that having been Scouts taught us a lot of things and made us better men.

Men who now question why BSA continues to have it's head up it's ass instead of saying, like my Scoutmaster, "Whatever. Let's all go camping and throw axes and sit around the campfire."
posted by ITravelMontana at 5:18 PM on December 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


The Boy Scouts seemed like a weird, regressive, quasi-religious, quasi-military operation to me when I was 10, and I'm about to turn 50. It's never gonna be anything but what it is, a lingering apparition of Traditional Values, which are increasingly obviously vicious and backwards. In the immortal words of Abbie Hoffman, "I say fuck 'em even if they can take a joke."
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:21 PM on December 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


The die hard religious bigots can now go to Trail Life USA. Watch for a child molesting scandal in the next 5 years from them.

Can anyone link to reliable information on the Mormon takeover of the BSA? Were they nearly progressive before that?
posted by benzenedream at 5:26 PM on December 28, 2016


> Why don't they rename both boys' and girls' organizations as "Scouts" and -- as they are neither a swingers club nor fertility support circle -- allow CHILDREN to participate without attempting to assess their gender

You're falling for the same fallacy as the jerks who kicked Joe out; that because it's single-sex, it's about genitals.

Gender isn't relevant to Scouting unless you're doing it wrong

I'm very good at being a Girl Scout leader, and it's absolutely about gender. We're an explicitly feminist organization, and there are things we do that are dedicated to empowering girls. You could poke around GSUSA's website to get a feel for what we do, and you'll see how much of it would not work in a mixed-gender environment.

Campfire is a great organization for kids who'd prefer to be in a mixed-sex troop.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:29 PM on December 28, 2016 [41 favorites]


Former Boy Scout here, never made Eagle but I was a Life Scout. My brother made Eagle and sent his badge back when the BSA went full bore homophobic.

As for what happened, as leotrotsky says it was a Mormon coup. They moved in en masse, voted as a bloc, took over and made policy that the BSA was to be a right wing organization from the top down.

The each Troop previously had been pretty independent, you could find right wing Troops, but also much easier going Troops. It was a bit of a crapshoot, there wasn't any national guidance steering the org towards tolerance and inclusion, but at least there weren't any mandates of intolerance and exclusion.

Some Troops were really churchy and made the god parts the big parts. Some Troops were all about the camping, outdoors, and so one and didn't care about the churchy parts. Then the Mormons decided to turn the BSA into a Republican breeding ground and that was the end of the chaos and local Troops doing their own thing.

So yeah, fuck the BSA. Their step back from open homophobia was motivated only by a desire to keep getting access to national parks, tax breaks, etc. The homophobia is still there, just not so open anymore. It's still a fully Mormon occupied organization, and while individually Mormons can be perfectly nice people the LDS as a group is a rabidly far right wing organization and the Mormons running the BSA these days most certainly fall into the rabidly far right wing category.

I don't think it's possible to recover the BSA, it was good once, now it's ruined and that's all there is to it.
posted by sotonohito at 5:30 PM on December 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


We're an explicitly feminist organization, and there are things we do that are dedicated to empowering girls.

Boys can be feminists. I'm not saying Girl Scouts isn't great. It is. But BSUSA should be a feminist organization, too.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:31 PM on December 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


More seriously, how is it possible for the Girl Scouts to get it right over and over while the Boy Scouts have to be dragged into the 20th, never mind the 21st C?

Maybe, just maybe, intersectionality is a thing?
posted by notsnot at 5:33 PM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


even many libertarians refuse to step in over a variety of (ultimately meaningless) excuses

The right of private groups to exercise bigotry is snuggled right up to the core principals of libertarianism, so that's not surprising at all.
posted by fleacircus at 5:35 PM on December 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


[sic]

As Dorothy Parker said, [sic]. [Sic] as a dog.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:35 PM on December 28, 2016


They're not even proper Scouts anyway. They don't use the correct advanced ranks.
posted by delfin at 5:39 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


> how is it possible for the Girl Scouts to get it right over and over while the Boy Scouts have to be dragged into the 20th, never mind the 21st C

Someone who knows more about BSA should step up to correct me if needed, but my understanding is that Boy Scout troops have sponsoring organizations. The up side of those relationships is that, unlike with Girl Scout troops, Boy Scout troops have a structure for funding, volunteers, institutional memory, and meeting places. The bad side is that those sponsors can have too big of a say in the organization and may be resistant to change.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:41 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm very good at being a Girl Scout leader, and it's absolutely about gender. We're an explicitly feminist organization, and there are things we do that are dedicated to empowering girls. You could poke around GSUSA's website to get a feel for what we do, and you'll see how much of it would not work in a mixed-gender environment.

You're gonna have to point out what you're talking about, 'cause I'm not seeing it. Is it the stuff where they wrote "girls" where they could have just as easily written "kids"? What specifically there is not for boys? What would the presence of boys ruin? What goal is accomplished by excluding boys from feminism and female empowerment? In what way does segregation promote equality?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:55 PM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


They're not even proper Scouts anyway. They don't use the correct advanced ranks.

Clearly the leadership should be required to obtain Eternal Scout.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:00 PM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


I actually came of age when the lds takeover of BSA happened, in my specific corner of the US. I can't speak to whether it's a 'good' or 'bad' thing, but as a nonmember, and as a kid, in my neck of the woods, you simply could not find a non-LDS affiliated troop. And I do mean 'integrated' as in meetings happened at church facilities, BSA leadership levels were coordinated to correspond with LDS leadership levels at the troop level, and so on.

I mean, looking back on it now, it makes sense from a coordination perspective a la 'It's just so much easier if we just organize things this way, and other kids can come and go on campouts with us if ya'all want. But it's our show.'

Again, opinions of one guy, one corner of the woods, etc. I'm sure there are parts of the US where Hindus monopolize things.
posted by mrdaneri at 6:08 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


What goal is accomplished by excluding boys from feminism and female empowerment?

I was in Girl Scouts, hated it, and quit as soon as I could, and would not have cared if there had been boys in it, probably. But it is the adult men who have authority over these boys who are excluding them from feminism.

Boy Scouts should be indoctrinated in feminist ways from the time they're old enough to tie their stupid knots and wear their stupid shorts, but it's their own Scout Leaders who are responsible for providing that acculturation and who are guilty of withholding it, not an unrelated organization. Women cannot always fix men and boys and we are not always at fault for failing to do so when we have girls we choose to take care of, who also deserve some attention, sometimes.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:16 PM on December 28, 2016 [26 favorites]


(I should probably point out that my previous comment comes from a Canadian perspective. Up here, Scouts Canada (formerly the Boy Scouts) is coed, while the sister organization, Girl Guides, is not. And while much is made about how the latter is not as progressive as the Girl Scouts in the US, essentially boiling down to home ec in uniforms, the fact is that the actual everyday life skills taught in Guides would be far more useful for boys than the paramilitary wilderness survival skills of the Scouts. Boys are kinda getting a raw deal up here on the Scouting front, is all. The Guides welcome trans girls at least, but...yeah.)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:18 PM on December 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


> What goal is accomplished by excluding boys from feminism and female empowerment

It's not about the boys.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:21 PM on December 28, 2016 [49 favorites]


I am a Beaver Scout leader in Canada, where Scouting has been all inclusive Since 1998, open to all youth, with no matter their gender, sexual orientation, etc. I had no idea that scouts were still like that I the US.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:24 PM on December 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


You're gonna have to point out what you're talking about

I believe there have been studies done showing that girls thrive in girl-only spaces (and possibly that boys suffer in boy-only spaces). A funny thing happens when men are in the room: women get ignored.

I'm a Girl Scout leader. I missed this thread when it went up because I was out leading a meeting. The current programming for GSUSA is very focused on preparing girls to be outspoken, to lead, to take risks, to try new things. It's very hard to do that in a coed group of kids. Do you spend much time around kids? Boys (in general) (like men (in general) take up a lot of oxygen in the room, and it's very difficult to convince a girl (in general) to step out of her mold if she's in the same environment she's in every day.

Of course, of course boys should be taught feminist principles. If this were perfect liberal progressive dreamworld utopia, maybe the mission of the Girl Scouts could be accomplished in a gender-blind environment. But this is not a perfect liberal progressive dreamworld utopia, this is 2016 America, a place that just elected you know who as our next President.

If you want to make a change in young boys' lives, you take up the charge. You have that power. I wanted to make a positive change in the lives of young girls, so I went to the Girl Scouts--an organization where I felt accepted as a young atheist kid, and an organization I saw making progressive steps to make the lives of girls better. Point your anger in an appropriate direction--don't fault one of the few places that's getting it right.
posted by phunniemee at 6:26 PM on December 28, 2016 [102 favorites]


[If you can't make a point about gender identity without being an asshole perhaps it ought not be made, and if you persist, I'll give you a day off.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:29 PM on December 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


Scouts are taught to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. (Amazed I can remember them after all these years.) They are definitely not being friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, or brave with this right here. I think a bunch of Eagle Scouts in North Jersey should bunch together and take this kid out camping for a weekend just to give the finger to the NJ council and give him a nice weekend out in the woods.
posted by Nackt at 6:30 PM on December 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


Girls need Girl Scouts to be a place for girls for the same reason we ask men to stop dropping their hot takes in metafilter threads about street harassment and the like. It's not about the boys.
posted by phunniemee at 6:30 PM on December 28, 2016 [49 favorites]


Boy Scouts should be indoctrinated in feminist ways from the time they're old enough to tie their stupid knots and wear their stupid shorts

They are (or can be.) Cub Scouts typically have Den Mothers. It's the handoff to Scouts proper that sexism really takes hold (disclaimer: I was wary of the handoff and never followed through. )
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:33 PM on December 28, 2016


It's not about the boys.

Sure it is. We're talking about a trans boy, are we not? Would a trans boy, if turned away by some other shitty organization, be welcomed into the Girl Scouts? No. Because he's a boy.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:35 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have to strongly disagree with your assessment of Scouts in Canada, SysRq. In my experience, it is not about "paramilitary survival skills", but about helping youth become well-rounded individuals, and we try to run programs on all aspects of life skills. I would easily estimate that at least half the leaders are women.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:35 PM on December 28, 2016


Because "news" programming is professional wrestling in business suits, without the wrestling.

Unfair to wrestling, which would depict the American Family Association as unambiguous heels.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:37 PM on December 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


I personally got kicked out of the brownies (JrGS) for being "obstreperous". I have always known how to spell the word since. With that anecdote out of the way- how is it that this is hurting anyone? But my native state of New Jersey is still hell on earth I see....
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 6:38 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


omg Sys Rq, exactly. Joe is a boy and Girl Scouts is not for him. We're not talking about a little Josephine getting banned from a Girl Scout troop, because that shit don't play here. The Girl Scouts cannot and should not have to solve the problem of the Boy Scouts sucking. They are both private and wholly separate organizations. There are plenty of coed extracurriculars for children to be involved in, let girls have just one fucking thing to call their own, please.
posted by phunniemee at 6:39 PM on December 28, 2016 [53 favorites]


I don't think the Girl Scouts should have to solve the problem of the Boy Scouts sucking. But as somebody who greatly admires that organization and yet didn't feel like I could fit into it personally as a kid, I really wish there were more places for non-binary kids to fit in, where everything isn't rigidly divided by gender and all children are welcome and valued. It isn't the job of Girl Scouts to provide a place for gender-nonconforming boys and non-binary kids to feel safe, because Girl Scouts has its own mission and it's very successful at it... but it is the job of society as a whole, and I feel like society is failing us there.
posted by thetortoise at 7:00 PM on December 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


For people who are looking for a scouting experience for their kids: other groups include Campfire, Navigators USA, Baden-Powell Scouting Association, Spiral Scouts, all sorts of church-based organizations, Rainbow Girls, Adventure Guides... Many have problems of their own, of course, and some are even less inclusive than BSA.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:11 PM on December 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


To build on The corpse in the library's list, if you just want the BSA to stop being horrible, Scouts for Equality is an organization that helped fight to end the ban on gay scouts and helps families locate inclusive troops.
posted by phunniemee at 7:16 PM on December 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


Just FYI, YMMV with the Girl Scouts. Sure, they have a progressive mission statement, but that doesn't always translate well to the local chapters. Troop leaders will claim acceptance yet at the same time want to schedule a meeting with the other parents to talk about your child's genitals. Once you raise a stink, they will, with a big friendly smile, not invite your daughter to sleep-overs, and cancel the summer camping trip for vague reasons.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:24 PM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Girls need Girl Scouts to be a place for girls for the same reason we ask men to stop dropping their hot takes in metafilter threads about street harassment and the like. It's not about the boys.

I was a GS leader for seven years, and when my troop disbanded after I lost my co-leader and no one else stepped up, my kid continued as a Juliette. So, I get this. At the same time, though, I think there's room for a co-ed scouting experience (that has the inclusive, non-religious policies of GSA). My particular girls wanted to do the cool stuff their brothers were doing in Boy Scouts, so we camped a lot, and I tweaked every single badge requirement because I think the (now old) "new" requirements kinda suck and are more homeworky. But that's getting away from the point, which is that I think boys could definitely benefit from an alternative to BSA, one that's more in line with GSA, and one that helps them see girls as people. Not to replace GSA, which is a necessary girl-led space, but in addition to. A scouting group that accepts children as they are, and would have no problem with an A*AB child realizing themselves. No need to change orgs, you know?
posted by Ruki at 7:28 PM on December 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


Full disclaimer: My kid is agender (and is ok with me disclosing this fact here), so it's a neither/nor situation for them. They're AFAB, so they're still doing GS, as is their right, but the more options the better, YKIM?
posted by Ruki at 7:30 PM on December 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


[Hey, Sys Rq, people have answered your objection, it's time to drop it rather than making this thread all about it.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:09 PM on December 28, 2016


schmod: Don't buy things from BSA fundraisers.

That's easy enough. BSA troops around here suck at sales compared GSA. Flavored popcorn tins versus cookies? Yeah, good luck, kids.

As an Eagle Scout and father of two boys, I was hoping BSA was turning a corner, because BSA is so prevalent as a non-sporting youth activity, and as a kid who wasn't into sports, I really enjoyed my time in scouts. For those looking for alternatives, The Blaze lists 5 faith-based and 4 secular BSA-like organizations, but some of the links are dead, so here's what they listed, with corrected links:
  1. The Southern Baptist Convention’s Royal Ambassadors
  2. The Assemblies of God’s Royal Rangers (Pentacostal)
  3. The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Pathfinders (open to boys and girls)
  4. The Calvinist Cadet Corps
  5. The Knights of Columbus’ Columbian Squires (Roman Catholic)
  6. Camp Fire (co-ed, formerly Campfire USA)
  7. Navigators USA (co-ed)
  8. The Baden-Powell Service Association (co-ed)
  9. SpiralScouts (co-ed)
Sadly, no other organization is close to matching the coverage of BSA. Those four secular groups appear to be open to starting new chapters or troops, but if you're looking to join one, there's generally one or two for most states, if there's any at all.

Adventure Guides, YMCA's program that was formerly known as Indian Guides, looks to lack any national website, as the first page of Google search results are for individual location's operations.

Seems like we'll check back in a year or two, and then we'll likely ask local BSA chapters if they're interested in formally signing on as a Scouts for Equality branch/troop (again, spotty coverage, for people who haven't seen their map yet).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:13 PM on December 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


My dad was one of my Girl Scout troop leaders and took time off work to go to our meetings...
posted by bendy at 9:15 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


More seriously, how is it possible for the Girl Scouts to get it right over and over while the Boy Scouts have to be dragged into the 20th, never mind the 21st C?

I've said it here before, but I know people with a lot of experience (at high levels) in both organizations, and the difference is that the Girl Scouts are run badly by good people, while the Boy Scouts are run well by bad people.
posted by Etrigan at 9:44 PM on December 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


To answer a question raised upthread, the BSA and similar organizations have a custom loophole in the Civil Rights Acts along some court decisions that as a private association, they have a First Amendment right to discriminate against atheists and LGBTQ people if they wish.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:35 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


BSA always been a sexist organization; it was specifically founded to create manly men doing manly things. Early on, they decided too many ministers and teachers were scout leaders, and quietly discouraged them, seeking role models of more "masculine" professions.

They have fought every instance of women getting involved, only caving on "den mothers" when it became abundantly clear that the 9-11 year old cub scouts--too young for the main org--would have no organization at all, as there weren't enough adult male volunteers to lead them, and the plan of "older boy scout" as a leader worked exactly as well as you'd expect. (How many 16-year-olds do you know who can manage a group of a dozen 9-11 boys? It's not unknown, but it's certainly not a common skill.) (Cue: rant on EL not being taught to boys.)

The only long-term solution is likely to remind people, when the BSA is mentioned, that they're not a "boys' organization;" they're a private religious sexist club. They may have been founded on the notion of "teach boys outdoorsy life skills," but they were also founded on notions of toxic masculinity and male privilege.

I don't mind that they win lawsuits that have tried to force them to be more inclusive - private clubs should be allowed to set their membership criteria. (Remove their right to discriminate, and safe space organizations vanish.) I mind that the media and many communities treat them like a wholesome, family-friendly organization instead of an archaic club with an agenda.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:07 AM on December 29, 2016 [12 favorites]


I don't mind that they win lawsuits that have tried to force them to be more inclusive - private clubs should be allowed to set their membership criteria.

But as a discriminatory private group it would be nice if they were denied use of public property. No free meetings in libraries or public schools, no free events at local park districts, no free or extremely low cost space use for jamborees in national parks, etc. Our tax dollars--Joe's parents' tax dollars--shouldn't have to subsidize bigotry. Drop passive public support and let them be their private club.
posted by phunniemee at 5:10 AM on December 29, 2016 [21 favorites]


Many of my childhood friends were female, so I was always annoyed and upset that Cub Scouts (and later, Boy Scouts) were boys-only. When I asked why, I was told the purpose of boys' scouting organizations was to help provide boys with positive male role models and an understanding of manhood that was rooted in principle and decency. If BSA's definitions of "principle" and "decency" weren't so utterly fucked, it wouldn't be such a bad idea.
posted by duffell at 6:04 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


When the Boy Scouts discriminated against gay children, I wouldn't donate to them, buy from them, and I helped groups in the area chase them out of schools and community centers because tax dollars shouldn't support bigots. Then they started accepting gay scouts and I stopped. I decided to try and place my special needs child in the local troop for socialization with his peers, because I had been a Girl Scout and I a lot of fond memories from my time.

I was told by another local parent in town there was an open house I could bring my kid to and see if he'd like it. So I left work early, which if you're a single working parent that lives paycheck-to-paycheck is a big damn deal, and picked up my son to go to this meeting. It was not good. First, the kids in the troop and their friends/siblings were packed away in an other room where my son wasn't invited and the parents were seated for a power point presentation selling scouts to them like Tupperware. There was no way my kid could sit through that without becoming a disruption, so I tried to get one of the leaders sitting off to the side to talk to me about the scout troops in the area.

They got very huffy because this was a recruitment for whatever the Boy Scout equivalent was to Brownie Girl Scouts and my son was the equivalent of a Junior Girl Scout. So I asked for who I should contact for his age group thinking the scouting troops in town maybe talk to each other? No. She didn't want me to have that info. She told me to contact the Monmouth County council to find out where the Special Needs troop was and send my son to that one.

First off.... no. Second off... eff you and your same but different nonsense. If I wanted a special needs troop, I would have asked specifically for that one. I wanted my son to be part of a troop made up of boys from his town and his school so when they saw each other in the halls or local grocery store, they could say hi and have a moment of connection. But she was having none of it and just gave me the council info.

So I went on line and tracked down the local troop to me and looked through their website. They had a contact page, so I reached out directly. I told them about my son and his issues and then asked to join, also stating that I would of course join with him and came with a background of Girl Scouting from Brownie to Adult as well as working as a counselor in both Girl Scout day and over night camps. That his aunt was a paramedic and nurse and his uncle was fire rescue if we needed to ask for occasional volunteers.

I got back a polite email ccing someone in council telling me they were sure my son would love scouting and I should check out this special needs group somewhere in the county.

So, fuck the Boy Scouts. What a disgusting group of jerks.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 7:00 AM on December 29, 2016 [21 favorites]


I just, for the life of me, can't understand why a group of adults is thinking about a child's genitalia. I just can't. That's the only thing that makes Joe different from other boys, and no one's even gonna see it.

I didn't know I was trans when I [was forced to] join the Brownies, but my presence there always felt wrong to me and I quit before becoming a Girl Scout. I never tried to join the Boy Scouts but if I had, I would hope I would have been as strong as Joe is being now.

I do agree with separately-gendered groups for the reason phunniemee and corpse in the library state above. Girls fare better without boys in the room. Boys need to be taught to be responsible, feminist men. It doesn't magically happen; they need men to look up to. As a trans guy who came out last year, I sincerely wish there were an adult equivalent male organization since all my male role models are shitty.
posted by AFABulous at 7:43 AM on December 29, 2016 [13 favorites]


Brownies are Girl Scouts -- it's not like Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. A minor thing, but it's been on my mind today how the language we use about scouting presumes the male experience. Debbie Reynolds didn't earn a sash full of "merit badges," as the Facebook posts I'm seeing say she did; they're "badges."
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:56 AM on December 29, 2016 [10 favorites]


Just to take an alternate approach here, thanks to all the "fuck the BSA" comments above.

How many of you saying that are actually involved in the organization? I'm guessing none? Because that is exactly how you keep it sexist. You leave.

I didn't. I signed my son up for Cub Scouts when he hit kindergarten. (Pilot program in our area allowed K kids to join.) I signed up as a leader. I'm currently running the unit as committee chair. I spend a lot of time working with District and Council level BSA staffers and employees. I network a lot in the local area, and have gotten to know a lot of other Scouters. You might be surprised to learn that the general membership is pretty much like the US population - there is a broad range of personalities, beliefs, etc. - gosh how surprising, they are not all hard core militant sexists.

For me: I'm an Eagle Scout. So are my 2 brothers. I know that there are elements of the organization that are unpleasant, but I'm not about to quit. Why? Simple.

A scout is trustworthy. Parents hand me their 2nd graders and trust that I will help them become better people. I honor that trust by conducting myself in a way that shows the parents and youths that our organization is a safe place for all. We are extremely lucky to be part of a highly inclusive unit in a highly progressive Council.

A scout is loyal. Loyalty is not following the party line: it is following the underlying premise of the organization. Scouting is a global movement, not an American one. I am loyal to Baden Powell's vision of a worldwide movement of peace and unity, not to whatever political belief of the moment is driving the American leadership.

A scout is helpful. I do my damndest to help others understand that get out of it what you put into it: if you being hate to the table, you dine on misery. We don't allow that in our unit, and we help anyone who feels marginalized to feel just as included and important as the other youths.

A scout is friendly. Everyone who joins or participates is deserving of this. Everyone who chooses not to join is also treated graciously. There are no "enemies" in our system. Mutual respect is taught at every gathering. Everyone who comes is welcome. Brothers, sisters, moms, dads, grandparents, you name it - our events and gatherings are open to all, and all are welcome to participate.

A scout is courteous. We can disagree, and can do so vehemently, but we disagree without resorting to unpleasant or rude responses. The correct response when faced with hatred or bigotry is not to scream back - it is to remain steadfastly polite but hold firm to our principles. They go low, we go high. Sound familiar?

A scout is kind. We teach the boys that all living things are important. We don't teach them that any one kind, gender, or orientation is better than any other.

A scout is obedient - not to the party line, but to his or her own moral compass. The compass rose (fleur de lis) symbol of Scouting reflects the idea that a Scout should always be able to point the way - and the way is forward, not backward. It would be wrong for me to push the organization any other direction.

A scout is cheerful - even in the face of oppression, of fear, of danger, of hate - the goal is to keep our own spirits up, to light a beacon hope. I'm doing my best to do so.

A scout is thrifty. I put my money where it can have the biggest impact. I donate locally, to my local Council, not to National, because the folks around our area are getting it right.

A scout is brave. Giving up and leaving is easier than staying in and pushing for progress. Saying in and being vocal about disagreements is not an easy thing, especially in areas that remain more conservative. But that is the ONLY way to effect real change.

A scout is clean. We don't allow hurtful, discriminatory language in our unit or Council.

A scout is reverent. This is not the belief in god that National wants it to be - this is the belief that other people's spirituality is valid even if it differs from our own. I am an atheist - normally identify as a secular humanist - and am not shy about making this clear. But we meet at a church, we hold moments of prayer for gatherings, we encourage each child to grow in the path that his family takes. For me, and for my son, that is growth in the respect for our world and for others.

The BSA taught me these principles. They're pretty deeply internalized in my personality and my core beliefs. I'm a proud parent of a sensitive, thoughtful son who wants everyone to be friends. I'm a leader in a unit that wears the "inclusive scouting" award - the non-sanctioned ribbon that states "discrimination is not OK". I've got a colleague who sends in her daughter's Cub Scout application every year knowing it will be gently turned down, but I've made it clear that I'll keep signing it and sending it in every year she wants to try. I'm a member of a Council that does not now, nor to my knowledge has ever, expelled any members or leaders for sexual orientation, despite orders from above. All of these things are built on the principles that were taught to me as a kid by the leaders I had in the BSA, including my own parents.

Now tell me again why this organization is so broken that we need to burn it to the ground and start over? Because that approach simply undercuts the work that those of us on the ground do, every day, to force the change we all want to see. "fuck them" is the easy answer, but that only hurts the boys (and girls - Venturing and Explorers are co-ed, people) and men (and the many women!) who are part of the organization and are actively working to make it better, and to achieve the end goal: helping our kids become better citizens.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:41 AM on December 29, 2016 [10 favorites]


I was in boy scouts as a child and I'm a cis woman. Sure I wasn't an "official" scout and didn't get badges or anything, but the troop leader was a widower with a girl about my age and he couldn't find or afford a baby sitter during troop activities. My brother was a scout, so I tagged along too. No one cared.
posted by domo at 9:07 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Heart breaking. Poor little guy, he needs all our hugs.
posted by james33 at 9:08 AM on December 29, 2016


My partner was actually directly involved with the integration of Scouts Canada back in the day, as one of the first "female" Scouts in their area. (Well. I say "female"--they identify now as nonbinary, but as a kid that was... not so much an option.) My impression has always been that it was a more complicated kind of integration than just "hey everyone can be in Scouts now"; I know that their stepdad for example fought the inclusion of girls hard and only allowed them to join when it was clearly a lost battle, despite the fact that their whole family was deeply involved in local chapters of Scouts Canada. (Their younger brother joined the Scouts two or three years before they were allowed to.)

They have many fond memories of their time as a Scout, mind, and I know it was/is important to them growing up, but we've already had the discussion about the possibility of sending a theoretical future child on to Boy Scouts in the US (assuming we're living here at the time) and rejected it. Neither they nor I would feel remotely welcome getting involved, although we're thankful for the work of folks like caution live frogs, so why not devote our work to organizations that don't outright hate us?

(We've also had the chat about gendered education for kids and pretty well decided that if it's an option, we'd seek out sex-segregated spaces if possible for female kids and as much exposure to girls as possible for male kids, within the inclinations of the specific kid. We're both pretty much of the opinion that, well, exposure to girls is *great* for boys and all, but not actually so great for the girls being educated or trained alongside them, and girls need time and space to be centered as themselves, which doesn't always happen in coed spaces.)

I do have to wonder what international relationships between Canadian and American Scout organizations look like. Does anyone have personal experience about how the two organizations interact, especially post the BSA LDS takeover?
posted by sciatrix at 9:17 AM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


How many of you saying that are actually involved in the organization? I'm guessing none? Because that is exactly how you keep it sexist. You leave.

Seriously. If all you can do is watch and dismay from afar, you're not really helping the problem. If you were a Boy Scout and hate that the BSA is so shitty, join as an adult and fight from within. Be the change. If you think scouting should be coed, find a group that does that and get involved. If you dislike the Girl Scouts because you think the new badgework is too homeworky (I don't disagree with this), go start a troop that does things differently. Be a helper to an existing troop. I can't tell you how many parents I've seen gripe about "but you should be doing such-and-such!"--so I say, "we can't do such and such unless we have more hands, are you willing to volunteer an hour a month to help make that happen?"--no. No of course not. It's so much easier to sit on the sidelines and tell your smug stories of woe than it is to step in and make things better.

The only way out of this is through. It sounds trite, but be the change you want to see. It will make you feel better and it will make lives better.
posted by phunniemee at 9:20 AM on December 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


The discriminated against don't owe politeness and labor to the groups discriminating against them. Telling people to basically join and work for the group that treats them less than human to maybe one day earn the right to not force people like them to be treated the same way is gross.

Boy Scouts was awesome for you. Great. But they are not awesome to everyone, and your continued support of them means you passively agree with the politics of the group.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 9:46 AM on December 29, 2016 [22 favorites]


I agree, it's like saying "join the Republicans to change them from the inside!" No fucking thank you.
posted by AFABulous at 9:58 AM on December 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think that's needlessly divisive, personally. I'm grateful to folks who are trying to change big orgs like the BSA from within, especially those that really push their local networks hard to develop change, and especially when they are leveraging long histories and personal ties to create that change. That's how change happens.

I am also grateful to folks who walk away from the BSA in disgust and decide to get involved with another, smaller org that takes boys for activities like scouting, so that the BSA is faced with real competition and parents have another accessible alternative for their kids, and suddenly the BSA has to look at dropping membership rolls and newly strengthened competitive scouting orgs on their territory. That's how change happens, too.

I don't have kids right now, and I prioritize other things in my day to day life. But that doesn't mean that I'm not grateful to people who have the time and energy to push hard on this battle, on the behalf of kids in my wider communities. I can't fight every battle, so I'm pleased at folks who push the envelope in their own ways in their own local groups. That stuff is important.
posted by sciatrix at 9:58 AM on December 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


Just to take an alternate approach here, thanks to all the "fuck the BSA" comments above.

How many of you saying that are actually involved in the organization? I'm guessing none? Because that is exactly how you keep it sexist. You leave.


This is a kind of privileged position to take considering that the two "fuck the BSA" comments preceding yours came from a trans man and a parent of a special needs child who had been specifically excluded from their local troops as well as the national organization.
You and your children fit the narrow expectations of who makes a good scout - great - have fun on your camping trips and parading around in your fancy badges. But don't blame the people who have been repeatedly shat on by the BSA for being bitter about they way they are treated and for not attempting to participate in an organization that misgenders them, excludes them, treats their beliefs as invalid and accuses them of being pedophiles.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 10:00 AM on December 29, 2016 [23 favorites]


And to preemptively counter the argument that people who don't like the BSA and don't want to participate should keep their "fuck the BSA" sentiments to themselves - schools and towns can only support so many extra curricular organizations. If all the cis, straight, Christian, neurotypical families/boys are in the boy scouts, then in a lot of towns there aren't going to be enough kids leftover to start a troop in a more inclusive scouting organization.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 10:13 AM on December 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


How many of you saying that are actually involved in the organization? I'm guessing none? Because that is exactly how you keep it sexist. You leave.

Well, bless you, but we all have to pick and choose our battles. Note that for people like me, there was no "change it from within" in the early 1990s. Young people like me took the fight all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States and got shot down. What was left was the long and grinding struggle of beating your head against an organization that resists change, being an untouchable test case in a protracted legal struggle, or finding the exceptional pockets that, at any point, could be forced to discriminate by the regional or national organizations.

You've chosen your battle, and you have my moral support. The calling to do cultural change within faith-based organizations is one I honor. I have family members who struggle as change agents within anti-gay congregations. I can empathize with that choice.

But it's not my calling. I decided long ago that I absolutely will not give my time or my money to organizations that do not fundamentally affirm my equality as a human being at any level. I will not play the game of supporting local exceptions to national discrimination. LGBTQ focused and affirming organizations need that energy and money as well.

Part of being an insider change agent must include recognition of two facts. First, many people can't be insider change agents due to your organization's discrimination. We can't be certified as volunteers, we can't be members, we don't get a say in organizational policy. Second, as long as your organization discriminates, other people will choose to walk away, even boycott. To come in here and attempt to shame LGBTQ people for not following your model of political activism is remarkably tone deaf.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:15 AM on December 29, 2016 [24 favorites]


A friend who's a Canadian scout leader took his two kids (all three of them in their scout uniforms) across the US border last summer to a weekend scout camp in WA state.

The US border guard almost turned them back because he didn't believe that the older child — a girl — was a Scout.

Half their scout troop is girls, and honestly, most of the girls are more prepared and organized than the boys are! (Both of my boys forgot their plates and cups for the last winter weekend camp.)
posted by wenat at 10:32 AM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


I guess my point is that if all you are hearing is the negative news, and you don't care to learn more, you're throwing away a lot. The vast majority of people I know in the organization are good people doing good work. You cannot paint all members - or even all localities - with a broad brush. Ask about your local groups and their goals and mission statements. National leadership comes from the Council level - if your local Council has progressive policies, they are worth supporting. If they don't, ask them to change. We are explicitly supportive of all kids - including leadership training in how to include aneurotypical children. There is no requirement on the membership forms to prove gender identity. There are discussions of pilot programs to involve girls at a younger age to increase family participation. These things are happening because members are asking for it.

No one has to "fit a mold" - you just have to care. I'm sorry for those who have been treated poorly by some facets of the organization. All I can say is that the issues faced by many would not have happened in our area or with the boys in our unit. I honestly would have been reluctant to let my son join if our local Council had not explicitly stated their policy on inclusiveness. I'd like to see that extended nationally.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:02 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Phunniemee - I don't believe there's an organized push but a number of local city governances have been dropping such arrangements, citing that the BSA no longer meets the guidelines for charitable organizations due to the discrimination. I remember one troop was getting a berth for their boat for like $1/year, and the local chapter lost that fight.
posted by Lykosidae at 12:23 PM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


There are many wonderful people within BSA and chartered groups, and they are welcome to act according to their conscience in trying to make the organization better. That doesn't mean we need to drop our own commitments to join them.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:29 PM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sadly there is a 'not all men tone' here. "Not all scouts are like this!" No, but all kids discriminated against by the BSA were discriminated against by scouts.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 12:33 PM on December 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


We also absolutely get to fight against a bigoted organization without joining it. There are many ways to encourage an organization to change; joining up and Fighting From Within is not the only way, nor is it the best or most moral way. It is one method in an array of methods.
posted by XtinaS at 12:34 PM on December 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


National leadership comes from the Council level - if your local Council has progressive policies, they are worth supporting. If they don't, ask them to change.

"Hey there organisation who doesn't believe that trans people are real or have valid genders, would you care to accept my membership application and change your entire worldview because I, a trans person, is asking you to?"

I se no way the above could go anything but well or have any negative long term consequences for the asker. No sir.

/sarcasm
posted by Dysk at 12:37 PM on December 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


You know how else you could fix the BSA, disband your group and reform as one of the secular groups that offer co-ed scouting and when the BSA contacts you to ask what happened, tell them you don't abide their policies.

Oh but wait, that means you no longer benefit from the privilege of belonging to the discriminatory group and it's so much work and so hard. Aw. Drat. Guess you'll just have to continue your membership in a group that discriminates against transgender and disabled children and be part of their agenda.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 12:41 PM on December 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


Go you.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 12:42 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


And just so you're clear where you're standing - you came into a thread about the Boy Scouts of America discriminating against a transgender boy where they purposely misgendered him in statements as an insult, but you came in to remind us how cool the BSA actually is. For you.

Think about that.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 12:46 PM on December 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Because that is exactly how you keep it sexist. You leave."

That is an incredibly blamey and rude statement to make. I honestly cannot understand why you would blame people who have chosen to leave (or never join) BSA -- or who could never join -- because BSA is bigoted as fuck.

And all that is even before the part where in a lot of places, BSA wouldn't let certain kinds of folk join in the first place, so how the shit are they supposed to "change it from within" anyhow?

And then there's the point, made above, that you're basically chiding marginalized people for not putting themselves in enough danger to change an organization that has no inherent right to exist.
posted by XtinaS at 12:52 PM on December 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


You are all absolutely correct that no one should have to join or be a part of an organization that discriminates. There are plenty of organizations that do not who need your help.

There is truth in the premise that the best way to make things better is to step up to the plate.

It's hard--SO hard, you can go back and read some earlier comments from me and see that I can be a bit short tempered about these things--to sit from a position of volunteering for an organization you're passionate about and watch people on the outside tell you all the ways it's wrong. You want to take people by the shoulders and shout COME HELP MAKE IT BETTER, THEN! If you feel strongly enough about something to complain, take the next step and help. In many cases this may mean joining a different organization (or starting one yourself) and doing what you can there. But as a volunteer--especially as a volunteer for an organization that's focused on children--I hear criticism and complaints and demands and shaming all the time from people who will not help and think that the 4 bucks they spend a year on thin mints entitles them to lead a tribunal on what we do. It's incredibly frustrating.

If you are angry, if you are hurt, if you want kids to be empowered and instilled with the values you hold dear, please volunteer. We need you.
posted by phunniemee at 1:07 PM on December 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


Maybe you need to recognize, as these people who do not want to join have, that the organization is rotten at the core, and that your tolerant, inclusive troop is the exception, not the rule? An exception that the central organization has made very clear, time and again, that they will stomp flat if they catch word of it?

You want to change the BSA, you can't do it volunteering in a troop. You have to do it at the central organization, cut off the head and root out the Mormonized core. All you are doing by what you are doing is schilling for a hate group.
posted by kafziel at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


[One comment removed, and probably in general maybe everybody step away a little bit. It's fine to disagree with someone's take on the subject but let's skip the sarcastic paraphrase stuff, and likewise maybe don't dig in on the You Have To Fight The System From Within The System thing when the fact that the system is rejecting folks for fucked up reasons is part of the premise.]
posted by cortex at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2016


caution live frogs. I've just read through your comments again, and nowhere did you say you'd be happy to accept Joe into your troop. Are you fighting for that change?
posted by michswiss at 1:22 PM on December 29, 2016


Just because you've invested so much time, energy, and probably money into a discriminatory group, does not justify its discriminatory practices or absolve you of being a part of a bigoted group. And as cortex points out asking people being discriminated against to join up to fight the system from within, when the whole reason we're talking about it now is because the system has rejected those same people is dumb. It's just dumb.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 1:44 PM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


But as a volunteer--especially as a volunteer for an organization that's focused on children--I hear criticism and complaints and demands and shaming all the time from people who will not help and think that the 4 bucks they spend a year on thin mints entitles them to lead a tribunal on what we do. It's incredibly frustrating.

I'm a queer person who grew up in an organization that did worse than nothing to help me grow into being a queer adult. So yes, I do feel entitled to express the opinion that the BSA isn't doing right for LGBTQ youth and adults (who need a lot more than just equality in membership.)

As I said, if you love the BSA, go forth and try to change the BSA. But this is the second time you've blamed other people for your organizational problems and demanded that we volunteer for your agenda.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:44 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sup y'all I am a Girl Scout leader. I re-joined the Girl Scouts as an adult because I was pissed off at the Boy Scouts for letting kids down. There is nothing stopping any of us from taking up the charge to provide positive spaces for kids.
posted by phunniemee at 1:48 PM on December 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


[I think there may be some conflation between a couple different commenters talking about different scouting organizations making this all a little messier than it needs to be. This is a Thursday that feels like a Friday for me so I may or may not be the only person having trouble keeping up.]
posted by cortex at 1:50 PM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


I apologize for the misreading.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:58 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


As someone who falls into the intersection of 'People who are Eagle Scouts' and 'People who are transgender', I guess I qualify as a resident expert based on time served?

I can't claim that my BSA experience was representative - the troop I was with was based out of the California Bay Area, and this was back in the early 2000s. I also wasn't out as trans at that point, so I can't really give you thoughts on what it's like to actively be transgender and a member of the BSA.

There was definitely a lot of knee-jerk reactionary 'we gotta avoid even the smallest hint of sexual liability in our operations' going on, though. For example, I worked as a counselor at a BSA summer camp for two years, and one of the camp policies for staff was literally 'If you're in your cabin with someone of the opposite sex, the cabin door has to be open.'

Even if there were five other people in there and you were watching a movie. Even if it was super-cold outside. Door's gotta stay open.

Given the nature of how uninformed people often conflate sex and gender, I don't find it surprising that a policy like that provokes this kind of reaction from the BSA higher-ups when faced with someone who's transgender. This isn't meant to excuse that behavior - I just wanted to point out how there's layers to this.

I agree that it's definitely possible that policy and enforcement on the troop level don't match up to what the organization as a whole espouses. I don't really think much about it, but my troop was pretty flexible about a lot of things (although in hindsight the DADT-style turn-a-blind-eye policies were kind of obvious).

Here's the thing, though. Even if you're part of a BSA troop with liberal policies, you're still a part of the BSA in name (if not in spirit). Your actions advance their cause by normalizing the idea of 'This is an organization run by intolerant people with intolerant policies, but we put in aftermarket tolerance on the ground floor for when you come by'.

Think about it like this. As someone who's trans, my (or a child's) ability to be part of a BSA troop is dependent on the tolerance of the troop leadership, as well as the tolerance of the parents of the children in the troop, and everyone's willingness to conspire on our behalf.

Even when everyone plays along at the troop level, there are still going to be cases where our troop might interface with the larger BSA organization - summer camps, Jamborees, leadership training, merit badges. We're excluded from these things because our participation means interaction with people outside the troop.

An experience like the one I've described is inherently stressful and discriminatory, even if the people in authority never find out and never kick you out... and I don't think it's even remotely OK to inflict that experience on a kid.
posted by mikurski at 2:59 PM on December 29, 2016 [21 favorites]


Oh, and back to Canada — our local group last year had a handful of Venturers, including one who started the year as a female and ended the year as a male.

There was no issue from Scouts Canada with changing the registration. It seems that the only complication is that the leaders keep using the female pronoun for him because of habits.
posted by wenat at 3:22 PM on December 29, 2016


mikurski, that scenario... resonates, shall we say. Sort of like a nightmare my traumatized brain would come up with, ruminating on my transition experience so long ago. Reading it, stress just washed over me (not your fault, and nothing I haven't dealt with before). I really do wish we didn't share this type of understanding.
posted by tigrrrlily at 3:24 PM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


If anyone is interested in signing the petition asking that Joe and other transgender boys be allowed in the Scouts, it can be found here.
posted by sevenofspades at 3:51 PM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


tigrrrlily: Thanks! I'm only like a year in, so things are... fresh. It's good to know I can communicate them well.
posted by mikurski at 4:32 PM on December 29, 2016


When I was in boy scouts I was beaten by the other boys, regularly, for years, with the explicit knowledge and support of the leadership. This isn't some outlier: this is what happens when you have a theocratically-motivated, hard right, militaristic organization that devotes its internal governance to judging and policing the gender identity and sexuality of its members. People who don't conform to the default notion of masculinity are going to get the rod. For our own good, of course.

I don't need a lecture on how there are good people in the BSA, or that there's diversity in the local chapters of the BSA, or that the BSA is wonderful for some of its members. I know. My family has been big into scouting for four generations -- which is a big part of why I couldn't get help when I was being abused. The other men in my family had great experiences with scouting, so it was very, very hard for anyone to believe or support me when I told them what was happening. I was just a child, I must be exaggerating, it's just a few bad apples in the troop, and anyway scouting teaches valuable skills and life lessons I'll be grateful for later, and so on.

I'm seeing that exact dynamic play out with BSA supporters whenever something like this comes up. People who want to improve the organization would be well served by listening to those of us who had different experiences. They would be well served by remembering that it's natural to feel defensive when people point out problems with an organization one cares about -- but it's necessary if one wants to improve that organization. "Not all scouts" arguments serve to to perpetuate and give cover to the abuses of the BSA. Making them is inconsistent with the goal of working to improve the BSA.

Finally, the BSA is not like the US government, where there are no alternatives so you can't meaningfully opt out. There are plenty of ways to support boys and young men that have nothing to do with the BSA. The argument that it's somehow the responsibility of people who were abused by the BSA to devote any part of their lives to improving the BSA -- and implying that we are somehow to blame for the BSA's continued abuses if we decide not to -- is deeply gross and actively harmful.
posted by amery at 4:55 PM on December 29, 2016 [23 favorites]


Unfortunately, gender identification and sexual orientation are not protected classes. (Although the EEOC and Dept of Ed (rightly, IMO) treat them as such under the general rubric of "sex.") (Also I think you could make a strong argument that sexual orientation is after Obergefell but it hasn't percolated through to other areas yet, so ...)

It seems we've moved on from this but just in case anyone's interested: as I understand it, that doctrine (that sexual orientation and gender identity fall under sex discrimination) comes directly from the Obama administration, and actually contradicts some earlier jurisprudence. You can 100% expect it to change.

Obergefell doesn't make a strong precedent for homophobic discrimination in general, because it focused on the specific qualities of marriage, like "it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family." And like I said, there were a lot of earlier cases in which it was decided that sex discrimination specifically didn't include sexual orientation.

I haven't looked into the jurisprudence for gender identity; I expect it's muddled. The case to watch is G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board which is headed for the Supreme Court next year, god help him. Wikipedia has some more links at the bottom of its Title VII section.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 1:06 AM on December 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


As an ex-scout, I’m going to drop a small #notallscouts line in here and point out that this kind of fuckwittery seems to be something peculiar to the Boy Scouts of America. Back in the home of Scouts, the Scouting Association has a very explicit policy of inclusion. It probably helps that Scouts went mixed gender in the UK some time ago, making any determinations of gender completely moot when it comes to being a Scout or not.
posted by pharm at 1:04 PM on January 2


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