Transgender Girls are Welcome to Join the Girl Guides of Canada
October 15, 2015 11:01 PM   Subscribe

After years of allowing transgender children to join only on a case-by-case basis, the Girl Guides of Canada have released new guidelines(pdf) that make their stance on the issue clear and official: "All persons who live their lives as female are welcome to join the organization."

Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada (GGC) is the leading
organization for girls and women in Canada. With a long history of
inclusivity GGC recognizes and values the richness of diversity in its
many forms. Affirming that all persons who live their lives as female are
welcome to join the organization, GGC is proud to announce the release
of their Guidelines for the Inclusion of Transgender Members.
This resource will assist volunteer Unit Guiders in welcoming girls who
identify as transgender and in working alongside transgender adult
members and parents.


CBC news story. / mic.com - Acceptance is growing in youth organizations.
posted by ladyriffraff (44 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's effing awesome.

I don't want to start a derail, but boy/girl scouts/guides has always seemed a strange concept in the sense that if I'm lost on the woods the odds of me finding a kid to guide me to safety seem kind of low. Did I just read too much into the name or is there a history there?
posted by axiom at 11:22 PM on October 15, 2015


To vastly collapse the history of it, the idea is more about being a pioneering leader aka a guide to others when you are grown. At least that is how it has been reverse-engineered from my knowing of it as a Girl Scout in the 1970s and 80s in the US.

Lord Baden-Powell who started the Boy Scouts as a British organization (and yes, colonialism was definitely a theme with Lord B-P who is problematic), then formed the Girl Guides in 1910. Their first name was the Rosebuds but the girls didn't like that and it was promptly changed, or so the legend goes.
posted by ladyriffraff at 11:38 PM on October 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Girl Scouts of Western Washington chose to return a $100k donation because of the stipulation against transgender girls. While the national org is lagging behind, local councils are building their own policies around this. I have hope, you know?
posted by ladyriffraff at 12:35 AM on October 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


My understanding is that The Girl Guides of Canada have welcomed trans members (including leaders) for some time, but that the guidelines and also the (important) decision to stop evaluating these girls on a case by case basis are what is new. At least, that's what the organization and their Facebook page have said for a while. See guidelines.

Scouts Canada doesn't seem to have a trans policy, as far as I can tell, but it is already gender integrated for membership.

I have a friend whose child recently applied to go to the church-backed summer camp (in another province) they have always attended. The child was now wishing to identify as a particular gender and to sleep in the same room as other children of that gender. The camp said they could either put the child in a cabin with adults or they could stay in a cabin according to their birth-assigned gender. The parents of this child tell me that the camp said that it's free to define this policy because they are a religious organization. I have encouraged my friend to file a human rights complaint, but they seem quite convinced by the religious organization and are instead looking elsewhere.

I wonder if some members/leaders filed human rights complaints against the Girl Guides - perhaps settled before hearing and thus withdrawn before becoming public. I also wonder if a lawyer simply warned the Guides that they could receive such a complaint. Or perhaps Guides wants to re-establish itself as the progressive organization it was in 1910. I hope it was the that.

Lord B-P approved Guides as the name because of the Indian Army Corps of Guides. The Brownies were originally called Rosebuds, but even B-P's sister thought that was too limiting. This is fairly well documented throughout Guiding literature.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:39 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


axiom, I don't think the point of guides/scouts was to train kids in search & rescue. The original idea was to help kids, who had grown up in cities, become familiar with the wilderness so they would be able to survive and enjoy the woods, and preserve pastoral skills. So it's not about you finding one of them to guide you when you're lost, it's about them not getting lost in the first place.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 2:28 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


GhostintheMachine: "The original idea was to help kids, who had grown up in cities, become familiar with the wilderness so they would be able to survive and enjoy the woods, and preserve pastoral skills."
Please. Child scouts are blatant paramilitarianism to accustom the kids to wearing a uniform and following orders.
posted by brokkr at 2:56 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think we can all agree that it would be cooler if the kids were responsible for search and rescue (jumping out of helicopters, etc)
posted by blue_beetle at 3:12 AM on October 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Please. Child scouts are blatant paramilitarianism to accustom the kids to wearing a uniform and following orders.

That may well be part of the male history of scouting, but have you met any Girl Scouts? Following orders without thinking is not their style.
posted by thetortoise at 3:15 AM on October 16, 2015 [39 favorites]


Seriously, when I think of the boldest, most badass women I know, from warehouse workers to scientists to moms, most of them were Girl Scouts growing up. If scouting was meant to make them more compliant and less attentive to justice, it sure didn't work. I didn't have the gumption to stick it out past a year or two and wish I had.
posted by thetortoise at 3:26 AM on October 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Please. Child scouts are blatant paramilitarianism to accustom the kids to wearing a uniform and following orders.

Oh thank god, we've been set straight.
posted by Kitteh at 3:33 AM on October 16, 2015 [29 favorites]


That sounds like a good and kind thing to do. I am very ignorant on this subject, but are there a lot of transgender children living as the opposite sex who want to join to make this a needed policy? Or is this preemptive to avoid some kids being discriminated against? Not criticizing, being inclusive is always good, just curious.
posted by mermayd at 3:44 AM on October 16, 2015


Please. Child scouts are blatant paramilitarianism to accustom the kids to wearing a uniform and following orders.

No, you're thinking of school. Scouts is actually a brainwashing program. When the code-phrase is announced on BBC Radio 4, thousands of men across the UK will rise up and overthrow the government using their skills at building bivouacs, roasting sausages on sticks, and reading maps.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:53 AM on October 16, 2015 [36 favorites]


I am very ignorant on this subject, but are there a lot of transgender children living as the opposite sex who want to join to make this a needed policy? Or is this preemptive to avoid some kids being discriminated against?

Here is what I know. I'm a kids' media specialist, not a doctor, Jim, so if I've got anything wrong here, anybody please step in and correct me.

It's a difficult thing to collect statistics on, the number of trans kids out there, because beyond the unknown numbers of kids who are not out publicly or have not yet figured out their trans identity for themselves, there are also significant numbers of kids and teens who are somewhere on the trans spectrum but have not selected a definite gender identity. This isn't just because kids are young and may not know yet or that they might be neither male nor female, but also because the current medical and legal protocol (in the U.S. and Canada, which are all I know about) doesn't allow them to make several of the changes adult trans people are able to make until they're no longer minors. Even kids who have always been adamant about their gender and who have supportive families and communities can't usually access hormones until their late teens, though puberty blockers (which delay the changes of puberty in order to allow them to transition more comfortably later on) are an increasingly common awesome option. Surgery is nearly always out until you're legally an adult.

So it's a headache trying to get hard numbers, because "who is a trans kid" isn't necessarily answerable until someone reaches adulthood and speaks for themselves "that was me, I was a trans kid." On top of that, these policies have been in a lot of flux the last few years. Trans kids/teens are often in some degree of bureaucratic limbo about their gender status, which many of them report to be personally frustrating. BUT there are very significant numbers of them who live as and are recognized as their true gender in their schools and communities. We just don't know exactly how many.

I don't know anything about the Girl Guides, but I do know that in the U.S., trans girls wanting to join the Girl Scouts is not an abstract hypothetical, and there are a non-zero number (though probably not very large) who are already members, though I'm not sure the organization collects statistics, since it's on a troop-by-troop basis.

I hope that helped, a little? I just wrote a lot of words not answering your question.
posted by thetortoise at 4:31 AM on October 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


It's very difficult to exist without spaces to exist in. This national organisation just stepped up and gave trans girls across Canada somewhere to be.

And where nationwide organisations go, others follow. This is more than just a fantastic provision, it's a fantastic statement.
posted by these are science wands at 5:09 AM on October 16, 2015 [34 favorites]


Re: summer camp - my son goes to camp with a trans boy who is put up in the main house instead of a cabin. As far as I know, he is ok with this. This is at an otherwise progressive Episcopal camp. Last summer they had a trans college student come talk to the teens about his experiences. So I wonder if this is just what camps are doing now as they feel their way forward.
posted by Biblio at 5:15 AM on October 16, 2015


This is a good thing, and I find it remarkable through the lens of my experience in the Boy or Cub Scouts (I can't remember which). If it is anything like it was when I was in it, then would still be terrible. It was my first complete up close and real exposure to authority sanctioned bullying, cruelty, violence, and sexual abuse. I came home from a trip in which I managed through great effort to avoid being subject to any of it and announced to my parents that that was it, I'm never going back. Fortunately they supported the decision.

My sisters were in the Guides and I don't recall them saying it was anything horrible so perhaps that organization has a far better track
posted by juiceCake at 5:34 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a good thing, and I find it remarkable through the lens of my experience in the Boy or Cub Scouts (I can't remember which). If it is anything like it was when I was in it, then would still be terrible. It was my first complete up close and real exposure to authority sanctioned bullying, cruelty, violence, and sexual abuse.

Wow. I read stories like this and think maybe we should just let every kid join the Girl Scouts. Or if it's still preferable to separate kids by gender, get rid of the old Boy Scouts and make a new one with the Girl Scouts model, one that has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and abuse. The number of abuse cases (that we KNOW about) in the Boy Scouts is horrifying, and the worst thing I've ever heard about the Girl Scouts is "eh, it's annoying, and the cookie thing is really commercial."
posted by thetortoise at 5:50 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


thetortoise: "That may well be part of the male history of scouting, but have you met any Girl Scouts?"
No. Scouts around here are not gender-segregated.
posted by brokkr at 5:58 AM on October 16, 2015


I was an Explorer, myself. Co-ed, great camping trips, and we had the run of the Goddard Space Flight Center and put a project on the Space Shuttle.
posted by sonascope at 6:29 AM on October 16, 2015


juiceCake: "It was my first complete up close and real exposure to authority sanctioned bullying, cruelty, violence, and sexual abuse."

Yeah, I think that for some of the teenagers or adults involved, it's someplace they can indulge their little power fantasies, making 'real men', etc. Fuck 'em. I lasted for like 4 weeks before realizing I didn't need that shit and could just spend Saturdays with my C64.
posted by signal at 6:30 AM on October 16, 2015


First of all, hip-hip-hooray for Girl Guides of Canada.

Child scouts are blatant paramilitarianism to accustom the kids to wearing a uniform and following orders.

Not to derail, but my mileage varied on this.

In Canada, "Cub Scouts" are "Wolf Cubs," and I was in both Cubs, then Scouts. Where I lived as a kid, a very easy way to be ridiculed by your school peers was to be spotted in public in your uniform. Weeks of merciless teasing would follow.

Consequently, being a Cub and moreso a Scout was like being some secret geek society that you didn't want to cop to membership in when you were at school.

However, both organizations were a great escape from school. I found myself in the company of likeminded geeky kids pulled from a smattering of local schools rather than my own, overseen by adults who, in hindsight, were all geeky adults in one way or another, and very kind people who had zero tolerance for bullying.

I mean, I know of other people who had a more authoritarian/Lord of the Flies experience based on the leadership in the particular Cub pack or Scout troop they belonged to, so I do believe I lucked out with the ones I belonged to, so my experience may have been with outlier Cub and Scout groups.

I had leaders and peers who made me feel pretty good about myself. This was a total refuge from school, and if you had given me the choice between Scouts and school as the place to spend all my time, I would have barked "Scouts" before the question was even out of your mouth.

Scouts was also the first place I held hands romantically with another guy.

To top it all off, I learned some stuff that was pretty useful, like survival skills (and I don't mean this in the prepper-with-assault-rifles-and-canned-food kind of way). I mean that if this city slicker got lost in the woods, there's a good chance they might find me alive a week later, if rather tired and annoyed that I'd managed to get myself lost in the first place because goddamnit, I can handle a compass and topographical map.

So:

Blatant paramilitarianism? Not in my personal experience.

Homoerotic geekfest? Oh, most certainly.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:43 AM on October 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


Psssst: what the US calls Girl Scouts are elsewhere known as Girl Guides. Same organization. The Canadian gender neutral Scouts are analogous to the US Boy Scouts. That might clarify things a bit? Also, n.b ., the two organizations have very different political philosophies regarding lgbtq inclusiveness.
posted by sciatrix at 7:04 AM on October 16, 2015


It's worth mentioning that one's experience in Scouts largely comes down to the quality of adults in a given troop, and that good leaders can make Scouting a joy, while shitty ones will give a kid a grim precursor to adult life on the cubicle farm. My experience in regular Scouts was not great, but I knew plenty of kids for whom it was not Lord of the Flies.
posted by sonascope at 7:10 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


From the GSA website: Girl Scouts is proud to be the premiere leadership organization for girls in the country. 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. 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.


That said, my niece's brownie troop had no issues with her friend, an 8 year old trans girl joining and participating in all activities. As in, it was not even discussed.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:18 AM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: homoerotic geekfest.
posted by bracems at 7:23 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: I knew plenty of kids for whom it was not Lord of the Flies.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:36 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wish I could put my boys in Girl Guides, it's such a great organization. My group of friends calls it "Feminist Training Camp." Around here Scouts is an arm of the LDS (Mormon) church, so that's not an option for us.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:40 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's very difficult to exist without spaces to exist in.

I want to add more to this sentence, but it says all it needs to say so well.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:51 AM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


As an all-female organization, GGC is no longer the right place for members who have transitioned to male.

I'm impressed by this internal consistency. I have the urge to say the GGC should let boys in too, but I can see how that would be a problem in terms of mission drift. I wonder if people have organized "brother" groups? Seems like a no-brainer to want boys to interact with a group like the GGC.
posted by mullacc at 8:08 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


My daughter is on her 5th year of guiding, she's a 2nd year Brownie (she did 3 years of Sparks as we started her a year early). The group has been absolutely wonderful for her, she looks forward to her meetings so much and they do a ton of local environment work like cleaning up the shorelines of the river. I had looked into the scouts for her, from what I could tell the scouts seemed a little bit more focused on experiences like kayaking and star charts, wilderness camping, maybe a bit more active? So far in 5 years Sarah has not done any of that stuff, she's had some weekend camps but they were at campsites with lots of resources. In guides they do a lot of singing, crafts, team games and community work.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 8:16 AM on October 16, 2015


Please. Child scouts are blatant paramilitarianism to accustom the kids to wearing a uniform and following orders.

Wow was my scout troop doing this wrong.



I cannot remember any effective orders given to any of us at any point, but I do remember quite a lot of running around and sliding in our sock feet on the floor of the giant community center basement. I also remember meeting my first left wing hippie mom, who taught us weaving and amazed by by letting her daughters have any hair style or color they wanted.
posted by Frowner at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Child scouts are blatant paramilitarianism to accustom the kids to wearing a uniform and following orders.

Not to derail, but my mileage varied on this.


I guess I was lucky too. I was a terrible scout (never really got the hang of knots and badges), but I had a great time camping and hiking growing up. I think it very much depends on the individual troop and its leadership.

Also, more pertinently, go Girl Guides of Canada!
posted by psolo at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


:-):-):-)

This makes me so happy. I'm kinda envious! Can I go be a kid again?
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:45 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]



Please. Child scouts are blatant paramilitarianism to accustom the kids to wearing a uniform and following orders.


To be fair, this was one of Lord Baden-Powell's main reasons for founding them. They were one of a number of paramilitary youth organizations founded in Britain in the pre-WWI period.
posted by Canageek at 9:03 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


To be fair, this was one of Lord Baden-Powell's main reasons for founding them. They were one of a number of paramilitary youth organizations founded in Britain in the pre-WWI period.

Oh, no argument there. I think, though, that this has gotten so watered down that it doesn't immediately occur to people that this was the founding ethos, and consequently (again, in my personal experience and a hyperlocal level) those paramilitary stylings had been fully jettisoned in favour of a "community service" type ethos.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:36 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


While the national org is lagging behind, local councils are building their own policies around this. I have hope, you know?

Not sure why you think the national policy is so bad. "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."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:38 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


The extent to which Baden-Powell meant the Boy Scouts to be a paramilitary gateway organisation is a contentious topic, but it did rather go that way during and after the First World War. Indeed, this led to a split at a fairly senior level within Scouting and the formation in 1920 of the Kibbo Kift as an avowedly unmilitaristic alternative to the Boy Scouts. Ironically, the KK forged its own identity through what would nowadays be considered as cultural appropriation; even more ironically its founder ended up trying to turn it into an expressly paramilitary organisation, the Green Shirts, to oppose the Black Shirts.

(This proliferation of colour-coded political uniforms led to the banning of uniformed paramilitary political groups in the UK in 1936, and was mocked by P G Wodehouse through Roderick Spode's 'Black Shorts' - so attired because all the shirt colours had been taken.)
posted by Major Clanger at 10:00 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Scouts Canada doesn't seem to have a trans policy, as far as I can tell, but it is already gender integrated for membership.

I just want to restate this for emphasis. Scouts Canada hasn't been boys-only since the nineties.

The Girl Guides drawing up a policy for trans girls is not the culmination of a "a long history of inclusivity." This new policy is just as much "Our long history of excluding boys now extends to trans boys" as anything positive.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:15 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Trigger warning: malevolent hypnotically implanted programming]

> When the code-phrase is announced on BBC Radio 4, thousands of men across the UK will rise up and overthrow the government using their skills at building bivouacs, roasting sausages on sticks, and reading maps.

BRINY DEPTHS
posted by Sunburnt at 10:57 AM on October 16, 2015


My comments have gotten a little out of context since I responded to something that has since been deleted, to be clear. I also know that the national org tends to let local groups and councils do their own thing and some groups, depending on the leadership of said troop can vary widely on the actual adoption of policy (see other comments in the thread about the wide variability of their own experiences as a scout).

I was a US Girl Scout for twenty years in Virginia from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. My own experiences varied widely and I would not presume to speak for the current experiences of girls in scouting but I do my best to keep up with the news.
posted by ladyriffraff at 11:02 AM on October 16, 2015


One point that may not be well-considered in this discussion: uniforms are retained in Guides (and Scouts) in Canada explicitly as a leveller.

A kid wears a standard uniform. They don't compete for status by clothes. Guides aren't chosen as rich or poor. Their ethnicity isn't a barrier.

Gender choices, while a bit newer challenge are just another expression of that principle. A guide is whoever chooses to be one. Anyone can wear the uniform. While they aren't essential, uniforms help the kids understand that they aren't all different from each other, that they're all part of the same troupe.
posted by bonehead at 11:51 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: Not sure why you think the national policy is so bad. "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."

This particular sentence has bear traps in: "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."

For one thing, there's wiggle-room in there to deny entry to a trans girl who isn't considered "girl enough" for the troop. For another, it smells to me of that old transmisogynist canard, "trans girls are dangerous."

It's a better policy than it could be, for sure, but if trans girls are equal to cis girls then trans girls will be treated as equal to cis girls.
posted by these are science wands at 2:52 PM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm into my third year as a Girl Scout leader, and I've had to deal with rudeness, cruelty, parents being jerks, and cookie drama. So far I haven't had a single occasion arise where it's relevant what's going on in the girls' underwear.

We're going to have to deal with puberty and adolescence at some point -- and yes, there are badges for that -- but we don't get into the sort of detail where it matters exactly what changes the girls are going through, or when. The girls are getting older and some of them prefer privacy while changing (e.g. on camping trips), which is easily accommodated. It's just not an issue. I don't want to minimize what must be a complicated time for trans girls and their families, but in terms of Scouting I don't see how it comes up.

Maybe I'm naive. Maybe this will become an issue for me at some point. Maybe some of my Scouts are trans girls and I don't know it. But for now, I don't see how it could matter.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:02 PM on October 17, 2015


> 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

My perspective: this might be a way of saying that not all troops are right for all girls -- in GSUSA, at least, nobody is guaranteed a spot in any particular troop. You can't show up at a troop meeting and expect to be allowed to join; many troops have limits on how many girls they're willing to take on.

Or maybe they're being weasels, I don't know.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:05 PM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


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