Girl Scouts of Colorado take a stand against gender injustice
The Jewish community has had a varied relationship with scouting. Though the National Jewish Committee on Scouting has been around and active for the last 85 years, many Jews found themselves reconsidering their ties with Boy Scouts of America in 2001, when the organization made headlines for revoking the long-time scouting membership of James Dale, an adult member who came out as gay. Dale’s expulsion from the Boy Scouts was based on a 1991 policy that denies membership to gay Scouts and prohibits gay scoutmasters from leading Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs. The Scouts’ official position statement reads, “We do not allow for the registration of avowed homosexuals as members or as leaders of the BSA.”
The Reform Jewish Movement’s opposition to this policy was highlighted by media outlets as venerable at the New York Times, who reported on the Joint Commission on Social Action’s recommendation that Reform Jews across the country end existing ties with the Boy Scouts of America, including their children’s membership and their synagogue’s sponsorship of local troops. Guided by the CSA’s policy, other Reform Jewish organizations followed, suit, including the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the National Federation of Temple Youth, as did the Society for Humanistic Judaism. Still, Gregg Shields, a Boy Scouts spokesman, told the Times, "The Boy Scouts of America has a long-held value for traditional American family values, and we believe that an avowed homosexual just isn't a role model for those values." More than a decade after this controversy, the Scouts’ discriminatory policy still stands.
This week, though, came some encouraging news from the world of scouting. Bobby Montoya, a 7-year-old transgender girl in Colorado, was recently denied membership in her local Girl Scout troop because she still has “boy parts,”: “It’s hurting my heart,” Bobby told news reporters of her disappointment. The Girl Scouts of Colorado quickly issued a statement condemning the troop’s discrimination: “Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members,” the statement reads. “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.” It also says the organization’s training programs will be reworked to teach troop leaders to be sensitive to the needs of all girls – including those who are transgender.
The statement has been hailed by equal rights organizations such GLAAD, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Community Center of Colorado. No Jewish groups have yet spoken out in support of the statement, but I, for one, feel comfortable upping my cookie order this year in a show of solidarity with Bobby Montoya – and as a big thank-you to the Girl Scouts for demonstrating that they truly do care about all little girls. Thin Mints, anyone?