By Cassandra Gallego
On Jan. 30, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced a new change in its membership policy that will allow troops to accept transgender youths. The new policy requires Cub and Boy Scout programs to register youth based off their indicated gender identity on the application as opposed to the individual’s birth certificate.
The BSA has recently been under fire for an incident that occurred in December regarding a troop in New Jersey. Joe Maldonado was a nine year old Cub Scout who was dismissed from the troop because he identified as transgender.
Since then, the BSA has made efforts to be more inclusive. “I had a permanent smile on my face,” stated Maldonado to the New York Times, who was able to become a member of Pack 20 in Essex County one week after the policy had changed, “I felt like I belonged there.”
Even though many Boy Scout troops are sponsored by religious groups who are inclined to oppose the policy because of their beliefs, the BSA has notified its partners about the updated policy.
Several organizations welcomed the new policy, such as the National Jewish Committee on Scouting. However, others had different opinions.
“We have to play by the rules forced upon us,” stated Ted Spanenberg, president of the Association of Baptists for Scouting to Christianheadlines. “We’re all extremely disapointed. But we still believe through scouting we can minister to families that otherwise would never be reached.”
The BSA continues to make strides towards equality in regards to the LGBTQ+ community. Three years ago, the BSA allowed openly gay youths to join troops. In 2015, the BSA lifted the ban that prevented gay adult Scout leaders.
“We’ve taken the opportunity to evaluate and update our approach,” stated Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh in a video statement, “I hope you’ll join me in embracing the opportunity to bring scouting to more families and children who can benefit from what our organization has to offer.”