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The Boy Scouts of America is officially allowing transgender boys to join troops, a reversal of a decision it made over a century ago that based membership on the sex identified on a person’s birth certificate rather than their gender identity. This comes just a few months after a trans 8-year-old Cub Scout in New Jersey accused the organization of discrimination.
Though the Boy Scouts didn’t address the New Jersey boy’s case specifically, its decision to allow openly trans boys is one of the many steps the organization has taken to become more inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly in recent years. In 2015, the Boy Scouts began allowing openly gay men to serve as scout leaders. Before that, in 2013, it opened up membership to gay and bisexual boys to join. The Girl Scouts, which operate separately from the Boy Scouts, have been inclusive of trans girls for years.
The organization announced its decision in a statement on Monday. “Starting today,” it reads, “we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application. Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child.”
For LGBTQ youth, every step toward inclusion and a safe space is an important one. LGBTQ youth face higher rates of bullying and harassment than their heterosexual and cisgender peers, with trans youth experiencing it at particularly high rates. LGBTQ youth are also more likely to have lower GPAs, skip class, and leave school without a diploma.
“We’ve taken the opportunity to evaluate and update our approach,” Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said in the video above. “I hope you’ll join with me in embracing the opportunity to bring scouting to more families and children who can benefit from what our organization has to offer.”
Marissa Higgins is the editor of Green Matters. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Slate, Salon, NPR, and elsewhere.