Kristie Maldonado received a call in November from Eric Chamberlin, an executive with the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts, and was informed that her 8-year old son, Joe, was no longer a member of the Cub Scouts Pack 87 in Secaucus. The reason Joe was kicked out of the Boy Scouts? Joe was assigned female at birth.
According to Scouts for Equality, which seeks to make the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) “inclusive, vibrant, and strong,” the BSA “has no formal policy on gender identity, but their national spokesperson is stating that the BSA bases its membership on the sex on one’s birth certificate.”
Kristie Maldonado says her son has been “living as a boy for more than a year and was accepted as a boy at school… Not one of the kids said, ‘You don’t belong here.’”
For his part, Joe Maldonado says he’s, “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.”
Justin Wilson, executive director of Scouts for Equality wrote that, “Joe’s unit did not kick him out. Someone reported him to the local BSA council, and the professional staff told the family he could not be in the BSA, period. The BSA national office has issued a statement in support of the council’s actions.”
Locally, there has been no response, despite repeated requests, from Tim McCandless, scout executive of the Narragansett Council of Boy Scouts. The Reverend Don Anderson, executive director of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches (RISCC) has sent McCandless a letter, asking that the Narragansett Council “respond quickly with a statement condemning the actions of the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts and assuring the parents and children of Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts that this council welcomes gender nonconforming children into the ranks of scouting.”
Anderson wrote, “I was both saddened and disappointed to hear the news story this morning about Joe Maldonado in Secaucus, New Jersey and how he has been treated by the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts. This action is beyond disgraceful, it is dangerous. We know that gender nonconforming children are at a much higher risk for depression and suicide. This is a significant public health issue. By denying this young man the opportunity to participate in Cub Scouts, scouting has actually put his mental and physical health at risk.
“The Rhode Island State Council of Churches has been working for over a year on a project to help congregations provide welcoming and safe environments for transgender and gender nonconforming persons. The action of the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts is in total opposition to the kind of inclusive society we envision for the world in which we live.”
Ethan Huckel, executive eirector of the TGI Network, which advocates for transgender, transsexual, gender-variant, and intersex rights, wrote that his group, “echoes the Council of Churches’ concerns for the well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming children who are denied access to programs that offer opportunities for other children to build resilience and develop survival skills and lasting friendships. Quite simply, trans girls are girls and trans boys are boys. There is no reason to separate them from their peers and, as Reverend Anderson pointed out, doing so puts these kids at a higher risk of depression and suicide. By contrast, rates of depression and suicide improve dramatically when transgender children’s gender identities are affirmed and supported.”
The BSA changed its policy in regard to sexual orientation for youth in 2013 and for adults in 2015, but did not address the issue of gender identity. According to Scouts for Equality, “The current policies of the BSA prohibits all units from denying a youth membership on the basis of sexual orientation, but allows faith-based units to deny leadership positions to adults based on their sexual orientation.”
This post will be updated in the event that the Narragansett Council of Boy Scouts responds.