Years before right-wing bloggers began inciting hatred of transgender Americans, the Girl Scouts had ignored such campaigns in favor of being inclusive.
In recent history, the group’s policy of accepting transgender youths on a case-by-case basis first made national news in October 2011, when Bobby Montoya, a 7-year-old transgender girl, was initially turned away from a local Scouts troop in Colorado after an unidentified staff member said she could not join because she had been born with “boy parts.”
The Girl Scouts of Colorado responded by admitting Montoya, saying that the staffer was unaware of the group’s policy.
“Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members,” the organization said in a statement. “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.”
CNN reported in early 2012 that the policy sparked a right-wing boycott:
The Honest Girl Scouts website says that the Girl Scouts use cookie income to promote “abortion and LGBT agendas,” introduces Girl Scouts to “the concept of sexual rights for children without parent consent” and is rewriting badge books to include “radical activists and gay role models.”
However, other parents rallied behind the Scouts.
“I’ve decided to purchase as many boxes as my modest budget will allow and donate them to the local LGBTQ community center,” said Mara Morken, a lesbian stay-at-home mom in Fargo, North Dakota. “I want to show support for GSUSA in their honorable decision to allow all girls to participate in their programs. However I do not want that support to show itself on my thighs, so I will donate the entire cookie order!”
As of June 2022, the national organization’s policy on trans membership stated:
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.
The Girl Scouts came under attack again in May 2015 when the right-wing “American Family Association” (AFA) — identified as an anti-LGBTQ extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — initiated a campaign against what it wrongfully described as a “new” policy inclusive of transgender youths, using rhetoric that would be recycled years later by simpatico politicians:
This [policy] means girls in the organization will be forced to recognize and accept transgenderism as a normal lifestyle. Boys in skirts, boys in make-up and boys in tents will become a part of the program. This change will put young innocent girls at risk. Adults are willing to experiment on our kids – both the boys who are confused and the girls who will wonder why a boy in a dress is in the bathroom with them.
In response, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, a developmental psychologist who also served as the Scouts’ “chief girl expert,” said in a blog post that accepting trans girls honored the group’s mission:
If a girl is recognized by her family, school and community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe. Inclusion of transgender girls is handled at a council level on a case by case basis, with the welfare and best interests of all members as a top priority.
As we face a complex and rapidly changing 21st century, our nation needs all girls to reach their full potential, which has been our focus for more than 103 years.
Shortly after the AFA launched its campaign, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington further lived up to their word by rejecting a $100,000 contribution after the would-be donor asked that the group “guarantee that [their] gift will not be used to support transgender girls.” A subsequent online fundraising drive raised more than $338,000.
Update 12/10/2019, 10:46 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. — ag