Make some room boys, because the Boy Scouts of America has decided to officially accept transgender boys into its programs. The century-old organization has marked an end to the equally-old penis requirement for admittance, and will now register any youngster who identifies as a boy, regardless of genital shape. Why is this being done? For the same reason the BSA opened its doors to gay youth: because the times they are a-changin':
Chief scout Michael Surbaugh said in a recorded statement published Monday to the organization's website: "After weeks of significant conversations at all levels of our organization, we realize that referring to birth certificates as the reference point is no longer sufficient. Communities and state laws are now interpreting gender identity differently, and these new laws vary widely from state to state. I hope you'll join with me in embracing the opportunity to bring scouting to more families and children."
|Joe Maldonado, the first transgender |
member of the Boy Scouts of America.
The move of course is bound to be controversial to some who don't want the biggest boys'-only club to be "goin' to the girls," but for others, it's a change long overdue and necessary if scouting is going to continue. The Girl Scouts has already embraced transgender girls and has benefited from the cultural rebranding, so the BSA now stands poised to follow the trajectory. As for the inevitable controversy, it exposes just how regimented traditionalists are at defining "boys" by a particular genital shape rather than by the positive masculine character traits that the BSA has always tried to instill in its young members.
When you come right down to it, the move only "changes the definition of what it means to be a boy" if we define "boy" by a certain genital shape. If indeed there's more to being a boy than that, then it doesn't change anything. The organization has as its mission to help boys become men of resourcefulness, valor, integrity, and responsibility by providing them opportunities for personal growth and pro-social expression both in nature and in the community. None of that requires a certain genital shape, just a certain "masculine identity." Males are not the only ones who can have a masculine identity these days. And as for whether these kids can bond with each other, regardless of the shapes of their genitals, it was never an official BSA practice that a young member's genitals played any significant role anyways, so who's to know? The organization will do what it's always done, which is foster pro-social masculine development among youths. That's not going ff change. It's just now going to be the case, within the BSA, that their necessary pro-social outreach will no longer be restricted to those with a penis.
Some say that it's not just "much ado about genitalia," but that the very "nature" of transgender boys will somehow be different from the so-called "normal boys," preventing unity and bonding. But once again, unless there are merit badges for peeing contests (and last we checked, there aren't), who's going to know who's a "trans-boy" and who's a "normal boy," and what difference would it make? Unless you're admitting that bodily exposure is essential to scouting, there's no reason to suspect the quality of the experience will change. All things being equal, there's enough temperamental diversity among boys within the organization already. Some "normal boys" already choose to wear their hair long, and that doesn't make them "girly." Some are fidgety and outdoorsy. Some are calm and indoorsy. There's no reason to inherently suspect that the natural variation present among transgender boys and "normal boys" will be any different from the natural variation already present among the membership.
After all, it's not like those "normal girls" will be wanting in next... Oops! Spoke too soon!