The Girl Scouts of Western Washington have raised over $260,175 in less than two days in support of trans youth.
It all began last May, when the Seattle office of the Scouts received a $100K donation. Megan Ferland, the council’s CEO, was overjoyed until she saw the donor sent a request: “Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls. If you can’t, please return the money.”
Ferland returned the money.
In a short letter to the former donor, she wrote, “Girl Scouts is for every girl. And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”
Then the Girls Scouts of Western Washington launched an Indiegogo campaign called Girl Scouts is #ForEVERYGirl to raise the $100K the donor had withdrawn. They reached their goal in a single day and then more than doubled it the following day.
The Girl Scouts accepts trans members. The FAQ on the organization’s website includes the following statement:
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.
This policy has been in place for years. In 2012, an anti-trans group staged a cookie boycott in response to a Colorado troop’s decision to accept a seven-year-old trans child.
The Girl Scouts have also drawn right-wing ire for imaginary ties to Planned Parenthood. Conservative propagandists claimed that the GSUSA handed out Planned Parenthood brochures about having sex with HIV at a United Nations event. In reality, all that happened is that some girl scouts visited a conference that Planned Parenthood advocates had attended at some unspecified time in the past. The horror! At any rate, angry reactionaries threatened to boycott Girl Scout cookies again, though no political conviction is strong enough to resist the siren song of Tagalongs.
But the GSUSA has been angering rigid traditionalists since the very beginning. In the early 20th century, an organization that encouraged girls to leave the house and traipse through the forest bucked gender roles confining women to the hearth. And while it seems pretty middle-of-the-road, the GSUSA’s stated mission to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place” is quietly radical in a society that seems determined to crush girls’ sense of self-worth. Furthermore, the Girl Scouts’ agenda to teach healthy relationship skills and promote girls’ involvement in science and technology should strike fear into the hearts of the average Quiverfull devotee (a movement that geared towards keeping women subservient and pregnant).
The Girl Scouts’ policies regarding gender and sexuality stand in sharp contrast to those of the more conservative Boy Scouts of America, which still officially forbids gay men from serving as troop leaders.(though a New York chapter of the BSA broke the rules and hired a gay adult staff member recently.) The BSA is silent on trans issues. A spokesman for Scouts for Equality, an organization devoted to ending the BSA’s ban on gay members and leaders, states, “At the moment, as far as we know, the BSA has no formal policy on transgender people participating in the Boy Scouts at any level, and as such, our understanding is that this is handled on a case-by-case basis.”
So the next time you break down and inhale an entire sleeve of Thin Mints straight from the freezer (seriously try them frozen — they’re amazing), pat yourself on the back for making America a better place for trans girls.