Ireland’s recent referendum vote to legalize same-sex marriage may seem like the biggest news in a recent spate of advancements of LGBT rights, but here in the good ol’ US of A, activist victories seem to be popping up in the most unlikely of places as two of the nation’s most venerable youth organizations — the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America — have expanded their membership qualifications to include gay and transgender members, respectively.
Last week, Boy Scouts of America President Bob Gates made a speech urging the 105 year-old group’s governing board to, “deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” and begin allowing openly gay scout leaders. In May 2013, the Scouts lifted their ban against openly gay youth but continued to disallow openly gay adults above the age of 18 from serving as Scout Leaders, a dictate being openly challenged by troops with gay adult members.
While Gates added that while he was “not asking the national board for any action to change (their) current policy” for the moment, even still:
“We can expect more councils to openly challenge the current policy. While technically we have the authority to revoke their charters, such an action would deny the lifelong benefits of scouting to hundreds of thousands of boys and young men today and vastly more in the future. I will not take that path.”
Not to be outdone, the Girl Scouts USA recently re-iterated their four year old policy supporting transgender members who are “recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and live culturally as a girl.” They did this in the face of an American Family Association petition telling the group to stop allowing “boys dressing as girls.”
The AFA petition has 39,214 signers, but that shouldn’t alarm you. In 2011, they submitted a petition with 470,000 signatures telling Home Depot to stop sponsoring gay pride parades — Home Depot’s response was basically, “That’s nice, but no.”
Some female social groups have struggled with trans-inclusion, as organizers from Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival last year announced they’d rather close up shop than continue a debate to include trans-women at their “community happening” for biologically born females. Apparently, they need to work on their merit badge in Friendship.
Gates went on to assert that “the status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” hinting at the organization’s declining membership. Indeed, the Girl Scout’s membership has been declining over the past several years too. It’ll be interesting to see if their moves towards equality will bolster their flagging numbers.