The Boy Scouts of America, as an organization, is no stranger to controversy. Today’s decision to allow girls who identify as boys to participate in the Boy Scouts will have long reaching implications for a group that holds a symbolic foothold in conservative family values.
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The announcement from the Boy Scouts of America came Monday and effectively put to rest a controversy that had been brewing within the organization. Girls who identify as boys may now enroll in the BSA’s boys-only programs (Cub Scouts, and Boy Scouts, respectively).
The decision comes in the wake of mounting pressure nationwide to accept trans-gender children’s decisions about their own identities. The key distinction being made by the BSA is based on gender (which is a construct) rather than sex (which is based on biology).
Up until this point, girls were excluded from the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, though they were allowed in Explorer posts and Venture Posts (both operated by BSA).
Rebecca Rausch, a spokeswoman for the organization, emailed a statement Monday.
“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the statement read.
“However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”
“Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child,” she added.
Rausch noted the decision is effective immediately.
While the decision is being celebrated by many, it will undoubtedly create new problems that the BSA will be forced to address. The first is the historical funding ties the BSA maintains with many traditionally faith-based organizations. Most troops are hosted, and partially funded, by religious organizations that may now choose to distance themselves from the BSA.
Another distinct challenge will come when the BSA has to re-write rules governing how adults and children interact, and how children interact with each other. Despite the convenient nature of external gender signaling, sexual dimorphism still exists. Transgender scouts will face isolation in camping arrangements, showering, even bathroom visits–all of which are already strictly regulated to prevent even accidental cross-over between the leadership and the youth members.