The 8-Year-Old Who Was Kicked Out of Boy Scouts for Being Trans Deserves Better


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In general, the Boy Scouts are not known for their inclusivity or broad acceptance of the LGBT community. Still, we sort of thought that the official changes it has made in the past few years to accept both gay members and leaders meant the organization was changing -- until we heard that an 8-year-old boy was kicked out of a New Jersey Cub Scout pack because he is trans. It's heartbreaking and upsetting and morally wrong, and we're sad we still live in a world where trans kids are discriminated against in this -- or any -- way.

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According to the Record of North Jersey, Joe Maldonado is a third grader from Secaucus, New Jersey, who's been accepted as a boy by his school and his community for more than a year. He plays on a boy's basketball team and started going by male pronouns at school at the beginning of second grade, and he told the Record of North Jersey that the day he was allowed to cut his hair off was the best day of his life.

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This is a kid who knows who he is and is happier and more comfortable when he looks like (and is accepted as) the boy he knows he is -- not the girl he was born as.

And yet, the Cub Scout pack in his town can't accept that. Joe's mom, Kristie Maldonado, said Joe had been a part of Pack 87 for about a month when she got a call from an official from the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts. Neither Kristie nor Joe tried to hide the fact that Joe was trans -- and, apparently, some parents in his troop complained. 

So just like that, Joe was asked to leave. 

As far as we know, Joe is the first kid to be kicked out of a Boy Scouts unit for being trans. Justin Wilson, the executive director for Scouts for Equality, told the Record he knows of two other trans kids about the same age as Joe who are involved with Boy Scouts, but he didn't want to identify them because he didn't want them to be outed as well. It's not clear whether their packs knows they're trans, but the national organization apparently does not. 

Though the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) doesn't have an official policy on trans members in its rule book, neither its actions nor its official comments give us hope for a more accepting future.

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For example, Effie Delimarkos, the communications director for the Boy Scouts of America, has been sharing a statement in response to Joe's story that says the Cub Scouts are for boys aged 7 to 10, and, if needed, BSA will "defer to the information provided for an individual's birth certificate and their biological sex." She also specified that while the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts won't kick boys out for being their sexual orientation, "gender identity isn't related to sexual orientation."

In July, Delimarkos also told the Associated Press that while trans kids would be welcome in coed programs, they wouldn't be accepted into Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts since they are "boys-only."

Obviously, this is a problem -- and one that's monumentally unfair to trans boys who want to be involved in activities with their peers. It took BSA until 2015 to finally scrape the discriminatory rules regarding LGBT members and leaders that have been a part of the organization since 1978, so we're not exactly hopeful that it'll change its policy on trans acceptance anytime soon.

What we are hopeful about, however, is the next generation. According to Joe's mom, none of the other boys in his troop had a problem with his trans identity. In this case, it was the parents who were the unaccepting ones. It's awful and unreasonable, but the boys' kindness gives us hope for a better future.

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One other thing we are hopeful about is this: The Girl Scouts of the USA has been accepting trans girls for years. According to its website, "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."

Hopefully, the Boy Scouts can learn from the Girls Scouts. No boy should be turned away from a community or activity because of his gender identity or unfair social stigma, and BSA needs to be better about being more accepting.

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