For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America did not allow transgender children to enroll. Finally, on Monday, they announced a new policy that's going to change the lives of many kids.
In a written and video statement, Boy Scouts chief executive Michael Surbaugh said they will now determine eligibility for single-gender programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application instead of on an individual's birth certificate.
Referring to the century-long approach, Surbaugh said, "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."
Surbaugh, perhaps wary of families who may oppose the policy change, also said the Boy Scouts will continue to "help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child."
New Jersey mom Kristie Maldonado believes her son's case led to the policy change. Her 8-year-old transgender son, Joe Maldonado, was kicked out of his Cub Scout troop after. He'd been in for just a month.
“It made me mad,” Joe, who is turning 9 on Wednesday, told The Record. “I had a sad face, but I wasn’t crying. I’m way more angry than sad. My identity is a boy. If I was them, I would let every person in the world go in. It’s right to do.”
Justin Wilson, executive director of Scouts for Equality, agrees that the publicity around Maldonado's case lit a fire. "They saw the public reaction. They saw the harm that this caused for this child, for this family," he told NPR.
While she's grateful that other transgender youth won't have to go through what Joe went through, Maldonado has mixed emotions about her son rejoining. She told the Associated Press she would like her son to be a part of the Secaucus troop again, but only if the leader who kicked him out leaves.
Opponents are already criticizing the Boy Scouts for "destroying traditional family values" while proponents applaud the decision as a win for equal rights.
The transgender debate is also a huge point of contention in the White House. On Monday, the White House announced it will keep Obama administration protections extended to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers, a move that could anger conservatives.
Mmm ... but is this really a step forward?
The Trump administration basically announced that, hooray, they won't overturn LGBT rights that were put in place by its predecessors in this one area. But it doesn't mean they won't roll back their rights in other areas. And Trump still opposes the right of same-sex couples to marry.