Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts: Finding the Girl Scouts

In Part 1 I discussed the recent media attention given to opposition to the Girl Scouts and in Part 2 I gave some background to this opposition. I’m now going to discuss how my perceptions of the Girl Scouts have changed in the last ten years as I moved from opponent to supporter and why.

When the recent media attention began, the first part I heard about was the Girl Scouts’ admission of a transgender girl. Ten years ago, I would have been horrified. Ten years ago, I viewed anything outside of a cisgender heterosexuality as a sexual perversion, a mental disorder, or even the result of demonic attacks. As a conservative Christian, I believed that God had created men and women and ordained marriage as an institution between one man and one woman. Things like transgenderism or homosexuality simply didn’t fit.

But I’m not the same person I was ten years ago. Today, I recognize that, as Natalie Reed reminds us on a daily basis, things like gender and sexual orientation are a lot more complicated than I had ever thought.

According to the American Psychological Association, “transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice, or body characteristics.”

Today, many transgender individuals transition into the gender they identify as, changing their bodies through hormone therapy and surgery to do so. There was a moving and excellent article on this in the Boston Globe not too long ago, and another on NPR. Unfortunately, transgender individuals continue to face not only discrimination but also violence and physical intimidation.

Based on all this, when I heard that the Girl Scouts were had admitted a transgender girl, I was proud of the organization’s step. If this girl had been enrolled in the boy scouts because her body is technically male, she would have been completely out of place – a girl in the midst of a troop of boys. Because she identifies as a girl and presents as a girl, enrolling her in the girl scouts only makes sense.

Coming on the heels of the admission of the transgender girl was Indiana State Representative Bob Morris denounced the Girl Scouts’ “radical feminism” and attempts to “sexualize” young girls. Having been out of the mindset I grew up in as long as I have been, I’ve started understanding the reality behind some of the code words the people like Morris use.

In Morris’s conception, “radical feminism” refers to the Girl Scouts “go girls, you can achieve anything!” message and “sexualizing young girls” refers to age-appropriate sex education. When you try to get inside Morris’ head, you can see how this makes sense (sort of): telling girls they don’t have to stay in their “Biblical” gender roles (i.e. submissive wives and homemakers) is “radical feminism” and teaching girls to understand their biology and, as they grow older, to take charge of their own sexuality is “sexualizing young girls.”

So when I heard what Morris said, while it was familiar because I used to think the same, I both saw through his hyperbole and approved of the reality behind it. After all, that “you go girl” message is exactly what I want my daughter to hear, just as I want her to understand her biology and take charge of and be responsible for her own sexuality.

I hadn’t really thought about the Girl Scouts since changing my views on so many other issues, so the recent media attention gave me a chance to do so, and I in so doing I realized something: I really want my daughter to be in Girl Scouts when she is old enough, and if I can, I think I’d like to volunteer as a leader. I guess what I’m saying is that the recent media attention made me realize that the Girl Scouts is exactly the sort of organization I want to support. And that, quite simply, is what I plan to do.

In Part 4, I’ll address how my views of the Boy Scouts have simultaneously changed as well – but in the reverse.

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