In October of 2011, 7-year-old Bobby Montoya, a transgender girl, asked to join the Girl Scouts of Colorado. After initially being rejected, Bobby was welcomed by the chapter who issued a statement saying, “Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. If a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”
In response to the Girl Scout’s inclusive policy, a California teen posted a YouTube video which uses anti-transgender arguments to call for a boycott of the Girl Scouts’ famous cookies. The Girls Scouts are standing by their policy to include transgender girls as Scouts, and in a statement to the Washington Post, the organization said it “prided itself on being an inclusive organization serving girls from all walks of life.”
The Girl Scout’s welcoming policy is supported by the American Psychological Association, which has clear guidelines for parents and educators of transgender and gender non-conforming young people. The APA states that “[I]t is not helpful to force the child to act in a more gender-conforming way.”
When Bobby Montoya’s story first broke, GLAAD responded to problematic news coverage that was far less welcoming of Bobby than either the Girl Scouts or the APA. In fact, the incident inspired public debate about the age at which a person could know they are transgender and how adults should respond in similar situations. The APA says that people may identify as transgender at different ages and affirms what many trans people already know, which is that from a very young age they knew exactly who they were. But that didn’t stop so-called “experts” (like Dr. Alduan Tartt who claimed to CNN’s Don Lemon that it was “damaging” for Bobby’s mom to allow her to express herself) from making unfounded and potentially damaging claims about transgender youth.
Sherry Sybesma, the chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of California's Central Coast, where the teenager featured in the boycott video is a member, has expressed doubts about the effectiveness of a cookie boycott saying, “It’s a little like boycotting coffee to get congress to rescind a woman’s right to vote.” She also commented on the overwhelming amount of feedback they’ve received saying, “Most of the responses I have seen have been from people who believe in tolerance and believe in inclusiveness and want Girl Scouting to stand for inclusiveness and tolerance."
In fact, Adam Martin of the Atlantic Wire is reporting that the anti-transgender nature of this boycott may serve to boost Girl Scout cookie sales, as fair-minded individuals are now taking to social networks to call on people to show their support for transgender people by upping their annual cookie purchases and supporting their local Girl Scout Chapter.
GLAAD applauds the Girl Scouts for continuing to speak out in support of inclusive and welcoming policies for all girls. It is important that the media not cause further harm by repeating earlier mistakes of misrepresenting transgender children in ongoing coverage. Instead of giving a platform to the claims of hate groups or so-called “experts,” GLAAD calls on the media to address transgender children and issues of gender identity responsibly by calling on real experts or individuals and families who can share their own experiences.
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