Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Honest Girl Scouts?

Post by Director of Upstate Organizing Sheilah Sable

Congratulations to the Girl Scouts celebrating 100 years of courage, confidence, and character building of girls in the USA.

Back in Fall of last year a Colorado troupe welcomed a transgender girl by following the basic tenet that if a youth identifies as a girl, she should be treated as one. The Girl Scouts of Colorado stated that requests for transgender children to join have grown and the group has been working to support them and their families, simply because it is the right thing to do.

This is great news that I applaud wholeheartedly. It gives me hope to know that the Girl Scouts is able and willing to change with the times, so that young children are not left out, simply because they don’t see where they fit or don’t fit the traditional and slim definition oftentimes imposed by institutions. When I was a young kid -- a “Tom Boy,” as we were known back then, “gender non-conforming,” as I would say now -- the Girl Scouts represented something that just didn’t work for me. I didn’t see myself in the mission or the programming and I missed out. Similarly, they missed out on me.

By inviting and welcoming all girls to participate and become Scouts, the Colorado chapter sends a positive message about change and expanding our thoughtful horizons. It is a concept inherent in equality and justice that no one be excluded or treated unfairly, especially and most importantly for our young people.

I was recently saddened to read about a Girl Scout in Ventura, California who feels as though she is being duped by the affirming action taken by Girl Scouts of Colorado. She alleges they are “hiding transgender boys” in their troop and lying by allowing young scouts to live freely in their true spirit. Urging a boycott of Girl Scout cookies, she is trying to push the first publicly welcoming chapter to the fringes.

Perhaps we, as the LGBT community, many of whom -I know- LOVE a good Girl Scout cookie (we buy a few dozen boxes in our Albany office alone), can start our own cookie campaign. I challenge you and urge you to use your Girl Scout cookie buying clout to take advantage of this teachable moment. When your friendly neighborhood Girl Scout (or her parent or aunt or uncle) approaches you at work, school, church or the gym to buy these can’t-resist cookies, ask if you can speak to the troupe leader about this controversy; perhaps have a conversation around educating Girl Scout leaders about gender expression and identity. This way we can engage the adults who raise and supervise the kids, lead the troupes and ultimately have the power in the organization to establish welcoming and supportive environments for all kids.

Our Community Ambassador trainings are coming up in February. Join us to learn how to speak eloquently and effectively on transgender issues – whether to the Girl Scouts, the media or legislators at in-district meetings or Equality & Justice Day on May 8. With Girl Scout cookies on sale from now until April, the timing is truly perfect.

Email me at ssable AT prideagenda DOT org for information about transgender equality and justice and how you can get involved.