In October of last year, Colorado native Bobby Montoya asked to join her local Girl Scout troop. At seven years old, Bobby wants to do what the other 7-year-old girls are doing; in this case, join a Brownie Girl Scout Troop. However, because Bobby is a transgender child, she was initially denied enrollment by the local Troop Leader. The Girl Scouts of Colorado overturned this decision and released a landmark policy stating: “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.”
The news of Bobby’s acceptance into the world of Girl Scouting made positive and negative ripples across the country. Bobby’s mother appeared in an interview on ABC where she was asked to justify her patenting ability. A group of Leaders in Louisiana disbanded their troops in protest of allowing Bobby to participate. More recently, on Jan. 11, a Girl Scout from California tossed her hat into the fight by recording and releasing a video which has started a viral phenomenon sweeping Facebook, Youtube, and other social media outlets. Taylor, the author of that video, calls for a national boycott of Girl Scout cookies because “the Girl Scouts lied to us.”
I am a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts. I attended the National Convention as a Girl Delegate when I was 16 years old, I earned my Gold Award when I was 17 years old, and went on to work for the organization when I was 21 years old. I have traveled around the world, representing Girl Scouts, with Girl Scouts, and visiting other Girl Scouts. Today, I am a transman, and I learned fortitude, compassion, and inquisitiveness from my time with the Girl Scouts. I would not be half the man I am today if the Girl Scouts had not been there for me. It was in the Girl Scouts where I learned the most important lessons of life. I learned what it means to be responsible for others, what it means to care unconditionally, and most importantly, what it means to be true to myself. All of these things you cannot learn from books.
When I watched Taylor’s video, I tried to be open-minded to her thoughts and opinions, but it was painful and difficult for me to do so. Each time Taylor called young Bobby “he,” ignoring the gender identity Bobby expresses for herself—which her parents also affirm—I couldn’t help but cringe in visceral reaction. By being misinformed about the issues at hand, Taylor is not doing her best to be considerate and caring or to make the world a better place, things promoted in the “Girl Scout Law.” She is obviously a bright and articulate young woman—characteristics that she does not deny came from her time in Girl Scouting. But Taylor is misinformed, and more importantly she has forgotten the spirit of Girl Scouting.
The Girl Scouts has always been an organization that has understood that people’s diversity is their most precious commodity. All of their programs are built upon the fundamental concept that strong leaders are not made—they are nurtured. Girls of all types are encouraged to foster their interests, test their own strengths, and be curious about the world in which they are global citizens. It is this optimistic foresight that enriches the lives of today’s youth and empowers them to become the leaders of tomorrow.
I applaud GSUSA and the Girl Scouts of Colorado for recognizing that this is the essence of strong female empowerment, and striving to create that community. Just as it takes more than a uniform to make you a Girl Scout, it takes more than biology to make you a woman.
Too often when people think about Girl Scouts, they think of an 8-year-old girl in a brown jumper selling cookies. I am walking, talking proof that this organization more than that stereotype. Symbolic in the Girl Scout logo, Eve has many faces—one is Bobby Montoya and one of them is mine!
The Girl Scout Law
I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
respect myself and others,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.
Maxwell Ng is a lifetime Girl Scout, and a member of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition's steering committee.