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Gay in the BSA? Sure. How About Trans Boys?


Well, what do you know? The Boy Scouts are finally coming to their sense in light of intense public pressure to grudgingly accept homosexuals into their ranks. Not that they always didn’t have gay scouts, but felt that the best way to have young men build stout moral character is to make them hide their real identity or be tossed out on their keister. It does make me wonder though, will this eventually lead to the acceptance of trans scouts?

Let me qualify that a little bit. I don’t really think trans girls want to be Boy Scouts. They would much rather be Girl Scouts, and the GSA has demonstrated compassionate progressive thinking in this area and already moved ahead. I mean trans boys. Where on an ideological level, this makes absolute sense as being the right thing to do. On a purely practical level, however, there are some issues that should probably be discussed.

I’ll be honest, if I had a daughter who identified as my son, I don’t know how excited I would be to have them join the scouts. The reason is simple and really pretty sexist if you think about it. Trans boys still have girl parts. It doesn’t make them any less male, or less capable of handling themselves, or prevent them in any way whatsoever of becoming model scouts who rise to the level of  Eagle or that Order of the Arrow business I never paid much attention to. True, getting the ‘writing your name in snow’ merit badge would be a bit trickier, but I have no doubt they would find a way. It’s pure and simple that I would worry about putting someone with girl parts into a group of pre and pubescent young men.

As some of you might know, I was a scout myself. I was always challenging myself by pushing toward things that would make me more manly. For the most part though, I hated it. I usually skipped meetings unless they were a mandatory pre-camping trip pow-wow. The camping I loved, but only if my dad was along. When he wasn’t, I usually didn’t go, but on those times I did anyway, I really hated it. On camping trips, there was little to no supervision. Generally we would arrive at the camp site just after dark, and instead of setting up, everyone would run into the woods like batshit crazy wildebeests to play ‘commando’ while my dad and I set up and started a fire and the actual Scoutmaster sat on the cooler and drank beer. When my dad didn’t come, it was pretty much the same, except we would end up sleeping in half set up tents, shivering for the lack of fire. In short, no real supervision.

Outside of the campsite, there was even less. On the few hikes I took with the boys, once we were out of sight, the cigarettes and smuggled liquor came out, as well as ideas to raid and sabotage other campsites. This wasn’t exactly the ‘little altar boy’ image most people have in mind. On one occasion, one of the older boys pontificated on the terrible things that happened to “narcs” I understood was aimed in my direction. I wasn’t going to say a damn thing. I didn’t need the attention. Getting to the point, my personal experience was that boys in this age range immediately devolve to a ‘Lord of the Flies’ social structure within moments of entering the woods without an adult. If a trans boy was present, I would have been gravely concerned that it was only a matter of time before the discussion broke out that he was “really a girl”.

For the record, nothing bad ever happened to me on any of these trips. Yes, my Scoutmaster, who also ran the Northern Lights two week long canoe excursions, was brought up on pedophilia charges, but I never had cause for concern. I was uncomfortable in the all male environment to be sure, and know I would have been even more so if it were perceived I was female, and that is without a vagina. I can’t imagine having to go through that when questions eventually came up as to why I didn’t use the urinal like everyone else.

This is a tough topic for me and I’m hoping for some good feedback and would love it if any trans men could weigh in. On one hand I feel like I’m being almost anti-trans for even taking this position, but I also have concerns for individual safety when I think someone might be at risk. The line on this is blurry for me. Fortunately I have zero say in this matter anyway, and I highly doubt the BSA is going to be knocking down my door to have me make the call. Still, I would like to define my own position for the sake of it. Thoughts?

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

16 responses »

  1. Pingback: 10 Fun Little Ways to Avoid Transition | Michellelianna

  2. I wanted to be a scout when I was little, but in reality, I doubt it would have worked out. I would be nervous now going into all-male spaces because, unfortunately, there is that threat that if I am outed, I will be a victim of some kind of violence. Not to sound paranoid, but there are plenty of men who are so threatened by anything they don’t understand, that they would use rape as a way to “prove” that I wasn’t a “real man” in their eyes.

    Neither of my kids has expressed interest in the BSA, but I wouldn’t let them join because of the awful homophobic policies. Many of the skills the kids learn can be done as a family, and as far as the social aspect, they have plenty of friends and bond over projects of their own design rather than something that is required of them by an external motivator.

    • I have to agree with everything here. I’m starting to wonder if the scouts are an outdated concept now anyway. Boys are already inundated with team building in every aspect of their lives, so it’s hard to see the benefit of doing so in a non-inclusive right wing-ish setting. As for the skills learned… yeah, if we get to ‘Hunger Games’ society. Of course it’s 2013 now and there is probably a merit badge for updating iTunes without it disabling your DVD burner, which I could totally use.

      • I figure if my kids want to camp and fish, I can teach them that much … and do it without teaching them to exclude anyone who is different from them.

        • I’m pretty good at generalizing and stereotyping myself, aren’t I? I know many men who benefitted from the BSA and I know that local groups may have some great leadership; but, the organization’s philosophy from the top is what I object to.

  3. I have friends who look at me funny when I tell them I won’t let my son join Boy Scouts. But between their LGBT policies and their ban on atheists, I have no desire whatsoever to let them have influence over my son. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not far enough yet.

    • I think it’s going to be a long while before they get there. I wouldn’t let my son join now either. Of course, not that they would have him and contaminate the organization with trans by proxy. 🙂

  4. I have to say that I wouldn’t put any kid in a program with that little supervision. I don’t see how throwing kids into the woods and letting them run wild is a good lesson. I might be biased on this subject though. I was in Girl Guides as a kid and I hated it. Camping was not my thing and as the shy bookish girl I was basically tormented the second the parents were out of sight.

    • I know, right? What in the world were they thinking with that? Thankfully my dad understood the lunacy and was willing to help. Looking back on it now, I really can’t believe no one died.

  5. Interesting! Before end of the first paragraph my thought was, “Oh my God! You couldn’t risk a trans boy with a bunch of stupid Scouts! The little dear would get ravaged!” “Uh Oh” on so many levels. The main hot button on the whole dreaded bathroom issue for trans women is the “All men are Latent Rapists” meme. We struggle against it to just be able to pee in peace. But it was my first jumping conclusion regarding kids on a camping trip. I was a Boy Scout and I got a lot out of it. One of the things I got out of it was insight into the Lord of the Flies reality of a bunch of Frisky Boys out in the wilds. It’s a great way to vent the pubescent pressure cooker while teaching responsibility and self sufficiency. Also, it’s an opportunity to learn how cruel those Frisky Boys can be with each other!

    • Oh so true! I’m assuming you had responsible and engaged leadership? I bet that probably could have made the difference. Still, did not like to be around the frisky boys!

      • Uhm… “responsible and engaged leadership?” Hmmm. Mainly just the Frisky Boys and Lord of the Flies… I hung with it until one friend got old enough to drive, Then three of us went backpacking and camping and adventuring. THOSE two guys are still important to me and accept me unconditionally, actually they are my only two close male friends of my whole life. Maybe I should have paid attention to that? In fact, one of those guys always got grief from Scouting folks because he had very long blond hair in about 1972!

  6. I know plenty of former and current queer scouts. We’ve always been there, it’s time for the BSA to simply acknowledge that fact.

  7. Well, a butch reply – close enough. My older brother was in the scouts and I was envious. I wanted to be a cub scout because of the uniform. I “borrowed” his scout book and memorized it. I learned the knots. I desperately wanted to belong, but probably would have been a total outcast if I had been allowed to join. It is the perpetual problem of being a trans youth that you don’t fit in anywhere (unless you have the miracle of sensitive caring adults around – who were missing when I was a kid).

    • Totally agree! I was a stealth trans youth back in the 70’s and 80’s and sensitive adults were just not part of the landscape. I could not be happier about the slow but positive changes that are taking place and allowing trans youth to actually be themselves instead of sinking an ungodly amount of energy into creating a shell.


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