Garden State Equality stands with Joe Maldonado, an 8-year old Secaucus boy who was kicked out of the Boy Scouts for being transgender.
We first met Joe in the summer of 2015, when his mom Kristie, a fierce advocate for her son, reached out to GSE for help in supporting Joe’s transition at school. We worked with his elementary school to ensure that Joe was able to attend school as a boy, providing policy consultation to administrators and professional development training for teachers and staff on working with transgender youth. Since that time we have continued to be an ally and resource to Joe’s family.
We were devastated when Kristie shared with us that the Boy Scouts asked her to remove Joe from the Cub Scouts because other parents complained that a transgender child was participating. Joe is a confident young person and he has shown tremendous courage. He tells us one of his favorite activities is playing basketball and his mom relates that he is just a regular boy to his coach and teammates who have treated him with the respect.
Despite the Boy Scouts of America reversing their decisions to bar gay scouts and gay scout leaders, they have no public policy on transgender youth.
When Joe asked his mom if he could join, Kristie, aware of the Scout’s homophobic history, and hoping to shield her son from prejudice, contacted the local group, made sure they were aware of her son’s transgender status, and asked if he could participate as a boy. She was told yes, that it would be no problem, so she dropped off a check and told Joe the good news. It was only after he participated for three weeks, a time which he greatly enjoyed and during which no other children in the troop expressed having any issue with him, that his mother was told that due to the complaints of other parents, Joe would no longer be able to participate.
Kristie is outraged that the Boy Scouts would take her money, admit her son, and then reject her son not for anything he did, but because adults in the community are upset.
Garden State Equality believes that the Boy Scouts of America’s policy on accepting gay youth should extend to transgender youth. We also believe that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, which protects New Jerseyans from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression should extend to this case.
We understand that the Boy Scouts is a private organization, and that they may not be compelled to comply with the Law Against Discrimination, but we believe this is about doing the right thing for our youth. The Boy Scouts should follow the stellar example set by the Girl Scouts, who have made it clear they serve all girls, including transgender girls.
Twenty six years ago a New Jersey Eagle Scout, James Dale, was kicked out of the Boy Scouts after they learned he was co-president of the Lesbian/Gay Alliance at his university. Dale brought suit in New Jersey courts, and in 1999 the Supreme Court narrowly affirmed the right of the Boy Scouts to deny membership to gay individuals. Another 15 years would pass before the Boy Scouts reversed their position on admitting gay youth, and another 2 years later, in the summer of 2015 when we were first meeting with Joe and his family, the Boy Scouts announced they would no longer bar gay individuals from serving as scout leaders. We will not wait another 26 years.
Please join Garden State Equality in supporting Joe’s family and sending a loud message to the Boy Scouts of America that 26 years is too long to wait. The Boy Scouts should accept transgender boys as boys, and treat Joe and other transgender kids with the respect all children deserve.