As a kid, I always dreamt about becoming a Girl Guide like my friends. But, unfortunately, it was something that never happened for a variety of monetary and time-related issues. As an adult, I was finally able to realize that dream by becoming a Brownie Unit Guider. My unit, which I helped to facilitate with two other leaders (including Shameless Reviews Editor, Jessica Balmer!), was home to 14 girls aged 7-8. For one year, we came together to encourage our fellow leaders and our Brownies to develop confidence, to develop positive relationships with others and to engage with the community. Overall, my Girl Guide experience was everything I had hoped it would be, and I would hope that anyone else interested in joining the Guides might have a similar experience. However, that has not been the case for Bobby Montoya, a seven-year-old from Denver, Colorado who wished to join a local troop of Girl Scouts.
At the end of October, the Girl Scouts of Colorado was forced to issue a statement commenting on their policy regarding transgender children. Initially, a troop leader denied Bobby’s application on the basis of her(1) sex by noting the existence of “boy parts,” as recounted by Felisha Archuleta, Bobby’s mother. Bobby - who has been identifying as a girl since the age of two - wanted to join the Girl Scouts like her older sister, a request that did not faze her mother, who has allowed Bobby to present as a girl, to grow her hair long, and to dress in socially-coded feminine clothing.
Part of this issue relates to the segregated nature of organizations(2) such as the Girl Scouts of Colorado that cater to either boys or girls and rely on physical sex as the qualifier, which can be minefields for both the organization, and transgender, genderqueer, Intersex and other non-binary individuals and families.
The Girl Scouts of Colorado has since released the following statement:
“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. Our requests for support of transgender kids have grown, and Girl Scouts of Colorado is working to best support these children, their families and the volunteers who serve them. In [Bobby’s] case, an associate delivering our program was not aware of our approach. She contacted her supervisor, who immediately began working with the family to get the child involved and supported in Girl Scouts.”
According to the LA Times, Girl Scouts of Colorado Vice President of Communications Rachelle Trujillo, is waiting for a response from Archuleta about enrolling Bobby in another troop, noting that “if she does want Bobby to join, they need to make a decision, that as a family, that we are going to entirely have her live her life as a girl”.
Trijillo’s statement about forcing the family and Bobby to decide to live entirely as a girl in order to join the Girl Scouts leaves this writer uneasy. Should such a decision be mandatory for Bobby’s admittance? It is already noted that Bobby self-identifies with socially coded female practices. Is it necessary to force the family to make such a decision (should it even be a family decision, or does that decision not come down solely to Bobby)? The Girl Scouts of Colorado website notes that scouting builds courage, confidence and character. That the “Girl Scouts of Colorado provide[s] a safe place for girls to explore their world – from science, technology and the environment to healthy living, anti-bullying and financial literacy.” Yet, the organizations isn’t focused on operating only through female volunteers. As an organization with the above stated mission, is it in Bobby’s best interest to be forced to commit to one traditional gender?
Since Archuleta contacted the media to share this story, some media outlets and media entertainers have covered the issue in troubling ways, including tweets by Joan Rivers and “experts” brought on talk shows and newsrooms. GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has posted on this issue and has begun to reach out to media outlets to ensure the story is told responsibly and to address concerns regarding problematic coverage and commentary. You can help by keeping vigilant and report any media defamation relating to this story or others concerning LGBTTQ issues through the GLAAD website.
(1) We don’t want to mis-gender Bobby. We haven’t found any sources on which pronouns Bobby prefers, but from the context of the stories that indicate Bobby presents and identifies as a girl, we’re using “she” and “her” in this article. We’ll immediately correct this article if we learn that is incorrect.
(2) In Canada, while the Girl Guides remain a girl-geared organization, Scouts Canada, a historically all-boy organization stemming from the British Boy Scouts Association, began to accept female members in 1972 for select sections, and it adopted a co-ed policy for all sections of the Scouts in 1998.