The other day an article at Mother Jones caught my eye. “The Right-Wing War on a Trans-Gender Girl Scout” describes how several Girl Scouts troops in Louisiana have opted to disband in protest of the decision of the Girl Scouts of Colorado to accept a seven year old transgender child named Bobby Montoya into membership. Ever since Bobby turned two he has insisted that he is a girl. So his/her mother attempted to enroll Bobby in the Girl Scouts in October. That first meeting did not go well. The Scout Leader referred to Bobby as “it” and refused to let “it” join. However, three weeks later the state-wide organization issused a policy statement allowing transgender children like Bobby to join the Scouts.
The decision of the Colorado Girl Scouts has elicited outrage from Scouts across the nation, a rage that is evident in a number of public statements, youtube protests, and the disbanding of the Louisiana troops.
Thie reaction prompts the following observations.
First, I agree that there is something uncomfortable, even repulsive, about a “sissy boy” who insists on dressing as a girl. [Editor’s note: I am not making any comment here about the propriety of such revulsion. I’m only making an observation that it exists as a psychological and social reality.] I understand the anger. However, I suggest we seek to maintain some sense of proportion. If you want to start chronicling societal ills that are worthy of anger and protest, allowing transgender kids to join the Scouts must surely rank relatively low on the list. How about channeling some of that rage toward the ongoing atrocities in Syria and the stonewalling of two conspicuous members of the UN Security Council?
Second, I guarantee that the vast majority of those who react with such vitriol to a policy statement on transgender kids do not understand the nature of the problem from the inside. I suspect that much of the anger is riddled with deeply held but erroneous assumptions that the parents are liberal “gender benders” who probably encouraged a confusion of the genders in their child’s rearing as if “gender” is nothing more than an oppressive social construct from which they’ve liberated their little transgender child.
That simply isn’t the case. To get a handle on the problem I highly recommend this documentary on transgender kids . What you will see is parents who are absolutely blindsided by children who, from a very young age, insist that they belong to the other gender. One father describes coming to terms with his boy wanting to be a girl in the terms of experiencing a death in the family. One mother recounts with horror the day she discovered her young son about to mutilate his own genitals. It was at that horrific point that she finally relented and allowed him to dress as a girl.
I have no idea what Bobby Montoya’s parents have gone through. But I suspect they have experienced more pain and turmoil than most families with a seven year old child. I suspect as well that their decision to have Bobby join the Girl Scounts was not a brazen attempt to snub social convention and challenge gender stereotypes but rather was a desperate attempt to attain some sense of normalcy for their child.
I don’t know what the “right” answers are for dealing with children who insist from the youngest ages that they are the incorrect gender. Would I allow a small boy threatening self-mutilation to wear a dress? I’m just glad I don’t have to confront that horrific situation. And what of the deeper questions? To put this in dualistic terms, does a doctrine of the fall allow for disorder in creation to the degree that a female person/soul may be attached to a male body? And if you conclude that this is possible then what (if anything) should be done about it?
I am not sure how to answer these questions. But I don’t think the place to begin is with disbanding Girl Scout troops and fiery national protests.