Girl Scouts Aren’t Just for Girls Anymore
This essay is written by a mom with a non-trans identified daughter, but who finds herself swept up in gender all the same….
My daughter turned six this spring, and I began to look for an after school club in the vein of Camp Fire or Girl Scouts for her to engage in. I grew up in Camp Fire, doing it for several years off and on throughout school. My memories of those experiences are full of fun, laughter, and many hijinks related to unstructured goofing around with friends across years of weekly meetings, semi-annual camping trips, and birthday sleepovers. I cherish those memories, hold some of those friendships to this day, and I want the same for my daughter.
I researched Camp Fire first because that’s where I had spent my time, but over the last decade or so Camp Fire has dramatically grown their focus on LGBT inclusiveness with a heavy focus on Trans inclusivity; they even have special camp sessions dedicated to kids that identify as LGBT. Because of this intentional inclusivity that affirms gender identity at the child’s request, I decided to look further into Girl Scouts. Hey, at least everyone there will actually be a GIRL, that should take some of the pressure off the whole LGBT angle, I thought.
I was wrong.
My daughter and I went to the first meeting of the only non-school group listed in our city; all the other troops require being a student at the host school, so we only had one option. This group has been going for 4 years and is a mixed ages group, with existing members ranging from 2nd grade to 11th grade. My daughter was the youngest, as a rising 1st grader. There were only six girls present, as it was summertime, and the troop is still rebuilding post covid. Two of the girls had the telltale fluorescent hair of the teen trans community, but they lacked the short androgynous haircuts, boyish clothing, or male names. One girl had a “preferred name” but it was still a female name so I decided to leave it alone and not ask questions. It was my first meeting after all—let’s wait and see how this goes, right?
Our second meeting, a group of four sisters attended for the first time. They had been in Girl Scouts for years, are new to the area, and the mom was looking for a troop to join. We went around the circle, everyone introduced themselves, and the two oldest sisters shared their pronouns as he/they and gave androgynous names. The mom’s eyes went big and she said aside to us other moms, “That’s new—she’s been using they, this is the first time I’ve heard her say ‘he,’ and give a different name.” The he/they girls had had arguments in the car on the way to the meeting, expecting to be rejected by what they anticipated was a traditional Girl Scouts troop. The troop’s existing fluorescent haired girl, of course, made them feel extremely welcome and at home and was the one that suggested people share pronouns if they wanted to during introductions. They wanted to return because they were welcomed so nicely to the meeting.
This is when I began to have more serious misgivings. How can someone show up to a GIRL SCOUT meeting and introduce themselves as a “he?” I was excited about the mixed ages at first—we like Montessori concepts that emphasize mixed ages for learning and development—but if being in a mixed age group was going to introduce trans ideology and influence to my child, then this is not where we needed to be after all. Fortunately my daughter didn’t notice the subtleties in their introductions… this time.
Our third meeting, we were preparing for a camping trip and the sisters were not there. I asked about them, wondering if maybe I didn’t need to worry after all. “They’re on vacation, but they will be back. They are definitely joining,” the troop leader said. The Girl Scout USA website asserts that transgender girls are welcome “if accepted by their families and community as a girl,” but is silent on transgender boys that are biologically girls. The website states that all transgender questions are handled on a case by case basis and are “extremely rare.” So I spent the next week working up the courage and thinking about how I wanted to ask the important question—are we accepting and allowing trans members in this Girl Scout troop?
Our fourth meeting, I met with the troop leader before the meeting started. I asked what her personal stance, the troop’s stance, and the Girl Scout official stance was on the trans movement. I know that she’s part of the church that we meet in, but many churches have different stances on LGBT and the spectrum of responses. Her response was that she couldn’t exclude anyone, for any reason. I reasoned that someone had to be a girl to be in Girl Scouts, and she repeated that she couldn’t exclude anyone if they wanted to be present for the meeting. Another mom joined our conversation and gave a glib acceptance statement. “If they say they’re a ‘he,’ then I’ll call them ‘he.’ Just use whatever name they want to use!” We were about to go on a camping trip, and we had all reviewed the strict Girl Scout rules very recently: opposite sexes cannot be in tents together, even when it is family such as father and daughter. Girl Scouts state that this is for everyone’s protection. “So if those girls had gone camping with us, they would have to sleep in a tent with the dads. Is that something you’re comfortable with? That they would be comfortable with?” The mom paused, as if thinking it through for the first time. “I guess, if they’re boys… they would need to go join the Boy Scouts, maybe?” “Yes, maybe they should. Is that what they want? Or do they want to be in Girl Scouts? If they want to be in Girl Scouts, there’s a reason they want to be in Girl Scouts rather than Boy Scouts.” I encouraged the leader to consider adapting a policy of, “We’re glad that you’re here, we’re glad you want to be here… and when you’re here, you’re a Girl Scout.” She said if she did that she would lose her older girls that are legacy members (the fluorescent haired girls and friends). Her final thoughts on the matter were simply, “I would understand if you want to find another troop.”
The thing is: I think that being in a group like this might actually be good for girls that are confused, struggling with their identity, or not feeling comfortable in their own skin. A group that can affirm that “girls can have fun and do cool stuff too” like camping, making fires, being business operators, and the heavy girl-led activities that make up earning badges. A space that affirms that it is, in fact, good to be a girl. However, even if I think it may be a good space for those girls to be there for their own sakes, I don’t think exposing my very young daughter is a good idea at this time. I don’t need the additional stress of worrying about what ideology and confusion some trans-inclined teenagers might be sharing with my elementary-aged child when I might not be present for every single interaction that takes place between them.
So here I am, just wanting to find a group where my daughter can create those same memories of fun and silliness with other girls like I did. For now, I am waiting to see if the sisters return before making a final decision about this troop. Who knows, maybe I’ll have to start my own troop just to have a safe space free from gender identity issues… for a time at least.