See Scouting, Part I if you haven’t already.
The next day, Eli got a response from the Scoutmaster. Again, I had no idea about this until Eli forwarded it to me. (Perhaps one day I’ll teach him what “cc” is for.) In fact, it took me a minute or so until I even understood what Eli was telling me.
The Scoutmaster could not have handled Eli’s email better. Despite never having been confronted with a transgender boy wanting to join his troop, he responded to Eli with the utmost respect. He laid out as many potential obstacles, one by one, and answered why each can be overcome.
The Scoutmaster gave me permission to repost excerpts of the email, which I’ve lightly edited for formatting and to remove personal references that do not add to the point here. I will provide annotations to break things up and make a few comments.
Needless to say that your email came as a bit of a surprise to me yesterday. As you are probably aware, the Boy Scouts changed their membership policies as of Jan 1, 2014. This generated quite a bit of controversy. There were those who though they went too far and those that thought they didn’t go far enough. The national organization did a good job of collecting input across the board (even down to us lowly Scoutmasters!) and we had some very positive theoretical/philosophical discussions at the Troop level. That being said, it can be a little bit of a surprise when things move from “theoretical” to “real and practical” – so I’m making the transition from the question of “what’s the right thing to do?” to “how do we do it?”.
First off let me say, I personally will be happy to have you join the troop, as I would anybody who shares a love for the outdoors and shares the values of Scouting.
OK, so far so good. The Scoutmaster is on our side.
This is clearly no the “run of the mill”, “ho-hum”, “guys, here’s a new scout” type of application. I want to make sure we do this in a way that works for everyone, and also to make sure we identify any potential hurdles or roadblocks early so that no one is surprised. So there are a number of levels to think about.
This is even better. He’s being realistic and wants to figure out anything that might make Eli’s membership anything but smooth. Remember that he is communicating directly with Eli (although I am sure he knows that Laura and I will see what he writes). I salute the Scoutmaster for amount of thought and diligence he put into what follows.
While Scouting is a national organization, it is really run “from the ground up” in many ways. So the most important unit is the Troop, then the Chartering Organization, then the District/Council, and finally national. I’ll outline each below and tell you what I’ve done so far….
Troop — Here I do not see many problems. As you’ve put in your note, you are already friends with a number of our scouts and I expect they will be supportive. I have also talked to our Troop Committee Chair and he is supportive. We will need to let the Troop Committee know and then the scout parents and the scouts. It’s important that we present this in the way you want it presented. I cannot predict the reaction of every single parent and scout in the troop, but I am expecting little problem here. As I said before, we just don’t want to surprise anybody.
Here, the Scoutmaster is pointing out that there may be parents who object. I will say that, in our community, we have not run into a single problem. Eli has not experienced any bullying and his friends have all stuck by him. However, we are now outside of school and the protections of the law. Eli does has friends within the Troop and I expect they and their parents will be supportive. However, there are other parents we do not know and I cannot possibly know how they will react. I hope that there will not have to be too hard a sell on this.
Charter Organization – Every Troop has a charter organization that supports it and gives it a home. In doing research yesterday, I know there are charter organizations in other parts of the country that have pulled out of scouting over this issue, and there are troops associated with some churches that have asked gay scouts to leave. I do NOT expect this will be a problem with our charter organization. I have not reached out to them yet, there will be time to do that in the future.
In general, I think this could be a hairy situation. Some churches conflate “gay” with transgender and might shut down over an issue like this. The churches in this area seem largely progressive, and knowing what little I know, I trust the Scoutmaster in his judgment here. But in other areas, this could be a deal breaker.
District/Council – Boy Scout Troops, Cub Scout Packs, and Venture Crews are link together into districts, and districts into councils. They are our link to the national organization and provide resources to the troops/packs/crews to support their work. They also provide summer camps and other facilities in support of scouting. While they do not necessarily have a direct say in troop decisions, they are responsible for enforcing national requirements and standards and we need them to be our support. I have reached out to our District Executive and told him in general what we are facing here. He is checking with the Council Executive. Again the goal here is “no surprises” and making sure we identify any hurdles (if indeed there are any) before we run into them.
Uh oh. This one has me worried personally. I should withhold any judgment as the Scoutmaster is doing, but I would not be surprised to get pushback here. I imagine that there are those within the organization that were never really on board with the changes implemented last year, and might have the attitude, “See?!? Slippery slope!!” But maybe I am being too harsh. However, it is my job as a parent to set the expectations here exceedingly, low.
National — I don’t plan to do more than I’ve already done in checking the regulations. As long as council is on board and has our back, we can let them deal with national.
We have a meeting with the Scoutmaster this week. I will report back what we find.