Girl Scouts Turn Down $100,000 To Stand With Trans Girls, Make Us Cry

Feature image via Forbes

Every organization in the U.S. should be watching Girl Scouts of the USA to learn what it means to practice allyship and stand by LGBT inclusive values. The Girl Scouts of Western Washington received a $100,000 donation earmarked specifically to exclude trans girls so leaders of the regional council sent the money back to to the donor, who has not been identified. Now they are looking to replace the funds, which are enough to send 500 girls to camp.  You can donate to their IndieGoGo right now.

”Girl Scouts is for every girl,” said council CEO Megan Ferland. ”And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

The Girl Scouts’ inclusion of trans girls first got media attention in 2011 when a Denver troop originally rejected a trans girl who wanted to join. That troop’s leaders were unfamiliar with the scouting policies, according to reports at the time. Since then, Girl Scouts has been loud and clear about including trans scouts. The policy states:

Girl Scouts is proud to be the premiere leadership organization for girls in the country. Placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis, with the welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the troop/group in question a top priority. That said, if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.

The organization allows trans girls to participate in camps and urges local camps and councils to make any necessary accommodations.  Its policies for staffing and volunteers are also inclusive. Many organizations with inclusive policies would think twice about turning down 100 grand, so this move demonstrates just how seriously the Girl Scouts takes its mission.

The Scouts history of inclusion goes back to its founding more than a century ago. At a time when segregation was in full force, my number one hero Juliette Gordon Lowe established a scouting organization that was deliberately inclusive of African American, Hispanic and Native American girls, as well as girls who were poor, lived in rural areas and were from immigrant families. Today, according to their website, “Girl Scouts reaches girls in urban, rural, low-income and public housing communities, and girls whose mothers are in prison or who are themselves living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, foster care and domestic violence shelters. We have a long history of adapting activities to girls who have disabilities, special needs, and chronic illnesses.”

The scouts also include girls of all faiths and atheists, in stark contrast to the Boy Scouts. Contributing Editor Maddie says that one of her strongest memories of her experience in scouting was when her troop leader said she absolutely didn’t have to say the part in the Girl Scout promise about serving God.

“That was not my typical experience in other social settings,” Maddie said. But in her troop, “it was such a non issue it didn’t even occur to me at the time that it was kind of a big deal.”

Essentially, since its founding the Girl Scouts have been deliberately inclusive of girls who were excluded from so many other areas of life. I definitely experienced this in my 13 years as a scout in Texas. At Girl Scout camp I met girls from backgrounds much more diverse than I saw at school or church, my other main social outlets, and looking back I’m pretty sure most of the camp leaders were cool old dykes. The clearest message I got from being a Girl Scout was that being a girl could mean anything that felt true to me.

Me as a Daisy (I'm the one with the green lycras and three feet of hair) being exposed to radical progressive ideas like kindness, hard work and defining myself both individually and in community.

Me as a Daisy (I’m the one with the green lycras and three feet of hair) being exposed to radical progressive ideas like kindness, hard work and defining myself both individually and as a member of a community.

The Girl Scouts’ dedication to LGBT inclusivity, its work to expose girls to fields like technology and engineering and its efforts to reach marginalized girls make it a powerful force for girls and young women around the U.S. Today, their strong stance in support of trans girls sends a powerful message and promotes inclusive girlhood in a society whose conception of “girl” can feel very narrow. The Girl Scouts of Western Washington put it best on their IndieGoGo, which reached its goal in about 24 hours:

Our vision at Girl Scouts of Western Washington is that EVERY girl in our region — regardless of her race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or geographic location — is empowered to unleash her potential, build her future and transform her world.


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Audrey is a writer, a Texan and a sometimes-heretical Presbyterian. They write about bisexuality, gender, religion, politics, music and a whole lot of feelings at Autostraddle and wherever fine words are sold. They hope to adopt a dog some day. Follow Audrey on Twitter @audreywhitetx.

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45 Comments

    • And and and: “Every ticket purchased helps send girls to sleep-away Girl Scout camp who otherwise couldn’t afford to go, providing even more girls with the chance to take on new challenges, make new friends, and build self-reliance to last a lifetime,” which, we know because of the fundraiser, means ALL Girl Scouts. Yay!

  1. This makes me so so so happy! I really love that such a huge organization is so openly and strongly welcoming and affirming of trans girls’ girlhood. It totally warms my heart. Also, that picture of you is totally ADORABLE

    • It’s interesting, it’s very difficult to find anything about a BSA trans policy. In all of the media about GSUSA’s policy, everything goes back to BSA’s ban on gay leaders. Because, you know, gay and trans are synonymous.

    • As a previous poster said I dont think they acknowledge the existence of trans people. The organization itself is very behind the times; and exclusive. The irony in their stance is that a good portion of the Eagle Scouts, and other various members who exhibit many of the hallmark traits of a great Boyscout are homosexual, atleast in my experience. I’ve had the pleasure of scouting with campers, and councillors who have been gay but were forced to keep it secret to the higher ups and parents because of the hatred/mistrust. I am happy to know that such a influential organization, the GSA, has such an inclusive mentality. Too many times we exclude those we do not understand to our detriment.

    • Just wanted to leave a reply for you Al.. or AI.. can’t tell. I was in the Boy Scouts for about five years and it was both very religious and very queer-exclusive. I left before ever realizing I was trans but I’ve had trans friends who have stayed closeted long enough to get through the BSA Eagle Scout because they believed they’d be kicked out otherwise. The concept of a transman being in the group was never even brought up: most leaders and boys are blown away by the concept of having a gay leader or boy, and don’t even know what being transgender is. But that may just be in my county (which I was the leader of for about two years..)
      Suffice it to say, I once had a scout leader, while he was not officially acting as a scout leader, try to sell to me that the best way to handle homosexuality was to pray the gay away. So.

  2. GS is making news in such a great way lately. I’m proud of our history, and our policies, and I’m glad that the word is spreading so widely. Lately I’ve been getting a lot less of “how can you work for GS when you’re gay??”

      • Yeah! I mean, I do better at answering specific questions than talking broadly about a topic but, I will ramble a bit. I was in Girl Scouts all 13 years of school, and then graduated high school and became a camp counselor. I worked my way up through the camp world over 6 summers and two camps. My 5th summer I realized I was gay. (Thanks, head lifeguard. hey-o!)

        That was back home in Michigan. Now I live in Ohio. I’ve been at my current job for 10 months. I’m in the Program Department, which is the only way I’d work for Girl Scouts at this current point in life. We’re the ones that create/manage programming at a council level that girls and troops can sign up to participate in. So we’re like the “curriculum experts.” We’re also the queerest department, at a whopping 50%. (This is only my council specifically though.)

        But yeah, it’s been a trip. All of my previous experience is in teaching and training, and it has been hard to adjust to the cubicle life, but I also get to do an event here and there that gets me connected to the girls.

        Another thing I’ve had a hard time with is the fact that with all its progressiveness Girl Scouts is a VERY white, middle-class organization. This particular council is working on a marketing campaign in which the target audience is white soccer-moms and it makes me want to gouge my eyes out. There is a valid attempt at reaching the Hispanic population here in Columbus, and we have a school outreach program (that’s constantly in limbo and changing course).

        It’s been amazing to see the particular campaign discussed in this article happen. My boss mentioned that she would have liked to have been a fly on the wall in the discussions before it hit the media. I’ve talked to a few coworkers and we all agree it wouldn’t have happened in our council. Our people would have taken the money. They probably would have said we don’t have any trans girls in our membership. Which, who knows if we do, but we do have trans and non-binary employees, so, if that illustrates the attitude at the top at all…

        We have the same problems as any large non-profit. Disconnect between the top of the totem pole and the community, high staff turnover, stress on numbers instead of quality programming, etc.

        I don’t necessarily plan to be here forever, but it’s pretty good for now. I love what Girl Scouts stands for (“building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place”), and I love how much I’ve learned and become through my own Girl Scout experience. I have an amazing boss who’s really in it for the girls.

        Every council is different though. I saw someone comment on the Facebook share of this article that Eastern Louisiana won’t even recognize GSUSA’s trans inclusive policy, which sucks. But as a whole we’re certainly further along than a lot of organizations.

  3. Thank you, Girl Scouts of Western Washington, for standing up to hatred and discrimination with such a palpably determined courage. Girl Scouts deserves our deepest support for providing care and encouragement for the growth of EVERY girl. It is no exaggeration to definitely state that the work of the Girl Scouts will save the lives of some girls who otherwise might wither in isolation and abusive situations. This goes especially for trans girls. Such supportive community very well may end up saving trans girls’ lives.

    The Girl Scouts deserve more than commendation. They deserve our continued attention, aid through volunteering, and financial support.

    May Heaven bless you, Girl Scouts, always…

  4. I was a Campfire kid (which, in hindsight, was good because they’re coed and I’ve always been on the non-binary part of the spectrum) but my mom was a Girl Scout, as well as many of my close friends. They’re a great organisation, and I’m glad they’re extending that experience to all girls!

    • I see where you’re coming from since the modifier is confusing. If you don’t know the content of the article, it could be read as:

      “Girl Scouts turns down $100,000 that was meant to stand with trans girls, which makes us cry sad tears”

      OR

      “Girl Scouts turns down $100,000 in order to stand with trans girls, which makes us cry happy tears”

      Knowing the news before I clicked it, and knowing AS is trans-inclusive, I knew what they were going for. But yeah, kind of confusing.

      Anyway, YAY GIRL SCOUTS!

  5. I’d be getting teary eyed but my tear producing parts aren’t workin right.

    The first bad ass gives zero fucks woman I ever met was a Troop mom. My mom is badass in her own right, but cares to much about respectability politics and things. This woman inspired ya to stand on your own two feet and to hell what anybody thinks cause, “It’s Nunya, Nunya Beeswax.”

    Girls Scouts is one the places girls should learn to plant themselves like a tree beside the river of their truth and when the world says move; be able to find their voice and say no, you move.

    Continue to inspire GSA.

  6. As a former Girl Scout and winner of a s’mores eating contest on a GS camping trip, this is fantastic news. And friends just reached out from Ireland to say they’ve never had the cookies, so I’m that much more excited to find and ship them off overseas.

    GO, GIRL SCOUTS!

  7. This is awesome. What a great message to send to other young people’s organisations.

    I was in the (UK) Girl Guides as a kid, my group’s leaders were a lesbian couple and they introduced me to camping, campfires, wiring plugs, leadership, deep-frying Mars bars and a billion other things that didn’t happen in my family.

    So glad that an organisation I remember fondly is still kickass now I’m grown up 😀

  8. I’m so proud to be a lifetime member of the GSUSA. I grew so much as a Girl Scout, a camper, and as a camp counselor, and Girl Scouts keeps finding new and fantastic ways to make me more proud of my affiliation with them.

  9. I’ve worked for three different Girl Scout councils in three different states. This is not unusual to Washington! The entire organization is really committed to inclusion. I’m currently a program manager and teaching diversity activities to little ones is an a awesome part of my job.

    ALSO, ya’ll should realize Girl Scout camp is way cheaper than private camp…somewhere around $300 a week. Getting kids to camp is totally feasible with a lot of donars and a life changing experience, so chip in what you can!

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