Inclusion of Trans Girl Scout Incites Outrage, Possible Cookie Boycott

Given that the Girl Scouts is largely, if not solely, composed of little girls in matching outfits and their moms and/or guardians, it’s maybe a little surprising how often people seem to get riled up about them. For instance, Shakesville reminds us that back in 2010, the Girl Scouts were (completely baselessly) accused of distributing Planned Parenthood materials at a Young Women’s Caucus, and even after it was confirmed that nothing of the sort had even come close to happening, the Girl Scouts have never been regarded without suspicion by right-wing thinkers. Even when the stated goals are as innocent as fostering friendship and community, promoting good citizenship, or just arts and crafts, it seems like the GSUSA can’t catch a break. Regardless of its actual purpose, apparently you just can’t have a space devoted to women, girls, or girlhood without its being accused of fomenting promiscuity, lesbianism, and pagan witchcraft! Don’t believe it? From Amanda Marcotte at Slate:

More than a decade ago, Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review wrote: “The Girl Scouts’ leaders hope to make their youthful charges the shock troops of an ongoing feminist revolution.” A number of prominent voices on the Christian right went on to join her in sounding an alarm about the organization, accusing it of religious and sexual subversion. Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council alleged that the organization is “pushing promiscuous sex on the girls.” Bob Knight, while working for Concerned Women for America, accused the Girl Scouts of drifting into “radical feminism,” and while the word “witchcraft” has yet to be trotted out, popular right wing website WorldNetDaily has accused the Girl Scouts of promoting “lesbianism” and “paganism.”

Now the conversation has changed slightly, because while they’re still not pushing lesbianism or paganism, the Girl Scouts are respectful of gender identity. Back in October, we covered the story of the Colorado Girl Scout troop which welcomed Bobby Montoya, who identifies as female, into their ranks in an inclusive policy that says “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.” Not everyone’s response has been positive; even this little girl, who one might hope would be sympathetic to other small people in matching colored vests, wants you to boycott buying Girl Scout cookies in protest.

Seeing how readily and how fiercely these spaces of girlhood are knee-jerk-ily defended is a reminder of just how confused and scared about gender most of our culture still is; and also how important the normal experiences of girlhood can be to those who have to fight for their right to have them. There aren’t all that many empowering, safe, confidence-building institutions that girls and young women have access to, but the Girl Scouts of America are one of them. To deny some girls access to it because they’re queer or trans or gender-nonconforming is saying “we don’t believe you deserve the same things that other, ‘normal’ girls do,” and worse, is saying that those children aren’t really girls at all. Which, when you’re struggling just to begin to understand and to deal with all the pain that being a girl will inevitably make others feel justified to visit upon you, is a terrible and invalidating thing to hear. This isn’t really about Girl Scout cookies (although if buying more is your way of supporting the GSUSA and the Girl Scouts of Colorado’s policy of inclusion, then go for it). This is about the right of people who our culture doesn’t necessarily identify as “normal” to lead normal lives, with the normal joys and challenges that come with it. And to navigate childhood and adolescence concerned more with merit badges than with national YouTube campaigns designed to organize a community against you. That actually sounds like a much harder thing to provide young girls of all kinds than an education in promiscuity and lesbianism, but if anyone has decided they’re up to the challenge, it seems to be (at least the Colorado branch of) the GSUSA.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1079 articles for us.

67 Comments

  1. I think you might be a bit misinformed about the outrage here. It is actually the display of bigotry and a clear case of bigoted parents proxying through their child that have sparked the outrage. The video has gone viral, and now made private because they couldn’t take the backlash.

    Because of the backlash to the bigotry displayed here, it is possible that girl scout cookies will make record sales this year. The boycott attempt has spawned a buy-cott in response.

  2. If the Girl Scouts promoted paganism and lesbianism, I obviously left way too soon.

    I don’t know when cookie season starts any more, but once it does I’m definitely buying some cookies. Samoas FTW!

  3. Some ideas from my Facebook feed (FEED COOOOOKIES) include:

    – San Diego’s Operation Thin Mint; shipping is coordinated through the DOD and the Navy. Cookie sales start 1/29/12. Contact: Maria, marko.maria@sbcglobal.net.

    – Your local Fisher House, which offers free housing to military families during hospital stays (like Ronald McDonald House). http://www.fisherhouse.org.

    – Your deployed friends and families; ask around if anyone you know knows anyone in dire need of Tagalongs. (Probably yes.)

  4. I guess it really depends on the trope lol, If my Girl Scout experience had been pagan and lesbian I would have loved it…but it was cookies and Jesus and pinkity pink pink which me as a little tomboy hated. I’m glad they are including every type of girl there is in Colorado, I’ll be grabbing some cookies for sure.

    • Yeah, the Girl Scouts as an organization are awesomely liberal, but there are definitely some more conservative individual troops out there. The ones at my school were a lot like that, too.

      If it helps, though, GSUSA is welcoming of people who aren’t all about Jesus, as they’ve said that girls can replace the “God” part of the Girl Scout pledge with something more appropriate to their own beliefs.

  5. As I embark on my final cookie sale of my life (been a Girl Scout for 12 years; not stopping now), I promise you, my fellow Autostraddlers, this: If anyone refuses to buy my cookies because of this crap, I WILL glitterbomb them.

  6. Hmm. I left the Girl Guides UK because of reasons, but this makes me happy to see. Not that horrible person’s youtube video. That saddened me so much- how could someone so young be so full of malice?

    (also, anyone in the uk should look at the woodcraft folk. best young people’s organisation ever.)

  7. Dearest Little Girl,

    If you’re worried about your safety being threatened by people potentially being attracted to your gender in Girl Scouting, little trans-girls in Colorado are the least of your problems. Have you ever set foot in a Girl Scout camp? Lesbians. Everywhere.

    (Note: I’m not saying that trans-girls are heterosexual boys in disguise, and I’ve never met a pedophile-lesbian in my experience with Girl Scouts. Or ever, actually.)

  8. The video basically illustrates two things:
    1. She understands pretty much nothing about what it means to be trans.
    2. She has never seen any statistics on trans vs. cis safety…really, you’re worried about YOUR safety? ‘Cause I’m worried about all women’s safety, for sure, but I’m more worried about the safety of trans women as a general rule.

    Willful ignorance. Just sayin’.

  9. Just to clarify, Bobby Montoya, the 7-year old trans girl who wanted to join a Colorado Girl Scout troop never even joined the scouts. Weeks after the Colorado State Girl Scout Association made their very welcoming statement (after Bobby was initially turned down by a troop leader) Bobby’s mom made it clear that neither the National Girl Scouts organization, the Colorado State Org nor a local troop had contacted them. As I understand it, after all the vitriol surrounding this story and troops led by haters in Louisiana, Bobby decided she didn’t want to participate (like maybe she didn’t feel welcome much less safe).

    So basically, the specific situation the 14-year old bigot scout is complaining about is only theoretical (although there are other trans girls in scouting but it’s not like they’re going to come out and be proclaimed males, freaks or get attacked by nutcase parents). To me, this is one of the saddest footnotes of one of the saddest videos I’ve ever seen (second only to the twin Nazi pop singer girls).

  10. Bravo to the Girl Scouts of Colorado for speaking out and being inclusive. Hopefully other regions will (or already do) promote the same policies.

    I dropped out of Girl Scouts in the 4th grade, mostly because I had stayed in just to be old enough to go camping and then I hated camping, but after reading about this on another site last night I looked up some information about GSUSA. I joke that I’ll put my daughter in it when she gets old enough just so I’ll have a cookie hook up but after this I do want to support them.

    I also stumbled upon information about this program – Girl Scouts Beyond Bars – for girls whos mothers are in prison.
    http://www.girlscouts.org/program/program_opportunities/community/gsbb.asp

    This is definitely the type of organization I want to support. Watch the “Troop 1500” Promo video linked on the side of that page, although warning you might cry.

  11. This article made me wonder if there was a gender neutral scouts program, so I hit google and found Spiral Scouts. It includes boys and girls of all faiths (and non-faiths I assume) ages 3 to 18. It’s founded by pagans and is therefore very pagan in structure, but being pagan is not a requirement. It will definitely suit me and my hypothetical future children, but I feel like it shouldn’t be the only alternative option. It’s a good start though.

    http://www.spiralscouts.org/

  12. u all make it seem like gender is not important. gender is important. as a lesbian i like women, cis gendered women. as much as i want to support trans issues i think they should be separate from lesbian issues. i don’t understand why a boy would want to be a girl but even so why can’t he be in the boys scout. no matter how much he wants to be a girl he will never biologically be a girl. he can’t change his chromosomes. he can’t produce eggs. he doesn’t have ovaries. he can’t have periods. so no matter what he thinks and how he feels he isn’t a woman so he should not be in the girls scouts. he should be in the boy scouts. i know this is autostraddle where everyone gets included no matter what but when do we stop including everyone? is it when lesbians don’t exist? am i the only one annoyed at how trans issues are being elevated about lesbian issues and high jacking the lgbt cause. i have talked to my straight friends and they can somewhat understand being gay or lesbian but when you group us with trans then you get people say oh that butch just wants to be a man. there is a difference between trans identity and lesbianism and as long as trans are grouped with lesbians you will have people erroneously saying that lesbians want sex changes. i am not nor will i ever be like chastity bono

    • Also, this is the exact argument that many mainstream feminists (used to?) make about lesbians. Fun fact! Did you know we’re not real women, because we don’t think or feel the way real women do?

      That’s the problem when you let haters draw the line around who is a “real woman”. Sure, it won’t incude trans women, but it won’t include you either.

    • You are a fucking terrible person and your bullshit attitude is why people like me kill themselves. I hope you check yourself hard, girl, and start understanding gender in a way more complex fashion than you’ve laid out here. Parts don’t equal destiny or personality or identity for everyone.

      “am i the only one annoyed at how trans issues are being elevated about lesbian issues and high jacking the lgbt cause.”

      Just no. Trans people are still bottom of the pile even in the LGBT community because of shit exactly like this. It’s a sad thing when some lesbians feel feminism means only women that look like them, are built like them, and have the same parts as them are allowed to have rights.

      Check your ignorant hateful phobic shit.

    • Okay, you know what? I am coming back in here because I broke my own rule about not vomiting hate on someone until you’re certain they can’t be taught, at which point they deserve only scorn. So in the event that you may be teachable, consider the following:

      Gender and sex are not always correlated. That is to say, when you see a penis one will not always find a male identity associated with that body part. That is certainly true for some people, cis and trans, but not all. Don’t try and impose that on this girl. Simply because her physical body is one way does not mean she deserves to be straitjacketed in to a set of pre-programmed behaviors and roles by anyone, let alone total strangers such as yourself.

      Referring to trans people by anything other than their chosen pronoun is a very hateful and invalidating act that can cause serious harm. I suggest you rethink your stance on doing this and remember that you do not have the right to set up such strict boundaries around someone else’s self concept.

      There is no hijacking here and as soon as we all realize that the more powerful all LGBT causes can potentially become. I don’t want to get in to who has it better but trans people still have a hell of a time even getting recognized, and when trans people ARE recognized it’s usually because we’ve become a violent crime statistic. So I guess I am not really seeing evidence of this so called elevation and hijacking.

      I think you really need to examine a lot of what you’ve said and you need to educate yourself further on trans issues in general. I get that you feel shut out and threatened but the cure for that isn’t forcing those same feelings on other people you don’t happen to understand.

      There. Better?

  13. I was just talking to a coworker of mine about this. She is a camp director (not for the Girl Scouts) and her daughter is a Girl Scout. She says that if she ever jumps ship from her current job, it’ll be to the Girl Scouts, because “they’re a fabulous organization who unfortunately trusts parents to run the groups.” So her experience, like a lot of peoples’, is that it’s super-spotty, because your troop is pretty much run by the troop leader, and it can range from awesome to horrid because of that.

    Personally, I lasted about a year as a Brownie, and then quit because all we did was trade stickers. But I know a lot of people who met their first adult queer women as counselors at their Girl Scout camps.

    • Yep. This is very true, about the variability. I had my mom for a troop leader (good), then a somewhat wretched leader (mostly her daughter was awful and she didn’t do anything to reign it in) for a couple years, and then an awesome leader and troop who I adored, and still hang out with many of them.

      Every experience I had with the organizational level personnel was great.

  14. When I first saw this video (or the amount of it I could get through before I had to turn it off), I was really angry at this girl. But then I stopped to think about how uneducated the majority of the country is about trans issues or even what it means to be transgender. I forget that a lot because of my generally good knowledge about it. I know being ignorant isn’t an excuse: Before making a video like this, the girl had a responsibility to do some research into what being a trans girl really means. But I just thought about the fact that even a few years ago I had a totally warped understanding of what transgender meant and I too thought it meant a boy who wanted to be a girl or vice versa. Most of my friends (high school seniors, mostly liberal on social issues) don’t know what it means either, even though they’d be tolerant and not hateful.

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is that when something like this happens, the most effective response from those who care about equality would be to calmly educate the person. If after listening to you they still say bigoted things, that’s when you can be pissed. There are a lot of angry all-caps comments on her video. But I for one am hopeful that if this girl listens to the polite comments on her video that explain where she is wrong (like mine), she’ll change her mind, because she was speaking out of fear and confusion, a wrong definition. Obviously there are haters and bigots too, but I feel like this girl is not one of them, because most of her main points are about “danger” to the girls because the trans girl is “really a boy,” rather than “trans people are evil and disgusting.”

    • Yay! You have awesome logic. Recently ended up having to get another trans girl to calm down because she wasn’t exactly making a good impression on people who didn’t really know what trans was and were therefore saying some fairly insulting things. So whilst i politely explained a few things, she raged about how they didn’t care and were all wrong because she said so…. In return for both showing that the trans* community is not all super special PAY ATTENTION TO ME snowflakes, and actually explaining a couple of things, leading to some people definitely changing their views of trans* people, she told me to fuck off and kill myself, whilst also claiming i was ‘less trans’ than her, however that’s possible… With people like this ‘on your side’ who needs enemies…

  15. I for one would like to thank the little bigot because it means I can make my trans ass all the fatter with box after box of tagalongs and feel righteous while doing it.

  16. I want everyone to know that this girl has her pins in the wrong place on her uniform. It annoys me she is so worked up, but she can’t even put her pins in the right place. But maybe I’m being ridiculous.

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