LGBT

Louisiana Girl Scouts Council Refuses Transgender Members For ‘Health And Safety Of Our Girls’

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Girl Scouts from Oklahoma pose with President Obama at the White House Science Fair (March 23, 2015).

The Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) has long had a policy of allowing transgender girls to participate in the organization. Every couple years, this prompts conservatives to protest the organization, such as in 2012 when a teen started a cookie boycott because the Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomed a transgender Scout, a protest supported at the time by Jim Bob Duggar.

Last month, the American Family Association (AFA) launched a new petition against the Girl Scouts’ transgender-inclusive policy. GSUSA responded by recommitting to inclusion, with Chief Girl Expert Andrea Bastiani Archibald explaining, “If a girl is recognized by her family, school and community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.” But the response also pointed out that such inclusion is still handled at the council level, and one council doubled down on its policy of explicitly not allowing transgender girls to participate.

Since November of 2011, Girl Scouts Louisiana East (GSLE), which serves New Orleans and Baton Rouge, has had a policy that contradicts the national organization’s. Despite calling itself an “inclusive organization,” GSLE insisted, “We affirm that our council’s programming is for girls only, and has not been designed to meet the specific needs of boys or transgendered [sic] youth.” Following the AFA hubbub and GSUSA’s response last month, GSLE issued a memo reminding families that it does not serve transgender girls.

“We understand and respect that there may be Girl Scout members who believe differently than we do,” the May 20 memo read, “and appreciate that sensitive issues such as this can be determined at the local council level. The health and safety of our girls is our number one priority, and we strive to ensure a safe environment where all girls can learn to become their best selves.”

A number of transgender blogs have pointed out that this reference to the “health and safety of our girls” is a “transphobic dog whistle.”

ThinkProgress reached out to GSLE on Monday for clarification as to whether the council believes that there is a relationship between preventing transgender girls from participating and somehow protecting the other girls. In her first and only response, Marrianne Addy, GSLE’s Vice President of Communications & Marketing, simply referred back to the 2011 policy, claiming that the new memo was simply “emailed for information purposes, in light of the media attention on this subject.” ThinkProgress responded to ask, “Specifically, does GSLE believe that allowing transgender Scouts poses a threat to the health and safety of other Scouts?” but received no response as of Tuesday morning.

Transgender blogger Courtney O’Donnell offered this takeaway, “I’m beginning to think that the Girl Scout’s national organization’s transgender support ‘reaffirmation’ is just a meaningless PR stunt: ‘We support trans kids, unless we don’t!'”