Boy Scouts of America to allow transgender children to participate

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COLUMBIA - The Boy Scouts of America is allowing transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in its scouting programs, according to a statement on its website.

For more than 100 years, The Boy Scouts of America referred to birth certificates for a child’s gender identity. The organization announced Monday it will now register youth in its scouting programs based on the gender listed on their application.

Michael Surbaugh, chief scout executive for the group, said it made the change since laws are now interpreting gender identity differently.

“We’ve taken the opportunity to evaluate and update our approach,” Surbaugh said. “I hope you will join with me in embracing the opportunity to bring scouting to more families and children that can benefit from what our program has to offer.”

Doug Callahan, executive director for the Great Rivers Council, which serves Columbia, said the it will embrace the decision.

“Our mission is to serve as many young people and as many families and communities as we can,” Callahan said. “We will do that. This is an opportunity for us to serve more people.”

Callahan said he recognizes some of the fall out that might come.

“Obviously not everybody’s necessarily going to agree with it,” Callahan said. “If the parents or an individual cub scout pack or boy scout troop are uncomfortable with the decision, and we have a family and a young person who’s transgender and who would like to be a part of the program, we will work to find a unit that is not uncomfortable with them."

Callahan responded to some of the confusion the new rule might cause. A young girl who simply checks male on her application should, depending on the situation, be enrolled in the co-ed programs Boy Scouts of America offers.

“If it’s truly a transgender male, that’s one thing,” Callahan said. “Somebody who’s just checking the box because it’s a girl who wants to get in the program, cub scouting and boy scouting still remain at this point single-gender programs.”

“It’s not something we anticipate happening or allowing,” he said.

Callahan said he doesn’t think the decision will change much of how the Columbia location runs.

“We haven’t had a lot of inquiries in the past from transgender youth being involved in the program,” he said. “Maybe that’s because they’ve been afraid to, but now we’ll find out if there’s more that want to join the program.”