Boy Scouts, Transgender Youth, and Delaware’s “Bathroom Bill”

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transgenderThe Boy Scouts of America (BSA) last month made a historic reversal of its long-time ban on gay scouts, now allowing openly gay youth to join .  BSA still excludes openly gay men from serving as leaders, however, and the issue of whether to admit transgender youth has been left out of the dialogue surrounding this major decision.

This general silence around the organization’s transgender policy represents a barrier to further progress and is in lockstep with behaviors of other conservative organizations.  The transgender rights movement, while making strides in several states, is still considered by many to be dwarfed by the larger marriage equality movement focused on helping the “LGB” (lesbian, gay, bisexual) population within the LGBT acronym. Yet transgender children arguably are the most in need of legal protections.

On June 19, the Delaware state legislature made an effort to ensure justice and protections for transgender residents of the state by passing the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act.  It outlaws discrimination against transgender people and makes Delaware the seventeenth state to pass such legislation. Massachusetts passed similar legislation barring discrimination within the context of public education. Often referred to by the Right as the “Bathroom Bill,”  the law provides protection for transgender students who wish to use locker rooms or bathrooms that may not correspond to their biological sex but do correspond with their gender identity. Groups on the Right feel that this is an invasion of privacy, mostly for women, and  claim that transgender children are “dangers” to innocent heterosexual children.

In Colorado last month, the state’s civil rights division ruled that a first-grader was discriminated against when told that she could not use the girls bathroom at school, constituting a violation of the state’s general anti-discrimination law. Born biologically male, Coy Mathis, 6, began identifying as a girl when only a few years old, and her parents informed the school that Coy identifies as a girl when she entered kindergarten. The Colorado case was particularly significant in that it was the first case in which an anti-discrimination law was legally upheld to find a school at fault and to ensure a students’ right to use their preferred bathrooms.

The Delaware Family Policy Council (DFPC), a group affiliated with CitizenLink dedicated to advocating for anti-choice measures and fighting same-sex marriage, had called for the Delaware bill to be quashed, claiming that the bill makes gender “more about how someone ‘feels right now’ rather than about biological DNA.”  Contrary to the belief that children flip-flop with gender, experts agree that children have a firm understanding of what gender they want to identify with by age four. Right-wing pundits such as Laura Ingraham have called on parents to force children to conform to gender norms, and Ingraham has also attempted to blur the line between sexual orientation and gender identity while discouraging children from making gender changes. On their homepage, DFPC also blares, “Who’s going to be waiting for your wife and daughter?” written over the image of a bathroom sign, an egregious attempt to insinuate that transgender individuals are comparable to pedophiles or sex offenders.

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