Transgender children who identify as boys can now enroll in the Boy Scouts of America’s boys-only programs, the organization announced this week, making the decision to open its membership months after a transgender boy was forced out of his local troop.
“Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application,” the organization said in a statement released Monday.
The announcement was praised but viewed as too little, too late by Kristie Maldonado, whose 8-year-old child, Joe, had been asked to leave his troop in Secaucus, New Jersey, after parents and leaders learned he is transgender, she told InsideEdition.com.
“It’s wonderful news, it is — but the damage is done,” she said. “It’s wonderful just knowing no other child has to go through this again, because my kid felt isolated and they threw him out like a dog.”
Joe, who will turn 9 on Wednesday, had been a member of the pack until a council officer called his mother last fall to tell her he could no longer be a part of the troop, Maldonado said.
“No child should be made to feel different. He wants to fit in like everybody else. He didn’t understand why they would do this,” she said. “When I explained... he said, 'Well that’s stupid. That’s not right!'"
Then on Monday night, a representative from the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts called Maldonado to inform her that Joe would be welcomed back as their policy had changed, she said.
“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs. However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state,” the Boy Scouts of America said in its statement.
But Maldonado said she had never been asked to provide a birth certificate in the first place.
“I said, ‘So you changed what?” she said.
InsideEdition.com has reached to the Boy Scouts to clarify its previous policy regarding birth certificates.
While Maldonado would like to see Joe return to his troop, she said she would allow it only if the scout leader who made the previous decision leaves.
Maldonado also said she filed a civil rights complaint with state officials last week, charging the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts with discrimination, and plans to go through with the filing if the Division on Civil Rights’ investigation finds probable cause to proceed.
“I’m happy they changed it... but the damage is done to my kid,” she said.
InsideEdition.com has reached out to the DCR for comment.
Maldonado said she was proud of her son for what she said was his role in the development.
“He stood up for himself, and he didn’t back away — this is who he is and how he feels,” she said. “I still can’t believe it. I don’t know if it’s hit me yet... little bad things happen to make a good thing, but I’m not happy my son had to be the guinea pig in all of this."
The Boy Scouts of America said in its statement that its decision came in light of a larger conversation taking place nationwide about gender identity.
The enrollment decision goes into effect immediately.
“Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child,” the statement said.
Zach Wahls, co-founder of the group Scouts for Equality, praised the Boy Scouts of America and called the decision historic.
"The decision to allow transgender boys to participate in the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts is an important step forward for this American institution,” he said in a statement. “We are incredibly proud of Joe Maldonado — the transgender boy from New Jersey whose expulsion last year ignited this controversy — and his mother Kristie for their courage in doing what they knew was right. We are also proud of the Boy Scouts for deciding to do the right thing. We look forward to seeing more detail clarifying this policy change in the days and weeks ahead.”
In a separate post on social media, Wahls said Scouts for Equality’s work is not yet done.
“The Boy Scouts still haven't implemented a full non-discrimination policy for gay adults. There are details to be worked out on their new gender identity policy. And any advocate will tell you that policy change is the first step — winning hearts and minds takes much longer,” he wrote. “And winning this change in the Boy Scouts may seem like a small thing given the tumult and anxiety of the last 10 days, but it's an important win for our community and it sends a critical message we all need to remember right now:
Boy Scouts of America lifted the ban on gay troop leaders and employees in July 2015. It had allowed openly gay youths to join the scouts in 2013.
Girl Scouts, which is not affiliated with Boy Scouts of America, has accepted transgender members for years.