A New Jersey boy once asked to leave his Boy Scouts troop after it was discovered he was born a girl has become the first openly transgender member of the organization after it changed its policy to enroll children based on gender identity alone.
Joe Maldonado, 9, once again donned his Cub Scout uniform after joining Pack 20 in Maplewood Tuesday, a week after the Boy Scouts of America announced it would allow transgender children into its boys-only programs.
“This is fun; I’m so proud,” Joe said during his first meeting, where Scout leader Kyle Hackler taught him the Cub Scout salute and oath, the Record reported.
"This means you're the same as Scouts all over the world," Hackler told Joe.
Joe had been banned from a Cub Scout group in Secaucus before the policy change, as the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts last year told his mother he could no longer continue in the program because he had been born a girl, she 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,” Kristie Maldonado told InsideEdition.com when BCA announced its policy change. “When I explained... he said, 'Well that’s stupid. That’s not right!'"
Maldonado said she too refused to accept that explanation, and the fight for her son’s acceptance gained national attention.
The Boy Scouts released a statement to the Associated Press welcoming the Maldonado family, saying: “Moving forward, the BSA will continue to work to bring the benefits of our programs to as many children, families and communities as possible.”
Amid intense pressure, 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, a decision that also came after heated debate.
Girl Scouts, which is not affiliated with Boy Scouts of America, has accepted transgender members for years.