In January, The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced it would allow transgender children who identify as boys to enroll its program. Previously, the organization would only allow children in based on the sex listed on their birth certificate.
This decision is a huge step forward for transgender rights. More organizations need to make similar steps in their acceptance of transgender identity. If this acceptance becomes more commonplace, there will be better understanding of this community. And hopefully, this will lead to less discrimination.
Transgender people face many challenges. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) advocates LGBTQ equality. They list lack of legal protection, poverty, barriers to healthcare and identity documents as major challenges the community experiences. A huge challenge transgender people also face is harassment and stigma, and anti-transgender violence.
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey Report (NTDSR) conducted in 2011 by the National Center for Transgender Equality show chilling statistics.
The survey involved 6,450 transgender and gender non-conformists. Those who identified as transgender from the grades of kindergarten to grade 12 experienced high levels of harassment and discrimination. As many as 78 per cent per cent experienced harassment, 35 per cent experienced physical assault, and 12 per cent experienced sexual assault.
This caused 15 per cent of students to leave school, which is almost nearly one-sixth of the community.
Harassment, discrimination, and violence follow transgender people throughout their lives. Sadly, this leads to incredibly high suicide rates in the community. The NTDSR found that 41 per cent of transgender people had attempted suicide. This is drastically higher compared to the general populations rate of attempted suicide, which is 1.6 per cent.
The BSA has four main programs. The flagship program is the Boy Scouting. This program is for boys aged between 11-18. The cub scouts program is available for boys aged 7-11.
Some might think this age range is too young to consider gender identity.
HRC describes gender as spectrum which people identify with on different degrees. The group explains that children are born without conceived notions of what a boy or a girl is. They learn it from their parents, their friends, and society. This shapes how children see what being a boy is, and being a girl is. Transgender people identify along this spectrum, as a gender that is different from what they were born as.
It’s a matter of self-identity. The group explains one can begin to identify as a particular gender as soon as they pass the age of a toddler.
The BSA have not only allowed transgender boys to join, but are also advocating a welcome environment which will encourage friendships and understanding. Instilling this acceptance at an early age could be massively beneficial to the community.
If children are taught to better understand their transgender classmates or neighbours, it could lead to healthier relationships as they grow older.
If transgender children can learn to be comfortable with who they are at an earlier age, it could increase their confidence and self-esteem. Hopefully, it will give them strength to combat discrimination they may face as they grow older. And maybe, this could decrease the high suicide rate in the community.
Discrimination exists in our world. It’s an ugly truth that will never go away. However, the first step to fighting discrimination is to embrace diversity. Embracing it an early age could lead to future generation’s tolerance being far wider than our own.
The BSA is not the first group to embrace this future. The National Girls Scouts organization has accepted transgender members since 2011. But hopefully, this public declaration of acceptance is the first in many to follow.