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US scouts welcome transgender boys, ends century-old policy

The Boys Scouts of America says it is 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.

world Updated: Jan 31, 2017 11:46 IST
AFP
The Boy Scouts of America announced that it will allow transgender children who identify as boys to enrol in its boys only programmes.
The Boy Scouts of America announced that it will allow transgender children who identify as boys to enrol in its boys only programmes.(AP File Photo)

The Boy Scouts of America will welcome transgender children who identify as boys, the group has announced, in a dramatic reversal from its traditional stand.

Chief executive Michael Surbaugh said the group will now allow individuals to enrol based on the gender with which they identify, ending a more than century-old policy of using the gender on their birth certificate.

“We realised that referring to birth certificates as the reference point is no longer sufficient,” he said in a statement.

“Communities and state laws are now interpreting gender identity differently. And these new laws vary widely from state to state.”

Zach Wahls, co-founder of the advocacy group Scouts for Equality, hailed the “historic” step.

“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,” Wahls said in a statement.

“We are also proud of the Boy Scouts for deciding to do the right thing.”

The move marked a major shift for the Boy Scouts, which ended a ban on gay scouts in 2013.

Two years later, it officially scrapped a decades-old ban on gay troop leaders, a historic but controversial decision after years of legal wrangling and internal strife.

One of the country’s largest youth groups, the Boy Scouts counts nearly 2.3 million members and around a million adult volunteers.