Thursday, February 2, 2017

Defining Boy Scout Moment

Boy Scout badges, photo from here
Tuesday, before the big news about the Supreme Court nominee, some of us took note of a different announcement. The Boy Scouts of America made, not a change in policy, but a change in determining definition. Here is the specific wording:

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 only difference is that, rather than requiring proof that an applicant is a boy by using a birth certificate—as do schools, youth sports, and other youth organizations—the BSA will put the burden on the child and the parent to determine whether the child is actually a boy.

There’s been a hue and cry from erstwhile supporters of the Boy Scouts—saying this is just one more nail in the coffin, following acceptance of homosexual scouts and leaders in 2015. [I wrote about this here.]

I agree that I would have preferred not to have this redefinition. I would have preferred not giving credence to the LGBT agenda at all. But, as with the previous announcement, this one will lead to no perceptible change for the vast majority of scouts.

There was a Q&A that came out in the afternoon from our council office. The impact for your basic troop out there—the majority of which are sponsored by churches and other religious organizations is this:

Q: How does this impact religious organizations who sponsor Scouting?
A: While religious partners will continue to have the right to make decisions based on religious beliefs, we will work with families to find local Scouting units that are the best fit for their children.
Q: Will non-religious chartered organizations be allowed to determine eligibility?
A: As with all Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops, volunteer leadership of each unit determines their ability to provide a safe and effective program for the youth who seek membership.
The answer, in case you can’t see it in the subtle answer, is that it is the responsibility of the Council to accommodate a transgender girl who decides she is a boy and has parents who go along with her. No unit, whether religiously affiliated or not, will be required to be the unit to accommodate her/him.

BSA is taking a bit of a risk here. If a unit cannot be found that is willing to accept a female “boy,” or cannot find one within a reasonable distance for the family, the family could sue. But the family would have to prove that the local area Council is purposely discriminating, and not simply unable to find an accommodating unit.

There are many good reasons for a boy to participate in Boy Scouts. Some of those reasons could hold true for a transgender child, but not all. And there are burdens a transgender child puts upon young growing boys that their parents very well might want to protect them from.

There are fewer problems for Cub Scouts—no campingvi, no puberty. So let’s set that aside for the moment and look at Boy Scouts, which officially start at age 12.

There are regular campouts, typically monthly. This requires boys to sleep together in tents; adults sleep in nearby tents, but for safety reasons do not share tents with the boys.

They use pit toilets, or bathrooms with urinals plus limited stalls. In primitive camps they might build a temporary lean-to latrine, which they take down and bury afterward. They use open shower areas.

Scout camps often include water sports. Boys typically swim shirtless. But even if they choose to wear a shirt, body shape is clearly visible.

If you are the parent of this child, what do you think will happen when s/he attends a scout camp with boys who are also going through puberty? They can see that her/his body parts are female. S/he will have to deal with menstruation—which there will be no accommodation for because the camp is for boys, which your child claims to be. And I’m not sure what you expect of early teen boys who can clearly see the developing breasts on this strange kid in their troop. Do you expect them not to gawk, or be embarrassed, or mention it? Do you know any real boys that age?

If not, then maybe you’re not aware that boys play rough. They kind of need to. They run hard, play hard, wrestle, and hit hard. Scout leaders keep violence in check, but there’s going to be a healthy amount of roughhousing they’ll allow while they’re outdoors, having guy time. If s/he gets hurt, will you immediately assume s/he’s been bullied? Or will you ask for special treatment? Because if s/he’s a boy, s/he won’t fit in with the guys that way.

There could be real bullying. Leaders can and will teach the boys to treat everyone with respect. But the purpose of Boy Scouts is to raise them into good men; you can’t assume they already are. Put boys that age in a situation where someone is weird, or clearly not what they claim to be, and you’ll get boys who push limits, quite possibly into bullying—because they don’t yet have the tools to deal with the cognitive dissonance. Parents aren’t supposed to throw them into that kind of situation.

You’re bound to get parents of Boy Scouts—in nearly every troop—who will insist that their son not be forced to sleep in a tent with a female-bodied person. Or to shower with her/him. Or swim with her/him half-naked. Or risk being accused of bullying if there is any roughness s/he doesn’t like.
It’s hard to imagine a parent who would push their transgender girl/boy to suffer the indignities of being a "boy" who menstruates, has breasts, and is missing male body parts into a situation where typical boys are likely to notice and have no politically correct agenda requiring them to pretend there are no differences.

Transgenders make up a minuscule portion, about .3% of the population; that is 3 per 1000. Most transgenders do not reassign their gender until adulthood. Certainly those who undergo chemical or surgical operation are adults—because the American College of Pediatrics calls such alterations child abuse when done to a minor.

Here are some numbers:

2.4 million
Youth participating in BSA (some girls are welcome in some programs)
45 million
Youth of scouting age in US[i]
Percentage of youth who participate in scouting
Percentage of youth who do not participate in scouting
Percentage of population who choose a gender other than their DNA indicates
Percentage of population who accept the gender of their DNA[ii]
Total possible transgender youth in US
Transgender youth in US who are female-bodied presenting themselves as male.[iii]
5.3% of female-to-male transgender youth likely to participate in scouting[iv]
Chartered organizations in BSA[v]
Percentage of troops who could theoretically face the question of whether to accept a transgender youth

So, in all likelihood, very few troops (probably much fewer than this estimate) would ever face the question of whether to accept a transgender scout.

My guess is that, taking away the news story is also likely to take away the incentive for such an eventuality. It could happen; it will probably not happen anywhere nearby. And if you are in a troop that determines, among its own volunteer leadership, that it cannot provide a “safe and effective program” for boys that includes a transgender child, your troop cannot be forced to do so.

There are some who disagree with the strategy of giving in where it won’t make a difference, so keeping what does make a difference—a good program for youth, in a safe environment—is possible. The change in policy toward homosexual youth and leaders led to very little—essentially no perceptible—change for Scouting, but it took away a news item. This is just the next thing. It’s a strategy question, and I don’t always know how to predict strategy effectiveness until hindsight.

There has been a huge amount of prejudice against the Boy Scouts for a couple of decades, coming from intolerant social engineers who use labels like “bigoted” and “homophobic” to bully people into submission. BSA won in court the right to decide who to accept so they can serve the needs of boys. But that didn’t stop the onslaught. There has been a lot of damage.

This past Saturday we attended a District Boy Scout dinner (Mr. Spherical Model serves as a volunteer leader there. There wasn’t, by the way, any mention of this announcement; we got no heads up.) At our dinner table a couple of the women, who volunteer in Cub Scouts, were talking about the difficulties of recruiting. They participate in a school-sponsored Cub Scout pack. They had a flyer they wanted to send home with kids, to let parents know about the troop, for recruiting. It met all the standards required by the school and school district. Other similar flyers for other organizations—including some fundraising ones—were allowed. But someone at the school, someone with no more authority than a secretary, decided the Cub Scout flyer wasn’t allowed, because it’s a bigoted organization.

When you add together the unfair prejudice against Boy Scouts with emotional reactions from Boy Scout supporters who believe the organization is losing integrity, you can see that the end game of anyone who would insist on either homosexual scout leaders or a transgender s/he in scouting is intent on destroying the organization—because it helps raise boys into good men.

It is not “unfairness” they are protesting; it is civilization.

[i] Pulling from census data, the closest bracket to scouting age is 5-17; there are nearly 54 million in that bracket in 2010. That covers 12 years; Scouting generally covers 10. So we cut the total to 5/6, which is 45 million.
[ii] We’re using the whole population total of .3% transgender, even though it is likely lower in children.
[iii] For simplicity, let’s assume half of transgender youth might be male-bodied children who choose to present themselves as female—so they would have no effect on those joining Boy Scouts. So that leaves 67,500 female-bodied youth who choose to present themselves as male. It is possible there are fewer in this category, but we are estimating liberally.
[iv] For reasons given above, parents are less likely to put a transgender child in scouting than is the total population. So, again, we are estimating liberally.
[v] We’re simplifying here and not trying to figure out which children want to join Cubs or regular Scout troops, and just spreading them across the board.
[vi] I'm adding this note on February 12. Mr.Spherical Model pointed out some errors, so I'm attempting to correct those. I'm aware there are differences between Latter-day Saint-sponsored Scout troops and others, but I'm not always aware of what the specific differences are. Non-LDS-sponsored Cub Scouters do sometimes go camping. And technically regular Scouting begins at age 11. In our troops the 11-year-old Scouts are working on regular Scout things, but they do it separately until age 12

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