The other week I was scrolling through social media when I came across a page a friend of mine had liked. It was commenting on the Girl Scouts’ inclusion of transgender girls. Upon looking further into it, I was struck by a statement by the American Family Association in their petition asking the Girl Scouts “to restrict its membership to ‘biological girls’,” according to CNN’s website. It read: “Boys in skirts, boys in make-up and boys in tents will become a part of the program. This change will put young innocent girls at risk.” Statements like this are not just misinformed about what it means to be transgender, but they are also constructed in a misguided way that very intentionally perpetuates prejudice and fear of what is “other.”
First, it is a deliberate move for the AFA to refer to transgender girls as “boys.” This wording seems to be a way to give a certain mental image to Girl Scout parents who might be on the fence regarding this issue—and to hammer the nail into the coffin for those who already agree with the AFA. It does not recognize the bold, possibly dangerous step the girl has taken in finding herself. Instead, it pushes an idea that she can only be what she was biologically assigned at birth because of what was physically between her legs.
It’s much like a newly wedded couple whose parents disapprove to the extent of not recognizing the marriage or any exchange of names. True, some people may not agree with more progressive ideas—or their child’s choice in life partner—but to fight against normalizing transgender people by referring to a transgender girl as a boy dehumanizes her into an “other” that can’t fit in anywhere. There is a misconception that to be a girl—or woman—is to have a vagina, breasts, and a steady flow of estrogen. It is paramount that transgender girls are recognized as girls even if they have not had surgery to change their biological sex.
Secondly, the AFA is wrong to say that transgender inclusion will put “young innocent girls as risk.” I’m guessing that this is mainly pointing to the fact that these “boys” will be sharing tents with other girls. These two statements side-by-side give the impression that transgender girls are not innocent, like their biologically female counterparts, and may make sexual advances on them. The problem here is heteronormativity – the idea that someone with a penis wants to put it inside a vagina, no matter what – but, these transgender girls are just that: girls. While it’s true that some girls are attracted to girls, most girls—including transgender girls—like boys. They are just as young and innocent as other girls their age.
While the debates and controversies surrounding transgender issues are complex, generally I believe a normative response is the best to take. The AFA’s petition appears to be written to further disassociate transgender girls from womanhood and needs to be countered by education of what it is to be transgender and unprejudiced treatment of these people so deserving of respect. Props to the Girl Scouts for rooting for normalizing inclusion to the best of their abilities.