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The Right-Wing War on a Transgender Girl Scout

Why a fight to exclude a 7-year-old could mean no Thin Mints for you.

| Thu Feb. 2, 2012 5:20 PM EST

The cookie strike over Bobby Montoya isn't even the only one underway right now. Austin and Cathy Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute told the Christian Post yesterday that they're calling for another public boycott over the organization's ties to Planned Parenthood, asking people to "forgo the Thin Mints this year because of the far-left sociopolitical agenda pushed by Girl Scouts HQ."

Still, the Girls Scouts marks its 100th anniversary this year, with 2.3 million troopers and 880,000 adult, mostly volunteer mentors across all 50 states. It's a remarkably cohesive organization, and Girl Scouts have often been ahead of the curve, if just by a hair, on hot-button cultural issues. "They're consistently and quietly moving the great moderate American middle in progressive ways," says Rothschild. "They were trashed for internationalism in the McCarthy period. The American Legion tried to get parents to take their children out of Girl Scouts because they were a 'proto-Communist organization' for being in favor of the United Nations, and advocating that girls learn about Latin America to earn World Citizen badges." In 1975, a Catholic archdiocese in Philadelphia cut off most of its support for the Girl Scouts over its "To Be a Woman" badge program, which had scouts discussing pregnancy, birth control, and abortion. 

Think they cooked that over the campfire?Think they cooked that over the campfire? Source: Library of Congress


Despite this history, Girl Scouts' leadership is quick to distance the organization from claims of radicalism. "We can't be radical, we take no political position," says Bastiani Archibald, the GSUSA developmental psychologist. "We are really so moderate. To many just the concept of girls or women in leadership is a radical notion."

Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, and Concerned Women for America couldn't disagree more. In the past decade, these conservative groups have ramped up their vitriol against the Girl Scouts, making GSUSA a regular target on their websites, Fox News appearances, and right-wing radio broadcasts. They rail against Girl Scouts' participation in sex-education programs, religious tolerance, and for allowing gays and lesbians to serve as troop leaders. Commenting on the news of Montoya’s inclusion, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council said, "I'm guessing most parents didn't enlist their daughters in the Girl Scouts to spark conversations about gender identity. I know these are Brownies, but exposing them to these issues is a little nuts."

Source: Library of Congress: Library of Congress

To provide an alternative, in 1995 a former Girl Scout founded a rival faith-based organization called American Heritage Girls, billing itself as "the premier national character development organization for young women that embraces Christian values and encourages family involvement." The organization also earned a "memorandum of mutual support" from Boy Scouts of America (which famously bans openly gay adults and teenagers from jobs and volunteer positions with BSA), the first time Boy Scouts have partnered on the national level with an all-girls' organization. According to its website, the organization has 20,000 members in 44 states and four countries. “Over 90 percent of the people who come to us have left the Girl Scouts—we're like the best kept secret," says founder Patti Garibay. The former troop leaders who disbanded Girl Scouts in Louisiana say they're now looking to bring their flock to the American Heritage Girls.

So could the campaign against Montoya actually hurt cookie sales? The transgender community and others outraged by the issue have taken to social media, urging people to buy up Caramel deLites by the caseload this year in support of transgender girl scouts. "I'm a vegan but this makes me want to buy a box of girl scout cookies or twenty boxes," tweeted @Stella_Zine, and a Twitter search for "Girl Scout cookies" turns up hundreds of similar messages. As The Atlantic reported, Gothamist instructed its readers to "start buying ALL THE GIRL SCOUT COOKIES EVER," and transgender adult film performer Buck Angel, who says he's a former Girl Scout, put out a YouTube video about his happy memories as a Girl Scout. "They accepted me into the Girl Scout troop and everyone was loving and giving. It was never an issue. It's not about anything other than showing love and respect and learning how to be a good person."

As of earlier this week, Montoya still hadn't joined her local Denver troop. After the statement from Girl Scouts of Colorado in October, Montoya's mother told ABC that she wants an official apology from the organization, and for Montoya to have a different troop leader than the one who referred to the girl as "it" when she first tried to apply. Still, Archuleta said, Montoya came out of the experience stronger. Before, she had dressed as a boy in school. Now, she dresses as a girl. "'Mom, you are right," Montoya told her mother. "They can't be mean to me. I am a human being like everyone else."

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