This letter is a response to Taylor, the 14-year-old girl who called for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies because the Scouts allow transgender members. You can watch her video here.
I wish we could sit down and talk. I'd like to think you would be willing to have a conversation with someone who honestly wants to find common ground. I've watched your video, and it really moved me. You delivered your message with skill, grace, and emotion –- I wish my high school students were as comfortable speaking in front of an audience as you clearly are.
That said, a lot of what was in your video was hurtful to me. I'm not sure if you meant to hurt my feelings, or the feelings of people like me, but your video was painful for me to see. Because I'm a transgender woman. That means that I was born in the body of a boy, but realized I was actually a girl. I've been on hormones for a few years now, to help my body match my mind. And a lot of the things you said about what it means to be transgender didn't match my experience, or the experience of other trans people I know.
Since watching your video, I've been researching the Girl Scouts, and I'd like to print the Girl Scout Law, which I found here. I admit I don't know a lot about Scouting, but I think The Girl Scout Law is a good place to start what I hope can be a conversation between you and I:
I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.
That's a pretty good code of conduct to try and live by. I'm sure not every Girl Scout lives up to every bit, one hundred percent of the time, but I'm sure you try. I'd like to think that I'm honest and fair, friendly and helpful, and all the other positive qualities in the Girl Scout Law.
I don't think your video was honest and fair, Taylor.
Transgender stuff can be confusing. Believe me, I know. But you got a few things wrong in your video, and I'd like to help correct them. I think it would make your video more honest and fair. Lets start with one of your video overlays. It's near the beginning, and the text on your video said "Transgender Girl Scout = boy who wants to be a girl."
I'm afraid that's not what it means to be transgender. The simplest way to put it, although it's really more complicated, is that our gender –- what makes us a boy or a girl –- is in our head, not between our legs. You aren't a girl because of what's between your legs. Neither am I. You're a girl because you know you are one. That would be true if you had long hair or short, wore pants or dresses, painted your nails or played in the mud. Or did some of those things one day, and something else on another.
Likewise, I'm a girl because I know I am one. It's a little more complicated for me, since what is between my legs doesn't match what most people expect when they think ‘girl.' But part of being respectful of others –- something else the Girl Scout Law mentions –- is letting every person decide for themselves who they are. I would never say that you need to enjoy playing with dolls, or be good at basketball, or know how to sail a boat. I don't get to decide who you are; you get to decide that.
But that also means that you don't get to decide who I am. What kind of books I like to read, who my friends are, or whether I'm a boy or a girl. No matter what I look like or sound like or anything. No one but me gets to decide whether I'm a boy or a girl.
And so when your video asked, in overlay text, "Is it safe to hide boys in Girl Scouts?" I didn't really understand who was hiding. Because a transgender girl –- like the one welcomed into a Colorado troop -– is a girl just like any other Scout. And to reject her, or any other girl, doesn't seem very friendly or sisterly (two more qualities the Girl Scout Law emphasizes).
Your video also talks about safety, and that's a very important issue. No Girl Scout –- or anyone else – should ever be forced into a situation where they are unsafe. But why would a transgender Girl Scout –- someone like me –- make you any less safe than any other Girl Scout? To assume I would make you unsafe doesn't seem respectful, considerate, or caring, three more qualities included in the Girl Scout Law.
Finally, I want to talk to you about Honest Girl Scouts, the organization you mention at the end of your video. Honest Girl Scouts doesn't seem to follow the Girl Scout Law. It's not a very nice website. It talks about Girl Scout council's "entanglements with dubious issues." Issues like access to informative, safe-sex education. Issues like equality and pride. It looks at all of those issues as bad, and Girl Scouts USA is bad for promoting them. Honest Girl Scouts may be honest, but it's the honesty of a bully or a mean classmate you thought was a friend.
I hope this letter helped clarify some of the issues you raised in your video. Please let me know if you have any questions, and I wish you nothing but luck as you determine how best to be courageous and speak out for issues you believe in, while still being respectful of others.
This article was originally published on Rebecca's previous blog in January of 2012. It was subsequently reprinted by Jezebel.