The Girl Scout organization has been a progressive leader in LGBT rights. Unlike the Boy Scouts who have to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept gays as equals, the Girl Scouts have been way ahead of the curve in standing up for what is right and continue to do so.
The latest issue came up when the Girl Scouts of Western Washington received a sorely needed donation of $100,000 (enough to send 500 girls to camp) that was a cause for celebration. But then the donor, reacting to the news about Caitlyn Jenner, issued the following stipulation: Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls. If you can’t, please return the money..
[CEO Megan] Ferland chooses her words carefully when discussing the donor, whose identity she won’t reveal out of respect for their privacy. “The relationship is complex,” is all she’ll say. But she does admit to being “very sad” upon receiving the letter. Shortly after that, though, she made up her mind about how to respond: In a short letter, she informed the donor that she would, in fact, be returning the money. Her reasoning was simple. “Girl Scouts is for every girl,” she says. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”
This is the second time in less than five years that a Girl Scouts council has taken a public stand to support transgender girls, and both times Ferland was at the center of the story. In 2012, when she headed the organization’s Colorado council, a 7-year-old transgender girl in Denver was denied entry to a troop. Although the council had never specifically said that it accepted transgender girls, the national organization had always made inclusivity the foundation of its mission. So after checking with the council’s attorney, Ferland issued a public statement welcoming transgender girls and explaining that the council was working to find a troop for the girl who’d been rejected. “Every girl that is a Girl Scout is a Girl Scout because her parent or guardian brings her to us and says, ‘I want my child to participate,’” Ferland says. “And I don’t question whether or not they’re a girl.”
The Girl Scouts of Colorado took heat from some parents for taking such a clear stand in support of transgender girls, but Ferland wasn’t worried about blowback then. And she isn’t now. “This is the right thing to do, so there was not anything else to do other than return the gift,” she says. “And we need the $100,000 back so we can serve more girls. So we’re going to do everything we can to raise that money. And if it raises a ruckus, it raises a ruckus.”
The good news is that within 24 hours of appealing for donations to replace the returned money, they had achieved their target.