Boy Scouts and Transgender?

Tossed Overboard

If you blinked, you might have missed it in the local news. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) got another very public black eye and this time it was an order from the Oregon Supreme Court for the public release of their “perversion files” — a 20-year record of suspected child molesters from within the BSA not shown to anyone outside the organization.

So, what does this have to do transgender individuals? Apparently, a lot. But first, a quick back story.

The BSA won a court victory a few years back that legally allowed them to exclude LGBT people from participating in the Scouts. This, of course, was a relatively huge setback for LGBT activists. However, the BSA paid dearly for this victory as negative public reaction dried up their usual sources of operating funds as organizations distanced themselves from this legalized discrimination — United Way comes quickly to mind as they promptly cut the Scouts off.

Since the court victory however, the BSA has been hammered with sex abuse allegations and related court cases, including a recent $18.5 million payout to a local victim in Portland, Oregon. That case involved former assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes who has admitted to molesting at least 17 boys. It was the Dykes case that attracted media attention to the existence of the “perversion files” — supposedly 1,200 names and 20,000 pages. Media organizations, including The Oregonian and The New York Times, filed a lawsuit to get the files released. While the BSA fought to keep the files sealed, a Multnomah County judge, and later upon an appeal from the BSA, the Oregon Supreme Court, ordered the files released.

When I first wrote about the Oregon Supreme Court ruling, I was a bit surprised at the comments that came in; a fair number of trans people noted they were former Boy Scouts, some even reaching the highest rank, Eagle Scout. Many went on to leadership roles. All this was surprising to me. I did not think boys with gender identity questions would be inclined to participate. Yet many remember their days with the Boy Scouts fondly.

“I was a Boy Scout and obtained Eagle, held tons of leadership roles as a youth…” “I’m an Eagle too…I am a closeted transgender Eagle Scout…” “I am a Life Scout and have been staff on several leadership courses…”
“I was a Life scout too, and have had several leadership
positions. . . .”

At the same time, others are saying this: “…shameful to admit to being a part of the organization.” “… reports like this make me ashamed to be an Eagle Scout.” “I feel ashamed to admit I was ever a part of the Boy Scouts…”

The pattern is quite clear. Many trans people found the Boy Scouts worthy of enthusiastic participation earlier in their lives only later finding themselves perplexed after being tossed overboard by the BSA’s anti-LGBT stance. Now they are disgusted with the BSA’s handling of sex abuse incidents within the organization.

While there are those that are quietly working to persuade the BSA to change their stance on LGBT members, I’d say there’s been a setback. For those of you looking to participate in some form of scouting activity, look no further than the Girl Scouts. They’re on record of welcoming both trans kids and adults.

Courtney ODonnell

About Courtney O'Donnell

Courtney O'Donnell -- Transgender actress, advocate, and writer; star, 'Lexie Cannes'


  1. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. For many of us older trans women, coming from an age where we had very little support and very little role models–the first authentic trans woman I heard about, Rene Richards, was due to a Gallagher joke–there was an attempt to “man up” as teens, to deny who we were, or to seek cover for our feminine tendencies, and the BSA seemed like a good way to do it at the time. I’m happy we now live in a time when parents are more likely to be supportive of their transgender children, and when organizations like the GSA have made clear they will accept trans girls among their numbers. I only wish I could have grown up in such a time….

  2. I am a transsexual who also had attained the rank of Eagle Scout. Would’ve been a Girl Scout if they had let me back then.

  3. Kristen-Diane says:

    Hello! I AM a Transgender Eagle and I will not deny that I am I just never proclaim that I am an Eagle due to living full-time for the past five years and being on HRT for just over a year…….I loved your article though.

  4. Courtney O'Donnell says:

    In the time since this article was written, the Boy Scouts reaffirmed their decision to keep LGBT people from being members.

  5. Boys will be boys. It’s amazing how so many transgender individuals have history of attaining Eagle Scout, record of military services, being a husband and father.

  6. How interesting, I used to be a boy-scout as well.
    I got kicked out for not wanting to say the pledge of allegiance before transitioning though.

    I’m wondering if this is a trend due to parents detecting traces of femininity and general non-conformity to typical binary gender roles early on, and as such enroll them in the scouts to try and “man them up”?

  7. Bethany Anne says:

    I am a trans woman who is an Eagle Scout. I am also a current Summer Camp staff member of 5 years, rising to the position of Program Director. I love the Boy Scouts, I truly believe in the purpose and methods of the organization and I know it is something that you cannot find anywhere else. Now I find myself wishing to transition but knowing that I could probably never return to the BSA. I know about the Girl Scouts but I find that the difference in programming models are too great for me, so I ask this group: Is there an inclusive organization out there that is similar to the BSA but will be accepting of who I am?

  8. I too. Am an eagle scout. I am also post op and have been living as a house wife for the past 2yrs. I also love the scouts.. when are they goin7g to come in to the 21st centry?


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