Image Credit: Kristie Maldonado
The scout leader asked to see a copy of his birth certificate, then banned him from the group for being born a girl, which followed the policy of the Boy Scouts of America.
Mom Kristie Maldonado told Independent Journal Review that she decided to take action to support her son:
“In my mind, and as a mother, I felt like he had every right to be in the Boy Scouts. Why would there be a problem? He wasn’t causing any problems, all of the kids welcomed him — we’re in a small town, so they all know each other from the park — not one child said 'Joe, you don’t belong here' or 'what are you doing here?' Not one.”
According to Kristie, the refusal from the pack came at a time when the family and his school system were just starting to feel comfortable with Joe's new identity.
For years Kristie thought that Joe was a tomboy. Then known as Jodi, she preferred wearing boys' clothing and playing with her boy friends.
But then in 2015, when Jodi cried for six hours for being forced to wear a dress for graduation, and told his mom that he was a boy, Kristie started reading more about transgender children.
According to GLAAD, transgender is a term to recognize people who are born one sex but identify with another. Kristie said that Joe had shown signs of being transgender since he was two-and-a-half:
“There were red flags when he was a toddler. When I said 'you looked pretty,' he would respond with 'no, I’m handsome.' When he was growing up, he would say 'I’m a boy' and 'I feel like a boy' constantly.”
After taking a test on the signs of a transgender person — and identified 7 out of the 8 symptoms — she decided to talk to a therapist:
“I was looking for an answer. I just kept looking and reading stories, reading everything I could about transgender people, and there isn't an answer. I came to the point where I put my hands up and said that's it. It is what it is.”
Around that time, Joe mentioned he wanted to change his name and get a shorter haircut. It took Kristie awhile to come around to the haircut, but she finally caved in:
“After the haircut I had issues with his school system, and had to have an advocate come in and tell them what needed to be done to support him. I had had enough with the school; Joe wasn’t going back to school unless things would change.”
The advocate helped teach Joe's classmates about what it means to be transgender. Joe finally was feeling more comfortable, and decided to join the Boy Scouts to spend time with his friends.
At first the pack didn't mind — the community was well aware that Joe was transgender — but then parents started complaining. Then came the phone call.
Joe was devastated. Kristie said it hurt when only one mom in the Cub Scout pack stood up for her when she went to go get a refund.
She called her advocate, and together they called the media.
News of the pack's actions spread quickly. Many of the other nearby packs started offering to take Joe in as a member. Then a few weeks later, the Boy Scouts of America released a statement on a rule reversal that allows transgender children.
In a statement released by the Boy Scouts of America, the organization said:
"For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs. However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.
Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application."
Joe was welcomed into his new pack earlier this week. In his first meeting, Joe's new scout leader, Kyle Hackler told the boys, as reported by North Jersey:
“The reason tonight is so historic is because Joe is brave enough to be the first openly transgender boy to join the Scouts. That takes an immense amount of courage. If anything exemplifies scout oath and law, it's courage of Joe to not do this for his own benefit but for the benefit of those behind him.”
Mom Kristie was proud to see her son recognized for his bravery. She said she'll continue to support him as new social battles arise.
Every now and then she still wishes that perhaps he will one day go back to being Jodi as life would be easier, but she knows it's just wishful thinking:
“If he decides to change back, great, but based on what I've read it is unlikely. Statistics show that if this behavior continues for many years, it won’t change. As a parent, I know it’s not going to be an easy life for my child. Did I want this for Joe? No, I wanted his life to be easy peasy. But this is a different road and I'm on it for the ride.”
Even though most Boy Scout leaders agree with the decision, Kristie has received criticism from parents for allowing her son to be transgender. Kristie previously tried explaining what transgender is to new people, but has since given up:
“I think people should educate themselves. That’s up to them, I shouldn’t have to explain my child. If you're interested in my child, read. Go on the internet like I did.”
What gives Kristie courage is the knowledge that she's fighting for her family's acceptance in their hometown, and helping all of the children who come after Joe.
Kristie said she wrote the Boy Scouts of America an email after they changed their rules: “I thanked them for making their decision, if it wasn't for them nothing would’ve changed. We wouldn't be here. Things happen for a reason.”