It came to my attention this morning that a 14 year old girl scout cadet created this video calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies because Girl Scouts permits transsexual children to join scouts. Like the cadet, I was a Girl Scout for nearly a decade. My friends were Girl Scouts and our brothers were Boy Scouts. When I was about this scout’s age, the Boy Scouts were under fire for expelling homosexual scouts and scoutmasters. My Girl Scout troop discussed the scandal, and we agreed emphatically that we were ashamed of the Boy Scouts’ decision to alienate scouts and leaders based on sexuality. We were proud that we were part of a more inclusive, welcoming organization. Some of the boys I knew dropped out of Boy Scouts, not because they were gay, but because they wouldn’t support an organization that openly discriminated against minority boys.
The cadet uses the term “transgender boys” throughout her presentation, but it is not transgender boys that GSUSA welcomes. It’s transgender girls. Sometimes she forgets to say transgender at all and simply refers to them as boys. This tells me that she and her supporters don’t understand what it means to be transgender. The Honest Girl Scouts are against gay rights and a woman’s right to choose, and I believe that’s their right. But transgender isn’t a moral choice like abortion. It’s a medical condition. Transgender doesn’t mean that the child woke up one day and decided to pretend to be a girl to get into a club. What causes a person to look like one gender and feel like another is actually a biological process beyond their control.
While a body is (usually) distinctly male or female, the brain, for a number of reasons, might develop as the opposite sex. Scientists are finding that just as there are male bodies and female bodies, there are also male brains and female brains; and those bodies don’t always end up with brains that match. The BBC has a great article about “brain sex” here. A University of Cambridge study found that 17% of males have “female” brains, and 17% of females have “male” brains.
Beyond “brain sex,” there are situations that sometimes cause babies to exhibit both male and female traits, or even have one apparent, external sex, but another latent sex that shows up later in life, usually at puberty. In the case of hermaphroditic babies (babies with both male and female sex organs), the parents usually choose for their baby to be surgically “corrected” to one sex or the other. In short, they guess what kind of brain their baby has, and hope they’re right. Sometimes they are. But other times, the baby grows up feeling stuck in the wrong body, and ends up having more surgeries later in life to make his or her outside match how they think and feel.
For some people, having the “wrong” sex brain is ok. I’m a woman, but my mental traits are more in line with a “male” brain. I’m less empathetic and more analytical. I have have typically masculine relationships with men and typically feminine relationships with women, although relationships with other women are challenging for me. My (male) romantic partner is more female-brain. The way we relate to each other is backwards of typical male-female communications, but it works for us because we are able to acknowledge and find humor in the “backwards” nature of our relationship. Other people feel the effects of mismatching more strongly, and for them it can be extremely difficult to come into their personal identities because they feel alienated by their own bodies.
Sometimes the mismatch comes from a person having more than one set of DNA. In a rare condition called chimerism, two eggs which would normally become fraternal twins fuse to grow into one person. That one person carries two full sets of DNA and may have disagreeing traits. Some extreme examples include people with drastically different skin tones on different parts of their bodies, or two eyes of different colors. Sometimes one organ will have different DNA from the rest of the body, or little patches of DNA will be scattered throughout the body. If the two eggs are of different sexes, a child might be born hermaphroditic, or with disagreeing sex traits (such as exhibiting as male physically and female neurologically).
In still another medical condition which is completely beyond the child’s control, some children are born with XXY chromosomes, which mean these children have both the female (XX) and male (XY) chromosomes. These children are born apparently normal male children, but at puberty they don’t develop normally as boys. They have small, underdeveloped genitals and low testosterone, and they might develop breasts! Most commonly, these people decide to undergo testosterone therapy and remove their breast tissue, but some have reported feeling like a girl stuck in a boy’s body until the breasts started appearing, and live the rest of their lives as women.
Some scientists believe that transgender individuals may also result when, in fetal development, male hormones are not introduced at the proper time or quantity to result in a normal male. If these hormones, called androgens, are introduced in insufficient quantity or too early or too late, a child might develop sexual characteristics of one sex and neurological characteristics of the other.
A trans girl is someone who was born looking like a boy but who lives like a girl 100% of the time. For whatever medical reason, she does not identify with her male body. She usually goes by a girl’s name even if she was given a boy’s name at birth. She dresses in girls’ clothes all the time, or would if allowed to. With supportive parents, she might be enrolled in school as a girl. She’d take girls’ gym, usually changing in a bathroom stall or other private area. Her condition is probably a very painful secret. Often times when a trans child or teen’s condition is unveiled, they have faced ridicule, rejection, and sometimes violence.
This girl will probably take hormones to prevent her male body from undergoing puberty. Delaying puberty will prevent her from growing wide shoulders and masculine facial traits, and will also delay sexual maturation. Her long-term goals might include surgical gender reassignment, but even if she is against the idea of plastic surgery, she will most likely want to be addressed as a woman for the rest of her life. She will apply for jobs as a woman, and she’ll most likely look for a male life partner.
Like girls who have survived other sexual traumas, like a girl who survived female genital mutilation in her home country, or a girl who survived rape or sexual abuse, a transgender girl may be in desperate need of acceptance and love, and some quality girl time in a safe environment like GSUSA. Like other victims of sexual trauma, her private parts may look or work a little differently from other girls in her troop. If Girl Scouts is anything like it was when I was a scout, that won’t matter, because her private parts will stay private.