Commentary Sexuality

Scouting a New Path: Girl Scouts of America Creates Inclusive Gender Policy

Avital Norman Nathman

I know for a fact that I will be doubling my order of Thin Mints this year in support of a national organization that welcomes, supports, and empowers all girls.

A few months ago, the Girl Scouts of America (GSUSA) found themselves in the midst of a unique controversy. A Denver, Colorado troop initially refused to let 7-year-old Bobby Montoya join. Montoya, who identifies as female, was denied entry to the troop when Felisha Archuleta, Bobby’s mother, first approached them. After protests from Archuleta, and some media coverage, the Colorado Girl Scouts of America ended up welcoming Bobby into the scouts, and released a statement through GLAAD, clarifying the organizations policy:

“Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. […] If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

However, not everyone associated with the scouts agreed with this message of inclusivity. Just last month, three troops in Louisiana have disbanded over this policy when their troop leaders resigned from their positions. One of the former troop leaders, Susan Bryant-Snure, claimed that the message from the GSUSA is “extremely confusing,” and that it “goes against what we (Northlake Christian School) believe.”

In addition to disbanding some troops, thereby not allowing any girl in these area the opportunity to join the scouts, some parents are calling on a cookie boycott to protest the GSUSA’s inclusion of transgender girls into their organization. With a video quickly going viral, a 14-year-old girl, identified as Taylor from California, speaks on behalf of the group, Honest Girl Scouts, and is calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies.

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Not only is this video filled with an inaccurate description of transgender, but it does not seem to be espousing any of the Girl Scout values that I learned as a young scout. Compassion, diversity, education, and tolerance were all values that I, and my fellow troop members, held dear. In fact, part of the Girl Scout mission includes the following, “Girl Scouting helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect.”

To call for a boycott of cookies based on a decision to become more inclusive on the part of the GSUSA seems to go against everything the organization actually stands for.

I spoke with Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, a book that takes a look at modern girlhood. Orenstein weighed in on the current Girl Scout issue.

“If you start regulating what is a “girl” and what it is not, you quickly devolve into something really ugly. Think about the controversy over Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose sex was called into question because she was “too fast” for a girl. That was shameful. But what’s next? Should a girl born with no uterus be barred from Scouting? What about one with no ovaries? Should we test chromosomes to make sure there are no girls with Turner’s syndrome (meaning they have only one X chromosome)? What about girls who are chromosomally male but appear (and identify as) totally female because they don’t respond to their male hormones? Obviously, this particular issue affects few girls; the radical Right is using it to create a sex panic, to further its own agenda of intolerance and homophobia. By picking on little girls with cookies. That is so sad.”

For the most part, the video has ended up having the opposite affect. Instead of encouraging people to participate in the boycott, it has actually spurred many more folks to support the GSUSA by buying more cookies this year. Crystal Harvey, mother of two young girls from Massachusetts, shares her reaction to the video, “I honestly feel really sorry for that girl, that she’s been raised so bigoted and small minded. But on the other hand, I now have a really good reason to buy their cookies!!”

I know for a fact that I, too, will be doubling my order of Thin Mints this year in support of a national organization that welcomes, supports, and empowers all girls.

Commentary Abortion

Indiana Rep: Girl Scouts Are “Bent On Communism, Lesbianism And Destroying America”

Michael Hayne

Indiana GOP Rep. Bob Morris has claimed that the girls Scouts are “bent on promoting communism, lesbianism and subverting “traditional American family values,”" according to MSNBC.com. I will say that I am not a huge fan of their aborted-fetus flavored cookies, but I am quite partial to Lesbian Lemon Wafer.

With the US economy showing improvement, including the Dow Jones up nearly 100 percent, it can only mean that Republicans need to ratchet up the crazy talk on abortion and contraception, since they have nothing to run but fear and fear itself. No group or organization is safe, apparently not even the Girl Scouts of America (not to be confused with the less popular Girl Scouts of al-Qaeda).

Indiana GOP Rep. Bob Morris has claimed that the girls Scouts are “bent on promoting communism, lesbianism and subverting “traditional American family values,” according to MSNBC.com. I will say that I am not a huge fan of their aborted-fetus flavored cookies, but I am quite partial to Lesbian Lemon Wafer.

It is for this severely mentally unstable reason why Morris absolutely refuses to get on board with a resolution to that seeks to honor the Girl Scouts on their 100 year anniversary.

Morris wrote Saturday to Republican House colleagues in a letter obtained by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: “After talking to some well-informed constituents, I did a small amount of Web-based research, and what I found is disturbing.”

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The paranoid lunatic (who we now elect to public office) actually claimed in the letter that the Girls Scouts of America “have entered into a close strategic affiliation with Planned Parenthood and are trying to sexualiz(e) young girls through the Girl Scouts.” Of course, high fructose corn syrup and smut almost instantly come to mind regarding the Girl Scouts, not so much all the vast community service and leadership skills.

Not quite willing to stop embarrassing himself just yet, Morris went on to say that only “three of the 50 Girl Scout role models have a religious background,” according to the same letter. “All the rest are feminists, lesbians, or Communists,” wrote Morris.

It won’t be long before Morris drafts a House resolution stating that the Girl Scouts undergo mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds.

Here is a large portion of the letter Morris wrote:

Nonetheless, abundant evidence proves that the agenda of Planned Parenthood includes sexualizing young girls through the Girl Scouts, which is quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood instructional series and pamphlets are part of the core curriculum at GSA training seminars. Denver Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley of Denver last year warned parents that “membership in the Girl Scouts could carry the danger of making their daughters more receptive to the pro-abortion agenda.”

A Girl Scouts of America training program last year used the Planned Parenthood sex education pamphlet “Happy, Healthy, and Hot.” The pamphlet instructs young girls not to think of sex as “just about vaginal or anal intercourse.” “There is no right or wrong way to have sex. Just have fun, explore and be yourself!” it states. Although individual Girl Scout troops are not forced to follow this curriculum, many do. Liberal progressive troop-leaders will indoctrinate the girls in their troop according to the principles of Planned Parenthood, making Bishop Conley’s warning true.

Many parents are abandoning the Girl Scouts because they promote homosexual lifestyles. In fact, the Girl Scouts education seminar girls are directed to study the example of role models. Of the fifty role models listed, only three have a briefly-mentioned religious background – all the rest are feminists, lesbians, or Communists. World Net Daily, in a May 2009 article, states that Girl Scout Troops are no longer allowed to pray or sing traditional Christmas Carols.

Boys who decide to claim a “transgender” or cross-dressing life-style are permitted to become a member of a Girl Scout troop, performing crafts with the girls and participate in overnight and camping activities – just like any real girl. The fact that the Honorary President of Girl Scouts of America is Michelle Obama, and the Obama’s [sic] are radically pro-abortion and vigorously support the agenda of Planned Parenthood, should give each of us reason to pause before our individual or collective endorsement of the organization.

Commentary Sexual Health

New Minimum Standards for Sex Education: Progress or Retreat?

Debra Haffner

The newly released sexuality education standards set a minimum for school-based sexuality education. Yet even these leave out essential terms, information, and values. Because so many schools are still so far from adopting even minimal standards, I increasingly feel technology and social media will replace schools as the major source of sexuality education for children and young people.

More than twenty years ago, as the President and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), I co-directed the project to develop the first-ever national Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Kindergarten through 12th Grade. The Guidelines were published in 1991 as the nation’s schools were struggling with the content of sexuality and HIV education and—coincidently—were released on the Monday following the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. The Guidelines were lauded in a New York Times editorial, endorsed by dozens of organizations, used to create numerous new curricula, and replicated in countries around the world. 

Just a few years later, the federal abstinence-only-until-marriage education law was passed, providing more than a billion dollars over the years in federal funds for programs that had to teach that the only acceptable context for any sexual activity (not just intercourse) was heterosexual marriage. Since then, 26 states have adopted laws that require stressing abstinence, and 18 states have required teaching the importance of sex being confined to marriage. (Conversely, only 13 states have laws that require medically accurate information, and only 9 states require unbiased information on sexual orientation.) Moreover, hundreds of communities each year have battled over the content of sexuality education. These battles are often reduced to whether contraception and STD prevention can be taught in addition to abstinence information.

The fact is that the federal abstinence-only program changed the landscape of sexuality education in the United States, and the fear of controversy means that in most places, teachers are unwilling or indeed unable to teach much beyond what I labeled more than two decades ago as “disaster prevention and organ recitals.” Most schools do not have programs that teach about pleasure, desire, orientation, gender identity, sexual limit setting, masturbation, and abortion. Many teachers have not received adequate training in sexuality education, and the average young person according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention receives fewer than 3 hours in elementary school and six hours in middle school on HIV, pregnancy, and STD prevention.     

I have increasingly begun to feel that the schools will never be able to be the major source of sexuality education for children and young people.  As a long-term advocate for school-based sexuality education, I am dismayed to reach this conclusion. 

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Still, I was eager to read the recently released National Sexuality Education Standards, Core Content and Skills, K-12, co-published this week by the American School Health Association, National Education Association, American Association for Health Education, and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education. They were developed by the Future of Sex Education Initiative, a partnership between Advocates for Youth, Answer, and SIECUS.

The introduction to the National Sexuality Education Standards makes the point, indeed in several places, that they are the “the essential minimum, core content” and “minimum, essential content and skills” (italics theirs) for young people. And indeed, they are minimal. I realize that the new standards are not meant to replace the Guidelines. The Guidelines set up the ideal comprehensive sexuality education program and these standards give us the minimum.  Still, I was somewhat surprised to see that the following words appear nowhere in the new Standards: pleasure, desire, kissing, masturbation, fantasy, dysfunction, marriage preparation, limit setting.  As a minister, I am most distressed that the words love, parenthood (except as in “Planned Parenthood”), and marriage preparation also do not appear anywhere in the document.

The areas of shared sexual behavior (beyond stating that students should be able to define sexual intercourse by the 8th grade (!)), marriage, raising children, assertiveness, negotiation, masturbation, shared sexual behaviors, sexual fantasy, sexual dysfunction, sexuality and law, sexuality and religion, sexuality and the media (beyond expanded information on safe use of technology), and sexuality and the arts—all central to the Guidelines—are all also missing from the new standards. The Standards do contain expanded information on sexual and gender orientation and identity, and it is gratifying to see these included in the consensus of what minimally young people need.

As a minister, I am also concerned that the Standards do not seem to adequately commit themselves to the values-based programs that our young people need.  Nowhere do they call for honoring the diversity of religious and moral values represented in our communities, nor do they call for explicitly teaching that decisions about sexual behaviors should be based on moral and ethical values, as well as considerations of physical and emotional health. Finally, they do not call for any respectful discussion of the differing sides of controversial sexual issues. 

Perhaps my greatest concern about the new Standards, however, is that the goal of sexuality education in helping create sexually healthy adults is completely missing. The Guidelines identified the life behaviors of a sexually healthy adult and named “helping young people develop the capacity for caring, supportive, non-coercive, and mutually pleasurable intimate and sexual relationships” in adulthood as a central goal of sexuality education. Just as civics classes are offered to help young people grow into politically involved adults and responsible citizens, so should sexuality education ultimately lead to adults who appreciate their bodies, take care of their sexual and reproductive health, and have the ability to form meaningful intimate relationships, including friendships, lifelong unions, and parent-child bonds.

Do not get me wrong, I understand the importance of meeting schools where they are now and I do hope that these standards will be quickly adopted by states and local school boards.  While the information included is correctly identified as the essential minimum young people should learn in school, too many public schools aren’t even providing that today and hopefully these standards will encourage more schools to adopt sexuality education and help others improve what they are offering. 

Having said that, we must remain conscious that these standards will not fulfill young people’s needs for information and education about sexuality issues, nor do they adequately provide a values-based framework for young people’s decision making. We have to realize that the vast majority of public schools will not offer young people the type of comprehensive sexuality education they need. 

Which brings me back to my strong belief that the future of sexuality education is not in the public schools.

Rather, the future of sexuality education will continue in the emerging world of technology that can deliver content to young people without adult controls and through programs in America’s faith communities and community-based organizations.  The good news of the past decade is that while the adults fight over what content is acceptable in public school curricula, teens are obtaining information outside of school. Teenagers receive more information online, from health services, and from their families, than from their schools. There are excellent dedicated sexual information sites for teens, such as Scarleteen and Sex, Etc., and SMS education (texting) is increasingly available.

Faith-based organizations and community-based organizations can also more easily provide a forum for young people to receive values-based sexuality education than the public school. These programs can assist young people in developing the capacity for moral discernment and a freely informed conscience for responsible sexual decision making.  In fact, a dozen denominations offer sexuality education in their congregations, and they are specifically empowered to offer values-based education to children and teens outside of their home.  The recent decision by the Girl Scouts of the USA to welcome transgender scouts provides another example of how community-based organizations can exercise a more inclusive commitment than many school districts.

In 1989, I wrote in a publication called Sex Education 2000, that sexuality education is a community responsibility: that parents, schools, the media, religious institutions, government, health care services, and community-based agencies all have a crucial role.  In 2012, it’s still true.