Sunday, October 15, 2017

Wherein my childhood dream is--almost--realized

That's my Cub Scout handbook. Not because I once was in the Cub Scouts (oh, how I wish!), but because I saw it at a yard sale and bought it.

This week the Boy Scouts of America announced that girls would be allowed to join. In reading some of the news and editorial pieces about this proclamation, I learned that some Boy Scout troops have been allowing girls to join for years--for decades, some of them.


I am so, so happy for all the like-identifying young girls who are eager to go on those camp-outs and attend those rallies and, most important, get started on that prestigious Eagle Scout status.

And I am so sad and bitter that it has taken this long.

Seriously, what is the deal with all this gender isolation agenda?

And by the way, yes, yes, I know many modern-day Girl Scout troops do many of the wonderful things Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops do, such as hiking and camping, but they certainly did not in the 1960's when I wanted to join. And can I just be totally honest here? As a young girl, I didn't want to hang out with other girls. At all. Ever. I never played with dolls--I found it creepy. (It's a dead baby, after all, isn't it?) Playing "dress up" was like trying on really ugly clown costumes. (No. Just... no.) I didn't have the patience to sit and color in a book for hours (though I could sit somewhere quietly for long stretches putting words on a page, but that's an entirely different activity, isn't it?). I never understood the concept of "playing house," because the entire reason I wanted to play outside (with my male friends) all day every day was to get away from the chores and dust and drudgery of all that.

Plus I wanted to climb trees and dig in the dirt and plant things and play Cowboys and Indians and play with any toy with wheels made by Tonka--bonus points if the thing had winches or pulleys or sirens or a backhoe. 

Mind you, I was not what would be characterized as a healthy, outdoorsy kind of kid. I was a tiny, underweight thing with poor vision, malformed lungs, no muscles, and a constantly sniffling nose. But that didn't stop me from wanting desperately to go on fishing trips (never the hunting trips) with my dad, or to go camping or exploring. (Kind of like the kinds of things I like to do now--but no still no fishing.)

Alas, I was not allowed to go. "You're a girl. Girls don't do that sort of thing" still rings in my ears.

In the fifth grade, I tried joining the Girl Scouts. I barely survived a single meeting with my dignity intact. For that abysmal, torturous hour, we sat in the elementary school cafeteria with bars of Dove soap, pink netting and sequins spread on the table before us, our goal being to somehow transform all that girly stuff into a lovely gift for our moms. Dear Jesus, get me through this hour somehow and I promise I will never, ever be unfaithful to my true identity ever again, amen, I prayed.

So I hounded my mom for a year or two to let me join the Boy Scouts, to no avail. (By then, my dad had passed, but he would have said no, too.)

And so, yeah, if you know me well (or follow this blog on a regular basis), you know that I spend just about every spare hour of my life making it up to myself by roaming in the woods, hiking, going exploring and having similar adventures.

Label me as you will--tomboy, androgynous, gender fluid--this is who I am. No shame--I had enough of that as a child, so don't even bring it now. I'll cut you (not with my really cool Boy Scout pocket knife with the letters BSA right there on the handle, but with my words).

We are fifty years gone from my childhood, and still there is (shockingly) push back on the BSA allowing those-identifying-as-female to join--even from the GSA (of all people!). FOX News ran a story three days ago entitled "Eagle Scout: RIP Boy Scouts of America. You were great for 100 years." Because apparently folks still believe that once girls join a club, they ruin everything.

Please, America, I implore you on behalf of all the little Kays out there, whether identifying as "male" or "female" or somewhere in between (You know "Kay" is both a "boy's" and a "girl's" name, right?), to cast aside this ridiculous gender separation agenda and simply let kids choose. Girls and boys who want to play dress up and rock the (dead) baby will do so. Girls and boys who want to learn how to build a campfire and catch a lizard and operate the manual transmission on a Hemi-powered dually will do so. Trust me. Dear god, please trust me--you don't have to tell them which gender to choose. They already know what they are.


  1. I love your post, but I have very mixed feelings about this. I think it will weaken the Girl Scouts and my scouting experience was very different. My aunt had her troop hike the Appalachian Trail. The times I spent with her I learned to canoe, ski, build a fire, identity poisonous plants. And yes, make a lanyard and a ceramic ashtray. But she was a bad ass leader. That's why I became a Brownie leader (my current Facebook pic) and I don't think we were too girly. Tent camping in the rain and cooking potatoes in hot ashes. I think girls can learn to take risks and stretch themselves when there are no boys around to change the dynamic. Just my view. I'm sure some girls will love joining the Boy Scouts, I just hope that the Girl Scouts don't lose all the bad asses.

  2. Jimi, thanks for your insight here. (And man, would I have loved to be in your GSA troop! We would have torn it up, girlfriend!) I think the girls who enjoy socializing with other girls will still enjoy GSA activities. But I also think that girls who are Questioning, as I was, will find a more comfortable space with the BSA. Or perhaps we will see the gloriously enlightened time in which a girl or boy will happily sign-up for dual membership--just to make sure "they" cover all the bases. [Insert happy face and many hearts here.] I don't mean to detract from all the good stuff GSA does (beyond cookie sales, which, in my humble opinion, do a tremendous service to mankind by providing many months' worth of Thin Mints--because they freeze well). I was really just trying to find words to describe how it was for me and my own gender identification trying to navigate those waters in 1964.

    1. Thanks for helping me understand. Sometimes I'm clueless. I liked Girl Scouts because I wanted to be away from boys sometimes; the giggling felt safe, not annoying. I'm now thinking you have a good point. Maybe kids picking the troop the like will work out best for all.

  3. Growing up, I spent my summers on a farm. A real life, working farm. So I learned to drive a tractor before I learned how to drive a car. I also climbed trees, hiked down my the creek, went fishing, and so on and so forth. Not because these were "boy" activities. But because I wanted to do them. They were fun. They were part of country life. I also played with Barbie dolls, played piano, tried on my Mother's old dresses and played dress up with my friends. Not because these were "girl" activities. Because I enjoyed them. I truly believe we will have gotten to be where we need to be as a society when people just do things - not because they are supposed to do them - but because they are good at them, enjoy them, and get something out of them. A person can cook, camp, hike, do crafts, start a fire, fish, or just hang out . . . without any idea that it's a "Boy Scouts" or a "Girl Scouts" activity. That's were I'd like to be. ***End of Rant***

    1. Ha! That's where I'd like to be as well, Carolyn! That's exactly where I would like us all to be. And, truth be known, I think we're slowly getting there. The generation raising children now is far more open to allowing their kids to choose what they'd like to play with instead of giving them gender-specific toys. So we're making progress!