9-Year-Old Joe Is The First Openly Transgender Member Of The Cub Scouts

Joe was removed from his local chapter last year, igniting a national debate about transgender children.

In late January, the Boy Scouts of America overturned a century-long policy to allow transgender boys to become members. While many hailed the decision, it most likely would not have come at this moment if not for 9-year-old Joe Maldonado, who late last year made national headlines after his local Cub Scouts chapter expelled him because he was transgender. One week after the policy change, Joe put his Cub Scouts uniform back on and proudly joined Pack 20 in Essex County, New Jersey.

"I can't believe me and my mom, and New Jersey — we got so much supporters," Joe said in a video by The Record. "I'm accepted."

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The leader of Pack 20, Kyle Hacker, praised Joe's "immense amount of courage." In December, after Joe was banned from the Boy Scouts, Hacker contacted The Record and said that he was petitioning the Northern New Jersey Council to allow Joe to join his group. The local council deferred to the organization's national bureau, and it initially resisted the change. 

But widespread media attention about the organization's refusal to alter its policy sparked a national debate about LGBTQ rights and specifically transgender children. Some pointed to the Boy Scouts' incremental improvement on those issues: doing away with its ban on allowing openly gay youth to participate in its activities in 2013, then ending its ban completely on having openly gay leaders. After becoming the subject of fervent public discussion, the organization overturned its ban on trans children becoming members. 

Parents of other Pack 20 members whom The Record interviewed were mostly welcoming of Joe. One father expressed surprise that the Boy Scouts changed their decision so quickly. "I thought it would happen in three to four years," he said. 

But as we've seen with progress on LGBTQ issues like the legalization of same-sex marriage, changing attitudes can lead to changing policies.

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