SEATTLE — It’s not every day the Girl Scouts or any non-profit is handed a $100,000 pledge.
The Girl Scouts of Western Washington recently received the donation to help fund activities for girls participating in Girl Scouts.
But the gift came with a catch.
As transgender stories took over the airwaves in May, the Girl Scouts national organization clarified its long-existing policy allowing transgender girls to be Girl Scouts.
That may have inspired the donor to sending a note adding one condition: “Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls,” the note read, according to Seattle Metropolitan magazine’s Monday story. “If you can’t, please return the money.”
Girl Scouts of Western Washington council head Megan Ferland said she felt “very sad” after receiving that letter. But shortly thereafter, she says she decided to return the money.
“Girl Scouts is for every girl,” she told Seattle Metropolitan. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”
The Western Washington council set up an Indigogo fundraiser to replace the donation, and the “Girl Scouts is #ForEVERYGirl” page has already raised more than $121,000 from about 2,400 donors in one day.
Transgender girls are welcome in the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, a stance that has attracted controversy from some quarters.
“Our position is not new,” Andrea Bastiani Archibald, the Girl Scouts USA’s chief girl expert, told CNN in May. “It conforms with our continuous commitment to inclusivity.”
The Girl Scouts’ guidance on serving transgender girls, on its “Frequently Asked Questions” page, was actually made public four years ago.
“Placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis, with the welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the troop/group in question a top priority,” states the FAQ. “That said, if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.”
In 2012, a Denver troop attracted accolades and criticism for allowing a transgender girl to join its troop. One side effect: Supporters encouraged people to buy more cookies from their local troops while opponents advised people to stay away from the treats.
The guidance has upset conservative religious groups, which claimed that the Girl Scouts would be allowing boys “who are confused” as members.
The American Family Association created an online petition on May 13 to ask the organization to restrict its membership to “biological girls.” It’s attracted more than 40,000 e-signatures as of June 30.
“This means girls in the organization will be forced to recognize and accept transgenderism as a normal lifestyle,” the petition reads. “Boys in skirts, boys in make-up and boys in tents will become a part of the program. This change will put young innocent girls at risk.”
On May 14, Archibald wrote a blog post citing Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low as the source of diversity that is essential to the organization.
“Our mission to build ‘girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place’ extends to all members, and through our program, girls develop the necessary leadership skills to advance diversity and promote tolerance,” Archibald wrote.
However, the Girl Scouts USA will not make local councils admit anyone. The 112 Girl Scout councils across the country are all separate nonprofit organizations. That’s 2.8 million Girl Scouts — 2 million children and 800,000 adult members who are mostly volunteers.
“Inclusion of transgender girls is handled at a council level on a case by case basis, with the welfare and best interests of all members as a top priority,” Archibald wrote in her blog post.
What about their critics? “Luckily, we don’t serve our critics,” she told CNN. “We are proud to serve all girls.”