The leader of a Maplewood cub scout troop is petitioning the regional Cub Scouts council allow an 8-year-old boy to join the pack after he was kicked out of his Secaucus troop for being transgender.
Cub Scout Pack 20 leader Kyle Hackler told NBC New York Thursday that he disagreed with the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts' decision to give Joe Maldonado the boot from Pack 87 following complaints from parents.
"It breaks my heart to see that this little boy is going through this situation," he said. "All he wants to do is be with his friends."
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Joe was born a girl but has identified as male for more than a year. He joined Pack 87 in Secaucus in October and was asked to leave about a month later, according to The Record. His mother, Kristie Maldonado, said Joe is accepted as a boy at school.
Though he can't cite any specfic reasons for opposition to Joe's membership, Hackler believes that a lack of knowledge about the transgender community and gender identity is what led to his dismissal. He chose to head the Maplewood troop because of the community's open and understanding nature, which is why the decision to give Joe the boot didn't sit well.
"This is a community that's supposed to be understanding," he said. "People who don't understand his situation are upset because they're letting a girl into Boy Scouts. It's deeper than that."
The Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts did not respond to a request for comment.
Boy Scouts of America Spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said Thursday in a statement to NBC New York that Joe doesn't meet the eligibility requirements to participate in the Cub Scout program. However, the organization did offer information on alternative program options.
"The BSA grants youth membership to Cub Scout to boys in the first through fifth grades, or 7 to 10 years of age," she said. "If needed we defer to the information provided for an individual's birth certificate and their biological sex."
She added that scouting "teaches its youth members and adult leaders to be respectful of other people and individual beliefs."
In a statement earlier this month, Delimarkos said the organization does not restrict members based on sexual orientation, but considers gender identity a separate issue, and that Cub Scout programs are for those identified as boys on their birth certificates.
Hackler said birth certificates aren't a required part of the application process, but noted that there is a question to indicate gender.
Earlier this year, the Boy Scouts told The Associated Press that it would admit transgender children to its coeducational programs, but not to programs that are for boys only, like the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
Although the private youth organization has the right to do as they choose, Hacker said understanding the complexities of all scouts, transgender members in particular, is important in successfully fostering morality. He implored the Boy Scouts to look beyond the birth certificate, which only tells half the story.
He's got a message for the opposing parents and councilmembers.
"Stop, listen to the situation. Open your mind and you might learn something."