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Canada's Girl Guides say all transgender girls are welcome

After years of accepting transgender girls on a case-by-case basis, the organization has released new guidelines, advising members to be sensitive to their needs.

Three years after the Girl Guides of Canada said it would start looking at how to best welcome transgendered children, the organization has unveiled a new, all-inclusive policy.

“All persons who live their lives as female are welcome to join the organization,” said the Girl Guides. “GGC recognizes and values the richness of human diversity in its many forms, and therefore strives to ensure environments where girls and women from all walks of life, identities, and lived experiences feel a sense of belonging and can participate fully.”

Before this, transgender girls who wanted to join were individually evaluated, “seeking expert advice and consultation on how best to support these children and their families,” according to the group’s statement in 2012.

The guidelines now point to counselors called Unit Guiders, who will work with transgender members and their parents, as well as a designated “inclusivity specialist.”

They also list questions and answers directing members on how to be sensitive toward transgender girls. For example, “it is not the role of a Guider to judge who is and who is not a boy or girl,” the organization states.

In response to the question, “What should I do with the information that a girl is transgender?” the Girl Guides instruct their members to treat her status as confidential, “unless otherwise directed by the girl.”

The pamphlet, which offers advice on seemingly everything from which kind of bathroom to provide to whether or not to call the transgender member “her,” sheds some light on the level of understanding many are seeking. The questions are important, if a little awkward.

The Girl Guides’ statement comes just months after a Washington state council of the Girl Scouts of the United States returned a $100,000 donation that sought to exclude transgender girls, revealing the amount of controversy that surrounds membership in these programs.

“Every girl that is a Girl Scout is a Girl Scout because her parent or guardian brings her to us and says, ‘I want my child to participate,’” Megan Ferland, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, said to Seattle Metropolitan. “And I don’t question whether or not they’re a girl.”

Youth groups aren’t the only ones trying to figure things out. In a move to raise awareness about LGBT issues, the White House in April opened its first gender-neutral bathroom, reported The Christian Science Monitor.

And this fall, an Illinois school district sprung to national attention for denying a transgender student full access to the girls’ locker room, sparking accusations of gender discrimination.

While district officials said they had offered the student a private locker room last year in efforts to respect the “privacy” of all their students, the girl’s family – and federal civil rights officials – said it amounted to stigmatizing the student.

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