Joe Maldonado was excited about his new Cub Scout pack from the moment he joined it. But the 8-year-old had only been settled into the Secaucus, NJ, group for about a month when his mom received a phone call that stunned his family: He was being kicked out because he hadn't always been a boy. Abbott Koloff takes on Joe's story for NorthJersey.com, explaining how the transgender third-grader, who was born a girl, started identifying as a boy as a toddler. Mom Kristie Maldonado suspected Joe's behaviors were more than just tomboy traits, and after Kristie did some research on transgender issues, she let Joe get a short haircut in second grade and "come out" as a boy—what he now says was "the best day of my life." Kristie notes he's been a "much happier child" since then, accepted as a boy by classmates and teachers at school and a member of a boys basketball team.
Which makes his Cub Scout pack's decision to boot him—reportedly based on complaints from other parents, an official from the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts told his mom—especially dismaying. "I'm way more angry than sad," Joe says. "My identity is a boy. If I was them, I would let every person in the world go in. It's right to do." Koloff talks about Joe's situation—maybe the first involving a transgender child rejected by the Scouts—in the context of the group's more clear-cut policy on gay issues and its murkier one on gender identity. In a statement, a Boy Scouts of America rep says the Cub Scouts is for boys only and that members' birth certificates will be used to determine "legal status," which one Scouts for Equality advocate calls a "new, unfair arbitrary standard." Even if the Cub Scouts eventually do ask Joe back, he won't return unless they apologize. "How dare they judge me," he says. "I don't have to explain it. It's the way I'm born." His story in full here. (Read more Longform stories.)