Cub scout breaks barriers

Joe Maldonado, 9, was in the car with his mother when she got the call in November telling them that he was barred from the Boy Scouts.

He knew what all the fuss was about, why the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts of America said he had to leave a Cub Scout pack just weeks after he had joined.

“Because I was born a girl,” he said by phone on Thursday from his home in Secaucus, N.J.

How things have changed.

This week, Joe put on a borrowed uniform and attended his first meeting as a member of the Maplewood Cub Scouts. He took the oath, was given a handbook and joined the other boys in learning how to cook. He also made plans to build model cars.

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Joe became one of the first transgender children to join the organization after the Boy Scouts of America announced on Jan. 30 that it was reversing its policy of more than a century and would accept members based on the gender listed on their application.

His attendance at the Cub Scouts meeting may have been groundbreaking, but to Joe, it was all just a good time. “I had a lot of fun,” he said. “I had a permanent smile on my face. I felt like I belonged there.”

He spoke a while longer before darting off to do other things. He was home from school because of the heavy snow.

His mother, Kristie Maldonado, said that seeing Joe in the Scout uniform on Tuesday made her “proud, happy.” She added: “It is about time. It should not have been. It should never have happened, and we should have never went through it.”

Ms. Maldonado recalled her reaction to being told last year that her son had to leave the Scouts. An official at the council was “pretty much saying that he could no longer be in the Scouts because his identity was a girl,” she said. “He mentioned my child’s birth name. I jumped down his throat and said, ‘No, his identity is a boy.’ ”

The Northern New Jersey council was closed on Thursday because of the snow, and an email sent to Eric Chamberlin, a deputy scout executive there, was not immediately answered.

But Effie Delimarkos, the director of communications for the Boy Scouts of America, said in an email: “The Boy Scouts of America is pleased to welcome Joe and the Maldonado family back into the Scouting community. Moving forward, the B.S.A. will continue to work to bring the benefits of our programs to as many children, families and communities as possible.”

In its statement announcing the policy reversal, the Boy Scouts said that using the information on a person’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for single-gender programs was “no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”

Michael Surbaugh, the Scouts’ chief executive, added in a recorded message that the decision came after weeks of “significant conversations at all levels of our organization.”

The move was the latest transformation of the Scouts’ approach to gender identity and sexual orientation. In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America ended its ban on allowing openly gay youths to participate in activities, and two years later, its ban on openly gay adult leaders.

The Record newspaper of Northern New Jersey, which has reported on Joe’s story, wrote about his ejection from the Secaucus Cub Scouts last year. “I had a sad face, but I wasn’t crying,” he was quoted as saying. “I’m way more angry than sad. My identity is a boy. If I was them, I would let every person in the world go in. It’s right to do.”

Shortly after the policy reversal, Ms. Maldonado said on Thursday, she received a second call from the regional council saying that Joe could rejoin. She registered him in the Cub Scouts in Maplewood, a town about 18 miles southwest of Secaucus.

On his application, she marked that he is a boy, as Joe himself has been telling her since he was just more than 2 years old, she said.

At the Maplewood meeting, Joe did not yet have his own uniform, so he put on a borrowed one and dived into the activities.

“I had a lot of fun,” he said. “I learned how to cook and how to get prepared for cooking.”

He made friends. They planned to make cars in a wood shop and race them. He was asked about his hamsters. The other children were “very nice,” he said. “One is really funny.” He pronounced the event “amazing, phenomenal.”

Joe said pack leaders asked him how he felt that night. They said, “I can see you are very happy,” he said. “And I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”

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