Image via Steven PetrowQuestion: I've been reading that the Girl Scouts are taking some big heat from "severe" conservatives like Bob Morris, the Indiana representative, who claims the group is a "radicalized organization" that "sexualizes" young girls and promotes homosexuality. It really got my goat when Morris wrote in an open letter: "Many parents are abandoning the Girl Scouts because they promote homosexual lifestyles," then deriding the organization further because it accepts transgender young people. These ridiculous allegations anger me and I'd like to do something. But what?
Answer: Buy more cookies.
As soon as I heard these off-the-wall charges that the Girl Scouts "are a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood" with First Lady Michelle Obama as their sergeant-in-arms, I went right out to stock up on Thin Mints, Samoas, and Do-si-dos. This nonsense all started last year when the Girl Scouts of Colorado and the national leadership accepted a seven-year-old who had been assigned male at birth but who had long identified as a girl. Some Girl Scouts and their parents responded to this courageous decision by disbanding local troops and organizing cookie boycotts - so the best-mannered response is to get out there and buy your faves!
Outside my local Harris Teeter, I explained to the young girls and their troop leader how proud I was of the Girl Scouts leadership for doing the right thing. There was no need for me to remind them of their own law, which every Girl Scout pledges to follow:
I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.
What could be a better example of all these noble goals than accepting a child who agrees to abide by that same code? A seven year-old who, by all accounts, is a good kid who just wanted to be a Girl Scout, honest and fair? The vitriol that ensued was not the slightest bit friendly or helpful, considerate or caring.
As satisfying as it is to fight fire with cookies, there's more we can (and must) do to further the mission of the well-mannered. At its core, manners are about respect for others, and we big boys and girls need to lead by example. To counter the message being spewed by Rep. Morris and others like him, I suggest you take this opportunity to spread an alternate message about kids and teens who don't align neatly with our expectations of gender behavior. Imagine how painful it is for those children to listen in on a national conversation based on vilifying them. Some of those children might be your own - your daughters and nieces, sons and nephews - who really need to hear that they're perfectly fine just the way they are.
If you're not comfortable talking about gender identity, you may want to download this brochure about gender variance in children. Once you realize just how unremarkable it is for kids to express a gender identity other than what their body shows, you'll probably find it easier to talk about it. Sure, you'll want to make your message age appropriate, but don't shy away from the discussion even if (especially if) it makes you uncomfortable.Ok, we've taken care of the teachable moment. Next up - leveraging social media to take the message public. Borrow a page from the recent Ellen vs. One Million Moms smack down by jumping on your Facebook account and "liking" the page called "Support Trans Inclusivity; Buy Girl Scout Cookies." Let everyone on your friend list know that you're buying up cookies like nobody's business. While you're at it, why not get to know the opposition: Visit (and post a message on) the "Make the Girl Scouts Clean Again" page, whose mission is "to separate the Girl Scouts from radical feminism in general and Planned Parenthood in particular." Or do the same on the "American Heritage Girls" page, a Christian Scouting organization founded in 1995 by parents "who were unhappy that the Girl Scouts accepted lesbians as troop leaders." Hold the vitriol and focus on the important message - respect, consideration, and caring. Just as the Girl Scout law says.
This column originally was published on Advocate.com.
Steven Petrow is the author of Steven Petrow's Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and can be found online at www.gaymanners.com. Got a question? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him on Facebook and Twitter.