Viewpoint

A Girl Scout’s inspiring moral courage

KRT

Thank heaven for little girls.

So sang French actor Maurice Chevalier in a famous song celebrating “their little eyes so helpless” and the fact that “they grow up in the most delightful way.”

Well, we are here to thank heaven for little Girl Scouts – and for former girl, Megan Ferland, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. We are indebted to her for a recent act of moral courage.

Last spring, a donor she declines to identify gave Ferland’s chapter an outsized gift: $100,000. Ferland told Seattle Met, a local magazine, that this represented nearly a quarter of the council’s annual fundraising goal – and an opportunity for 500 girls to go to camp. She and her staff were over the moon.

They came back to Earth quickly. In May, as Bruce Jenner’s transformation into a woman was dominating the news, Ferland received a note from her donor: “Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls. If you can’t, please return the money.”

Ferland returned the money.

Asked why she did it, she gave a simple explanation: “Girl Scouts is for every girl.” Indeed. As the Boy Scouts continue their stumble toward inclusivity – they did not fully banish racial segregation until 1974, did not welcome gay boys until 2013 and have yet to accept gay men as leaders – the girls have made it part of their DNA. From their founding 103 years ago, they have welcomed girls regardless of race. They will not reject anyone because of sexual orientation. In 2012, they affirmed a policy of case-by-case acceptance of transgender girls.

As they say, girls rule, boys drool.

The story, you'll be happy to know, has a happy ending. Ferland turned to crowd-funding on Indiegogo.com to replace the missing money. The current tally is just north of a quarter-million dollars. But the money raised is less impressive than the example set.

One need not be unsympathetic to transgender people to empathize with those who feel the world is becoming ever more confusing.

Homosexuality once seemed the last frontier of sexual identity in terms of public acceptance, but we now find ourselves grappling with the needs and demands of the transgender community – those who feel they were born with the wrong gender characteristics and often take steps, whether surgical, cosmetic or cultural, to rectify the error.

How do the rest of us relate to that population? How do we accommodate them? What public restrooms do they use?

These are not easy questions, and it is understandable that some of us find them difficult. What is not understandable is the impulse to handle difficult questions by segregating those who make them necessary behind barbed wire of social rejection.

It is a tactic that has been tried repeatedly by coercion of custom, force of law and threat of violence. When in all of the grand sweep of time has it ever worked?

Never. The trend of humanity is always toward more freedom and more inclusion for more people.

In rejecting what amounted to a $100,000 bribe, Ferland implicitly recognized this. If the path she chose was uncertain financially and difficult socially, it was also gutsy and heartening – a powerful defense of human dignity.

Thank heaven for little girls? Chevalier didn’t know the half of it.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

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