By the time you read this, gentle reader, the election to end all elections will have (finally) ended. If the polls at press time are any indication, you’re probably witnessing some parliamentary fun with minority governments. However, spare a moment of thought for past Ashley who, as of this writing, is still waiting for the results to come in. As an antidote for this sad state of affairs, I was determined to write about something happy this week—and it did not take me long to find a subject: last week, the Girl Guides of Canada released new guidelines which officially welcome “all persons who live their lives as female” to join. In other words: trans* girls are in, no questions asked.
Before I get into this, I want to talk a little about my experience with Guides. The organization comes with some historical baggage: started in 1910 in the UK, its original mission was to teach domestic skills and a kind of first-wave feminism that preached middle-class values, outdoor skills and citizenship training. As the organization evolved, it has quietly become a preacher of intersectional feminism.
Let me give you a personal example: I joined Girl Guides as a teenager. One of the perks of being a teenaged member was that during the off-season, in exchange for clearing some of the endlessly invasive Scotch broom, you could spend the weekend in a Guide campsite for free, sans adult supervision. To a 17-year-old this was the best deal around, so a few times a year we could usually cajole a parent or two to drive us out to the sticks after school on a Friday afternoon and abandon us there until Sunday night. (Perhaps someone in our group was 18, which is why we could get away with this, or maybe an adult was there. I don’t know; the details are getting hazy.)
Although many of you might be picturing weed- and alcohol-fuelled debauchery, our naughtiest transgressions involved playing poker with a pack of cheesy naked-man playing cards. What we mostly did was talk: about politics, sex, bodies, feminism. Almost all of us have subsequently come out as queer or trans*. Now, I am not suggesting that Girl Guides is a recruitment camp for proto-queers (would that it was), but rather, it was a space for us to develop our budding political and sexual identity. Our troop meetings had the same flavour: in the days before the Internet really took hold, I learned most of my important lessons about sex from my troop leader.
Everyone’s experience is going to be shaped by local leaders, but it seems like the national organization is committed to making sure that every girl has the same experience I did. Since at least 2012, Girl Guides of Canada has been allowing trans* girls to join on a case-by-case basis; the new guidelines are effective immediately. These guidelines are pretty amazing. They include a list of definitions (such as “cisgender,” “gender nonconforming” and “two spirit”), a lengthy Q&A section that covers, amongst other things, transitioning not being a single moment, the washroom bogeyman and how to support a kid who comes out as trans*, and they conclude with a list of damn good resources. In short, it looks like Girl Guides of Canada has done their research—they worked with a trans* consultant! And used the right language!—and created a practical, useful set of guidelines that centre and acknowledge trans* girls. It’s nice to see that an organization that used to swear an oath to God knows how.V