Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth in Girl Scouts
Supporting LGBTQ+ Girl Scouts requires special care and attention
LGBTQ+ youth often face prejudice and discrimination that their cisgender and straight peers do not and are put at risk for negative mental health outcomes and suicide as a result. Overall, 40% of LGBTQ+ youth have seriously considered suicide in the past year, and that percentage rises and falls based on how much and what forms of prejudice and discrimination they face, and conversely what additional support they have (The Trevor Project, 2020). When we affirm the identities of our LGBTQ+ youth, we have a direct impact on lowering their risk of suicide. Ensuring that Girl Scouts is a supportive and LGBTQ+ affirming space can save lives.
Supporting LGBTQ+ youth may be unfamiliar, so we have provided some resources and trainings to help you on your way. You do not need to be an expert on LGBTQ+ youth to create a space where Girl Scouts feel safe, nurtured, and affirmed. You simply need to be intentional in making space for all Girl Scouts and have a willingness to learn when unfamiliar topics arise.
To learn more about the histories, cultures, and identities of the LGBTQ+ community, visit The Safe Zone Projects website for free, on-demand training.
You’ll see the acronym LGBTQ+ throughout this page. It stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer.
The plus + represents any other gender or orientation identities not listed. You’ll also find a LGBTQ+ 101 section, that will help describe a few other important words and concepts.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I make Girl Scouts an inclusive place for ALL Girl Scouts?
Creating a safe and affirming space benefits all Girl Scouts, not just those who are LGBTQ+. All Girl Scouts will interact with the LGBTQ+ community as family members, friends, and fellow community members even if they are not LGBTQ+ themselves. For this reason, making Girl Scouts an inclusive space matters all the time, not just when an LGBTQ+ individual is involved.
If you hear comments about being gay or trans used as an insult or a negative description, hear a homophobic or transphobic joke, or hear other stereotypes or hurtful language being used, take time to talk about it. Your responses could include:
- Ouch! That comment/joke was hurtful/homophobic/ transphobic, please don’t do it again.
- Actually, that is a stereotype, not all XYZ people do/say/experience that. May I share another perspective?
- When you say ABC, you are insulting the XYZ community. Can you think of a different word to use?
Use role models from the LGBTQ+ community when looking for guest speakers or historical figures for troop meetings. Seeing positive representations of LGBTQ+ people can help counterbalance negative representations and stereotypes that young people may pick up. And, it demonstrates that our LGBTQ+ Girl Scouts can have a future in leadership too!
Celebrate LGBTQ+ holidays like:
International Transgender Day of Visibility (3/31)
National Coming Out Day (10/11)
Pride Month (6/1-6/30)
What should I do if a Girl Scout comes outs to me?
Express appreciation. The fact that they have trusted you with this information is a big deal!
Ask if they need any support or assistance, or if they are getting support and assistance from anywhere else.
If a Girl Scout is sharing their gender identity, ask what name and pronouns you should use for them AND if you may use that name and pronoun all the time or only in certain circumstances. It’s important to remember that they may not be out in all settings.
Respect the Girl Scouts’ privacy by not sharing this personal information with anyone else unless the Girl Scout has asked you to or given you permission to. The Girl Scout may not have shared this information with their family and friends or may not be living openly. Disclosing this personal information causes unnecessary stress on the young person and can put them at risk.
Do not question or deny the identity the Girl Scout has shared with you.
Do I have to use a Girl Scout’s pronouns?
Yes. Asking for and using correct pronouns is a way to treat everyone with respect. Introducing yourself and including your own pronouns is a great way to make space for others to do the same. If you make a mistake, apologize, correct yourself, and move on. If you hear someone else make a mistake with your pronouns or another Girl Scouts’ pronouns, correct them and move on.
How do labels work?
Labels are adjectives that help us describe ourselves. Labels have generally accepted broad definitions, but the finer details of interpretation vary from person to person. As an individual, only you can decide what labels are right for you and what aspects of your identity you want to label or not label.
For example, “tall” is a label that we can use to describe our height. We generally agree on what tall means, but each person may have a slightly different interpretation. We may choose to label ourselves as a “tall person” or we may choose not to identify with any label regarding our height.
When it comes to gender and attraction/orientation labels, each person decides what is right for them, and it is important that we respect the label or lack of label that they choose.
What do I tell people if they have questions about another Girl Scout?
Let them know that due to the individual Girl Scout’s right to privacy, you cannot discuss specifics about any member and remind them that Girl Scouts is a welcoming and inclusive environment.
Who can join Girl Scouts and participate in troops, camp, and other activities?
- Cisgender girl (gender identity girl & sex assigned at birth girl)
- Gender non-conforming or non-binary
- Gender identity girl & sex assigned at birth male e Gender identity boy & sex assigned at birth female
- Cisgender boy (gender identity boy & sex assigned at birth male)
How can I best support an LGBTQ+ Girl Scout?
- Keep the Girl Scout and their well-being in mind.
- Allow them to talk about their feelings and experiences.
- Ask them if they are getting support elsewhere or need anything from you.
- Respect their privacy.
If you don’t know the answer to something, that’s ok! Tell them you aren’t sure and will find more information.
Do I have to provide separate bathrooms, dressing rooms, or showers for LGBTQ+ Girl Scouts?
All Girl scouts are entitled to privacy while using restroom facilities. This includes toilets, changing areas, and showers. Please continue to practice good privacy strategies including access to private changing spaces and times for all individuals, whenever requested. Members have the right to use the facility of their choosing (men’s, women’s, or gender-neutral facilities where available).
For overnight events, where should everyone sleep?
Girls Scouts who are LGBTQ+ can share a room and all facilities with other Girl Scouts. Unless a Girl Scout states otherwise, no separate sleeping arrangements are necessary. There is no need to “out” or discuss a Girl Scout’s gender identity with other youth or adults. If questions or issues arise, address the issue with respect, protecting the needs of the LGBTQ+ youth, and in an age appropriate manner.
During the registration process, provide an opportunity for Girl Scouts and families to share what they need to be successful for the overnight and provide an opportunity for accommodations such as private shower facilities or sleeping arrangements as requested.
What if I don’t have the right words?
From the time of Shakespeare to the teen slang of today, language is always changing. Do your best to learn more, but don’t fault yourself if you feel two steps behind. If you have a question about a term or acronym, feel free to ask the person who used it or look it up. Follow the lead of the Girl Scout and the language they use to describe themselves.
Keep in mind though, that the language we use matters, and that we are setting an example for the Girl Scouts we serve. Language can be used to purposefully demean others, like when the wrong pronouns are repeated after multiple corrections. Or, it can be used to purposefully include others. Default to gender-neutral terms and pronouns that avoid promoting a binary when gender doesn’t need to be specified.
- People of all genders do these jobs: firefighter, police officer, mail carrier
- Addressing a group: everyone, folks, honored guests, friends, kiddos, Girl Scouts
- Pronouns: they, them, theirs
Components of Gender
Words and Concepts to Know Related to Gender
Cisgender: people whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth
Transition: the process of living in a way that affirms your gender identity. The steps in this process will differ for each person, but common steps include changing names and pronouns, or medical interventions to make your body consistent with your identity.
Transgender: an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression is different from their sex assigned at birth.
Trans boys/men: assigned female at birth but psychologically know they are boys or men.
- Likely pronouns: he/him
Trans girls/women: assigned male at birth but psychologically know they are girls or women
- Likely pronouns: she/her
Non-binary: people who don’t identify exclusively as a boy or girl. The gender expression for a non-binary person could have components of femininity and masculinity, reject all components of femininity and masculinity in favor of androgyny, and/or change day to day.
Similar terms: genderqueer, genderfluid, gender non-conforming.
- Likely pronouns: them/they
Intersex: variations of anatomical sex characteristics that aren’t classified as typically male or female at birth.
Components of Orientation/Attraction
Words and Concepts to Know Related to Orientation/Attraction
Asexual or Ace: having little or no sexual attraction.
Bisexual: being attracted to more than one gender.
Gay: being attracted to the same gender. Historically used for men who are attracted to men.
Lesbian: a woman who is attracted to women.
Pansexual: being attracted to any gender, or to people regardless of their gender.
Omnisexual: attraction to all genders, though gender often still plays a role in one’s attraction.
Queer: an umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual. This term has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community after being used as a slur.
Outdated and Hurtful Language
Preferred language is in bold
Hermaphrodite: is stigmatizing and inaccurate, instead use Intersex.
Homosexual: associated with a medical diagnosis, instead use Gay.
Born female/male and Female/male-bodied: instead use Assigned female/male at birth which accurately depicts what happened at birth.
A gay/ A transgender: is using labels as nouns instead of adjectives, instead say A gay person/ A transgender person.
It: is for referring to things, not people, instead use They.