The leading scouting organization for women and girls in the U.K. has expelled two Girl Guide leaders after they voiced their objections to the charity's recent policy on transgender inclusion.
Helen Watts, a leader of a Rainbow unit for girls ages 5 to 7 in West London, says her membership was terminated by Girlguiding U.K. on Friday because she questioned how the charity's transgender policy enacted last year conflicts with safeguarding policies that respect boundaries of young girls.
The policy allows for men who identify as women to be leaders of Guide units and allows for biological boys who identify as girls to be members of the units.
The Sunday Times reports that Watts and another leader of a unit in northwest England who remained nameless were among several Guide leaders who signed onto a letter in April that asked for a review of the transgender policy. Both of them had their memberships terminated.
"I am very upset and I am also really angry," Watts told the Sunday Times. "We had some serious concerns about a policy that ignored basic safeguarding principles."
Watts explained that she was terminated because she was "not willing to follow Girlguiding's equality and diversity policy insofar as it provides for transgender inclusion."
"The policy puts all leaders in a really difficult position," Watts said. "It contradicts other inclusion policies — for certain faith communities for instance — and it completely contradicts existing policies around informed parental consent."
The unnamed leader who had her membership revoked told The Sunday Times that she's no longer allowed to talk to the girls from her unit or their parents.
"They said I was refusing to follow Girlguiding procedures," the former leader said. "I told them I would follow any procedure unless it conflicted with the safety of a girl in my care."
Girguiding responded to the claims by issuing a statement saying that both of the leaders were expelled because they had "breached our Volunteer Code of Conduct and our Social Media policy because they did not, and indicated that they were not willing to, follow Girlguiding's Equality and Diversity Policy and actively encouraged others to do the same."
"We are always willing to listen to feedback about our policies, and remain open to reviewing them wherever necessary," a joint statement from Chief Guide Amanda Medler and Acting Chief Executive Ruth Marvel states.
The statement assured that the "safety, well-being and happiness of our members is the heart of everything we do in Girlguiding."
"Keeping girls, young women and our adult volunteers safe is our No. 1 priority. We're really proud of our robust safeguarding procedures which apply to everyone and underpin everything volunteers and girls do in guiding," the statement asserts. "We are deeply saddened that anyone would suggest that we would knowingly put our young members at risk."
The Girlguiding leaders contend that "simply being transgender does not make someone more of a safeguarding risk than any other person."
"It's important to us that we listen to girls and young women, 86 percent of whom have told us, through the Girls' Attitudes Survey, that they do not think people should be discriminated against because they are transgender," the statement adds. "Girlguiding's policies, procedures and Volunteer Code of Conduct ensure that all our volunteers understand their roles and responsibilities to treat others with respect, keep everyone safe, and deliver great experiences for girls and young women. We therefore take breaches of our policies, procedures and Volunteer Code of Conduct very seriously."
At least one mother in the U.K. is receiving pushback after she went public about how she prevented her daughter from joining Guides because of its transgender policy.
In the United States, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America had allowed transgender children to participate for at least four years before the organization's policy was reported on in 2015.
In February of 2019, BSA's program for older students, the Boy Scouts, will be renamed "Scouts BSA."
Earlier this month, the "biblical" alternative to the Boy Scouts released an eBook titled Let Boys Be Boys that argues that the culture is treating boyhood "like a disease."