Art by Girl Scout Zoey R., 8th grade Cadette in Girl Scout Troop 31602, Coyote Hills Service Unit
Girl Scouts strives to empower girls—all girls—to accept and appreciate both themselves and others. Girl Scouts does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, national origin, or ability. When I first offered Girl Scout programming in support of the LGBTQ+ community, I encountered some resistance from other troop leaders, which incentivized me to work even harder to find resources and support for Girl Scouts, especially in support of LGBTQ+ Girl Scouts. Representation matters.
Since then, I have seen Girl Scouts come out of the closet—relieved to have a space safe enough to do so. I’ve seen parent volunteers express their excitement for this programming, discovered other enthusiastic leaders seeking resources, and met still other leaders who don’t know where to start—or if they’d even want to. You may be surprised to find you, too, have Girl Scouts or parents in your own troop who are silently struggling and need this kind of support to thrive.
Save it for later!
If you’re on the fence about celebrating the LGBTQ+ community with your troop, now is a great time to hop off and dive in! It doesn’t need to be a giant, super involved meeting, and remember it’s ok if not everyone wants to attend (as not all girls attend all events anyway!) The ones who do attend may really need this. As Girl Scouts embark on their journeys as leaders in a diverse world, how can troop leaders empower girls and make the world a better place by celebrating the LGBTQ+ community?
Why is it important to support the LGBTQ+ community and be allies to youth in Girl Scouts?
A safe, inclusive environment benefits all Girl Scouts and volunteers, not just those who are LGBTQ+. Girl Scouts should be empowered to interact respectfully with diverse groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, and they should all feel safe to be their authentic selves.
According to GLAAD’s 2017 Accelerating Acceptance report, 20% of young people (ages 18–34) identify as LGBTQ+, but a third of Americans remain uncomfortable with the LGBTQ+ community. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed substantial risks for roughly 2.6 million LGBTQ+ students.
Compared to their cisgendered (those who identify comfortably with the gender they were assigned at birth), straight peers, LGBTQ+ children are more likely to have been bullied and seriously considered suicide. The prejudice and discrimination they can face puts them at risk—a risk that troop leaders, volunteers, and families can mitigate by creating safe, inclusive environments where Girl Scouts feel affirmed and celebrated as who they are.
Did you know? Most folks know that LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (or Questioning), but what about that plus sign? It represents all the other gender identities and sexualities that fall under the queer umbrella, making the acronym represent everyone!
How can we support LGBTQ+ youth in our troops?
We’re all here to support our girls, so how can we make it happen? As stated in the Girl Scouts of Northern California’s Volunteer Policy for Building Equitable Community:
“A person’s gender identity (how they express and identify) and sexual orientation (who they love) are two different things and are never up for debate. This means we never force anyone to disclose or discuss these parts of their identity. At the same time, we make room for children, adults and families to have the choice and opportunity to share their full selves with pride. Transgender girls in our programs are to receive equal access and opportunity to participate in every way without be stigmatized or ‘othered.’”
Here are some tips on supporting the LGBTQ+ community with your girls, whether they are a part of that community or not:
- Call out stereotypes if they arise, and model language girls can use to be respectful of others.
- Acknowledge, affirm, and appreciate a Girl Scout’s identity.
- Respect all your Girl Scouts’ privacy, and do not share their personal information with others. Remember that girls may be comfortable sharing new things with you as a trusted mentor that their teachers or caregivers may not know, so ask how they would like to be referred to in various contexts. Outing someone as LGBTQ+ to anyone without their permission is never ok.
- Ask if there is a different name or pronoun that the Girl Scout would like you to use. You can even model this behavior by sharing your name and pronouns with your troop!
- Embrace diverse gender expression by inviting community members to share their pronouns aloud or on name tags. Be sure to explain that no one has to share if they don’t want to.
- Find out if your Girl Scouts need any support or assistance. Be a trusted adult they can come to with their needs and emotions, without judgement. You can reach out to the Council for guidance anytime!
What can we do to help Girl Scouts celebrate the LGBTQ+ community?
Whether you are tackling a troop meeting, service project, or take action project, here are some fun, creative ideas to get started!
- March in a local Pride Parade
- Tie dye projects to learn about the history of the rainbow flag!
- Pride-themed SWAPS
- Do a clothing drive for Out of the Closet!
- Rainbow fruit kebabs
- Design a flag that represents you
- Make cards for a local LGBTQ+ shelter, community center, or support group
- Donate handouts for a local Free Mom Hugs group
- Learn about famous LGBTQ+ people
- Learn about the many different LGBTQ+ flags
- Paint kindness rocks
- Make origami hearts
- Make rainbow friendship bracelets
- Make rainbow bead bracelets
- Rainbow scavenger hunt
- Create a word collage self-portrait
- Create a paper chain of people & decorate to show a diversity of cultures
- Skittles science experiments
- Watch or read a story that includes an LGBTQ+ character
- Learn about laws relating to same-sex marriage in the United States as well as other countries around the world
- Create a story, skit, poem, or a video about supporting LGBTQ+ youth obstacles in your community
- Find out about local support services to LGBTQ+ people
- Create a kindness or ally button
- Write kindness messages and drawings in chalk
- Celebrate LGBTQ+ holidays
- Write a Pride Month Poem
Lesson Plans & Other Resources
- Happy Pride Month meeting lesson plan from Girl Scout Troop 31602 (Girl Scouts of Northern California)
- Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes – Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth in Girl Scouts
- Girl Scouts Heart of Central California – Celebrating Pride Month main page
- Girl Scouts Heart of Central California – Celebrating Pride Month extra resources
- Girl Scouts of Western WA – Girl Scouts is for EVERY girl!
- Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains – Be a Sister to EVERY Girl Scout patch program
- Be a Sister to EVERY Scout – Facebook Page
- Pawprint Badges Pride Challenge
- The Trevor Project – Resources for Allies and LGBTQ Youth
- The Trevor Project – Coming Out: A Handbook for LGBTQ Young People
- Safe Zone Project – LGBTQ Awareness & Ally Training
- GLSEN – Programs
- PFLAG – When Someone Comes Out
- GLAAD – Youth Engagement Program
- Human Rights Campaign – Welcoming Schools
- San Francisco State University – Family Acceptance Project
- Gender Spectrum – Resources, Articles, and More
- American Psychological Association – LGBT Youth Resources
- LGBT History Month (October 1-30)
- Northwestern University – Inclusive Language Guide
- Learning for Justice – LGBTQ Symbols Lesson Plan
- Learning for Justice – Lesson Plans
- Smart & Melanated Sisters – Solidarity Badge Series
- American Library Association – Rainbow Book Lists
- Woo! Jr. – LGBTQ Trailblazers: A Pride Month Curriculum
- UCLA Williams Institute – LGBT Youth Population in the United States
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Health Considerations for LGBTQ Youth
Programming to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community is not a health education class. Start off small—read a book, talk about it, and paint some kindness rocks. A rainbow craft is a great place to start some conversations! As we continue to live in a world where some citizens’ rights are routinely given and taken away by the courts, let Girl Scouts be leaders who support all Girl Scouts and the diverse members of their own communities. The sooner we embrace our differences and cherish each other, the sooner our Girl Scouts will be empowered to be themselves and help usher a generation of love is love.
What to do next:
- Explored the resources above? Learn how to make your troop more accessible to girls of all abilities, foster inclusivity, and teach your girls to stand up against hate.
- Safe spaces aren’t just for supporting LGBTQ+ Girl Scouts: all girls need space to be themselves! Check out these tips for making your girls feel supported and safe.
- Excited to stretch yourself as a troop leader with new conversations? Develop a Girl Scout growth mindset.
Jennifer Roper—Jennifer is a troop leader for Girl Scout Troop 31602, a multilevel troop serving Daisies through Seniors, as well as an educator, artist, and mother of three. She was awarded the Volunteer of Excellence Award and the Green Angel Award for her service, and her family was honored to receive the Family of the Year Award. She loves helping youth cultivate leadership skills, camping among redwoods, and spearheading service projects supporting local non-profits. Above all else, her life centers on education, art, and family–and the occasional visit to Disneyland.