The New Jersey mother who championed her 8-year-old transgender son’s rights to stay in the Boy Scouts of America cheered the organization’s decision this week to open its doors to transgender children.
Kristie Maldonado, 43, last week filed a civil rights complaint with the state against the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts — her son’s hometown chapter that booted him in November because he was designated as female at birth.
On Monday night, the Boy Scouts of America announced it would now welcome transgender children who identify as boys. The national organization said it has started deferring to the gender identity indicated on enrollment applications, rather than birth certificates.
“I’m ecstatic for everyone that they don’t have to go through what my child went though,” Maldonado told TIME on Tuesday.
Her son, Joe Maldonado, loved being part of the Boy Scouts team and was devastated when he was kicked out last year. The emotional turmoil from feeling isolated caused him to fall behind in school, his mother said.
Now, he’s “excited” for the chance to return to the Boy Scouts, his mother said. “Just knowing that he can go back to his Scouts and knowing that he’s accepted, it means a lot,” she said. “It does.”
Maldonado said Joe will likely join a different Boy Scouts chapter because she does not want him to return to his hometown chapter under its current leadership. The Boy Scouts of America and the Northern New Jersey Council did not immediately return requests for further comment. In the statement announcing the change, the Boy Scouts of America said: “This is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible.”
Maldonado said she plans to fill out a brand-new application for Joe this week — a moment she said she’ll savor.
“I’m going to feel very proud that we won,” she said, “just knowing that they didn’t win. Just knowing my kid can go in there if he feels like it. It feels good.”