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American Legion Suspends Decades-Old Rule to Allow Biological Girl to Attend Boys State

An imposing American Legion building

A biological girl from Iowa will attend Boys State, the American Legion's high school politics program, after the state board first denied her acceptance into the program. To allow this girl to attend, the American Legion temporarily suspended a decades-old rule that only biological boys can attend Boys State — but the organization did not strike the rule.

Halane Cummings, whose 15-year-old daughter identifies as male and has taken the name Emmet, said her child was torn about whether to participate in the program, because its official policy would "exclude" other transgender kids.

"He did some soul searching for a few days because he was torn," the mother told the Des Moines Register. "He said, 'I really want to go, but if I'm being given this opportunity just so I'll shut up and go away, I don't necessarily feel like the kids after me are going to gain anything."

Emmet Cummings began identifying as a boy before turning 15, and has been taking testosterone to confirm the cross-sex identity for about a year and a half.

Emmet Cummings said he was denied by the American Legion's state board of directors on March 19 after the local post nominated her in November. Boys State is a weeklong educational program during which boys — and girls in the connected Girls State — take part in the operation of local, county, and state government.

Michael Etzel, president of the American Legion Hawkeye Boys State board, told the Register the organization announced it would make an exception for Emmet on March 26. He referred questions regarding the exception to the American Legion of Iowa headquarters.

Daniel McClure, one of the six members of the American Legion's board of directors, told the Register that the board would reinforce its decades-old rule. McClure emphasized, "You must be a biological male to attend Boys State."

The girl in question, however, said she might not attend. A temporary suspension of the rule would not be sufficient to satisfy Emmet Cummings, who debated accepting this opportunity or becoming a transgender activist.

Eventually, the girl decided she would indeed attend Boys State, to "be a representative for other transgender kids," the Register reported. "He hopes his attendance will spur the organization to be more inclusive in the future, Halane said."

The girl plays bass clarinet in the Center Point High School band and wants to participate in the Boys State music program.

The mother said she is proud of her daughter's advocacy. "Listen to your children; love them regardless," Halane Cummings said. "The young men and women of today are so much more knowledgeable then [sic] we give them credit for."

Last year, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced it would accept biological girls who identify as boys into its scouting program. While Girl Scouts does exist, the program is not related. The American Legion's move makes even less sense, since Boys State and Girls State are linked.

The American Legion runs both programs, and often runs them on the very same campus, although the programs will be at different locations and on different dates in June in Iowa this year.

The suggestion that the American Legion is "excluding" transgender children twists the truth. The legion's policy does allow biological girls to participate in the program — in Girls State. Organizations should not have to redefine gender just because someone who wishes to participate demands to be recognized as the gender opposite their biological sex.

Emmet Cummings is still biologically a girl, and if the American Legion runs separate programs for boys and girls, and allows her in the program for girls, that does not constitute excluding her from the program.

People who suffer from gender dysphoria (the persistent condition of identifying with the gender opposite your biological sex) have equal dignity to everyone else, but they do not have the right to redefine gender for everyone else. Americans do not have the right to mistreat these people, but they should have the right to disagree with transgender ideology.