‘The Lovers & Fighters of America’ is a monthly column here at Ravishly featuring behind-the-scenes stories of inspirational people taking a stance against hate. Today, Ravishly features Kristie Maldonado and her son, Joe.
Kristie Maldonado, a New Jersey mom of two, says her transgender son Joe began telling her he was a boy at the age of two. It wasn’t until five years later, when Joe was in the second grade, that Kristie took her child’s words and actions to heart, as she realized her “tomboy” daughter was actually her transgender son.
From that moment onward, Kristie Maldonado vowed to support her child’s journey to live life as his true self.
Kristie began self-educating. She read everything she could find about being transgender, and learned what she needed to do to support her child. She got Joe a therapist and reached out to Garden StateEquality, a local LGBTQ advocacy group, and they worked with the elementary school to ensure Joe was able to attend school as a boy. They provided policy consultation to administrators and professional development training for teachers and staff.
Kristie told Ravishly Joe’s first year living openly as a boy was a trying time. Kristie said: “A couple years ago I had an issue with the school, difficult year with meetings so the whole year I did not sleep. I read everything on the internet and then went to a specialized therapist. The school got it with the help of my advocate. They did a 360 turnaround and now educated, it’s been wonderful.”
Joe’s transitional journey has not always been a private nor smooth one. In fact, Joe and Kristie made national headlines late last year when Joe, a keen member of his local Secaucus Cub Scouts, was told he had to leave the pack.
According to Kristie, an official from the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts told her some parents had complained. Even though her son had been living as a boy for more than a year and despite the fact that he was accepted as a boy at school, other parents wanted him out of the Secaucus Boy Scouts.
Kristie was hurt. So was Joe. These parents had known the Maldonado family for years. But, she didn’t let hurt feelings stand in the way of fighting back.
So, Kristie shared Joe’s story with USA Today and within hours of it going live, six news reporters were outside the Maldonado’s door wanting to know more. Those six news stories were only the beginning. In the weeks to follow, the Maldonados took part in TV, radio, and print interviews, and since then the story has been covered by over fifty media outlets.
Online, Joe’s story had gone viral. Joe, Kristie and the Boy Scouts were at the center of a media storm that had reached across North America and made its way to Europe. Allies, advocates, members of the LGBTQ community, and fellow Boy Scouts reached out to the family to show their support for Joe.
Still, not all feedback was positive, as some said Joe shouldn’t be allowed to be a Boy Scout. Kristie carried on, despite the negativity online and within her own hometown.
When the Boy Scouts failed to respond, Kristie reached out to the Jersey Journal saying she planned to file a discrimination complaint against the Boy Scouts of America Northern New Jersey Council for violating the state “public accommodation” law. Two days after the story ran, Kristie received a call from a Scout representative; they were changing the policy.
Joe Maldonado made history on February 9th, 2017, when he became a member of the Maplewood Cub Scouts after leader, Kyle Hackler, extended the invitation. Joe also received a formal apology and an $18,000 settlement from the New Jersey branch of the organization that initially kicked Joe out.
Today, Kristie is actually grateful for the parents who complained. She said: “After a while, I thanked them. I thanked the Cub Scout mothers because if they didn’t start it, this would never have happened.”
Joe and Kristie continue to add their voices and efforts to the fight for LGBTQ rights and equality. Kristie says Joe is starting to take on an advocacy role himself. “He’s very outspoken and he’s very confident in himself,” she said with more than a hint of pride in her voice. The family recently attended the San Antonio PRIDE parade where Joe was a grand marshal. Joe has recently received several awards, from the State of New Jersey, his school, Toys 'R Us, his advocacy group, and he will be honored by the mayor of Jersey City later this month. Also this month, Kristie and Joe will be heading to Seattle for the Gender Odyssey convention.
We here at Ravishly are honored to feature Kristie and Joe Maldonado as this month's Lovers & Fighters! They were strong in the face of discrimination and because of that, positive change happened. Because of Joe and Kristie, the Boy Scouts of America stepped up and realized it’s 2017.
If you know an inspirational Lover & Fighter whom you’d like to see featured on Ravishly, send a message to Shannon Day, via Facebook.
Lovers & Fighters say "hell no" to racism, sexism, bigotry, and xenophobia. These men, women, and children are saying "heck yes" to equality, human decency, and love. From bold acts of advocacy to simple moments of goodness, these everyday people remind us of what it truly means to be American.
These lovers and fighters are resistant in the face of intolerance. They are bold in the presence of judgment. They are determined to join forces (or to stand proudly alone) to ensure their message is heard: #LoveTrumpsHate