"Pretty girls can't have scars; you need to take care of
yourself so a man will marry you." That's what my dad told me
when I was 10 years old and falling out of trees and off of
skateboards. "Who needs men?" I shrugged, as I whipped out my pen
knife and began whittling on a piece of wood.
For years I would try to do 'boy' things. I had footballs
whipped at my head when I tried to join in 'boys sports' at school,
and I was laughed out of the Boy Scouts when I insisted they give
me the right to earn merit badges and build fires despite the fact
that I was a girl.
It took me thirty years to finally realize that, if the clubs
won't let you in, just make your own. So began the Muff Scouts - a
volunteer queer and trans positive adventure group of badass babes
We started in Toronto, Canada and it soon exploded. Fifteen
months later, we have over 550 members in four countries. Current
chapters are in Toronto Canada, San Francisco USA, London UK and
"I love the Muff Scouts because they do fun and groovy things…I
don't know any group like it." Said UK Muff Scout, Claire Tilley at
this month's Cunning Crossbower event.
Globally, Muff Scouts events include Feisty Falconer, Dirt
Biking Dilettante, Warrior Princess Archer, Sky Fairy Skydiver,
Jedi Assassin (Combat training with lightsabers), Trolloping
Trapezist and others. And, yes, we have merit badges.
"That's crude" sneered my girlfriend's mother after hearing the
name of the group. Most people think that I've used the word 'Muff'
to make an obvious reference to the female anatomy. Not so. The
verb 'to muff' comes from a nineteenthcentury sexist sports slur
where, when a boxer lost, his fellow sportsmen would say he 'muffed
it', suggesting he must have been wearing muffs instead of boxing
gloves - their version of the contemporary accusation "You fight
like a girl". I called the group Muff Scouts to take new ownership
of the verb's history and say "Damn right! This is how a girl
The Muff Scouts is deliberately empowering and inclusive. Anyone
who is female or trans identified is welcome, and quirkiness is
celebrated. It's not unusual for a Muff Scout to show up to axe
throwing, go karting or other such rugged events in stilettos,
dress and pearls, full steampunk regalia, or plaid and boots. We
come together to have crazy adventures and feel proud to be whoever
we are or want to be.
The trans factor is especially important; having worked in the
homeless sector and watched abused trans women get turned away from
violence against women's shelters because they were still
biologically male was appalling to me. I believe that any
gender-directed organization has a responsibility to welcome trans
members; our communities are too small to close our doors to people
who may not fit simply into a binary and/or cis-gendered
identification. Everyone who joins the Muff Scouts does so with the
agreement that everyone matters; everyone belongs. Even former DIVA
editor Gillian Rodgerson is an active Muff Scout!
"The fact that it's got such a broad diversity policy means that
it's more open minded than a girls group or a lesbian group…it's
down to your self-definition." Said Katy Jon Went, Muff Scouts UK
chapter co-founder and trans educator.
Katy is currently trying to organize with her local fire brigade
to get use of their training facility for a Muff Scouts Firefighter
My girlfriend's mum still hates the name, but the Muff Scouts
are here to stay.
The Muff Scouts London member page can be found on Facebook.
Join now! And in the mean time, watch a cool video of the Muff
Scouts in action, below.