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Virginia honors first non-binary Eagle Scout in 100 years


Salute from a transgender scout: Virginia honors first non-binary Eagle Scout in 100 years who received the coveted accolade alongside big brother

  • Jacquelyn ‘Jack’ Cooper, 15, of Blacksburg, has earned Eagle Scout designation 
  • They were the first in the region to earn highest rank, attaining it in 22 months
  • Only males could join organisation until February 2019 when females could join
  • Jack prefers to be labeled as the first female Eagle Scout in Blue Ridge Mountains Council

Virginia scout Jacquelyn ‘Jack’ Cooper was among the first non-males to earn the coveted Eagle designation and it became a family affair as  big  brother Fitzhugh also attained the rank. 

‘Jack’, 15, of Blacksburg, joined Troop 158 and was the first in this region to earn the highest rank, doing it in just 22 months while the average is four years.  

Only males could join the organisation until February 1, 2019, when females were allowed to join.

Jacquelyn ‘Jack’ Cooper, 15, of Blacksburg, joined Troop 158 and was the first in this region to earn the highest rank, doing it in just 22 months while the average is four years

Jack, who came out as non-binary around a year ago, uses they/them pronouns and prefers to be labeled as the first female Eagle Scout in the Blue Ridge Mountains Council, Roanoke reported

Jack said: ‘After I joined, everyone had to adjust to it a little bit. Some people are a little more welcoming than others, but most of them are pretty nice about it.’ 

Chief executive officer for the Blue Ridge Mountains Council of BSA George Clay said: ‘It’s certainly a barrier that’s been broken through to let full families participate in scouting. It’s a real milestone.’ 

Mother Kirstie spoke at a ceremony which honoured both Jack and her son Fitzhugh Cooper, 17, who also attained the rank.  

Jack (pictured with mother Kristie), who came out as non-binary around a year ago, uses they/them pronouns and prefers to be labeled as the first female Eagle Scout in the Blue Ridge Mountains Council

Jack (pictured with mother Kristie), who came out as non-binary around a year ago, uses they/them pronouns and prefers to be labeled as the first female Eagle Scout in the Blue Ridge Mountains Council 

Mother Kirstie spoke at a ceremony which honoured both Jack (right) and her son Fitzhugh Cooper (left), 17, who also attained the rank

Mother Kirstie spoke at a ceremony which honoured both Jack (right) and her son Fitzhugh Cooper (left), 17, who also attained the rank

She said that ‘what that required was extreme tenacity’, adding that Jack ‘set the goal and worked every single day on scouting requirements’. 

Leaders and friends of Troop 158 gathered at St Michael Lutheran Chruch on Tuesday to celebrate Jack and their brother. 

Eagle Scouts must earn 21 out of 121 merit badges, attain several ranks, garner recommendation letters, serve in leadership roles and complete a project that benefits the wider community to be an Eagle Scout.  

For their project, Jack built an outdoor kitchen for the Blacksburg United Methodist Preeschool.  

Jack and their older brother Fitz fist bump prior to being honored as the newest Eagle Scouts of Troop 158 in Blacksburg

Jack and their older brother Fitz fist bump prior to being honored as the newest Eagle Scouts of Troop 158 in Blacksburg

Blue Ridge Mountains Council has 250 female scouts in a total membership of 1,800 with seven females, including Jack, attaining Eagle rank so far.     

Jack said that being part of scouting is like having another ‘set of family’. They added: ‘I’ve got people that I hang out with every week and, you know, go camping, and I know I can rely on them for anything I need.’ 

Their father Al is an Eagle Scout and a scoutmaster in Troop 158. Their uncle and maternal grandfather are also Eagle Scouts.  

Jack is applauded by friends and leaders of Troop 158, who gathered at St Michael Lutheran Chruch on Tuesday to celebrate Jack and their brother

Jack is applauded by friends and leaders of Troop 158, who gathered at St Michael Lutheran Chruch on Tuesday to celebrate Jack and their brother

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