Joe Maldonado, the 8-year-old transgender boy who was the impetus for the Boy Scouts to allow transgender kids join troops, was invited to rejoin

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated January 31, 2017 02:08 PM

Now that the Boy Scouts’ rule restricting transgender boys from joining has been officially reversed, 8-year-old Joe Maldonado is now free to return.

The transgender boy from New Jersey was barred from his troop, Secaucus Cub Scout Pack 87, in December after a scouting official told his mom, Kristie, that he couldn’t participate after a parent had complained.

But the Boy Scouts suddenly reversed their decision Monday, and the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts called Kristie to say that Joe would be welcomed back, according to The Record.

Kristie told The Record that she was surprised by the call, and says that the council first told her that Joe should join a different troop to avoid potential “friction.” But she thinks he should be able to go to whichever troop he wants, and may go back to the Secaucus pack as that’s where most of his friends are members.

But so far, the Secaucus leaders haven’t agreed to add Joe back in, according to Kristie. “They said, ‘We’ll talk,’ ” she said.

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Joe could also join the nearby Maplewood Pack 20, where troop leader Kyle Hackler had offered to petition on Joe’s behalf when he was banned by the Boy Scouts. Hackler tells PEOPLE that he hasn’t been in direct contact with Joe and Kristie since the rule change, but he hopes they’ll come to the Maplewood Troop.

“I’m thrilled at the change in Boy Scouts of America policy,” Hackler, whose son is a fourth generation scout, says. “I wanted to change the policy from within instead of asking the Boy Scouts of America from outside, because the good they do vastly outweighs the bad.”

Joe has known since age 2 that he was meant to be a boy, and was upset when he was kicked out after just a month with Pack 87.

“I wanted to explain that I felt sad and angry at the same time,” he told The Record in December. “I just felt like, the first time that happened I felt like this [makes a sad and confused face], and then later on I kind of just got really angry at them.”