On May 23, the Boy Scouts of America voted to end their policy excluding gay youth from the organization, a decision which officially takes effect on January 1, 2014. They did not vote on their policy excluding gay adults from accepting leadership positions, nor did they change their policies on atheist and transgender individuals.
The Boy Scouts were an important part of my life growing up. I eventually quit the organization in part due to their bigotry and discrimination. When my son was six and wanted to join Cub Scouts, my wife and I were torn. We eventually let him join, and at the end of the year, we had a long talk about scouts and what it was about, the positives and the negatives, and our own conflicts. The three of us decided together not to sign back up.
I’ve already watched one of my Facebook friends quit the organization in protest, complaining about how a “vocal minority” had “bullied” a private organization into this decision. She also explained that she’s sick and tired of people accusing her of bigotry, and that she doesn’t care about sexual orientation; her concern is for the boys. She wrote a long post about the Scout Law, talking about how openly gay youth violated the ideals of that law.
This person is so concerned about the safety of the boys. Which makes me wonder, would she support allowing lesbians to serve as den leaders? Because right now, that’s forbidden by the BSA’s discriminatory policies. My mother, a straight woman, was a den leader for many years. If the “logic” of excluding gay men is because they could be potential predators (as a result of being attracted to men), how is that any different from straight women, who are also attracted to men?
Unless you’re buying into the bullshit belief that gay=pedophile/rapist, in which case you are not only a bigot, but an idiot.
She went on to talk about her fear that the boys might go off alone, and who knows what might happen? What if an older gay scout pressures a younger one into something he doesn’t want? Once again it’s not consensual sexual activity she’s afraid of; it’s the “gays as predators” boogeyman.
The Girl Scouts of America have been open and welcoming of all girls, regardless of sexual orientation. Oddly enough, I’m having a really hard time finding stories about the rampant same-sex assaults that presumably permeate the organization as a result of their decision. Weird…
According to the Scout Law, a scout is:
- Trustworthy – I would love to trust this organization with my child. That means trusting them to welcome and accept him as he grows up, trusting them to help him become a better person. A policy of discrimination and bigotry is a violation of that trust.
- Loyal – Many boys have no concept of sexual identity when they first join Tiger Scouts. As they grow older and continue in scouting, some of those boys will discover that they are not, in fact, heterosexual. Should the BSA show loyalty to their own members, or should they kick them to the curb?
- Helpful – Yet when gay and lesbian adults offer their help, scouting rejects them. In my personal experience, scouting was tremendously helpful to me in many ways. Why would the organization want to refuse that help to certain boys?
- Friendly – What’s so friendly about rejection and discrimination, about teaching kids that it’s okay to exclude “those people”?
- Courteous – How is it courteous to tell someone they’re not welcome here, simply because of who he or she loves?
- Kind – See “Friendly.”
- Obedient – I’ll admit, this is one I’ve struggled with over the years. There are times for obedience, and there are times for disobedience. To me, it’s important to obey one’s conscience, as hundreds of Eagle Scouts have done when they returned their medals in protest of the organization’s discriminatory policies. One could argue that the youth and leaders trying to ban homosexuals from scouting are following their consciences, and that’s probably true. It’s also sad and depressing as hell.
- Cheerful – I mean, come on. Gay means cheerful and happy and merry, for crying out loud 😉
- Thrifty – Um … okay, I got nothing for this one. Except maybe that an organization looking for a stable and solid budget, one which relies in part on donations and popcorn sales, shouldn’t enact a broad policy of exclusion?
- Brave – People keep talking about how the vocal minority bullied the BSA into this decision. I think this is a ridiculous abuse of the word “bully,” but setting that aside, it takes tremendous courage to be in the minority and to speak up for what’s right.
- Clean – If you buy into stereotypes about homosexuals, doesn’t that include the one about gays being exceptionally clean and hygienic and well-dressed? After living through those week-long summer camps, the BSA could use an influx of gay men and boys! (Note: I don’t actually believe this, but for those who discriminate based on stereotypes, shouldn’t this be a point in favor of admitting gay youths and leaders?)
- Reverent – This ties into the BSA’s discrimination against atheists, but in terms of homosexuality, do you want to hear something shocking? Not all religions condemn homosexuality! For some devotedly religious individuals, duty to God means loving and welcoming all people.
This continues to be frustrating and painful to me. Boy Scouts did so much for me as a kid, and I believe they do a lot of good. And this week’s decision was a good first step. But it’s only one step. The organization still has work to do if it means to live up to its own stated ideals.