I’ve been following with some interest the recent news regarding the Boy Scouts of America’s overtures over the last week or so regarding it’s consideration of lifting it’s ban on gay Scouts and Leaders. I’m encouraged, yet a little surprised, given that as recently as last year, they publically doubled down on the national organization’s policy of descrimination.
I’ve been hoping to see this sort of move for a long time. See, I’m an Eagle Scout (Troop 309, Class of ’92), and as a boy and young man, I got a lot of value out of the program. I learned important life skills, made great friends and memories, fostered a life-long love of gaming thanks to some of my older peers, witnessed my first screening of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” on a purloined VHS player in one of the staff cabins at summer camp, and developed a personal working definition of the concept of “character”.
Of course, the definition of character that I developed as part of Scouting has nothing to do with concepts like discrimination and intolerance. In recent years, I’ve had a troubled relationship with Boy Scouting, at least on the National level. It seems that in the last decade, the BSA has become a lot more active in proclaiming it’s allegiance to discrmination with regard to faith and especially sexual orientation – an allegiance that, in my mind, is squarely in opposition to many of the concepts in the Scout Promise and Scout Law.
My son is reaching the end of his tenure in Cub Scouting, and looking forward to joining a Boy Scout troop – I hope he finds a unit that fits him, just the way I eventually found one that fit me. During his time with scouting, though, I’ve always been troubled by the rhetoric of the national organization, as well as some of the stuff that’s come out of more local levels of the organization. I stayed involved because the program still has a lot of good points, but I’ve spent a lot ofo time swallowing my discomfort regarding the organization’s policies for fear of being outed as a “militant liberal who hates Amurrika”. As such, I was never particularly comfortable offering up my charitable donation dollars toward the National organization, preferring to support the local pack directly, where it directly benefitted my kid, rather than the discriminatory policies at National.
When I was a Scout, I knew of gay leaders, and I knew scouts who eventually came out as adults (it was the 80s and 90s in semi-rural Pennsylvania – things are different now). Although these individuals, perhaps in fear of being ousted, mostly kept quiet, I don’t remember the BSA being particularly political when I was a Scout – the organization from top to bottom, was more focused on the experience. My local units were more about having fun in the outdoors, serving the community, and building really big fires than discriminating against anyone.
That all said, I’m really encouraged by the Scouts’ recent statements about being “close” to ending the ban on gay members and leaders. I hope it gets there, which is why I’m writing this post, shouted from the rafters on social media, and have written a letter to the organization stating my support for the ending of the ban.
If you’re reading this, I’m going to ask you to do so as well. A good place to start is here at GLAAD, who’ve set up a page to conveniently express your support for ending the ban on gay Scouts and leaders in a variety of ways.
I hope you will.