Tag Archives: Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts of America…now for every boy

27 May

Friday marked a major shift in the Boy Scouts of America’s policy towards gay scouts – a majority of Scout leadership voted to allow membership for gay scouts in the US. While I could echo the sentiment of nearly every publication about the vote and follow my normal pattern of chastising the organization for failing to allow gay scout leaders, who serve as role models for the Scouts and whose exclusion only exacerbates the taboo against gays within the organization, OR chastising various church groups from pulling funding from the Scouts based on this ruling, OR chastising a slew of Scout parents who now refuse to allow their children into the organization for fear of exposing their sons to homosexuals….I’m not going to.

What I am going to say is that I am extremely proud of the members of the Boy Scouts of America who have stood behind this cause and who have brought it this far. This is a time to rejoice over progress, a time to look proudly towards the future, and a time to step back and appreciate how far this country has come in just the past few years to provide an equal and undiscriminated footing for the LGBT community. To those who made this advancement and social progress in the Scouts possible, I salute you (with three fingers, of course).

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Mentally awake and morally straight: Discrimination in the Boy Scouts

8 Feb

As The League gains increasing momentum, increasing dialogue, and increasing topical diversity, I must admit it is growing increasingly difficult to hold my tongue on my sentiments and opinions regarding what I consider to be the very root of more global and domestic issues than anyone can even keep track of. The unyielding influence of religion* in the world are at the core of nearly every debate we have held on The League, from rebellion in Mali, to the venomous tongue of Ann Coulter, to ritual killings of disabled youth. I am a firm believer in the power of religious institutions to bring loving and caring individuals together to help others on a grand scale. I also believe that the power of faith itself can motivate and inspire human beings to accomplish more than they ever thought possible. However, I also believe that we are faced with yet another cause that is being stymied by the abuse of faith by the religious right, and this time it is one that merits some personal reflection: the vote to end the ban on gays in the Boy Scouts of America.

This week the Boy Scouts executive board decided to put off a vote that would determine whether the ban on homosexuals in the Boy Scouts would finally be lifted. The decision comes at a pivotal time in the ongoing struggle for equal rights for the LGBTQ community – in a year when the re-elected President of the United States declared in his inaugural address that gay and lesbian individuals should be afforded the same rights as everyone else, a year when the first ever openly gay man was selected to read the Inaugural Poem, and in a year when the preceding election added 4 new states to the list of states allowing same-sex marriages. The tides are changing in America, and here we have an institution (which turns 103 years old today) committed to rearing America’s male youth according to “Christian values and the Biblical truth” that is further delaying a decision which in this former Boy Scout’s opinion is long overdue.

Growing up in a largely-Mormon hub outside of Sacramento, California, I was a member of the Boy Scouts, and before that Cub Scouts and W.E.B.E.L.O.S (a painfully awkward shorthand for ‘we’ll be loyal Scouts’ – I assumed the Boy Scouts valued Biblical truth over even minimal creativity). I loved it for the most part – earning my merit badges, weekend retreats to the California wilderness, the uniforms that were so cool that hipsters can be seen wearing them all over Brooklyn today. But I did not make it far. I rose to the meager rank of Second Class and dropped out, frankly because I ceased to feel like I fit in with the boys around me and felt myself becoming increasingly alienated as I became decreasingly associated with the stereotypical characteristics of my gender. Masculinity began to not only not make sense to my developing mind, but it began to anger me a great deal. The only thing that angered my angst-ridden mind more at the time was the idea of organized religion. I had no desire to conform to gender stereotypes and no desire to be judged for my dwindling belief in Christian values, so before my period of adolescent-gender-barrier-exploration began, I stopped going to church, and I quit the Scouts.

All this took place before I had the mental and intellectual capacity to realize what the Boy Scouts of America had truly come to be – a training camp for good Christian boys. Flash forward to the present, I am outraged that the ban on gays in the Scouts is even in question, but I am in no way surprised. Like Catholic schools, many boarding schools and other institutions of religious education, the Boy Scouts of America espouses an informal education that perpetuates the ideals and values of the Christian right in the US, ideals and values that I believe encapsulate the forces that hinder this great nation from social progress on many fronts.

HOWEVER…

Just because I do not endorse the outdated ideology of those who run the Boy Scouts of America, does not mean that they do not provide a great deal of value for America’s youth. Even though I forgot all my knots, my time in the Scouts taught me how to work as part of a team, how to be a leader, how to take pride in helping other people, how to multitask and manage my time, how to eat healthy, how to live healthy, and how to be confident in my decisions and my choices in life. It taught me skills I still use today when I exercise, hike, camp, travel, explore, learn, and yes, even talk to other men. To keep youth from the opportunity to experience all of these life-enriching activities and skills just because they live in a REALITY where sexuality is fluid and sexual identity is for every person to decide for themselves is, in my opinion, criminal, and violates the principles upon which this country was founded.

The world is becoming a more open and accepting place where individuals all over the planet are becoming increasingly free to live their lives as they choose to live them, expressing aspects of their identity that were previously forced to be hidden. Today, when Family Research Council president Tony Perkins says that “for over 100 years the Boy Scouts have been helping boys make this journey into manhood,” he is referring to an obsolete, constricting and narrow interpretation of what manhood is, the very interpretation that boys like me reject when it is force-fed to them. The Boy Scouts of America wonder why it is hurting for participation these days – perhaps it is because parents across this country are increasingly put off by the idea of subjecting their sons to a mode of socialization that perpetuates archaic values that have less and less of a place in contemporary society (not for fear that a gay scout leader will be sexually attracted to their children, as Perkins seems to suggest).

I am rarely patriotic, but I do believe that the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth, because it is here that every citizen should be able to live free of persecution and discrimination. While the struggle for the LGBTQ community is far from over, I am confident that any formal and/or institutional discrimination against LGBTs in the US will soon come to an end. A new level of equality will soon be realized in this country as it is in a growing number of countries around the world every day. I hope with every part of me that Lucky 2013 will be the year the Boy Scouts of America as an organization end this ridiculous ban and start waking up with the rest of us.

If you’re interested, you can also watch Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown’s thoughts on the matter as a former Eagle scout and a political figure who recognizes how ridiculous it is that this gay ban is still in place.

*Let it be known that my opinions on religion, which are likely to become more prevalent throughout my blog posts, do not reflect those of The League as a whole or any individual author, to the best of my knowledge.