About a week ago, I had added my name to a petition being sent to a member of the BSA (that’s Boy Scouts of America) Board of Directors, demanding that the organization’s notorious ban on gays be overturned. A few minutes ago, I found this article at BBC World stating that the board had unanimously rejected the petition.
See, I’m an Eagle Scout. I worked my up from cub scouts. I’ve been to the camps, memorized the oaths, and folded the flags. I’m proud of the skills I’ve learned. I’m proud of the leadership training I’ve had. I’m proud of the values of civic duty, environmentalism, and honesty I’ve been given. And I am so very deeply ashamed that even now, an organization that’s been synonymous with decency and helpfulness is choosing to maintain a policy of unabashed bigotry.
According to the BSA, homosexuals (both men and women) are prohibited from holding leadership positions in the BSA. Despite maintaining a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell”-esque policy, any individual (employee, member, or even volunteer) who is found to be gay is expelled from the Scouts. The reason given for this was that
“The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,”
-Chief Executive Bob Mazzuca.
Now let’s just run with that. What Mazzuca seems to be asserting here is that the reason for banning gays from the BSA is that a scout’s first introduction to the controversial topic of homosexuality should be with his parents/pastor/etc. Now maybe you could point out that in this culture, the chances that a kid is going to be exposed to the concept of homosexuality before his parents introduce it to him is pretty dang high. Maybe you could point out that it’s really not something you have any actual control of, and that Mazzuca’s reasoning is just an insultingly shoddy veil for the fact that Mazzuca and the rest of the board just don’t want gays in period. But if we live in a world where a kid won’t encounter homosexuality except by introduction of his parents, there’s still a pretty gaping flaw in that already questionable logic.
You remember the bit where I was talking about the stuff I did in boy scouts? Where I said I’ve been to the camps, memorized the oaths, and so on? Yeah, I did more than just that. I shot guns. I fished. I learned to set snares. I threw knives and axes. I used bows.
In short, I learned how to kill things.
I gotta ask, which is the more traumatic? Learning that my scoutmaster likes other guys, or learning to shoot a deer or gut a fish?
Surely if I can be trusted to tie knots, use knives, and start fires, I can be trusted to learn that homosexuality exists without going insane and re-enacting Rambo: First Blood, right?
Interestingly enough, I was exposed to homosexuality in Boy Scouts. Despite Mazzuca’s assertion that the BSA takes no part in bringing up sexuality with its members, the scout troop I was with did take it upon themselves to have a showing of A Time to Tell, an informational video on sexual molestation. The film opens with the host asserting that “…It might feel uncomfortable presenting this subject to an 11 to 14 year old male audience for which it is intended, however, it is because of the unique physical and psychological changes young men experience in adolescence that the subject of sexual molestation should be directly addressed.”
Huh- so bringing up the extremely dark and painful subject of sexual abuse is both right and necessary, but any discussion of homosexuality should not be touched.
But let’s ignore the lousy excuse offered by the BSA board, and look at some other reasoning. One might try to take up the same line of reasoning used in the argument against gays in the military. That close quarters between straight and gay scouts will make for some seriously awkward and uncomfortable dynamics, and essentially prevent the troop from functioning with the kind of camaraderie it’s intended to have. Of course, I could use the whole logic of “people-sexually-attracted-to-each-other-can’t-work-together” to make a case for segregating men and women. The assumption at play is here is the idiotic old myth that gay guys are attracted to all other guys and just can’t help but act on their impulses.
Ok, so gay guys really don’t have any reason from being just as prepared and honorable as their straight counterparts, but what about scoutmasters? Surely gays shouldn’t be in charge of troops of young men!
Here’s where I think the clincher really is. Once upon a time, people didn’t make any distinction between being gay and being a pedophile. Just take a look at this horrific 1950s PSA labeling pedophiles and child molesters as “homosexuals”.
Crazy, right? If you want to see another interesting take on this, there’s an old Law & Order episode that deals with the whole gay/pedophile distinction not existing in the 50s. But of course, that was all more than half a century ago, and while at the time this may have been the reason against allowing gays to take up leadership positions in the BSA, it really can’t be maintained today.
I guess what makes it worse is that as a boyscout, I encountered so many other scouts who were foul, lazy, irresponsible- even some who were outright bullies and sexists. I find it tough to stomach that I had to stand alongside some really lousy kids while a boy who truly embodies the oath and scout law is excluded simply because he’s gay.
But apparently that’s what the board thinks makes a good scout- not his values, not his actions. Not his honesty, his courage, or his work-ethic. His sexual orientation, to Mazzuca and his cronies, is apparently more important than any of that.