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My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members
02-04-2013, 07:34 PM
Post: #1
My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members
Read the full article on the blog.

I loved being in Boy Scouts. Scouting gave me my first experiences with leadership, taught me important practical skills, led to strong bonds with good friends, provided positive adult role models, and helped inspire my life's focus on environmental advocacy. It also taught me why the Boy Scouts' ban on gay members is wrong.

Despite not being so good at tying knots, my time in scouting included holding a long list of positions. The last one was Troop Guide. I was older than most of the troop, but I was so close to completing my Eagle Scout badge that I decided to stick with it. The Scout handbook describes the Troop Guide's duties:
The troop guide is both a leader and a mentor to the members of the new-Scout patrol. He should be an older Scout who holds at least the First Class rank and can work well with younger Scouts. He helps the patrol leader of the new-Scout patrol in much the same way that a Scoutmaster works with a senior patrol leader to provide direction, coaching, and support.
There was a more specific reason for my assignment. The troop had a problem with some of the younger Scouts being teased and treated badly. It was the sort of common behavior you'd expect from boys that age, but it did cause a couple of scouts to leave the troop. The Scoutmaster wanted me to help set the tone for the older Scouts and stick up for the younger kids.

I don't remember teasing the younger Scouts before then, but I wasn't paying much attention to them either. I hung out with the older guys. Socializing too much with the newbies wasn't cool.

I started spending more time talking with the new Scouts after accepting the position and tried making them feel welcome in the troop. Once or twice I gave the older kids a hard time about their teasing. After that, everyone started rethinking their behavior and things got better. I think I did a good job.

It was a church-sponsored troop and I heard about a comment one of the younger Scouts made in Sunday School class. The students were asked to name people who stand up for justice. One of them said my name. He may have been playing teacher's pet since my mom was giving the Sunday school lesson, but I was very proud to know someone thought of me that way because of how I acted as Troop Guide.

If there were any gay Scouts in our troop they kept it a secret. Back then, I was naively unaware of how much a teenager might go through by coming out of the closet. The killing of Matthew Shepard confronted me with that reality years later.

After that, I helped the LGBT students at my college push for the bill that added sexual orientation to the Illinois Human Rights code (an act co-sponsored by State Senator Barack Obama). It wouldn't be the last time I worked to protect the civil rights of a group I didn't belong to, including my work as state director of a voter registration drive targeted at African-American and Hispanic voters in an old Jim Crow state.

Eagle_Scout_medalThere are many life experiences that influence me to stand up for the rights of everyone. But undoubtedly, an important one was my time as Troop Guide. I learned that you don't look the other way and ignore what's happening when a bully is picking on the little guy. You speak up. You help set things right. You set the tone for others and lead by example.

Sadly, in the case of their discrimination policy, the Boys Scouts of America organization is the bully. The policy forces people to hide who they are, and sends a message that it's acceptable to treat people badly based on their sexual orientation. By participating in discrimination, they're violating some of the most important values I learned as a Boy Scout.

What saddens me as well is that the future of scouting is jeopardized by the executive board sticking to this policy. Boy Scouts will become marginalized so that fewer and fewer young men will get to have the same positive, life-changing experiences I had.

Letting troops set their own policy will open up participation to additional churches and civic groups that stand for inclusiveness. That's the only way Boy Scouts will grow.

Receiving my Eagle Scout badge is something I still take pride in. I'm glad I stuck with it. I hope many others will be able to learn the same kind of lessons I did, regardless of their sexual orientation.

© 2013 Willinois. This article is reproduced by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
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02-05-2013, 02:33 AM
Post: #2
RE: My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members
You know, in reading your piece, I kept thinking about my father and my brothers. Both brothers were Boy Scouts; my dad was a Scout leader. I know the experience was good for all three of them, and I truly hope that the Scouts drop their objection to having members who are gay and open about it remain members. Gay or straight, it shouldn't matter. Sticking by that policy WOULD matter because it would diminish the good things being a Scout can bring to the lives of boys and men.

And P.S. I'm glad you stuck with it too.

Silence is consent.
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02-05-2013, 06:16 PM
Post: #3
RE: My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members
I also know how valuable Scouting can be for boys -- and have been very saddened that they took the wrong fork in the road on the inclusivity issue. I hope they finally get it right, and soon, before they become marginalized and further diminished.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever does. ~Margaret Mead~
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02-06-2013, 06:43 PM
Post: #4
RE: My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members
I understand that the scouts will be waiting until May to announce their decision. Sounds like they want to wait a while hoping the hoopla over this will blow over a bit. I don't have a good feeling they'll decide in favor of fairness for all and allow gays to belong.

"I give thanks for this perfect day. Miracle will follow miracle and wonders will never cease."

There's nothing more reassuring then realizing the world is crazier than you are.
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02-06-2013, 09:33 PM (This post was last modified: 02-06-2013 09:33 PM by Willinois.)
Post: #5
RE: My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members
(02-06-2013 06:43 PM)azmouse Wrote:  I understand that the scouts will be waiting until May to announce their decision. Sounds like they want to wait a while hoping the hoopla over this will blow over a bit. I don't have a good feeling they'll decide in favor of fairness for all and allow gays to belong.

I'm not optimistic considering how entrenched this board has been in the past. But thinking optimistically, the delay might also be to talk with the churches that sponsor the most troops to keep them in scouting.
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02-09-2013, 11:31 PM (This post was last modified: 02-09-2013 11:40 PM by Proud Liberal Dem.)
Post: #6
RE: My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members
I was in the Boy Scouts as a kid- in a "red state" no less (Indiana) and I don't recall LGBT-bashing/discrimination being taught as the "values and principles" that scouting is based upon. In fact, I never really even knew that the organization was homophobic until I was an adult and thought that treating others well and serving others irrespective of difference was what BSA was all about. I really get frustrated at such blatant attempts to discriminate against people for some non-rational reason like sexual orientation and, frankly, think that people whom actually expend the time, energy, and effort to ADVOCATE for discrimination on such grounds either have too much time on their hands or are obsessed with proving themselves morally superior in some way, shape, or form (or even trying to cope with the fact that they have the same desires in some cases).
I also tend to think that opening up scouting- or at least allowing local troops to make their own policies about LGBT scouts- will only be a good thing for the organization and, in fact, don't really care if the bigots might want to pull out of scouting- and neither should BSA. Frankly, I think that there is way too much sensitivity paid to people wanting to be bigots and/or to cram their own religious interpretations down everybody else's throats and I think that we need to start just letting the bigots go and letting them fade away in their own hate-filled "bubbles". Nobody is seeking to take their *right* to hate other people away for some arbitrary reason and they are free to form their own bigoted PRIVATE organizations with their own select members but in an increasingly pluralistic society that doesn't accept such bigotry, it seems nonsensical for government and PUBLICLY-FUNDED organizations to have to try to endlessly appease them IMHO.

Hopefully, BSA will listen to all sides of the issue and make the right decision in May

"You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice"
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02-10-2013, 11:41 AM
Post: #7
My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members
I can see a don't ask don't tell coming from them soon. Which I think it could cause more issues for a young boy. I think it would send the wrong massage. Just another part of society telling him to hide who he is. It's not ok to be who you are so you should keep it a secret. At this age confidence in who you are are is so important. We should be building these young boys up not holding back by denying who they are. Shame BSA
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