By now you’ve no doubt heard that the Boy Scouts of America, after a supposedly exhaustive conversation and study, has decided to uphold its policy of not allowing openly gay youth to serve as Scouts or openly gay adults to be affiliated with Scouting, either in a professional or mentor capacity. In a free society, freedom also means the right to discriminate and the Boy Scouts have chosen to continue to do so. This in spite of rapidly declining membership and the fact that organizations from 4-H to the Boys and Girls Club to the United States Armed Forces have changed their own policies to be more inclusive and tolerant and better reflect the modern world in which we find ourselves. When you’re behind the US Military on inclusion, brother, you are behind.
There’s many things about this I don’t get. Here’s one of them. What sort of research exists that demonstrates that gay people aren’t equipped to be good mentors? I mean, if they’re saying that “open and avowed homosexuals” can’t be affiliated with Scouts, what reason would exist other than them being suspect? What other reason would exist other than the unsubstantiated belief that gays are pedophiles who can’t be trusted either around children or in conjunction with children’s growth and well being? Further, what research exists that says that gay children are more likely to be lewd or inappropriate or can’t be trusted around heterosexual children? By disavowing them publicly and not allowing them to be part of their organization, Scout officials are telling us that the Boy Scouts stand for values outside of or out of step with those held by gay people. Even as these officials live in a country where there are openly gay public officials, teachers, and civic leaders. Their children are taught math and science by gay people. Their children read and analyze stories and poems by gay people. These officials rock out in the car to music written by gays. Watch television shows created by and starring gays. Almost certainly have friends and relatives who are gay. Trust gays with their money at banks. Buy produce and foodstuffs from gays. Cheer on gay athletes. See action films by gay superstars. They may not know it, but they do because one in ten people is gay. You do the math.
To which the Boy Scouts reply by saying that they’re a private organization and can do what they want. They’ll also argue that sexuality is not a part of scouting. They’ll tell you that the conversation isn’t relevant to the conversations being had in Boy Scouts. They’ll tell you that their members are mostly under 12 and aren’t thinking about sexuality. Except that they are. Here’s what they’re thinking: gay people can’t be trusted and aren’t welcome in the environment where I am the fullest and most honorable expression of myself. That’s what scouting is about. Actualizing. Becoming the person you want to be. The Boy Scouts mission is “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes.” It’s about citizenship and loyalty and bravery and thrift. I want my sons to be loyal and brave and thrifty. Unfortunately, they’ll have to learn these values from somewhere else, because unless the Boy Scouts have a sudden and humble policy shift, I’d never allow my sons to be scouts. And probably not even then. This is a bit sad to me. But I’ll get over it. We’ll just have to learn to tie knots on our own.
By the way, none of this is to imply that all scouts, or all those associated with scouting, are cruel homophobes. Certainly not. In fact, it’s a downer that all currently serving scouts and den leaders have to be burdened by and affiliated with all this. Doubtless many scouts and den leaders don’t share the organization’s views on this issue, but feel compelled to be part of The Boy Scouts anyway. Doubtless many of them don’t think about it much. They just want to go camping and wear a lot of beige while learning how to build a four hour campfire.
In an op-ed piece in the NY Times right after this decision, Bob Mazzuca and Wayne Perry (respectively the chief scout executive and national president of the organization) wrote “our role is to equip young people with life skills so one day, they can make their own decisions…we teach our members to treat those with different opinions with courtesy and respect at all times and to adamantly oppose the mistreatment of others based on any perceived difference.” What a relief it was for me to learn that open discrimination against gays doesn’t qualify as “mistreatment.” And that one can discriminate while also adamantly opposing “mistreatment.” This is sad double speak that deserves a smack down. Allow me.
It’s naive and weak to pretend that you can be respectful and courteous to those you openly revile. It’s the same as me smiling at my gay neighbor and loaning him a cup of sugar when he asks, then calling him a fag when I go back inside my house. And then telling my children not to trust fags. And then going back outside and smiling and waving again as my gay neighbor mows his lawn. What? I was courteous. I was respectful. I loaned the guy a cup of sugar!
Except that isn’t courtesy. That isn’t respect. It’s two faced hypocrisy masquerading as courtesy and respect. What’s in your heart matters and the Boy Scouts have clearly shown us what is in theirs. Gays are suspect. They are bad. They are not welcome in our character building operation because they have no character.
The Boy Scouts are a private organization. They can do what they want. And clearly they don’t care what anyone on the other side of this thinks. Which will serve them well as they fade and become ever less relevant to modern children growing up in a world where tolerance is something to stand for, not against.