I received an email this morning from Wayne Brock, the Chief Scout Executive for the Boy Scouts of America. In it, he explained the backtracking decision by the Scouts to study the "complex issue" involving their "membership criteria", without ever using the word "gay", or "homosexual", or "sexual orientation" in describing what the criteria actually say.
Neat trick, I think. Not exactly the kind of transparency that inspires confidence in another review process in addition to the one they claimed they had already spent more than a year in, when they reaffirmed membership criteria that was notable for who it excluded, and not so much who it included.
I've been a scout leader for the past four years, if for no other reason than a selfish one- I like camping, and I love being with my son. I love being with my daughter, which is why I have supported her joining Venture Scouts.
Our family can apparently tolerate dissonance better than the 103 year old Boy Scouts- at one point, my daughter was not only the President of the Venture Scout Troop, but she was also coordinator of the Gay-Straight Alliance at her High School. We believe in working from the inside out to bring about culture change. Sort of a family ethos. I don't know if that makes us embarrassingly naive, or unwitting collaborators. I suppose I'd worry more about which it was, if we didn't often see shifts in culture occurring as a result of simply bearing witness and working for change on the inside. Either way, we've been called both.
I think scouting, as an ideal, has a lot offer kids and adults. The values of honesty, kindness, service to community, respect for the environment- even the value of honoring one's own spiritual path, should you choose to have one- all good ideals. And all anti-thetical to the concept that you can practice all those things, and still prevent a youth who is gay from joining the same kids they go to school with, play sports with, and maybe live next door to in the scouting experience. Too much dissonance.
So I responded to Mr. Brock.
I appreciate that the Volunteer Board feels the need to study what it feels is a "complex" issue- one I notice you delicately did not refer to directly. It doesn't inspire much confidence in your deliberations, if you cannot even say the word "gay" in your communications to the thousands of parents and scouts who are members.
Let me be more clear- I am a Scout Leader, Merit Badge counselor in three areas, and a duly elected member of the Order of the Arrow- my son became a Life Scout before he was fourteen, and is currently holding til he meets the age criteria for Eagle while he plans an Eagle Scout project.
Both he and I feel deeply that what we have gotten from Scouting has been life-changing. To deny that opportunity to other youth, to the 10% of our youth that demographics show will eventually become functional members of our society who happen to also be gay, is to our way of thinking entirely anti-thetical to everything we believe as a Scouting family. It has become very difficult to justify our ongoing involvement in light of our perceived support for a policy that we feel is so at odds with the ideals of scouting.
Please take this as a plea from my son and I to uphold the ideals of scouting- of tolerance, and service to community, of kindness and honesty- and strike this membership policy that excludes young men and adults on the basis of sexual orientation. It is unfair, it diminishes the value of scouting as path to confident independence for our youth, and looks backward, not forward.
Thank you for reconsidering this unfair membership criteria for youth and adult participation. I look forward to the time when scouting is an option for all youth who want to participate.
XXXX XXXX Council
Troop 21 XXXXXXX
It occurs to me that on the 103rd Anniversary of Scouting, we have an opportunity to look forward and celebrate what will be; and not just look to the past and celebrate what has been.