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Why Boy Scouts of America Should Accept Gay and Bisexual Members

As has been widely reported, in the near future there is a strong likelihood that the National Council for the Boy Scouts of America may convene, and that during this convention they would vote on a change to the national by-laws for the organization that would allow Area Councils or individual Troops to choose to lift the current ban on accepting openly gay, bisexual, and other non-heterosexual oriented men and boys.  For an organization as old and as publicly homophobic as the BSA, even the potential for such a vote to swing in favor of progressive, albeit moderated, acceptance is a large step.  As a former Scout, I do not think the current proposal goes far enough.

I grew up as an active member of the BSA.  My parents enrolled me during my first year of grade school, and I remained a member until a combination of school requirements, poor area Troops, and an increasingly full event calendar essentially forced me to drop out.  Nevertheless, I gave 10 years of my life to the BSA.  I attended the weekly meetings, in uniform.   I joined every monthly hike, camping trip, or canoeing trip that I could.  Every summer from the time I was first eligible, I attended a week of camp.  Courtesy of the High Adventure program, I spent a week in a replica schooner in the Florida Keys.  Because of the efficient organization of the BSA, I have hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail, I have attended regional Camporees, I have learned First Aid, how to properly care for a rifle, how to tie elaborate knots, how to whip and fuse rope, and how to be both a good leader and a good follower.  The lessons I learned as a member were invaluable, and carry with me still.

Some of the core tenets of Scouting that I learned and embraced are contained with the Boy Scout Oath.  While I will not recite the entire Oath here, I will focus on the key tenets that apply to the current debate over proper acceptance of members who do not fit the hetero-normative mold.  “On my honor… I will do my duty… to help other people at all times … to keep myself … mentally awake and morally straight.”  Those tenets apply strongly to this fight.  Allow me to break them down.

On my honor … I will do my duty

This notion of honor is as old as men, it seems, yet it stands as an early call to the boys and young men within Scouting to hold oneself accountable for one’s actions even if no other person is around to bear witness.  That the Scout Oath begins with this phrase is key, for it tells us that a person who will carry himself with honor must always hold himself to the tenets he will soon recite.  He is placing himself in the company of the knights of old, of the armed forces of today, and even of the Klingons of Star Trek when he places such a strong focus on honor.  Immediately thereafter, as part of being honorable, he is reminded that he has a duty which must be performed.  Duty is not a matter of convenience, to be turned on and off on a whim.  Duty requires doing that which we may not like, may not enjoy, or even agree with at the moment, in order to perform the tasks that are necessary to remain honorable.  This duty, then, supercedes orders from ranking Scouts within the organization and the Scout Masters who organize and guide the Troop.

To help other people at all times

This is what I believe to be the single most important aspect of the Scout Oath.  The duty of selfless assistance, of reaching out to other people in need, is the driving force behind performing good in the community.  The National Guard is often shown as an example of helping others during times of natural disaster or emergency; so too do the local Troops organize and mobilize to help as they can in disaster recovery.  Crews are mobilize to assist with cleanup, or help in soup kitchens, or distribute food and clothing in hard hit areas.  The notion of lending a hand to those who need it is the core function of the BSA.

This help should be extended to those seeking equal civil rights.  Sadly, this extension has never come easily to the BSA, as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was slow to reach local Troops.  That the BSA openly supported racism stands as a telling prediction of how the National Council may proceed in the current fight for equal rights in the LGBTQ community.

To keep myself … mentally awake and morally straight

The continuing duty of a Scout, even after he has moved on from being a member of a Troop, is to maintain a sense of clear thought and moral aptitude that supports the previous tenet of providing help.  In this fashion, one must always evaluate not only how others are treated within the community and seek to lend aid but also to introspectively monitor one’s own prejudices and adjust them accordingly.  This portion of the Scout Oath, then, becomes magnificently important as a guide as to whether Gay and Bisexual boys and men should be accepted into Troops.  To continue to discriminate against an entire community of people on the basis of illogical prejudice is an injustice to the cause of remaining mentally awake.  To actively participate in homophobic behavior is to actively reject the morally correct position of lending assistance to the oppressed.    The policy of discrimination, then, is nothing less than a direct and preposterous disavowing of the Scout Oath.

In all my years of Scouting, while fully aware of my Bisexual orientation, I never once sought to do anything less than uphold the virtues of the Scout Oath.  I proudly stood for the traits extolled within the Scout Law.  I learned teamwork, cooperation, leadership, and the value of completing daunting tasks.   Not once did I ever seek to “convert” any of my fellow Troop members to my sexuality.  Not once did I ever encourage or partake in a sexual act with a fellow Scout.  What I did do, every day, even when I felt I had more important things to do, was do my best to do my duty to help other people at all times.

The members of the National Council need to remember and serve The Oath when they convene to vote.


Stay SINful, friends.

8 responses

  1. My experience with scouts was limited to one or two meetings before I lost interest. My older brothers were really into it and my father was a very high up in the organization in our area. In those days, it was just what people did.

    Looking at the people I work with who have kids involved in scouts now, they are mostly also very religious. I think many in the BSA are simply attempting to hold onto the last fading institution of how they believe life was in the 1950’s, when supposedly, none of this gay stuff ever took place. Of course, they are kidding themselves.

    Some people simply assume that allowing LBGT immediately means sex at scout meetings, orgies during camp, etc. There is no idea t them that these scout leaders who happen to be gay are just good people who want to uphold the traditions you learned as a scout. It really is sad.

    February 4, 2013 at 7:14 am

    • It’s sad indeed. I do hope the organization can mature beyond the current archaic mentality.

      Stay SINful
      Mr. AP

      February 5, 2013 at 5:52 am

  2. I put my son in scouts but he had to drop out the first year as all the activities required him to have a man with him (camping, etc). His father had no desire to be a father. Swinger was a huge fan of the boy scouts and attended Philmont Scout Ranch with his sons. He said boy scouts taught many good values.

    I think the biggest fear is that of molestation. We hear about all these scout masters molesting kids and of course the public associates them with being gay, meaning all gay men want to molest their sons (priest already got that rep now). So I believe that is the biggest misconception you have to expel from public thinking.

    Girl scouts was not anything like boy-scouts from what I have heard and witnessed. I was tormented as a child in scouts as I was very shy (yeah, hard to believe isn’t it) and kids were mean to me at the meetings, I remember crying alot though them. My daughter was only in scouts a year and it was the same for her. Kids being mean to her (even with me present) because she was shy also.

    February 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

    • I think those people who fear non-heteronormative people hide behind claims of fear of molestation or the standard of upholding traditional values to avoid admitting their real fear of potentially being non-heteronormative themselves. It’s rather sad.

      Stay SINful
      Mr. AP

      February 5, 2013 at 6:03 am

  3. Kat

    My daughter’s scout meetings are tied to a BSA troop. We meet together and share fundraising and service projects and you should see how much drama this is causing among our parents.

    February 4, 2013 at 10:35 am

    • Yet the Girl Scouts lifted their own ban years ago and nobody threw a fuss then. I think this shows just how unequal society still is.

      Stay SINful
      Mr. AP

      February 5, 2013 at 6:04 am

  4. RRoenbeck

    What a bunch of drivel and tortured logic. No where does the author cite the “Duty to God” pillar of the BSA. And the organization, from its inception, has taken teh position that homosexuality is in conflict with one’s duty to God. BSA is a PRIVATE ORGANIZATION and in this country the right of free assembly and teh right of PRIVATE organizations to establish their own membership criteria are protected by the US Constitution. The tyranny of an agenda of a small minority of society cannot and must not override these foundational Constitutional rights. Gays are perfectly free to set up their own PRIVATE organizations and establish their own membership criteria – that is their protected right under the law. God bless ’em … but BSA should not be forced to compromise their standards simply to fall in line with changing social mores which, sadly, dismiss the Creator and elevate the sinful.

    February 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    • I appreciate your feedback, despite the fact that I disagree with you. If I surrounded myself only by those who agree with me then I would be limiting my growth opportunities. However, think of your argument as it pertains to the primary function of the Boy Scouts of America. The purpose of the BSA is to teach young men how to be good leaders and effective communicators, while also teaching useful skills for multiple planed and unexpected situations. In that respect, the current national policy teaches member Scouts that discrimination and oppression of a minority group is not only acceptable but also the proper, upright, morally straight choice.

      This is the wrong message to be sending to our growing youth.

      The Girl Scouts do not discriminate against potential members based on sexual orientation. Neither now does any branch of the United States Armed Forces. 9 U.S. states and the District of Columbia currently perform same-sex marriages. Same-sex marriage is also performed in 11 countries worldwide and recognized as legal in an additional 8 countries. The U.S. currently stands as the only North American country to not recognize same-sex marriage nationwide; yes, we are behind Mexico in this regard as well.

      I contend that for a Scout to perform his “Duty to God” as you put it requires fighting for equal rights for those are are discriminated against and oppressed. The fact that the members of the conservative movement use Biblical attacks to encourage discrimination and oppression does not mean the BSA should hold to those same values; after all, Biblical arguments were used for the justification of Slavery, Racial Segregation, and denying rights to Women. All of those were as equally immoral as active discrimination against people who are not heterosexual.

      If the BSA truly wants to teach Scouts how to be good, effective leaders, they need to lead by example and treat all men and boys as equal.

      Stay SINful
      Mr. AP

      February 11, 2013 at 12:19 am

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