The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

A Scout Is … Queer?

Well, you won’t find it among the characteristics listed on the Scout Law. But, yeah, in my case a scout is queer.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from the National Eagle Scout Association. (Yes, I’m an Eagle Scout.) I either ignored it or forgot about. But they didn’t forget about me. I got this in my inbox this afternoon.

Do you have fond memories of all those camping trips on your Trail to Eagle? Or do you ever wonder where the other Eagles from your troop are now? Have you considered how being an Eagle Scout shapes your life even today?

The National Eagle Scout Association recently authorized the National Eagle Scout Search Project which will culminate in the publication of the Eagle Scout Roll of Honor. Roll of Honor will be the first-ever registration and publication of its kind – capturing nearly 100 years of Eagle Scout history, tradition, service and achievement.

Oh geez. Now I’ve got a dilemma.

See, the Boy Scouts aren’t all that keen on queers.

Eagle-MedalOn June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of the Boy Scouts of America having the constitutional right to exclude gay people. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist interpreted the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of association to mean that the Supreme Court could not force one of America’s most treasured institutions “to accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organization’s expressive message,” thus overturning last year’s New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that the Scouts had violated the state law banning anti-gay discrimination.

The Dale of Boy Scouts of America vs. Dale, No. 99-699 is a 30-year-old advertising director of POZ magazine and a one-time assistant scoutmaster of the Boy Scouts. I befriended James Dale in 1988 during our freshman year at Rutgers, where we were both drawn to the State University of New Jersey for more than just the classes. With its liberal reputation, and proximity to New York City, Rutgers promised to be a comfortable environment for people like us to come out.

But several months after Dale appeared in the pages of Newark’s Star-Ledger as one of the most visible members of the university’s Gay and Lesbian Alliance in 1990, he received two letters — one from the Monmouth Council of Boy Scouts, the other from the district council — informing him that “avowed homosexuals” were not permitted in the organization, and that his 12-year membership was being revoked.

They say so right on their legal issues website.

  • Volunteer Adult Leadership
    Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. Scouting’s moral position with respect to homosexual conduct accords with the moral positions of many millions of Americans and with religious denominations to which a majority of Americans belong. Because of these views concerning the morality of homosexual conduct, Boy Scouts of America believes that a known or avowed homosexual is not an appropriate role model of the Scout Oath and Law for adolescent boys.
  • Employment
    With respect to positions limited to professional Scouters or, because of their close relationship to the mission of Scouting, positions limited to registered members of the Boy Scouts of America, acceptance of the Declaration of Religious Principle, the Scout Oath, and the Scout Law is required. Accordingly, in the exercise of its constitutional right to bring the values of Scouting to youth members, Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals, or others as professional Scouters or in other capacities in which such employment would tend to interfere with its mission of reinforcing the values of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law in young people.
  • Youth Leadership
    Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting’s values and beliefs. Most boys join Scouting when they are 10 or 11 years old. As they continue in the program, all Scouts are expected to take leadership positions. In the unlikely event that an older boy were to hold himself out as homosexual, he would not be able to continue in a youth leadership position.

In the time I was an active Boy Scout, I served as a Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and (briefly, before going off to college) Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. I was out by then, to myself and to most of my classmates at school. But not to the Scouts (even though I’m sure most of the guys in my troop knew). I knew what the official response would be. Plus, my Dad was the assistant scoutmaster, whom I once heard say “A boy who doesn’t want to be in scouting shouldn’t be in scouting,” only to forbid me to quit when I told him I wanted to. (The cognitive dissonance was starting to become suffocating.)

For what it’s worth, I picked up some leadership experience during that time. It came in handy in college, when I was co-director of the LGBT student group, and when we successfully lobbied the University Council to pass a non-discrimination policy concerning sexual orientation for work and study at the university.

But the Boy Scouts and the National Eagle Scout Association probably don’t want to hear about that. They don’t want to hear, really, anything about the life I’ve manage to build for myself. (Which is a pretty damn good one, if I do say so myself.) I guess that’s because according to them, I can’t be queer and be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful , thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” It screws with their framing. So, I couldn’t be queer and be a scout.

(And because of their policy, it’s unlikely either of our sons will be a Boy Scout, for obvious reasons.)

But I was. And I am. An Eagle Scout even.

Now the National Eagle Scout Association wants to include me in their directory. They want me to call them so they can “verify” my information. Will they ask if I’m married? If I have kids? Probably.

So, what should I do?

  • Ignore their request.
  • Call them, see what kind of questions they ask, answer honestly, and see what happens.
  • Contact them that due to their discriminatory policy I will not be participating, and would like to be removed from their email list, etc.

I’m honestly not sure.

Any other queer Scouts or Eagle Scouts out there? How’d you guys handle this?

15 Comments

  1. don’t ignore them, answer the questions and answer them honestly and openly. you have the opportunity to change a mind or several.

    http://www.queersunited.blogspot.com

  2. I received the letter, and am having the exact same dilemma. In some sense, I feel I should respond, and probably answer any questions they ask honestly, and then see if they actually publish my information. On the other hand, their national policies go out of thier way to tell me I am not worthy of their organization, so why should I go out of my way with their requests?

    As of right now, the letter still sits on my kitchen table— and I just don’t know what to do.

  3. Matt Hill Comer of InterstateQ, who also earned Eagle Scout status in his youth, has blogged a lot about gays and the BSA. Though he doesn’t also have the non-monotheist angle.

  4. Pingback: A Scout Is … Queer? : PinkNews.co.uk

  5. I think you have to answer, openly and honestly.

    This is the perfect opportunity to show them how despite their discriminatory policy, a now proud, happy, healthy, married, gay father also served them well as an Eagle Scout. They need to see that the “leaders” they were grooming also included gay kids and that your participation in the program had no adverse affects on anyone or anything.

    Clearly, you weren’t the only one. All of you need to stand up and be counted so their stupid policy gets exposed for what it is.

  6. I say answer them, and answer them honestly. As a veteran scout leader, I would love them to finally see the light with a boatload of replies that say “I’m and eagle scout AND I’m gay!” and change the policy. I believe it is possible to be morally straight AND gay! Just like I know it’s possible to be heterosexual and a total *sshat, the two really aren’t connected. What make a good scout is his heart and I know you have that heart! I know there are many honest, trustworthy and loyal gay men out there that deserve to be proud of their rank, not confused and stressed by it! Tell them the truth, maybe they will hear it.

  7. As a former Girl Scout, I’m glad the Girl Scouts aren’t anti-gay/anti-atheist like the Boy Scouts. Also, I’d hate to have to give up my GS cookies. ;-)

    Seriously though, I’d reply to the letter and politely tell them how you feel. The worst they can do is throw it in the trash. The best that can happen is you change some heart(s) and mind(s).

  8. I think my parents address is still the one on record, I should change that. At any rate, I’m going home to Maryland to visit the family next weekend so I’ll look for it then. I think you should absolutely respond to them and talk candidly about your life: the beautiful life you have built and the ways that your experience as an Eagle Scout has shaped that.

    Over the Christmas holiday I was picking up groceries for my parents and noticed a cub scout shopping in uniform with his dad. As it turns out, he was from my troop! I smiled and said hello and told them I was in Troop 773 back in the day and wished them both good luck. The boy was just started out and I told him I made it all the way to Eagle and that it is was worth it. I left thinking “Community in action, what a great thing.” And then many of the same thoughts you had raced through my mind, “but what about the horrible policies? What about my eventual son(s)? What about my friend Matt who was kicked out before he could reach Eagle?”

    Boy Scouts was the throughline of my childhood. Boy Scouts was safe, fun, and adventurous all at once. Boy Scouts fostered character and commitment. I wonder if I haven’t taken my experiences for granted. How did my leadership positions and my Eagle project prepare me to manage a tv station? To produce a movie? To plan two days of activities during Equality Ride? To organize a benefit for SFNYC?

    Boy Scouts in general, and being an Eagle Scout specifically, is so much a part of who I am today that it took me this post to realize it. I hope to share that with the Eagle Scout Associate. It is an important organization and individuals like you, me, and all the rest will call it to be the best it can be.

  9. I’m a gay Eagle Scout, 25 years old, but I haven’t received any such communication. Time to check out the NESA a little more in-depth. Tangent aside, I’m fiercely proud of the honor and heritage of the Eagle Scout award, and even of the discriminatory organization that made it all possible. Maybe “I’d prefer to not disclose”-type responses are the best thing here for those probing questions. As much as I’d love to be completely honest with them, I’d be afraid of the consequences and repercussions against my family. Can they cause my award to be revoked? My cousins’? My uncle’s? Can they cancel my mom’s merit badge counselor certifications? Can they prevent my little brothers from becoming Eagles? Can they get my brothers kicked out?

  10. I called in to update my info the other week. They basically ask for your contact info, spouse and kids, and current employment. I would say to go with option B, and if they give you a hard time about it (which they might not, since it’s just some flack at the publishing company, not a Scout employee, answering the phone), then switch to option C. (I’m straight and marginally religious, but I did kind of wish I worked for a gay rights or separation-of-church-and-state group so that I could give them a bit of option B.)

  11. Pingback: World of Science News : Blog Archive : links for 2008-04-20 [Uncertain Principles]

  12. Option number 3. I’m not gay, but I’m an eagle scout who opposes this kind of discrimination. As a result, whenever I receive a letter like that, I reply thusly:

    I am an Eagle Scout from Boy Scout Troop XXX, and I recently recieved notice about your search for Eagle Scouts in my area. As much as I would like to be active in the BSA, I cannot in good conscience continue to support an organization who discriminates against both
    homosexuals and atheists.

    During my many years in Boy Scouts, I was taught to always strive to be morally straight. I was not, however, taught to be a bigot.

    Regretfully,

    Chris Miller
    Eagle Scout

    So far I haven’t heard any responses back, but it heartens me that they’re at least hearing my point of view.

  13. I also received this and I responded to the survey. They do indeed ask for the names of spouses and children. I didn’t include mine because I felt no need to include my wife’s name in a random directory going to many unknown people. As soon as I hung up, I thought of issues of people like you.
    I think you should definitely respond to the survey and include your husband’s name. At best, they include the information, and at worst, they keep ignoring you. You’re already on the list of eagle scouts and they get minimal additional benefit from putting you in a directory.

    The only side effect of responding so far is that “Scouting” magazine showed up in my mailbox for free last week. I haven’t opened it yet. If they start asking for donations, I’ll ask them to change their homophobic policies first.

    fyi, The other questions on the survey related to address, education, and current profession. There were a series of questions on whether you were currently involved with scouting and whether you wanted local scouting organizations to contact you. I responded “No” to these questions mainly because of the current homophobic policies, but perhaps you might be willing to respond “yes.” These local people need to know that there is some amazing people and role models willing to help if not for these current rules. Staying quiet helps no one.

    I found a link here from http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2008/04/calling_all_eagle_scouts_umnot.php
    and I don’t yet know much about you or your blog, so sorry if I made any incorrect assumptions.

  14. I had a homosexual boy in my patrol. He was not in the least shy about it but he didn’t feel the need to announce it at troop meetings. Unfortunately the troop later took on a former marine as a scouting assistant. I later found out that he was both a misogynist and a homosexual. He seemed to all a fine ex-marine on the surface. He prayed upon boys in the troop, including the homosexual in my patrol, until he finally invited a boy for overnight that objected and told his father. When his actions became known to the parents, it almost caused the disbandenment of the troop.

    There is no reason for anyone in scouting to broadcast sexual preferences. That’s not what scouting is about. Indeed, it gives boys and young men a chance to get involved in the other important aspects of nature without the strain of sex. The armed forces of this country have the answer, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It’s nobody’s business.

  15. I see comments like “don’t ignore them” and other comments like “Don’t ask don’t tell.” Obviously we are conflicted about how to handle this.

    Personally, I believe a “DADT” solution is the worst. That’s how former marines get to seduce boys, and the BSA gets to flit along in blissful ignorance of the kids they are hurting.

    BSA themselves acknowledged during The Trials that open homosexuals are significantly less likely to abuse boys than any other group. But they continue to teach that the only two options for kids are chastity or suicide, and the only thing worse than being an openly gay man is being truthful about it.

    My vote is to participate in this. Maybe it will give NESA a clue as to how many gay scouts there are out there, and the foamers (rabid gay-haters) will have to see their names listed next to people they hate!

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