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.
On 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.
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?