Friday, May 24, 2013

The Boy Scouts

After wrestling with the issue in a very public manner for a few months, the Boy Scouts of America announced that they will no longer ban gay scouts from the organization. A few thoughts:

  • My son is a Life Scout and is working toward his Eagle badge. He's been involved in scouting since he was in first grade and it's been an important part of his life. He and I have been able to have a lot of fun together over the years because he's been a Scout.
  • I haven't ever known if any of the scouts in my son's troop are gay. It's quite possible that one or more of them were. It wouldn't have mattered, then or now.
  • The ban on gay adult leaders isn't going anywhere. My guess is that there are openly gay adult leaders in the organization now and they will continue to be part of Scouting. Their presence will simply be below the surface.
  • As you might recall, Scouting went through a sexual abuse scandal around the same time that the Catholic Church did, with much of the abuse taking place in the 1970s and 1980s. The bans came as a response to those abuses. It's not worth our time to rehearse the arguments about the policy here; I merely offer it up as an explanation.
  • Beyond the ban, Scouting also has implemented other procedures for adult leaders which are pretty effective, especially "two-deep" leadership, which means that at no time can any individual scout be alone with an adult leader. I am a merit badge counselor and when I meet with scouts to discuss their progress on their merit badges, I always have another parent scout leader present. This approach makes the possibility of abuse pretty remote.
  • Structurally, Scouting is a pretty loose organization. BSA can offer up whatever dictates it wants, but all troops have a chartered organization that sponsors and hosts the troop. Most of these organizations are local churches and many view homosexuality with a gimlet eye. My son's troop is sponsored by a local church and I don't know if they'll be interested in continuing to sponsor the troop because of this decision. We'll find out, I suppose. I do hope that gay-friendly churches and other civic organizations will step into the breach if individual troops start losing their sponsors. Put it this way -- they'd better.
  • As a parent, what makes Scouting great is that it has given my son chances to do things he wouldn't ordinarily have done. Our family isn't into camping at all. I've often said my idea of "roughing it" is going to a motel that doesn't offer continental breakfast. Because my son has stayed with it, he's had the chance to go camping dozens of times and he's gained a love of nature and the outdoors that he wouldn't have it had been up to my wife and me. More importantly, he's gained significant benefit from the wisdom of older scouts and the wide variety of adult leaders he's met as a result of his participation. And as an adult leader, I've been able to teach kids about citizenship and their role in the community and nation. Those experiences are hugely important to those who are involved in Scouting and to the nation as well.


Anonymous said...

Here's a question for you? How does an 11- or 12-year old scout KNOW he prefers sex with men rather than women? Should he even be thinking about sex at all? And how can he be "morally straight" without being "straight"?

Mr. D said...


I can only speak for my troop. Matters of sexuality aren't on the radar. The issue is obviously with older scouts, who might know the answer. Personally, I'd hate to see a kid who has been a good scout get the boot because he's gay. It doesn't seem necessary.

As for morally straight, it's certainly possible for a heterosexual scout not to be morally straight, in any manner of ways. The term, at least as most people I know interpret it, comes from the idea of being on the straight and narrow path, which would mean having rectitude in your dealings with others. That's the way we've always understood it in our troop.

Unknown said...

I appreciate your post on this subject. I was a scout and I am gay. It was never an issue and I'm expecting it to not be an issue going forward. I do appreciate the dual rule they have now as it protects both the boys and the parents involved from any possible harm or liability.

To anon: I knew I was gay since I was in about the 4th or 5th grade. When guys started bringing in pictures from their dad's collections and well, it just didn't make sense to me why they thought it was great.. I didn't know at the time what exactly it was, but I knew I was different.

Bike Bubba said...

One way of phrasing "morally straight" for kids that might work is "celibate." I would guess that the Scouts won't have a lot of luck enforcing that one, either.

Gino said...

ok, so Bike Bubba is not 'morally straight' per his own definition.

Mr. D said...


Thanks for stopping by. I think two-deep is the best way to handle any issues and my guess is that eventually Scouting will see that the solution they need is already in place.


I suppose that's another way of interpreting it.


Celibate as a scout and celibate as an adult are different things, I would say.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

I think the background of this story and many others in this country are the sexualization of children. Instead of constraining it, adults are empowering it - and therein lie many a problem.

Mr. D said...

I think the background of this story and many others in this country are the sexualization of children. Instead of constraining it, adults are empowering it - and therein lie many a problem.

Yes, but what's interesting here is that, at least in my son's troop, scouting is really a respite from all that. Which I suspect is your point.

Gino said...

mr D: you're confusing 'celibate' with 'chaste'.

Mr. D said...

Gino, I realize the words aren't necessarily interchangeable. One can be celibate without being chaste and one can be chaste without being celibate. The second variation tends to cause significantly more consternation.

Bike Bubba said...

Gino: OK, celibate or married to someone of the opposite sex. In the case of the Scouts, I'm thinking "celibate" is an appropriate approximation, no?