on my honor, i will try

Today is the final day of secret talks for boardmembers of the Boy Scouts of America about a number of subjects, including lifting of the ban on gay scouts and leaders just seven months after the BSA decided to stick with the ban after a two year confidential investigation into the matter. The media is speculating, and with good reason, that the ban is being reexamined by BSA leadership because of a joint investigation published by the Huffington Post and the American Independent. In their research, HP/AI examined the human resources policies and policies specific to the philanthropic foundations that function as extensions of the companies that provide corporate support to BSA, and used these policies to publicly lambaste them for supporting an organization that does not toe the line in the same way that their companies do with regard to anti-discrimination.

This is an interesting way to confront corporations, especially because now more than ever Americans are prioritizing their political agendas when it comes to where they spend their money (please see: Chick-fil-a). To support an organization that does not permit an entire swath of the American citizenry to join their ranks is a sure-fire way to place your company's head on the guillotine of public opinion. And when companies stop financing your organization because your policies are in great conflict with the convictions of the majority of Americans, it's time to reexamine your priorities.

As I have shared before, I grew up scouting. I spent eight years of my childhood proudly earning the badges, learning the skills, and selling the cookies for the GSUSA. In fact, I even spent time as a Girl Scout under the leadership of a woman who is now the National Executive Director and Founder of the American Heritage Girls, a Christianity-based scouting organization that believes in reminding girls that their only "choices" in life are to be subservient to God and to marry a man. How I managed to escape her leadership unscathed, gay, and a proud defender of equality is truly a testament to the hypocritical vision for her organization. It was not in spite of scouting, but because of scouting, that I developed the confidence and the convictions that I continue to have to this day as a queer woman, and Garibay was an important part of laying that foundation. Her organization is now waiting breathlessly alongside millions of parents and kids for the final decision from this BSA's secret meeting. And when the decision is announced, AHG is reporting that they too will begin talks to determine whether their partnership with the BSA will continue, and in what capacity.

What the AHG, and thousands of scouting parents in general, are willing to do is quite simple: they are willing and eager to tell children across this country that if you are gay or trans*, you can't and don't belong. Local troops will be able to make the decision to continue to discriminate against gay leaders and scouts under one expected version of the revised policy, and others have promised that if the ban is lifted (despite the freedom for local troops to set their own agendas) they will disavow the BSA completely. What we can be sure of, if the ban on gay scouts and leaders is lifted, is that certain troops and AHG will likely dissolve their partnership with the BSA, and the children left in the fray will not only lose their ability to be part of a confidence-building and community-oriented extracurricular endeavor, but they will also like lose a tremendous amount of self worth. The reasons for this opposition to "homosexuality" in scouting (and in general) is varied, but generally rooted in a core belief that being gay is a sin, sinning is not only something for which you should atone but also something you must seek to stop at all costs, and more than anything (as I have discovered while trolling the AHG and BSA Facebook pages) that gay leaders are merely pedophiles looking for an easy fix, and that gay scouts are a distraction from and impediment to the core beliefs and goals of organizations like the BSA. If I never need to explain to an ignorant person why homosexuality and pedophilia are unrelated, it will be too soon.

You can also imagine how this public sharing and pearl-clutching manifests inside my brain...well, what's left of it, as it exploded and shot out of my ear holes the other night when I started reading comments on the AHG Facebook page. And you can also imagine how this information impacts children, the precise reason why these organizations exist in the first place - it alienates them and establishes a fundamental misunderstanding of who they are and what their sexuality truly means, how it manifests in their life, and all of the great things they continue to share with the world BECAUSE they are gay, not in spite of it. It demeans their character and their self-worth, and it degrades any hope they might have of involving themselves with peers toward a common goal; that goal being scouting, of course, not gay sex on the campsite.
So the Scouts—you know, there’s a scout law, right? A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. ... But the idea that somehow this should be a program where we want to say, "Well, these values are only applicable to some young men, to people who happen to be straight," that’s, frankly, antithetical to everything that scouting is about. And I think, actually, the United Church of Christ put it superbly well in their recent endorsement of ending the policy. They said that this ban is inconsistent with the values of dignity and respect that have always been the foundation of the scouting program.
Zach Wahls, in the video I linked above, is perhaps one of the best inadvertent spokespeople for the BSA, or scouting in general, through his organization Scouts for Equality. It is not just the fact that he was raised by lesbian mothers that has given him the confidence and character to articulate himself the way he does in interviews like the one at Democracy Now. His self-awareness and critical thinking skills are things that scouting encourages in all of their members, be they members of the GSUSA or BSA. President Obama has repeatedly endorsed ending the ban on gay scouts and leaders in the BSA, but my concern is that the same "fringe" communities and groups that are so opposed to Obama are the same communities and groups that support the ban, and the same communities and groups that are willing to prioritize convictions rooted in their Biblical/Christian fundamentalism over the health and well-being of this and all future generations of scouts...or more plainly, children. It's quite easy to step away from discussions like this one under the guise of "I don't have kids" or "scouting isn't a big deal" or "I just don't care" or "I don't do politics!", but the reality of life is that it is short lived, and by not fighting the people opposed to profound changes and justice for children (also known as: The Future of This Country), then we are tacitly endorsing the discrimination of all people. That is not the country you or I want to live in.

Contact the BSA today and tell them you support lifting the ban on gay leaders and scouts in ALL troops, and that by leaving the decision to individual troops, they are jeopardizing the quality of life for thousands of kids. And be sure to sign a petition at Scouts for Equality while you're at it!

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.