I Was A Gay Boy Scout

Scouting teaches important life skills, bigotry and pedophilia should not be among them

I was a gay Boy Scout. I didn’t know it at the time but I definitely was what the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) fears most. I was a good fire maker, a good camp cook, good hiker and good at earning merit badges. Where I stood out as different from the other boys was in sports and games. I couldn’t compete but it didn’t seem to matter and nobody cared. I actually fit in!

When I was young there was no such thing as “gay people,” at least not in my part of the country, the great plains region of the USA. This was the 1960s. God, government, Chevrolet and apple pie still ruled the culture.

The unrest of the 60s generation had not yet made it into the heartland of the country. My world was more like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, North Carolina. Anything that didn’t fit into the mindset just didn’t exist. Today it’s a different world. Yesterday, President Obama told the Washington Post he believes the Boy Scouts should be open to gays.

For me, Boy Scouts was the one good thing in my otherwise squandered youth. I was miserable in school, teased and bullied and my grades showed it. My parents fought constantly so life at home was miserable. Scouting was a bit of a break from all that. I made it to the rank of Star Scout by the time I started high school. It was the one area of my life I actually excelled in.

Unfortunately I then quit scouting to pursue juvenile delinquency. Yet it was what I learned in Boy Scouts that allowed me to develop the character skills necessary to give me the fortitude and perseverance to recover from and make up for my dalliances into drugs, alcohol, partying and minor criminal pursuits that filled my teenage years. Heaven knows I didn’t learn it at home!

So I have a bone to pick with the Boy Scouts. I loved Scouting but Scouting betrayed me and every other gay kid. As an adult and an openly gay man I have chosen not to support participate or condone the Boy Scouts in anyway until they end their bigotry. I’m sad and I’m mad at BSA’s homophobia. I think I’d be a great scoutmaster and scouting has lost a lot of great potential leaders like me!

Scouting has a problem. In a capitalist system like ours money is king and if you want to know what any group of people value just follow the dollars. BSA’s two biggest financial supporters, the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church are dead set against the Boy Scouts admitting gays and the BSA wants to appease these big donors.

But keep following the money and you’ll see that BSA is also being pressured by corporations who are also significant financial supporters of the scouts. The corporate sponsors are telling BSA to get with the times and end bigotry in the Boy Scouts. So last week the BSA decided to consider trying to “have their cake and eat it too” by changing the rules and allowing each troop to decide for themselves whether to be homophobic or not. This is a bandage approach and seems to be little better then “don’t ask, don’t tell” was for the military.

Scouting, like the fundamentalist churches that support them, professes to follow the teachings of Jesus on tolerance and acceptance, loving thy neighbor and turning the other cheek. Yet at the same time they preach bigotry and hatred towards groups of people that are not like them — them being straight white men and their straight white boys.

Institutionalized homophobia is the next in a long line of bigotry: against women, against people of color, against other nationalities; always perpetrated by the group in power in order to maintain power, in an attempt to feel safe in a world that is always changing. Fear is the emotion that drives this motivation to exclude those that are different.

BSA and it’s funders want to keep gay boys out of scouting, they also want to keep openly gay scout leaders out too. They say they need to do this to keep the boys safe from pedophilia and that gay men are “not good role models” for the boys.

The big irony is that the Catholics, Mormons and Southern Baptist convention don’t seem to realize that by their actions to keep gay men out of the scout leadership, they are actually perpetrating the very thing they fear most — pedophile scout leaders — definitely not good role models! The fear mongering argument the homophobes put forth is that boys are out in the woods with gay scoutmasters might be molested! Geez, how ignorant are some people?

In the BSA’s history of pedophile scout leaders, (BSA, like the Catholic church has been guilty of hiding pedophile scout leaders), every perpetrator of abuse on the boys promoted himself as a straight male “role model.”

Look at the Catholic church and the pedophile priest scandals of the last five decades. Catholic priests by definition are “straight.” They cannot be openly gay and be a priest. As a result, a significant number of them relieved their sexual frustration by acting out on innocent children. This was not caused by openly gay men but by deeply closeted, homophobic, self-hating men who couldn’t or wouldn’t come to terms with their true self.

The openly gay adult scout leader is not dangerous to the boys. He knows himself, has come to terms with his sexuality and isn’t trying to hide who he is. He might even have a boyfriend who he makes satisfying and meaningful love to. If he wants to be a scoutmaster in today’s Boy Scout climate he probably also has a pretty good value system working for him. The dangerous adults are the closet-cases, deeply hidden even from themselves, sexually frustrated, homophobic, self-hating and far more likely to act out on their frustrated sexual impulses.

FDR said “The only thing to fear is fear itself” and the BSA might want to remember those words and look directly at their own fear. Scouting and the boys in Boy Scouts can only benefit from the BSA ending their bigotry against gays. Maybe they can look their fear in the eye and then do the right thing.

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