In 2012, the Boy Scouts of America was the center of controversy when it reaffirmed its ban on openly gay scouts and troop leaders.
The organization has since begun to ponder revising this policy, though it has delayed the announcement.
I grew up in scouting. From elementary school to midway through junior high, I spent six years growing from the youth-oriented Cub Scouts to the larger organization we call the Boy Scouts.
I quit due to lack of interest more than anything else. I don’t remember religion being a huge deal in my troop. In fact, while there definitely was a religion section of the Boy Scout manual and Scout Law made a mention of being reverent, it was a non-issue.
Did I have religious members in my group? Of course. I distinctly recall one of the adults in my former pack gifting me a Bible upon graduation.
However, that’s not to say that the organization’s aims were to promote any particular religion, regardless of its policies on LGBT individuals. It advertised in my elementary school, insisting its purpose was to build character in young men through hard work and learning new ideas.
My experiences were valuable. I learned how to properly make a fire, how to tie knots that could help in a crisis, how to approach the people around me with courtesy and more.
Take a look at the Scout Law: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”
I won’t lie: I have problems with some of that. Obedience, to me, is nothing if it’s done blindly. Being reverent is odd to a young man who does not identify with any particular religion.
The rest of Scout Law is filled with ideals that I feel every person should embrace: be honest, be helpful, friendly and be aware of what you can use around you to solve any given problem. Regardless of any ideal roles the Boy Scouts of America feel men should fill, those values are ideas that help humans relate to each other and enrich their lives.
Growing up Scouting, I felt like I had fun and grew as a person. Even if I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with my fellow scouts, my childhood is filled with memories of camping, swimming, weekly meetings and learning about the world.
I have to wonder if I’d have felt as at home with the organization as an adult, as I did when I was young. As a gay man, seeing all the controversy around the organization is painful.
It is against the Scout Law to refuse to allow LGBT people within Scouting. It is not loyal. It is not kind. It is not courteous. It is not respectful.
I recognize that not everybody agrees that homosexuality is something to “accept,” but that absolutely does not mean that we can treat our fellow humans with the contempt many reserve for queer individuals.
The very idea that the Boy Scouts of America is considering a reversal on this ban is indicative of the changing attitudes toward sexual minorities in our current climate. We should encourage the shift and let scouting become the welcoming, strengthening group that it claims to be.
Our lives will be all richer.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @BrandoBoySP