Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that people can find my son so threatening. He's a lot of things. The usual mother-brags of "handsome," "sweet," "funny," and "downright adorable" can all apply to him. But so do "moody," "smart-assed," "loud," and "stubborn" if he's having a bad day. But threatening? (OK, to be honest, he's an extreme threat to peace and quiet, but what second grader isn't?)
But my son is considered a threat to the Boy Scouts of America. Why? Because he identifies as gay. The Boy Scouts have created a lot of buzz lately by holding up their discriminatory policies against LGBT people. In the statement released by the BSA in 2004, they said, "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."
Well, I guess if they are using the word "straight" as the slang for '"heterosexual," then they might have a point... but we all know they're not. My son is at the age when most boys start Cub Scouts, but he won't be among their numbers.
This discussion started long before he started having crushes on other boys. Bruce, one of my favorite people and the godfather to all my sons, is an Eagle Scout. From the moment our first son was born, Bruce was already looking forward to leading his Scout troop, and I already had reservations. Gay people have always been a big part of our lives, and I didn't like the idea of signing our boys up for a discriminatory organization. Bruce is a heterosexual guy who has always been a huge supporter of equal rights and has marched with our local LGBT band in our city's Pride parade for the last nine years. When I spoke against BSA, he was quick to acknowledge how backwards their policy was on gay people.
"But I'll be the leader," he pleaded with me. "I won't allow any of that attitude into the troop. I can control the message."
"And if any of our kids are gay?" I asked.
"Then I will fight to the end for their right to be a Scout." I did, and still do, believe him. Bruce would never stop fighting for one of our boys.
We left these conversations (there were many over the years) unsatisfied, vowing to bring up the issue again later. But when we talked, we imagined what we would do if one of our boys came out in high school. We never imagined that it would come up before Cub Scouts, but it has, and here we are. It would be one thing if I had no inkling of my son's orientation. Maybe I could have been persuaded, but now I can't. It wouldn't be fair to enter my son into the Scouts knowing that he is discriminated against. We will not ask him to lie about who he is, and neither of us feels that he is old enough to understand what he could possibly be taking on. More than that, gay kids face the trial of homophobia in this country every day. Setting him up with a group that he may grow to love, only to find out later that that same group thinks he's "unclean," would be cruel.
After this latest announcement by the BSA, Bruce and I sat down together again, but this time there was no debate between us, only anger and, more than that, sadness.
"It's against everything Boy Scouts taught me," Bruce said about the policy. "It was about learning to be a good man and caring about other people and putting them first."
"You are so sad," I commented. Bruce looked brokenhearted.
"Well, yeah," he said. "Boy Scouts was really my first religion. They gave me a creed to believe in and live by. Now, I am losing my religion." He gave an unhappy laugh. "Scouting was sacred to me, and I'm so disappointed." He added wistfully, "We would have had a great troop."
And what is BSA so afraid of? According to their most recent statement:
Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right and do not sign their children up for Scouting for it to introduce or discuss, in any way, these topics.
What do they think a gay scout or leader is going to "introduce or discuss"? It's not like anyone is campaigning for a "Safe Anal Sex" merit badge. No, instead, it prohibits a gay scout leader from being honest about his or her partner or husband. It restricts gay scouts from answering the question "what did you do this weekend?" with "my boyfriend and I went to the movies." That is simply unacceptable, because the mere mention of "same-sex attraction" is considered such a threat that it cannot be discussed. It saddens me that the BSA finds reality so threatening.
So far the BSA's bigotry is only an issue for the adults in my son's life, not for him, but Bruce and I know that that is only a matter of time. Soon his friends will be Cub Scouts, and he may come to me and ask to join. Then Bruce and I will have the unpleasant task of sitting a little boy down and figuring out the least painful way of saying, "Baby, they don't want you." And my little boy will know firsthand what discrimination is. Boy Scouts, you will help him learn an important lesson. I hope you are proud of yourselves.