I am a Boy Scout. As a matter of fact, I'm not just a Boy Scout. I'm an Eagle Scout.
I'm one of the over 2 million scouts who have earned the highest rank in scouting by embodying the Scout Law, serving my community and demonstrating the scout spirit in my daily life.
And yet I cannot continue to serve the organization that played a large part in shaping who I am today. I cannot work at a scout camp teaching the basics of wilderness survival. I can't show scouts how to use a kiln. I cannot lead my old troop on hiking trips into the mountains or explore the boundary waters of Canada.
Why? Because of whom I love. Apparently this single aspect of who I am instantly negates the values that were ingrained in me during my years of scouting.
According to the Boy Scouts of America, as soon as I stepped foot out of the closet, I instantly quit being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. The BSA believes that I no longer live by the Scout Oath. I'm no longer good enough to serve their organization, the organization I've been a part of since I was 7 years old.
Now, I don't know what you think, but I know I haven't changed. In fact, now more than ever, I feel that I'm living by the Scout Law. I'm honest with the world about who I am and whom I love. I'm not living a lie or being untrustworthy. I can now be truly loyal to those I love in a way I never could be before. A scout should be brave as well. When I came out to friends and family, it took all the courage I had in me. Everyone who has struggled to come to terms with his or her sexuality can discuss courage. In many cases, coming out to family and friends is the most courageous thing a young gay man or woman has done in his or her life. So you tell me: What's changed? I'm still Levi. I'm still the kid who reeled in that surprisingly large rainbow trout on a fishing trip. I'm still the teenager who peaked the Tooth of Time at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch. I'm still the young man who dedicated over 200 volunteer hours to help improve his community.
I'm thankful that young men like me could now potentially be themselves and not be denied some of the best experiences of their life all because of who they fall in love with. But I'm outraged that as soon as they turn 18, they are no longer fit to be a part of the Boy Scouts. It doesn't make sense to me that an organization that shapes the future leaders of America casts aside some of their best and brightest because of whom they love. It doesn't make sense that I cannot share my knowledge with others because of whom I love.
As I write about this, I can't help but be amazed at how things have come full-circle. With the proposed action of the BSA, I sat down and poured over my old photos from scout camp, canoeing trips and High Adventures. I relived the hikes in the mountains with my scout masters, my best friends, my brother and my dad. I got teary-eyed as I remembered how homesick I was on my first big camping trip. I paged through my worn and water-damaged copy of The Scout Handbook, laughing at the scribbled notes and doodles in the margins and smiling whenever I came across a leaf pressed flat between the pages. I thought back on my board of reviews for each rank and how much I grew as a person, citizen, leader and scout between each one. And then I thought of my Eagle Scout board of review.
For those of you who have never had a board of review, they're a simple sit-down discussion and review that every scout must have before he moves up in rank. While intimidating, they're really just a check-in point on your journey through the Boy Scouts and a time to reflect on your personal growth. Typically the people on the board ask you a few questions about what you learned, and a couple of standard questions like, "What does the scout spirit mean to you?" or, "What point of the Scout Law do you believe is the most important to live by?"
For your Eagle Scout board of review, the questions become more philosophical, at least in my experience and that of my troop mates. There is one question in particular that is hard to answer, and some don't even try to answer it: "If you could add one more point to the Scout Law, what would it be?"
I couldn't answer that, and I told the members of the board of review that I thought the Scout Law was complete. However, a couple of years later I was proven wrong by a member of my troop. When asked if there should be a point added to the Scout Law, he said, "Love. A scout should be loving."
Now it seems obvious, but for some reason it's not included; maybe it's a given. A scout is to love his family, his brothers in scouting, his school, his community, his country and his faith. So why isn't it included? Maybe it's because love is all-encompassing. Love doesn't discriminate, love is patient, love is kind, and love overcomes all differences. Maybe it's because if love were included in the Scout Law, there would be no grounds to deny me the opportunity to serve the organization I love based on whom I love. And so we wait. We wait for a day when the Boy Scouts of America follow their creed and help the world become a better place, a kind place, a place filled with courtesy and respect.
I believe that someday we will hear scouts across the nation saying, "A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent and loving." On that day, I once again will be able to serve the organization I love and share the life-changing experience that is scouting with the future leaders of America. Until then, I will fight for justice and equality, because those are the values that were instilled in me during my years as a Boy Scout, and I took an oath to help other people at all times.
On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.