I was seven when I first became a Cub Scout, crossing over to being a full-on Boy Scout when I was ten. I liked the moral values they taught. The Scout Law begins, "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind..." etc.
The Scouts promote the idea of doing one good deed daily without expectation of reward. They taught me the value of teamwork, conservation and respect for your surroundings. They taught me wilderness survival, camping skills and first aid. Moreover, the Boy Scouts of America promoted religious and racial tolerance. It was a wonderful social environment filled with kids sharing similar interests and with good moral values.
The situation changed when I became aware that I was gay.
I grew up in a conservative Christian family, as well as being a Boy Scout, so when I first became aware of the fact I was gay I was in denial for a long time, until I finally came out of the closet shortly after turning twenty.
After coming out of the closet I decided not to re-apply as a summer camp counselor, though I had been one the previous three years (and the last year I was promoted several times as an adult Scout-leader). Although I lamented the loss of a large, social group and a large source of joy from my childhood, I chose to break off from all scouting contacts due to their very clear anti-gay policy.
After leaving the Boy Scouts, I felt betrayed by their anti-gay policy. The policy was contradicting the other values taught by the Scouts about respecting others and their beliefs. And even though I felt the Boy Scouts taught many important values, this was one I did not want to support.
Rather than continue living a lie, I chose to leave the organization, which was in keeping with the very first value listed in the Scout Law, that a Scout is "trustworthy."
I was initially happy when I heard that the BSA was reviewing their policy regarding the issue, and excited when I heard the rumor that the BSA chose to make it a troop-by-troop decision; unfortunately this turned out to be just a rumor.
Yesterday, on Tuesday, July 17, the Boy Scouts of America put out a press release reaffirming its longtime policy barring any openly-gay boys from membership and any gay or lesbian adults from serving as leaders. The statement came after an internal review of its anti-gay policies amidst pressure and protests from people both inside and outside of the organization.
I felt highly disappointed by the decision but insulted by the statement, "BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization and supports it for the BSA," put out by the executive committee of the BSA National Executive Board.
I am saddened by my breaking off with the Scouts and I continue to be saddened by their anti-gay principals. Yet despite that, I still believe Scouting to be an otherwise positive experience in any boy's life. So, until they change their policy, my scout leader uniform will remain hanging in my closet, where I choose not to be.