08/07/2012 11:38 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

They'll Be Loyal Scouts

Imagine if we could turn the Chick-fil-A outrage toward organizations that matter more. As I watched gloating, bloated zealots queue up for chicken as they never would on Election Day (thankfully), I thought to myself, "How many of them have LGBT children under their roofs, struggling to find themselves, not knowing where to turn?"

Our attention should be focused squarely on our LGBT youth, particular in areas of this country where they find only despair, isolation, and terror. Our attention should be on youth organizations that discriminate against our LGBT youth, chiefly the Boy Scouts of America.

I was a Cub Scout, briefly. I remember learning the BSA hierarchy and being a little awestruck by the highest echelon, the Eagle Scouts, soaring above us measly cubs like hawks over a field of rabbits. In the second or third grade, I started my short-lived sojourn as a cub.


Cub Scouts was an exercise in precision. I was (am) clumsy and impatient; I was not Cub Scout material. There were complicated knots to tie when I was still struggling to tie my shoes. I had no shame in asking the nearest adult or toddler to tie them for me.

I have only vague recollections of the Cub Scouts, mostly of the Pinewood Derby. I watched people get excited over wheeled wooden whirligigs careening off ramps. I saw fathers grinning as their lacquered limousines left competitors in the sawdust.

And I was bored.

So I begged out of the Cub Scouts as soon as I could. I think it lasted longer than my karate lessons, which I quit, too, because I couldn't tie my white belt. And then I didn't really think too much about it or the people who continued as Scouts through the years.

But what's become increasingly clear is that our LGBT youth have been profoundly affected by an organization that seemed benevolent. As Eagle Scouts begin to return their awards, I am finding out just how many of the gay men I know are Eagle Scouts. Finally, there was this letter, posted on Facebook, from an old friend, reused with his permission:

"As a closeted teenager enrolled in an organization that I knew discriminated against gays, I had to hide my true nature not only from friends who I feared would reject me, but from adults who I thought would kick me out of a program I loved. This suppression eventually led to feelings of anxiety and depression."

So maybe I got out while the getting was good. Even at a young age, I knew Cub Scouts wasn't right for me. I didn't know why, but there was something other than the physical labor required that made me uneasy, the same uneasiness that I felt around most other boys my age. But to those who found a sense of belonging over so many years, learning about the official Boy Scouts of America policy must have been heart-wrenching, to know that your sanctuary has become your prison.

The writer of the letter, Andrew Mayer, an Eagle Scout, continues:

"Shame on you, BSA, for hurting the youth of America who are some of the most vulnerable and for discriminating against a minority group as if being gay equates to having no moral character or values. BSA will not receive funding from me or my family of 3 Eagle Scouts until they are inclusive..."

Though I am not an Eagle Scout, I would challenge those who are, regardless of their orientation, to take a similar stand. Allowing a massive organization to mar the childhoods of unknown numbers of LGBT youth -- and to indoctrinate others against them -- is a bit more paramount than fast-food fundamentalism. The Boy Scouts of America should be held to the same ethical standards to which we hold pediatricians and pediatric nurses: Do no harm.

If they are harming even one child, we should not tolerate it.