I Really Hope My Son Gets to be a Boy Scout | Ask Your Dad Blog

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I Really Hope My Son Gets to be a Boy Scout


I grew up in boy scouts from the age of 12-18. I absolutely loved it. I hope that some day it is an experience my son and I can share together. Today the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America delayed a decision on whether or not to allow the LGBT community to be open members of their organization. I'll be dropping this letter in the mail tomorrow morning. I thought I'd share it here too. 


Dear Boy Scouts of America,

I need to tell you something that I suspect you already know. There are already plenty of LGBT people in your organization. In my troop alone there were three gay men that I know of. Two remained closeted until later in life and are still my friends. One came out while still in the troop. We ridiculed him, teased him, and bullied him. He was eventually asked to leave the troop by our leadership. He left, broken-hearted. 

His mom, Barbara, was a kind and quiet woman. Before her son left the troop, she had already volunteered to be one of the adults who would attend a once in a lifetime Boy Scout trip to the Philmont Scout Ranch. Knowing that if she didn't attend we wouldn't be able to go, she still went with us – even though her son wasn't allowed.

For two weeks we would get to backpack through the wilderness in New Mexico learning outdoor, teambuilding, and leadership skills. And for two weeks she would hike silently among us while we used words like gay, queer and faggot.

About half way through our second week we were all sitting around the camp fire joking and Barbara hit her breaking point. I don't recall what was said that made her tip, but it was probably something insensitive and hateful. She lashed out sobbing and yelling as she pointed at each one of us accusingly.

"It is your fault that my son isn't here! It is your fault he is at home crying! It is your fault he lost all of his friends! It is your fault I worry about him every day! You are all so mean!"

"No," said one of the boys. "It's his fault."

And then she broke down into sobs, stood up and walked away into the darkness to find her tent. 

She didn't bring it up again. We spent the rest of the week joking and hiking and singing songs on the trail. And while we went home having learned how to tie knots and build a fire without matches – not a single one of us had learned anything that night at the fire.

A Boy Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.  

We were none of these things. And while our cruel behavior was not endorsed by the BSA, the seed of it, an institutional policy of discrimination, was.   

It took me a lot of years, and a lot of life experience to realize how wrong we all were sitting around the campfire that night, and how right Barbara was to point her finger at us. So now I'm going to do the same thing to you. 

It is your fault that these kids have to live in fear. It is your fault that they feel isolated and different. It is your fault that LGBT parents of Boy Scouts have to sit down with their kids and explain why they can't be a leader in their troop. It is your fault, Boy Scouts of America.

It is time to change. I believe you can change – and as scary as it is, I believe you can survive that change. 

There is so much right about the Boy Scouts. It makes me sad that all that is talked about these days is your policy on homosexuality in your membership. I learned a myriad of different practical, social and leadership skills in the Boy Scouts that have directly contributed to my success today. Not only that, I made some of the greatest friends of my life – almost all of which I still keep in contact with. Three were groomsman at my wedding. Being a scout was an incredible force for good in my life… but I also sat around a campfire one night and looked into a crying mother's eyes and told her that her son was not good enough to be a Boy Scout, or my friend. And I just can't risk my son ever learning that that is OK. 

Most of the mistakes we make in life, we are not conscious of until after they are made. I made mistakes when I was 13 that you are still making today. But it isn't too late. Please make the right decision in May. Please amend your policy of exclusion. I really want my son to be a Boy Scout, but regardless of how he turns out, if the BSA doesn't change, he won't be wearing the uniform. And that makes me incredibly sad.

John Kinnear
Life Scout and father of two




30 comments:

  1. I never had a gay friend in the Scouts that I know of, but I've done my fair share of bigoted commenting as a stupid teenager that I'm sure hurt people I don't even know of. I wish I could tell everyone I wronged I'm sorry. Thanks for sharing this.

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  2. As always, beautifully written.

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  3. As always, beautifully written.

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  4. Wonderful man...again saying it for those of us thinking it but unable to so clearly articulate it. Neither of my boys will be in scouts until they change this ridiculous culture of hate. I hope they change.

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  5. Oh Lord John, you've done it again. I almost started crying reading this.

    I admire, so much, the bravery of those boys who were willing to come out as teenagers in a place and time that was overwhelmingly not accepting of them. That is a bravery I have never had to exhibit and I will always admire the people who do.
    At the same time, I also admire YOUR bravery. Not for taking this stance on LGBT rights - it upsets me that a sort of bravery is still required to do that because so many people are still so ignorant and hateful - but for admitting that, while young, you did not have this stance. While I think it's a shame that that's the case, I admire the fact that you were willing to admit it to the entire internet and not make excuses for your behavior. It takes another kind of bravery to admit to the world that you were once so hurtful.

    I respect your being willing to tell a story that makes you look terrible (sorry if that's harsh), and not make excuses for your behavior, in order to make a point to the BSA and try to further LGBT acceptance. You did a good thing, and I think you're a good man.

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  6. Dude, you are what a real man should be. Well done. If ou ever end up in So Cal, beer is on me.

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  7. Great post. It's crazy that an organization that wants to mold kids teaches them to lie and discriminate instead.

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  8. Your sons have a father who sets a wonderful example. They don't need the BSA ... they have you.

    You, and your letter, are an inspiration to many parents. Thank you for sharing it with us all.

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  9. Very touching letter. I hope the Boy Scouts read it. And I hope they do the right thing.

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  10. Well done, Sir, a powerful letter indeed. I was never in the Boy Scouts growing up, but despite my being straight, I was teased and tortured as a teen for being gay simply because I didn't fit the mold in my peers eyes of what a "straight man" should be (read that to mean I was a theater geek and not a jock).

    It's brave of you to admit what you did in the past was wrong and to take a stand now.

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  11. There you go again, John. Very nicely written. Straightforward, honest, level-headed and amazing.
    Good job.

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  12. I hope they listen to this letter and to all the people calling for this change. I also hope that boy who couldn't go on the trip is okay today.

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  13. Really great letter. It takes a man to admit when he was wrong to ensure his children don't make the same mistakes he did. Hopefully, the BSA will learn from their mistakes, too.

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  14. Awesome post. Thanks! I'm sharing it with everyone I know.

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  15. This gay Scout Leader thanks you for your awesome post...and your courage.

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  16. While I was not on that particular camp out John, I do often times think of our troop and how we felt we were "The Best". We had great memories and our troop was about as diverse as could be. I love the BSA and hope that they make the right choice this summer. I thought I would include a few more pictures from our troop. http://screencast.com/t/CbqAmiAYKfa http://screencast.com/t/5lXREf7CxcB8

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  17. That kid who said "It's his fault" I want to go back and poke him in the eye. Mainly because he's a kid and smaller than me. But then again, he might have a knife...hmm...I'll need to rethink this plan.

    Great post. Really great. Thanks for being great. Please continue to do so.

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  18. This is a well-written and beautiful post. I read it on HuffPost and wanted to comment, so I came here.

    It's really great that so many urge the Scouts to change their policy on LGBT community.

    There's one other group who the Boy Scouts bar, and that is religious nonbelievers. Agnostics and atheists are banned. This is equally unjust. The list of outstanding atheists and agnostics who make positive contributions is long. During my working life and social life, for many decades, I have had to leave my atheism unspoken.

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  19. Did you ever think of telling Barbara this?

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    1. Eva, I agree with you and add to it. Please consider reaching out to both Barbara and her son - have the courage to face them personally. You letter might help turn the tide now, but your personal apology should go to them for their closure.

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  20. And you turned out OK. evidently not a bigotted person now. The BSA do not teach hatred of gays. There is so much that Scouting can teach young boys and girls too through the Explorers. The LGBT community does not care if they helpdestroy an institution if it does not allow them to be leaders openly. Where is their anger against hompphobic gangtsa rap. I guess they don't protest that because it is such a good influence on the youth of our country. look at the moral decay of our country. Do you really want to see the Scouts fail. Why deprive your son teh experience. You can teach him tolerance. almost 2/3 of the scout charters are held by churches that under their policis can't have a gay person leading children. Who will sponsor all of these troops if they decide not too. The BSA are being put in an untenable situation, but the LGBT community does not care. They would rather see scouts disbanded if not included. I have drank my last Coke since Coca Cola has bowed to the gays. If they won't support scouts then I won't suport them. there are alot more scouts than gays if the whole scouting community starts to boycott the companies that pull their support, maybe they will feel the effects.

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    1. The gays as you put it, could include any person you know. Because of comments like yours many still hide in fear. Its not their fault that you and those like you, can not accept people that are different.

      The Christian Bible was once used to support slavery. Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

      You can continue to follow an incorrect reading of scriptures or you can study the scriptures yourself and make up your own mind. People of faith accept or reject passages as the choose. Usually its based more on their own needs. Eating shellfish is also a sin but most of us eat it. Eating pork is too but we eat it and claim its not a sin for us.

      I question how good a person you are or how true a friend. If you were friends with boy for most of your childhood and after years together he told you he is Gay, would his friendship be over? If you could treat him as the boys here did than you are not a good person. Gays do care about the BSA and they do not wish to see it destroyed. The young men fighting for change because they have given years to the scouts and love it.

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  21. Yes, it's sad that the only thing talked about is homosexuality. This is not due to anything the Boy Scouts have done, they are being targeted by people obsessed with a gay agenda.

    I think an "openly heterosexual" leader would be just as inappropriate as an openly homosexual one. Nobody needs to hear about your latest sexual conquest, regardless of who or what it was with. What does anyone's sexuality have to do with Scouting? Nothing. When is it necessary or appropriate to bring up ones' sexuality in Scouting? Never. The Boy Scouts of America are not the ones bringing it up, it's being brought up by individuals and groups that want to promote their gay agenda.

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    1. Anonymous - you bring up your sexuality every time you mention your marriage(if indeed you are married, your girlfriend... it's not about the biology of sex, but about the relationship.
      Scouts and Scouters do this all the time and it's rather shortsighted to use this argument.
      Is the BSA 'obsessed' with a heterosexual agenda? Who are the individuals and groups whop are advancing a gay agenda?

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  22. Yes!! Thank you!! We all should be writing these letters.

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  23. My father forced me to finish Cub Scouts and at that point all my friends transitioned to Boy Scouts so I did as well. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for my father's insistence. Boy Scouts didn't change my life but it definitely enhanced it. I loved my time in the Boy Scouts and I'm proud to say I did get my Eagle. Thanks for everything Dad and Mr. Barnhardt!

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  24. Love this. Have you considered sharing with Barbara or her son? Do one thing a day that scares you (besides CrossFit)!

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  25. Religious freedoms and the "gay agenda are on a crash course in America and this is a speeding train no mere earthly can stop.

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