Friday, April 19, 2013

By Trying to Get It Half Right, the BSA Gets It All Wrong

"Well, at least they're trying right?" That's what my wife said to me as I fumed back and forth in the kitchen after reading the BSA's proposal to allow LGBT youth in their organization, but to continue the ban on LGBT people in their leadership.

No. It's not enough. It is a half measure that is cruel and offensive to LGBT adults who would like to be an active part of their kids' lives. It is an open acknowledgement that the BSA thinks there is something inherently dangerous about LGBT adults. And if it isn't their sexual orientation, which would no longer be banned under the proposal–what else could it be but the long disproved and debunked assumption that homosexuals are predispositioned to molest children.

No. The BSA's proposal is not enough. And the worst part is, that is the exact reason some bone head on the council though floating this proposal was a good idea. They know it's not enough and they know that they will get this reaction. They're betting on it. They want the outrage and the hard line stance because columns like this one are going to allow the BSA to throw their hands in the air, shrug their shoulders and say to their remaining sponsors "We tried."

They didn't try. They were pressured by their slimming pocket book to look like they were trying, got backed into a corner and someone thought that this Catch-22 of a proposal could be their way out. It won't be and; it shouldn't be.

I said it before and I will say it again. There is so much that is right about the Boy Scouts of America. The organization helped shape me into the person I am today. It taught me leadership and confidence. It taught me how to be a good friend. And now, it is going to self destruct because it is too entangled with a dying and discredited association between sexual orientation and morality. And that is sad.

Here's my last ditch attempt to save the BSA:

BSA Council, if you agree to allow LGBT Scouts and leadership, I promise to put my boy in Cub Scouts, Webelos, and Boy Scouts. I encourage those of you who feel the same way I do to pledge to do the same. The BSA needs to understand that becoming inclusive isn't a nail in their coffin. It is a hand out of the grave. Please, pledge with me to support the Boy Scouts if they pledge to us to step into the 21st century and accept our LGBT friends and family into their almost-great organization.

When I was a Boy Scout I learned that you can't put out half the fire. If you do the forest still burns down.

Love, Dad (John)

If you would like to contact the BSA and pledge your conditional support, you can do so by clicking here. Tell them I sent you.

Neckerchiefs are awesome. 


  1. I was never a Boy Scout. Wish I had been - I still can't start a fire without a crapload of kerosene. Great analogy, by the way. And, I think, your response is measured and reasonable. Not hard line. I doubt the BSA's logic would hold up nearly as well. Good luck.

  2. I am so glad that I live in Canada. Scouts Canada is an amazing program for boys & girls that promotes gender & member diversity. If only the BSA would follow suit.

  3. Do you have daughters? Would you allow your 12-18 year old daughters to go camping with a bunch of men? (And don't throw out the pedophile card - that has nothing to do with it.) Even when I was a teenage babysitter back in the 1960's and 70's, my parents would come and get me if it was the husband of the family I was babysitting that was planning to bring me home. It was just common sense. If is unwise to send a group of teenager females camping with a group of men, then enough said.

    1. "Don't pull the pedophile card."

      I'm not really sure how your "common sense" isn't implying pedophilia and therefore "pulling the pedophile card". If you aren't afraid of pedophilia, what are you afraid of? Why is your "common sense" saying that these parents can't be a part of their children's boy scout troops.

      What you are implying, Jodi, with your "common sense" is that gay men, or maybe even men in general, can't control themselves when they are around a member of the sex for which their attraction is oriented. That isn't just offensive to gay people, that is offensive to me as a straight man.

      Or maybe what you are saying isn't just directed at men at all. Maybe under your definition of "common sense" women shouldn't be alone with boys in the woods either since most women are attracted to men. The leadership for my troop growing up was made up of men and women. Despite our disregard for your "common sense" none of the women ever tried to get all rapey with any of us impressionable scouts.

      Under your misguided "common sense" would lesbian scout masters be OK? They are not attracted to men. So "common sense" would dictate that they would be ok. Right?

      Look. These are parents. Gay parents. Straight parents. Scout leaders are there because they want to be an active part of their kid's lives. Your "common sense" implication that boys are unsafe in the woods if one of the fathers of those boys happen to be gay isn't "common sense" at all. It is straight up homophobia. You are scared of gay men Jodi. And while that may be "common", it does not make any "sense" - no matter how many times you tell yourself it does.

    2. Well said, John. Well said!

    3. Beautifully said John. My mother among many other women were leaders in my brothers boyscout troop and it is pretty offensive to insinuate that they are out their molesting children. That is pretty absurd. If life worked by that "common sense" straight men men could only have sons and straight women should only have daughters but it would be okay for gay men to have daughters and gay women to have sons. otherwise the world would be a big horrible place....oh wait...
      Thank you John, so much for continuing to bring awareness to this. I was always a big advocate of BSA, my brother is an Eagle scout and Scouting has brought him out of his shell and a confidence no one can shake. But unless all of this changes to be inclusive, I will not be involving my children in this. I want them to know that EVERYONE is a person no matter their differences, how big or small and they should not be segregated because of it.

    4. What John said. And also - how incredibly insulting of your parents! The dad of the kids you babysat trusted you to watch over his kids, paid you for it, and your parents couldn't even trust him to give you a ride home? Were you ever allowed to babysit a boy child (assuming you were a straight girl?) - by your logic, that wouldn't be sensible. I'm stunned at the misandry and homophobia you claim to be 'common sense'!

    5. It also seems that the "common sense" instilled a high distrust, almost fearful and disrespectful relationship of men. There are good and bad in ever different walk of life, to lump them all in one with nothing but the bad would be a terrifying world to raise children in.

  4. 1 of 2 (READ THEM BOTH)
    Great post, though I wish you had slept on it. “Mentally awake and morally straight. Your analogy is correct, however, you also mention something very important in your post, “They were pressured by their slimming pocket book to look like they were trying.” While this is good business practice, it indeed rips from many of the effective values Boy Scouting taught us. What’s better is we learned many of these values through trial and error. I believe Boy Scouts of America will do the same, albeit slowly. In May 1992, Levi Strauss and Co. pulled about $40-$80K of funding/grants from the BSA based on their stance toward homosexuals. This was long speculated to be a keen business maneuver on their part at the time due to the popularity of Levi brand jeans amongst the LGBT population of their home in San Francisco vice the bible belt where the moral compass, typically lead by religion and fear, pointed away from such perceived evil. Additionally, it was rumored, organizations such as the Church of Latter Day Saints stepped up to cover what the BSA lost, so long as their compass was slaved to that of the LDS leadership.

    There is hope. However, neither threats nor promises will affect the type of change you and I would like to see. This will not be done by promising to put our kids into the Scouting program. Some of the following options would play well:

    1. An organization or businesses providing an incentive grant equaling or increasing everything they will lose from organizations that will pull funding. (I personally hate this one, but money talks)
    2. Become part of the solution through participation. Work to become a board member for the Boy Scouts of America where you have a legitimate vote. Or become wealthy enough to buy a seat. (Easier said than done)
    3. Lastly, however, most probable. A leader who puts forward political capital to influence their outlook. President Gerald Ford was the only Eagle Scout President, others were Cub Scouts, but he was the only one to achieve the rank. President Jimmy Carter, a true statesman, was a Scoutmaster. Appeal to him to exude his influence toward the BSA. The BSA receives quite a bit of support from the U.S. Government to include funding, personnel, and the national jamboree. This is done because it is proven, Boy Scouting (and Girl Scouting) makes effectively more productive citizens of what is perceived as a higher character (you are proving this point very well, through your very well done parenting and blog influence). It is hoped, these citizens will take roles in government. We are already seeing these results in the Department of Defense ending its ban on serving homosexuals. This will only improve as the benefits portions of this acceptance are sorted out. Just five years ago, such a thing was “preposterous”, even though non-outed service members were, and still are, serving above and beyond their perceived straight counterparts.

  5. 2 of 2 (READ THEM BOTH)
    Now for my optimism. There are numerous Boy Scout influenced individuals who are in the juniority of their influence among society. Out of these people, many of them are of a more liberal nature and are of the understanding, as you are, the moral dilemma of accepting LGBT as anybody else is moot. “Jim is still, well, Jim even though his sexual orientation is not the same as mine.” Your children, as well as mine, will know what this means well before they are age twelve. This is a slow process which has only recently come to the forefront of the minds of those of us in the United States. I am one of those whom have reduced my religiously influenced decision making, and don’t really care about sexual orientation because I recognize some of the best people in my life are different than I, and I really like it that way. To this same end, there is a perceived threat by which these same religiously influenced people feel an LGBT leader would harm their children by being a poor example, or worse, a predator. This could happen, but has the exact same chance as a straight person doing the same thing. I predict, by 2020, these influences will take effect and the BSA will change their minds, just as they did with DoD. I still get strange looks when I tell folks I had a female Scoutmaster. But what they don’t understand is she taught us how to “sleep through a storm”, a lesson which enabled me to survive four typhoons at sea and has kept me alive throughout my career. Promoting some of the ideas above may allow us to sleep through this storm as it pans out and settles itself-we, and our boys, will remain afloat.

  6. I'm a father and a straight male who grew up in the Deaf community where it didn't matter if you were white, black, gay, straight, etc. because we all had the same thing in common: we were human beings and we happened to have a hearing loss. You learn a lot about acceptance and understanding in a community like that. As such, I have many LGBT friends as well and I'm proud to support them. I used the link you provided to contact the BSA and sent them a long message, but this basically sums it up below... Just hope it helps them to make the right decision.

    ****On your own webpage under the "Membership Standards Review," you clearly state:

    "The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law."

    How can the BSA say that they are truly accomplishing this mission when they are excluding a specific group of people, thus promoting bigotry and violating the very ethical and moral choices they are supposed to uphold?***

  7. I just wanted to say that I'm sad about this. I used to donate to the Boy Scouts quite a bit. Whether they wanted food, or me to buy some coupon book, I did it. I've ignored everything this year. Another foundation will get my donations for the time being.

  8. This expresses my feelings exactly. Thank you for writing so honestly and truthfully.

  9. No matter which way it's cut, the problem is "getting it half right". The problem keeps coming down to double standards. If you're going to honor irrational and emotional societal restrictions, then it goes all the way. If you want to get it right, then you have to get it all the way right, not just half way right.

    Would you (and by you, I actually mean society at large) be okay with a man taking a girl scout troop camping? Not studies suggesting the rate of pedophiles in the general population or anything like that, just - would it be acceptable? Would you send your daughter on that trip without your skin crawling? Same question in reverse - would you send your son on a camping trip with a woman scoutmaster?

    If so, then there's no problems with gay scout leadership.
    If not, then don't try to say that gay scout leadership is okay.

    Maybe potential sexual attraction is the only issue: In that case, there should be absolutely nothing wrong with lesbians leading boy scouts, and gay men leading girl scouts.

    Or maybe you just have an issue with keeping the boy scouts entirely male, and the girl scouts entirely female? Then it's an easy line to draw right down the center, and sexuality doesn't matter.

    Hypotheticals aside, society is fairly clear on what's comfortable or not here - nobody would want to see a man leading a girl scout troop out on a camping trip, because irrational, emotionally-based responses of feeling protective spring up. So long as that's the case, there's nothing different about gay leadership of a boy scout troop.

    If you're going to honor irrational and emotional societal restrictions, then it goes all the way. If you want to get it right, then you have to get it all the way right, not just half way right.