The Boys Scouts of America has decided, after debate and disagreement, to allow gay boys into their ranks. Finally. They sent out surveys and held meetings to get to the bottom of it. While substantial evidence on the side of disallowance has been nil, the question has long lingered for the private organization until this past Thursday. After long deliberations, they are doing the right thing. How charitable of them.
The Assemblies of God has predicted the policy change “will lead to a mass exodus from the Boy Scout program.” Texas Governor Rick Perry also stated that he was “greatly disappointed with this decision.” But why be disappointed in desegregating the organization? The roots of this prejudice extend into darker depths, it seems.
First, this archaic holdover that homosexuality is some sort of perversion or a precursor to becoming a child abuser is so antiquated and ridiculous that I can barely even type the sentence. People who prey on children are in a class by themselves. That men are the predominant sexual aggressors is an unfortunate stacking of the deck for gay men, statistically. As a straight man, I have had to contend with this stereotype as well. But framing the debate around gays sounds like a hyperbolic 1950s-era “talkie” filmreel complete with a grating announcer’s voice:
“Boys who like boys admitted into boys’ club. Will they end up playing with their buoys?”
One morning, I was on Headline News to talk about the survey preempting this strategic move by the BSA toward inclusion. I was struck dumb by the whole thing, but I had to talk fast since I only had 15-30 seconds to state my case.
“Is it acceptable or unacceptable for a gay adult leader to take adolescent boys on an overnight camping trip?” That was an actual question on an actual survey. As if being gay was a convenient answer to the pedofilia in their midsts.
The question of whether adult men can camp overnight with boys would probably be a more relevant assessment, based on dialogue I’ve had with other parents. So, let’s talk about men in general for a moment.
Recently, I asked parents about their family contingency plans to deal with children getting lost. What do they tell their kids to do if they got lost? Who do they tell their kids to turn to? Most agreed that “stranger danger” is no longer adequate. Strangers can be helpful, especially if they happen to be police or emergency workers. So that option was struck from the list. We kept talking and I’d say 4 out of 5 mothers urged their kids to seek out a mother, no matter the context. My fellow dads and I pressed the issue and asked why they wouldn’t seek out dads with kids? A pregnant pause ensued and the silence usually ended with, “Because we trust mothers.” Interesting.
This standard is very obvious in media depictions too. Dads are placed in the “dangerous and untrustworthy” category when they are by themselves. Apparently, we ought not trust adult men to behave themselves alone with kids. To make matters worse, I’ve heard recent studies cite that sexual assaults usually come from people you already know. So, don’t trust men especially those you know? Yikes. The end game of these media characterizations is nearly always mistrust. They exacerbate our worst fears and inflame our prejudices.
I get so tired of the fear-mongering and divisiveness, the election of people to separate sides. I want to protect my family, but it can be very confusing. The media tells scary stories to promote this feeling. But I believe the world will truly end if we keep playing “dismay over gays game” and all the other instances of shallow understanding between people.
Someone once told me that my enemies were my best teachers, but they can’t teach me anything if I’m not listening and being observant. I’m trying to apply that mantra as best I can with the homophobes in my life. Maybe they can teach me about my own shallowness.
The Scouts faced the Ku Klux Klan over the issue of racial inclusion years ago. If we substitute sexual orientation here instead of race, the result should be no different. Hopefully, getting the Boy Scouts organization to admit gay boys is a step in that direction. But what about gay leaders? Be prepared, BSA.