Boy Scouts Lift Ban on Gay Leaders, but My Son Still Won’t Be Joining

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

Over the last few years there has been progressive news coming from within the Boy Scouts organization. In 2013, boys who identified as gay were allowed to join. Yesterday, the governing body of the Boy Scouts of America voted to end the ban on gay Scout leaders. However, there is a big BUT here. Since many troops are sponsored by religious groups, any change in policy will still allow these groups to have control.

Michael Harrison, a leader of Boy Scouts in California and someone hoping for change, told the New York Times, “There are differences of opinion, and we need to be respectful of them. It doesn’t mean the Mormons have to pick a gay scoutmaster, but please don’t tell the Unitarians they can’t.”

As a single mom, I’d love for an organization with activities that encourage community involvement (such as the Boy Scouts of America) to be in my son’s life. But so far, their policy of exclusion has been an absolute deal breaker because I feel strongly about the effect it could have on my friends, my son’s friends, and all boys. If an organization isn’t able to embrace someone who is being true to themselves, what lesson are they teaching?

This is when I wish the Boy Scouts could be more like the Girl Scouts.

A few months ago I was at a playdate at a friend’s house. As the boys and girls ran around playing a game, we parents caught up on neighborhood news and chatted. One parent shared her thinking about making soap to sell, which triggered a conversation about how making soap could be a fun craft to do with the kids.

In the middle of the all of this, a mom sitting next to me pulled out her phone and logged into Pinterest. I watched her type in “make soap with kids.” She explained, “I’m always looking for ideas for the Daisies!” I felt a sudden pang of envy. How special to have a kid in a Daisy Troop!

A Daisy is the youngest age for a Girl Scout. This is the group for kids in kindergarten and first grade. Daisies learn about nature, science, art, and their community — all in a “nurturing, inclusive environment.” When I was in the second grade, I was allowed to join the Girl Scout Brownies. (This is for girls in the second and third grades.) It felt awesome to be in a special group that celebrated friendship.

As I listened to my friend talk about being a Daisy Troop leader for her daughter’s troop, I had a pang at the tarnished reputation of the Boy Scouts. I grew up thinking the Girl Scouts were awesome and empowering for girls, and I wish the Boy Scouts elicited the same feeling in me as a counterpart.

One of the greatest differences between the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts is financing. Follow the money, right? The Advocate, in comparing the two organizations, took a look at who was sponsoring whom. According to their website, the Girl Scouts receive funding from Alcoa, AT&T, Coca-Cola, MetLife, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Seventy percent of the funds for the Boy Scouts comes from religious organizations.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with religious organizations, except to the extent that any particular one is in the practice of exclusion. Somehow it seems that an exclusion concept is what got passed through into the Boy Scouts. They call themselves a “values-based” youth organization (values = faith) and incorporate prayer and God into their oath.

The Girl Scouts are secular and connect faith with community. Within their FAQ they share, “We encourage girls to develop connections to their own spiritual and religious beliefs by earning recognitions provided by their faith communities …”

I am watching the slowly improving changes of the Boy Scouts of America with hopeful anticipation. I know I am impatient for them to fully join in and join up the whole human race. I know change, especially something seen as a BIG CHANGE, takes time. But my son, my friends’ sons, and other boys around the country are not getting any younger and are missing a real opportunity for growth and involvement that is the good part of the Scouts because of marginalization. I wish I could be bold enough to let my son join up now and become involved with the effort to affect change from the inside, but at this young age, I have to be so cautious about who I let into his life.

I can’t wait until the day the Boy Scouts are more like the Girl Scouts.

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