Friday, February 8, 2013

Dear BSA, Here are Some Things to Consider Over the Next Three Months

Dear Boy Scouts of America,

Everyone is talking about you again. Are you surprised that it happens to be due to the controversial subject on whether or not gay youth and adults can participate in Scouts? I think not.

I know you have had the chance to think about this ban for the last thirteen years, but for some reason you feel like you still need a little more time to reconsider. Here are some points worth noting over the next three months as you agonize on whether or not it is okay to lift the discriminatory policy on gay young people and leaders:

  •      We [the people who think the policy is unfair] are speaking out on this because we care about the Boy Scout program. We recognize the values the program instills and how the skills help us progress more richly in our education, our careers, and our relationships with others. Please do not feel like you are being "bullied." (Can we stop using this term when referencing organizations?) The real victims here are the individuals being kicked out of the program. Look at this as an opportunity to blaze a trail and to set an example as to what is right and fair to the young men in the program. This is a chance to help remove the stigma of shame centered around being gay.
  •      Being out is healthy. Being in the closet is not. We should not require gay Scouts and leaders to remain completely silent in regards to their orientation. Imagine asking straight Scouts to never talk about which girls they like at school or who they are dating. Or imagine telling Scout Leaders to never even mention their spouses or family in open discussion around other Scouts. Lifting this policy is not about opening the doors to sexual discussion or "cramming a lifestyle down people's throats." It's about letting people be who they are. It's about letting young men open up to issues related to orientation with trusted Scout leaders and friends. It's about parents, gay or straight, being as involved as they want to be in the Scouting program.
  •      Yes, there is a chance that a young man who happens to be gay will be sharing a tent with another Scout who is not. Heck, I shared a tent on almost every camp out I went on. But here is a little tidbit you should be aware of. Being gay is not all about sex. We are not pulling these youth out of athletic programs because we are scared of what might happen in the locker room, are we? We are not making separate restrooms just for them. When I came out to my friends family, I did not do so because I wanted to talk about sex. No gay person comes out for that reason. I came out because I wanted to be completely honest with them and I wanted them to be aware of that part of my identity.
  •      Ask yourself what "morally straight" means. Obviously, it doesn't mean "morally heterosexual." In fact, in the Scout Oath, morally straight means being honest, doing the right thing, and just being a genuinely good person. And I hope this is not news for you, but there are gay people that have a moral backbone and who have also had a positive impact on the world. Comedians and actors like George Takaei, Ellen Degeneres, and Ian McKellen. Political figures like Mayor Annise Parker, Joel Burns, and Tammy Baldwin. Tech gurus like Tim Cook, Gina Trapani, and Chris Hughes. Musicians and artists like Elton John, Pyotry Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Andy Warhol. Scientists like Sally Ride and Alan Turing. Here's a whole list of them on Wikipedia!
  •      Under the current policy, awful people like Sandusky could have easily participated in Scouting. Period. The best thing to remove those kind of people are putting in place background checks that are more strict, something which you have already put in place. We are asking you to lift the ban on gay people, not child molesters. Please know that they are not at all the same, and in fact, research exists stating that it doesn't make sense to compare the two.
  •      From an LDS perspective, the current policy disqualifies faithful, temple recommend holders from being involved in Scouting. That means the Mitch Maynes, Josh Weeds, Ty Mansfields, and any of the faithful Mormons who are open about their identity on Northstar's Website cannot participate. Is this fair?
I know the decision this organization has to make is tough. I know not everyone will be happy no matter what choice is made. But ultimately the best decision here is the one that best follows the Golden Rule. It's the one that sets an example for Scouts all across the country on what common decency means. I hope this organization, which has taught so many youth to be leaders in the past, can now take a stand and be a leader on what it means to treat others fairly.

Evan Clayson
Eagle Award: 2003