The Boy Scouts of America are about, we hope, to vote on overturning their "gay ban". I'm hoping it's not going to be some quarter-baked solution of separate-but-equal or local-decisions-by-troops but a firm, clear, national policy.
I have had a hard time dealing with the BSA policy because I have two boys of cub scout age. We have an active den out of our elementary school, and the boys have friends who are active in scouting.
I also have many friends who have been involved in scouting for many years. I was a scout, too, though no Eagle scout (I got tossed out over my punk hair and bad attitude, back in the day, but not until after a half dozen mostly fun years).
So it has been doubly painful for me, to explain to both my kids and to create strife with other parents whose kids are active scouts, to tell them I can't have them participate in an organization that practices hate.
Yes, I use that word. It's a very strong word, as I tell all my kids, and should not be used lightly. "Intolerance" does not do the trick in this case, though. "Honest differences" doesn't do it either. The policy is one of hate, and I'll explain why I feel that way on the flip.
I first off recognize the BSA is a private organization and they have a legal and constitutional right to limit association.
I'm also not going to get into the hypocrisy and cultural issues surrounding the recent revelations of the covering up of sex crimes by adult leaders, and the deep confusion of equating "gay" with "pedophile".
I also recognize the difficulty many folks have, still, with explaining the variations on the Mommy-Daddy-kids family structure, which is a general one that still is an issue for some people, not specific to the BSA, but which is difficult for an organization to take on in a way that includes a range of belief systems.
But the cruelty of the ban to a kid is pretty awful. And the strong presence of the BSA in the fabric of community life makes it hard. (I had a very difficult conversation with parents selling coffee and donuts at the kids' soccer games that I wasn't going to buy any from them, because it was all-proceeds-to-the-BSA, any more than I'd buy a cuppa joe and a sinker from the KKK. And I was much less blunt about it in the actual conversation, trust me, and they still looked at me like I was a dick for not contributing money.)
If you are a teen, for example, who has worked in scouting for years and now begins to self-identify as gay, you're not welcome all of a sudden. That is not a stable organization; that is one that turns its back on children as they become young men, just when they need stability and institutions the most to guide them through the most confusing period of their lives.
If you have a gay or lesbian parent, who can't participate in scout leadership because of this policy, it says: your mom or dad is worth less than some other kid's mom or dad.
That may not be intended as an act of hate, but that's what it is. It's devaluing a human being not for conduct but for being who they are. It's striking right at children and at the heart of families. It's divisive whether you're in scouting or not.
So I explain this to my putative cub scouts, and they get it. Mostly. I tell them I don't want them to be part of an organization that is 99% great but which is exclusionary, because that is a form of bullying and I don't want them to be bullies or around them.
Then they get: signs in the school promoting it. (It makes me cringe when I think of the school being used to recruit people into a discriminatory organization.) They see their friends in uniform. They see their friends' parents participate in this. And my older son asks: are Mrs. and Mr. Smith bullies? The very very nice people we are friends with, whose kids play with ours?
And that is a very difficult question for me to answer.
My many friends who are involved in scouting are mostly in favor of changing the BSA policy, "From within" and I hope that their pressure and work is in evidence in the impending change. But if this policy doesn't change, it leaves us with an irresolvable conflict, where I must consider them complicit in an act of intolerance and hate towards other children and parents. Just because they "don't know" anybody in their troop or den who is gay, that the victims are silent or unseen, excluded in advance, doesn't make this any less deplorable.
And the cognitive dissonance of having my friends, neighbors, truly decent people, tolerant of intolerance and loving an organization that has a policy of hate just makes my brain explode.
I don't know if my kids will sign on for scouting if the ban is lifted, or if it's really "their thing". But it matters to those of use who are "normal" families with the mommy-daddy-2.3 kids-dog-mortgage almost as much as is does to the families who are excluded directly, because it is a source of strife and conflict where there needn't be one.
Minor update: changed title so if people don't recognize "BSA" they will understand what this diary is about.