Yesterday the Boy Scouts of America announced that after two long years of deliberation, they were still going to discriminate against gays (their right to do so, as a private organization, has unfortunately been upheld in courts). Gay scout leaders and Webelos will continue to be asked to leave the organization. The decision was based on what the BSA believes the parents who send their kids to be Scouts want. This mysterious group of people was apparently polled, and when asked, said, “No Fags, pls.” They've been upholding this antique idea for a while now – I remember my little brother, who is now old enough to drink, quitting Boy Scouts over this very same issue about ten years ago.
This is a flawed decision for so many reasons it's hard to discuss them all in a short piece. Does the BSA believe that their gaydar is infallible, especially when it comes to children? What if someone is super far in the closet, like wife & kids style? Is it that they are scared of gays, or are they scared of pedophiles? We all know that pedophiles come in both flavors, and that they can be found almost exclusively working as youth pastors. And of course the gay-people-are-automatically-pedophiles thing is as outdated as discriminating against interracial marriage. Do the parents think that their kids might learn too much about gay people and subsequently become gay? If so, then these people must also believe that people who are gay can become un-gay. Will these “reformed gays” be allowed to work in BSA? The lines of sexuality are both firm enough and blurred enough as to make such a policy difficult to officiate. A similar question: If your mom is white and your father is black, but you are very light-skinned, which drinking fountain can you visit?
But the biggest question, to me, is what are these parents so afraid of? As far as I'm concerned, there are several pieces of “honorable, timeless values” that gay people are incredibly equipped to teach young people, like the incredibly important lesson of Tolerance. If you are a gay adult in America, you have probably been a subject of intolerance. Teaching from experience, and lending a personal story to a lesson that can seem kind of vague to a child is important. Children DO learn from example, and they have to grow empathy – especially little boys. If they know that someone they look up to has been hurt by a certain behavior, then they might reconsider calling another kid a name and furthering the cycle. Plus, as Americans, we don't just need to be tolerant of gays, but of anyone that we don't like, for any reason. Luckily, we are entitled to our opinions in America. You are actually allowed to be racist or homophobic! You just can't DO anything about it, and all children need to be taught that tolerance and the Golden Rule are the same thing and must be obeyed at all times.
Or what about masculinity? I feel, to a certain extent, people who are discriminating against gays are working from a single stereotype of “gay man”, which is either fed by fear – the gay-pride parade leather daddy, perhaps? – or popular culture –the fey interior decorator BFF. Neither of these stereotypes are accurate enough to even be good character sketches in a romantic comedy, much less an actual person. Gay people come in lots of flavors, just like straight people, and some of them are really good at outdoorsmanship and being “real men” or whatever. And some straight people are not like that: my father is straight and he loves Cirque Du Soleil, dancing, and Alanis Morrisette, and his idea of camping is staying in a one-star hotel. He would never have been caught dead leading my brother's Boy Scout troop.
So, in short, this policy makes no sense. Boy Scouts of America are a shameful excuse for a children's organization bent on furthering ignorance and fear in children for no good reason.