At last weekend's "Stand with Scouts" event, in between Texas Governor Rick Perry dismissing gay inclusivity as a product of pop culture that must be resisted (like slavery) and an anti-gay scout accusing gay people of being unclean, the coalition that's opposing a fair-minded change in Boy Scout policy (the Family Research Council and On My Honor, primarily) teased a document that purports to show ten reasons why delegates should vote no on allowing gay scouts. In this post, we will look at all ten "reasons" and proceed to show why they are all completely bunk. Let's begin.
Claim #1) The proposed BSA resolution is logically incoherent and morally and ethically inconsistent. Under the proposed change in policy, open homosexuality would be officially consistent with the Scouting code throughout a Boy Scout’s life until the moment he turns 18, when it suddenly becomes a problem.
The anti-equality contingent begins with this odd one. I say it's odd because this is one that pretty much makes our point, not theirs.
They claim that the proposed policy of allowing gay boys but barring gay men is inconsistent because it will start to seem weird when qualified seventeen-year-old scouts turn eighteen and are suddenly deemed unfit. Well guess what? Those of us who support full equality completely agree with that
! We believe that a continued ban on adult leaders is completely untenable, even for a private organization, and will never hold up. This is because we believe (read: know) that anti-gay discrimination is WRONG at any age. It seems weird for our opposition to not only highlight our stance but to do it in their very first talking point.
The inconsistency of the proposed change is not a reason to vote no on it—it's a reason to continue this conversation until all who wish to serve in the Boy Scouts are granted the freedom to do so!
2) Opening the Boy Scouts to boys who openly proclaim being sexually attracted to other boys and/or openly identify themselves as "gay" will inevitably create an increase of boy-on-boy sexual contact which will result in further public scandal to the BSA, not to mention the tragedy of countless boys who will experience sexual, physical and psychological abuse.
This is just a variation on the far-right attempt to make gay people sound innately predatory. What they forget is that this policy change is about gay kids, who are often scared of the reaction by their peers.
Right now, Boy Scouts who are gay are getting into the program, they are just doing so while constrained by the burdening confines of a closet. To foster this kind of shame is to foster potential problems. A climate of fear and oppression is a breeding ground for incidents based around dominance and secrecy. To stigmatize gays is to invite silencing so that true victims of actual violence (which we all strongly decry!) are afraid to speak up. This silence also emboldens would-be oppressors (of any sexual orientation) who feel they can use the shame that stems from anti-gay policy to keep their victims quiet (e.g. "You tell anybody about this and I'll tell them you're a f*g and get you kicked out of Scouting!")
When the Boy Scouts drop the stigma surrounding gay kids and leaders, then the playing field is leveled. All scouts are bound to decorum and behavioral standards, and openly gay scouts are expected to show the same sort of respect to their fellow scouts that they demand for themselves. When this happens, true incidents of disrespect, violence, or abuse will be more ably dealt with because the fear of being shamed by (or met with retribution because of) the stark language in the current anti-gay policy will lead to more openness and more disclosure—and less abuse.
3) The proposal forces and requires every chartered Scouting unit, regardless of religious convictions, to facilitate open homosexuality among boys in their program.
No boy, gay or straight, is going to be "acting on" his sexuality while involved in a Scouting situation. So what we are talking about is simple disclosure. We aren't talking about sexually active gay boys; we are talking about rhetorically open gay boys. There is no religious value in shunning someone for saying (or even appearing to be) gay.
Even the most conservative denominations claim a "love the sinner, hate the sin" approach, often drawing a distinction between what they call "attractions" and what they call "behavior" or "choices." Even those who support scientifically-rejected attempts to "change" LGBT people rarely take an approach that excludes people simply because of what they could call a "sexual preference" (and actuality is called an orientation). In fact, many of these less-than-accepting bodies encourage gay-identified people to attend because they are convinced they can "save" us.
So I ask again: Is the desire to shut out a young boy who simply identifies as gay (or bi or questioning or even just pro-gay) really a religious conviction that should lead a delegate to vote to ban then? If that answer is "yes," to any great degree, then our national faith body has larger problems than just its views on the Boy Scouts.
4) If the proposal is enacted, it will gut a major percentage of human capital in the BSA and utterly devastate the program financially, socially and legally.
This is basically the same as the last point, since the "On My Honor" coalition claims this supposed financial hardship is because "the majority of local churches that charter Scout units will not be able to embrace this policy without violating their religious convictions" and that religiously-minded supporters will leave in droves. This being the case, I will repeat myself: If the simple inclusion of minor boys who identify as gay is enough of a reason to drive you, as a person of faith, from a program that you would have supported otherwise, then long, hard, inward looks would seem to be in order. The word "homophobia" gets tossed around at times when actual fear is not in play, but in this case, fear of the most basic tolerance for homosexuality would seem to be guiding the day.
And of course there is currently the flip situation in play: The many families who would support the Boy Scouts but cannot currently do so because of its shortsighted policies. There are many of us who fall in this category. For me personally, I have three nephews whose parents would never consider putting them in the program precisely because of the anti-gay policy. There are many families like this all across the America, making up a largely silent (and growing) contingent that is often overlooked in this debate. And unlike the supposed people of faith who "On My Honor" claims will flee because of the mere presence of gay kids, those of us who reject the current policy have more than valid reasoning to support our decision: discrimination is an irreconcilable limitation that is at war with both present normalcy and future promise.
5) The Resolution robs parents of the sole authority to raise issues of sex and sexuality with their kids.
We see this tactic in every single LGBT rights debate. The other side always conflates sexual activity with sexual orientation. They act as if inclusion means forced sex ed. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A few things on this. The Boy Scouts are not talking about sex now, and they will not be talking about sex in the inevitably more inclusive future. It is downright offensive to gay people to suggest that our entrance into a program means any more talk about sex than would our heterosexual peers inclusion in that same program. Where is the rationale in the claim? Why can they not understand that gay and bisexual are variations on heterosexual, not some separate roles whose script demands an adult film set in order to become real?
Additionally, here's a newsflash to parents who believe they are the "sole authority" on the subject: young boys are going to talk about their curiosities, and there is no greater curiosity than that which surrounds sex. Children are already talking about sex. Among themselves. Hopefully this is not shocking to anyone.
When it comes to the chatter of youth, my hope, as a grown gay man, would be for a future youth culture that is far less hostile to young gay boys than my own (and most everyone's own) past was for me. The way we stop the "smear the queer" games and "f*g" jokes that surround young journeys? You got it: we reduce the aggression that's ingrained in so many of our policies.
6) The proposed policy directly contradicts the BSA’s comprehensive 2010-2012 study which unanimously concluded last summer that prohibiting “open and avowed homosexuality” was “the absolute best policy” for the Boy Scouts. Only months after the BSA affirmed the policy that was clearly in the best interest of its boys, a handful of top BSA officials caved from the pressure and criticism they received from their own adult peers.
This one is just a non-starter. Like so many anti-LGBT coalitions, the "On My Honor" team is acting like progress is some sort of conspiracy against them. It's really unbecoming, frankly.
Yes, many informed adults have advised the BSA against embracing discrimination. We've done this openly and proudly! The fact that the BSA is reconsidering itself now is because many of us have done the work countering the decades of fear, stereotype, and misinformation that the other side has waged against us. And we are winning because acceptance is the winning position—then, now, and always.
The fact that the BSA is looking at itself and reconsidering its flawed policies is more fuel for our positions, not our opposition's. It shows that even long-held biases can (and should) be dropped. It's a hopeful sign proving that inequality does not have to last forever.
7) The proposed resolution leaves Scouting units with no options or legal protection if they refuse to allow open homosexuality among the boys of their units.
Well yes, if the Boys Scouts changes its policy, people will not be allowed to wantonly flout that policy. This goes for all matters of nondiscrimination. We implement such policies because we recognize them as social goods. They are not mere suggestions.
This bullet point should actually read, " 7) If gay Scouts are permitted, Scouting units will not be able to look these little kids in the eyes and say, 'No, Johnny, I'm sorry but you're way too homosexual to tie a knot today.'" Hopefully this, the fair and accurate interpretation of what "On My Honor" is seeking, is not a desire on which the Boy Scouts hopes to build a future.
8) The effect of the phrase “sexual preference” in the BSA resolution could be used by LGBT activists to push for transgendered girls in the BSA.
As long as a human being exists, there is the possibility for that human being to be considered. So in that regard, yes, a transgender boy (which they misstate here as a "transgendered [sic] girl") could someday advocate to be included in the Boy Scouts.
But here's the thing: Transgender boys have this possibility regardless of whether or not any language regarding sexuality is altered. Why? Because transgender boys are boys whose sexual orientations are not the same thing as their gender identities. A transgender boy who identifies as gay would currently be limited by both a trans and gay ban; a transgender boy who identifies as straight would only be limited by a trans ban. The current reconsideration pertaining to sexual orientation (or, as they say, "preference") does not more readily open a door to any further consideration regarding trans scouts. This possibility for further consideration exists simply because trans boys exist.
The other side loves its "slippery slopes" and, sadly, loves to exploit transphobia for its own fearful ends. It only makes them look desperate.
9) The “whereas” clauses in the resolution are symbolic and not part of the actual proposed policy.
This one is just silly semantics. What we are debating is the actual proposed policy, which reads: "Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all youth who meet the specific membership requirements to join the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Sea Scout, and Venturing programs. Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and (c) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." Everyone, on both sides of this issue, knows the matter at hand.
The reason "On My Honor" doesn't want its supporters looking at the "whereas" clauses in the proposed resolution
is because many of these clarifying statements about what implementation would and would not mean directly shoot down the very fears that "On My Honor" is using in this document and others. The clauses make clear that this change will not change a Scout's obligations or values. One of the clauses makes it clear that "sexual conduct" of any sort if off limits. The clauses make it clear that this is about simply allowing gay kids and not any sort of "agenda." The clauses make it clear that the policy change does not affect any Boy Scout's belief in a God. And so on and so forth.
The "whereas" clauses should allay the anti-LGBT side's fears, which is why they are telling their supporters to overlook them. We see this all the time with the other side. They do this with religious exemptions in marriage bills, promises we make them in terms of our goals, testimonies we present them in regards to our lives, and just about any concession we give them in any part of this debate. It's one reason why this broader LGBT fight is so darn frustrating: we are fighting in good faith but our opposition simply refuses to show it back to us in return.
10) Top BSA leaders completely ignored the collective wisdom of rank-and-file Scouting family members when they proposed this resolution.
Equality is winning the day. Yes, we still face difficult polling in certain areas, as most every civil rights movement has at the time of their own turning points. But we lead our way out of oppression. We push our way to a better tomorrow. We show those opposed the change that we see in the world, and we make the case for doing better.
When we talk about young gay boys trying to come up in an America that is still far too hostile, we are talking about some of the most vulnerable human beings on this planet. No family, no matter how strongly opposes to this or any LGBT-centered change in policy, is guaranteed a life free from LGBT people. In fact, there's a pretty good chance that most all of us are going to know the joy of having an LGBT person impact our lives. This is because LGBT people are actually not unicorns: we are an actual part of the human fabric. It doesn't take "collective wisdom" to understand that; it only takes open eyes, hearts, and minds.
Throughout this rundown, I've noted a few instances where the "On My Honor" crew is actually making our case more than their own. To be perfectly frank, polling that shows a heightened pocket of resistance for this change is actually a reason why we should see to the implementation of this change. Hostility towards LGBT people affects all of us, but it affects scared children even more. The Boy Scouts have a great opportunity here to show honor and courage, and to help every single young gay boy to have just a little easier time coming up through life. It is not a time for the BSA to wait for every facet of public polling to tick up above 50%: it is a time for the BSA to show that a Scout's honor is not dependent on a popularity contest.