Eric Snyder is a gay 17-year-old from upstate New York, who was tired of hiding a part of his identity. A member of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) since he was five, Eric was not open about being gay until recently, because he did not have much support at school, in his community, or even in his Scouting troop.
"The Boy Scouting policy has been struck down but the way it used to be is that gay or bisexual Scouts were just not allowed in the organization," said Eric. When it came time to plan his Eagle Scout project, though, he decided, "If they’re not going to allow me to do anything queer at all, I’m going to make it really loud in my project."
To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, Eric planned a service project that would benefit local LGBT youth—he worked to renovate the room in Albany where the Capital Pride Center's youth group meets every week.
In a video for I'm From Driftwood, the online LGBT story archive, Eric recalls, "I still wasn’t out yet–but I had to come out to my Boy Scout troop in saying, Hey, I’m working on this project…you can help me or you can’t… I think they made their intentions clear when none of them showed up."
Despite the difficulties that Eric has faced in his troop, he has not only demonstrated resiliency, but is clearly thriving—and so is the Pride Center, where he now works as a peer educator.
To complete his project, Eric has been "Going down to the basement, taking up tile floors, installing wood, painting the walls, ceilings, everything, putting in new shades, building shelves, and making it look a lot better. . . And we have new lights!"
Eric will start his freshman year at the elite Tufts College in Massachusetts this fall and, in just a couple of months, will officially be an Eagle Scout.
"I've always wanted to hear about someone who was like," Eric told I'm From Driftwood. "And I think that if there were more stories who were like that it would have been a lot more helpful when I was trying to get through the coming out process and just coming out to myself, really."
You can watch Eric's full video below:
While the BSA voted to lift its discriminatory ban on gay youth in May 2013, adults who identify as LGBT are still barred from holding leadership positions within the organization. GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her 7-year-old’s Cub Scout pack for being gay. Tyrrell’s Change.org petition has attracted more than 350,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and adult leaders. To learn more about GLAAD's continuous efforts to bring full equality to scouting, visit glaad.org/scouts.