Merit Badge for Silence: The Boy Scouts’ position on homosexuality denies gay people the basic right to self-definition.
On Tuesday, after a two-year review, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) “emphatically reaffirmed” its current ban on “open or avowed homosexuals”—a restriction that applies not only to Scout leaders, but to Scouts as well.
I have a soft spot for the Scouts, having been a member until I reached high school (the uniforms, if you haven’t noticed, are radically uncool, and as soon as I hit adolescence, my interest in earning merit badges evaporated). But I still remember how to tie a square, bowline, and sheet knot—and how to hang a bear bag. I learned the importance of the latter the hard way, at Boy Scout camp. Too tired to be bothered with finding a tree tall enough to hoist my bag of food, I swung it onto the roof of the Scoutmaster’s lean-to. Later that night, everyone was awakened by the sounds of a bear rustling through my food. The fond memories I have of the Scouts make it all the more sad to think, had I stuck with it long enough to come to terms with my sexual orientation, I wouldn’t have been allowed to stay.
The Boy Scouts’ position on gays is patently out of line with its goal of mentoring young men and raising strong citizens. The organization rightly prides itself on serving at-risk youth, but it is missing a valuable opportunity to support vulnerable LGBT kids, who disproportionately suffer from depression, commit suicide, abuse drugs, and face harassment from peers at school. Instead of providing guidance and strong role models for those most in need, the BSA has chosen to further ostracize gay youth.