Dear Boy Scout Leadership,
It has comes to my attention that you have postponed making a decision about revising your long-standing policy banning gay people from being scouts or troop leaders. I was really excited when I though that you were finally going to rule on this and possibly step into the modern era and recognize what even the military sees: that there is no reason to ban gay people from full participation in American life.
I’m not sure why you’re delaying a decision. In fact, I’m not sure why you hang on to this antiquated ban at all. The only thing I can fathom is that you’ve never actually met any gay people and have filled the void in your consciousness with some truly terrifying images of what gay people are like. You’re imagining pedophiles. Sex maniacs. Deviants on the scale of Caligula. Or that guy Liza Minelli married who overdid the Botox so badly.
Now, I’m not gay but I did major in theatre so I feel qualified to talk about gay people. Let me tell you a little bit about what the gay people I’ve known are like.
They are men and women. Sons and daughters. Boyfriends and girlfriends. Husbands and wives. Mothers and fathers. Brothers and sisters. Friends.
They have jobs. They own houses. Or rent. They drive cars. They shop for food and occasionally order pizza. They wear jeans on the weekend. They complain about gas prices.
Gay people vote and pay taxes. Some of them join the military. They work in government. They read newspapers and blogs to stay current. They volunteer in their communities.
They enjoy television and movies. Some like sports. Some like opera. They like theatre and dance and science fiction and documentaries and Downton Abbey.
Gay people enjoy travel. They like camping. They speak foreign languages. They pay attention to world events.
They experience happiness and grief. They become inspired and suffer from boredom. They feel anger. They suffer heartbreak. They laugh and cry.
Gay people believe in religion. Except the people who don’t. Generally, they don’t begrudge the free practice of religion though they sometimes wish religion were kinder to them.
Some gay people are jerks. Some are annoying. Some are stupid, ignorant, or abrasive.
Gay people are in every family, every neighborhood, every workplace, every corner of America. If you haven’t seen them, it’s because you weren’t looking for them. You didn’t see them because they don’t look like what you expect. Or it’s because they chose to fade into the shadows because they didn’t want to be seen. They didn’t want to be judged, mocked, harassed, or harmed. They didn’t want to be victims of bigotry. That is called self-preservation.
Times are changing, Boy Scouts. There are fewer shadows, fewer closets where gay people shrink to avoid discrimination. Instead there are growing legions of allies. People like me who stand up and say to the willfully bigoted “You know, gay people are people. They’re not doing anything wrong. But you, bigots, are. Bigotry is wrong. Knock it off.”
Maybe you’re worried that by letting gay people into the Scouts, you’ll lose members. Maybe some of those people who are holding onto the old scary ideas about what gay people are will walk away. But if you don’t allow gay people in you’re going to miss out on having at least one very special boy join in: my son. We don’t want to be a part of any club that won’t have our gay friends and family as members. We know them and we love them. If you can’t do the same, we don’t want to be Scouts.
I hope you come to a decision soon. And I hope it’s the right one, the one that allows everyone to share in the Scouting experience. If not, well, I guess I don’t have anything more to say to you.
Great to know there’s plenty of folks like you in MD (and great meeting you today at the Gov’s office!). I wrote a short post about this issue when I heard they were going to vote — guess I need to write a follow up. Old dogs > new tricks. 🙁