Mathew Sydney

A Former Scout

There’s much talk today about The Boy Scouts of America’s decision to maintain their ban on gays.  Although their decision saddens me and I know they are making a grave mistake, they are a private organization and I believe that they do have every right to make such a mistake.  Far from being a tragedy, they have opened the door to a more serious discussion about prejudice, discrimination and equal rights.

I am glad that the US government has not seen fit to ‘force’ or ‘pressure’ TBSA into accepting gay members.  If we are to be a free country, it is important that the government refrain from resorting to coercion.  Imagine, if you will, the resentment, the anger and the passive aggressive reactions that would ensue should TBSA be forced to accept gays.  Personally, I would not want to place my children on the front lines of that battle.  I would much rather live in a world where TBSA willingly accepts openly gay members out of a sense of genuine inclusiveness.  This may take a couple years or even a couple decades but, however long it takes, it is preferable to the alternative.

I think it’s fascinating the The Girl Scouts of America has embraced diversity since 1980.  Why are TGSA 30 or 40 years ahead of TBSA in terms of civil rights?  But that is another discussion.

I feel there is an opportunity here for accepting parents and scout leaders to be proactive and to found an alternative to TBSA.  Perhaps TGSA might be urged to charter an organization for boys or a co-ed scouting group where children of all genders and orientation are encouraged to participate together as equal members.

I understand that there are many people within TBSA that are unhappy with their leadership’s decision.  They might be inclined to break away and form a new scouting organization altogether that more accurately reflects modern ideals.

Although I see absolutely no reason why a gay parent should not be able to serve as a den mother or father, there might be merit in establishing a scouting organization tailored specifically for LGBT youths.  These children do indeed have unique needs.  Such an organization might best provide them with opportunities to develop self-esteem, confidence and leadership skills.

Until a critical mass of parents and leaders have overcome the centuries of bigotry that has plagued our people, we must find positive ways to afford the best opportunities for all our children, both LGBT and straight.  As long as certain powerful groups and individuals within the straight community insist on marginalizing our people, we owe it to ourselves and to our children to continue to strengthen our community and to strengthen our relationships with those straight people who embrace diversity.  This is a free country.  TBSA has just as many rights as The Ku Klux Klan or The Nation of Islam.  Such groups have every right to exist and to promote contention but we do not have to give these groups any power.  We have the right, the means and perhaps even the obligation to create the sorts of groups we would like to see... ones that teach tolerance, brotherhood and honor.

Should continued pressure be applied to TBSA? Absolutely, especially if such pressure is spurred from within.  However, it might be best to allow the TBSA to become a withered, irrelevant relic if it refuses to keep pace with the key American virtue of affording equal rights to all her citizens.  The great tradition of scouting can and will continue without them.