I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this here before, but I’m an Eagle Scout. Yeah, big surprise, right?
I joined my Boy Scout troop in the first week of October 1980 and went on my first camping trip the following weekend. It was glorious. We were out in the woods, learning to make fire, cooking our own food over those flames, tying knots, using knives and axes – all kinds of manly skills. Later on that evening we all gathered around the campfire and sang songs and had a great time.
I spent almost seven years as a Boy Scout earning my merit badges and the various ranks on my “Trail of the Eagle” as it’s called. I was learned skills and spent time with other boys who enjoyed the same things I did. Many of these skills, I’m sure, will keep me alive while the rest of you are the main course at future zombie buffets.
My troop has a storied history. It honored its first Eagle Scout in 1965 and has honored 169 more young men as of 2011. In 1987 I was the 59th. The list includes seven pairs of brothers – my younger brother is number 66 – and four sets of three brothers – there would have been one more, but my youngest brother never finished his Eagle. Between 1973 and 2011, there was only one year, 1989, when no one earned their Eagle. However, I think that may be because in 1988, 1990 and 1991, there were 25. Twenty-five Eagle Scouts in four years. Think about that for a minute, 25 young men who each dedicated five to seven years to achieving a goal that, truthfully, not many reach.
Suffice it to say, it’s not easy to become an Eagle Scout.
That said it shouldn’t be impossible for a boy to aspire to that goal just because he may be gay (or doesn’t believe in a god, for that matter). It’s difficult enough in the first place. Boy Scouts of America shouldn’t force young men who are already going through the stress and fear that comes with being different – stress that can and does drive some boys to suicide – to give up the support of their peers in Scouting.
In my opinion, Boy Scouts of America, like other organizations, has been taken over by radically conservative forces. Forces who believe that because someone is gay they are also a predator just salivating at the idea of getting their sons alone in the woods. If I have a son someday, I’d like him to have the same experiences I did as a Boy Scout – they’re an important part of who I am today – but I don’t think I’d allow him to join an organization that institutionalizes hatred.
It’s time for the Boy Scouts of America to drop this ridiculous policy and allow every boy the chance to stand in front of his family and friends as that red-white-and-blue ribbon suspending a silver eagle is pinned to his chest. It’s the right thing to do.