Sunday, April 28

Boy Scouts & Distinctions in Homosexuality

I'm an Eagle Scout.

I began my career in scouting selling Cub Scout popcorn. I was 7 - too young to be a Cub Scout. But my grandfather had been president of the local Scout council and got a silver beaver, my dad is uber-passionate about scouting, and I was the first child. So I sold popcorn. I remember realizing that the price of popcorn was absurdly high... and expressing my concern to my parents.

They told me something crazy. They said I was selling Cub Scouts - not popcorn.

Somehow that made sense in my 7-year-old brain. However it happened, for years I outsold everyone in the council.

I went to Scout Camp - it's called Napowan where I'm from - and learned the art of fire-building, capsizing a sailboat without getting wet, and how to keep rainwater from flooding a tent staked on piles of pine needles. I was a senior patrol leader at the Nauvoo Encampment and spoke at Sacrament meeting to a group of scouts so big we had a dozen Sacrament tables.

My Eagle project was providing relief to the victims of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras. I have a plaque from the Honduran consulate giving me the "Hands for Honduras" award.

And the first summer I came home from college, a year before going on a mission, I was called as the Webelos leader in my home ward.

So scouting's in my blood.

I had no idea that the Boy Scouts of America had a policy that homosexual men couldn't be scouts or leaders until the policy came under fire just recently by big corporations who threatened to pull funding unless it was changed. All of my activity in scouting was long before my self-awareness about same-gender attraction anyway, but it made me wonder.

Either way, I'm sure you've seen the firestorm on both sides of the issue. But in the midst of the most recent set of news briefs, much of the media is leaving out what I think is the most important part of the issue. The distinction that BSA has made between homosexual feelings and homosexual actions.

It's cool because the policy change, now, simply looks like it is being updated to match the growing understanding of homosexuality. 50 years ago, very few people made distinctions between actions and feelings. It was all sort of lumped together - by almost all groups, including social science. And since society did not really allow for chaste homosexual men, or acknowledge the thousands in happy marriages to women, there were very few who openly admitted their attractions. Why would you? The few who did admit to same-sex attraction usually "came out" and then became sexually active with men - something that definitely does not jive with being "morally straight." Hence the ban on "openly homosexual" men from serving as leaders or even holding membership in the ranks of BSA.

But today is a bit different. There are men - with same-gender attraction - who quietly serve as Boy Scout leaders, youth advisors, and leaders in the LDS Church - and they are just as morally straight as their heterosexual counterparts. Which leads to the really cool distinction that BSA has included in their most recent proposal.

First, they reiterate the traditional values behind what it means to be "morally straight" - in this case, it means total sexual abstinence for all youth scouts - heterosexual or homosexual:

“Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”

Then they make the distinction that the Church has taught for years, and the world has only recently made between actions and feelings:

“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

I think this is pretty cool.

I realize that this policy is just a policy. Scouting is ruled and run by the local units, who don't report on almost anything to the National Council, and those units make up whatever rules they want based on their own desires (hence my selling popcorn for the council at 7). But it's cool that we have another ally who has just made the distinction between attractions and behaviors... and given impetus to the reality that one does not mean the other.

If I were on the National Council for BSA, I'd definitely vote for this one.

3 comments:

Susie said...

I'm' happy to read this too. Scouting and sexual abstinence go hand in hand. It is an organization making the last stand against the oversexualization of the rising generations. It pains me that so many kids (yes, teens are kids) are almost bombarded with the pressure to define themselves at such an early age. Making the participation rules based on behaviors, and taking a stand on what it means to be "morally straight," was needed. Give kids the space to grow and develope skills of self-reliance and serving others without sexualizing it all.
That being said, I do hope local leaders are sensitive to boys who may be struggling with their sexual pubescence and can provide a safe place where they can actually focus on the myriad of other things there are for kids to " obsess" about....like 101 ways to build a better fire :). Well said, and well done Eagle Scout and Mormon Guy!

Tory said...

Thank you for your comments. In my opinion, the distinction between feelings and actions is the critical issue here and one that most people seem to overlook. You have explained it here much better than I have seen most other places.

iheartseattle said...

YES! Love your breakdown & summary of the issue. I like their way of resolving the controversial issue, too!