This Monday the Boy Scouts of America released a press statement that fired up the Internet. One would have thought gay men everywhere where pouring into streets to celebrate the end of homonegativity--or perhaps climbing up to the mountain tops to shout "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."
I'm keeping my hiking boots off. I don't see any need to rush to a mountain top just yet.
Let's look at what the Scouts actually had to say for themselves. As with most things, the devil is in the details. Read closely.
"Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families."
What does this really mean? It means that if the Boy Scouts make this change, troops that are in areas that are already supportive of gay youth will continue to be supportive of gay youth. Young gay men can be scouts and adult gay men can be scout leaders. Great. Fantastic. Progress.
The fine print also means that troops that are in areas that don't support gay youth will continue to be unsupportive of gay youth. In fact, 70% of Scout troops are chartered by religious organizations. Who honestly thinks that those religious groups that busy themselves with pray-away-the-gay charlatan therapy will suddenly start accepting gay youth into the scouts?
Come on. Raise your hand if you think this will happen.
I didn't think so.
We have repeatedly tried in our shared American history to let individual states or groups decide whether or not to grant human rights to out-groups. It didn't work well for any of the groups. How can any critical thinker think that this is going to work for gay youth?
Most of our population lives in areas that hug the coasts--and those costal populations are primarily socially liberal. The middle of the country--that's fly over territory. We don't really stop and visit. We don't know what it's like for the people who live there.
I lived there once. It sucks. Especially if you are different in any way.
We neglect LGBT youth in these so-called fly-over lands.
What of them? What of the youth who are still kicked out of the Boy Scouts? Is there an end to the ban on discrimination for them? Many LGBT youth in the so-called fly-over lands constantly receive messages that they they are wrong, broken, dirty, disgusting, damaged, or evil. Is a gay boy scout in Cambridge going to offer them any comfort?
The argument I hear goes like this: it's a small change. It'll help those scouts who can be in troops. The kids in other areas will see that things get better. Some gay scouts are better than no gay scouts.
Fuck that. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.
This proposed change is great for gay scouts in areas that are already supportive of gay youth. It's a small step for youth who generally already have a better life. It's worthless for gay youth who are in areas that actively repress and revile gay youth.
Since when have crumbs--or meaningless tokens--become acceptable signs of progress?
Kids don't know how to plan for the future. Kids aren't developmentally able to see that while their life sucks now, it might not suck later. The kids who are tortured at the hands of anti-gay bigots will remain tortured by anti-gay bigots, and continue to feel that their lives are meaningless.
We can't offer the platitude of "it gets better" to a kid who is offered no pathway to have a better life. A kid can't wait until they move to the coast to someplace more loving. A kid doesn't know how to wait.
We need to stop acting like PR moves by the Boy Scouts that enables bigots to continue to be bigots is some sort of progress. It isn't. It doesn't offer any hope for those who are most in need of hope. It is not change. All that this is is a PR move by the Boy Scouts to shift responsibility and save themselves from lost corporate donations.
We need to support our kids. We need to give them a path. We need to provide them with meaningful progress. The Boy Scouts can fuck off until they offer support for every boy. The "gushing gay activists" who see this as progress can also go fuck themselves.
I'm rather full of rage today. It's the rage I have on behalf of every voiceless kid who is ignored and made invisible by a country ignorant of their plight. As Audre Lorde once wrote:
"What you hear in my voice is fury, not suffering. Anger, not moral authority."
I stand for the kids. I stand for the kids who we are ignoring.