Blogger’s note: This started as one post with three points, but as it grew way too long, I chose to break it up into a series of three posts all about the Boy Scouts (BSA’s) decision to allow gay youth but continue to discriminate against gay adults.


For me, yesterday’s progress with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voting to allow gay youth was exciting, and by the reactions, it is clear that this was real progress yet there is more work to do. There are folks extremely unhappy on both sides of the issue, which often happens when something is too much for some and yet not enough for others. And that’s where the BSA is today.

For me, there are three points I want to make about the BSA vote, and these are articulated across three blog posts, parts 1, 2, and 3.

The decision is progress, yet not enough, and it is a decision that will not hold up over time.

When making the announcement about the vote,  the BSA head said the “one thing we can all agree” on is that scouting is good for all boys.” This is a real step forward from “gay youth- we don’t want you.”  And I would agree with the BSA. Scouting is good for all youth. Personally, my time as a Scout was a valuable part of what has helped me to be the man I am today.  It is like so many other experiences in our lives, where we learn valuable lessons because we have opportunities to explore things that otherwise may not be a part of our lives. A boy’s sexual orientation shouldn’t stop him from the opportunity to have that experience.

Here are the kids this change will benefit the most- those young guys who, while in Scouts begin to recognize that they are gay or bisexual in their orientation. Under the old policy, they had few options- leave scouting or bury that part of themselves trying to come out. Now, they will have less need to adopt either path. They will be more free to be who they are, and continue to develop as young men.

But this demonstrates why the new policy is flawed and will not last. How is it that a boy of 16 or 17 who comes to understand that he is gay, can be welcomed and supported, but this very same person, is no longer welcome when he turns 18? The new policy opens opportunities for youth, but it is no more rational or logical than the old policy.

My guess is that within a very short time, we will see the BSA change the policy to all gay adults as well.  Protecting our youth and providing them an enriched learning environment, isn’t accomplished by keeping gay men and lesbians out, but rather keeping predatory men and other types of adults who do not have the youth’s best interests in mind. In reality, out gay men are totally more safe for youth than closeted married “heterosexual” pedophiles.

Here is where the sexual politics gets trickier.  Abuse and sexual assault are power issues, crimes where an adult uses their power over youth. It may or may not have to do with a person’s self-identified sexual orientation, but has everything to do with an abuse of power. What are the circumstances that set up the possibility for adults to take advantage of that power differential? Secrecy is often a part of it, and that’s why out gay and lesbian adult are not a risk to youth, for they are living no secret. They live out, proud, and stable lives.

The heteronormative power status quo thrives on a power differential, and coming to terms with abuse of power is easier to blame on others than it is to see it as systemically linked within the heteronormative hierarchy. Not all men abuse and misuse power, but the ability to manipulate the system exists. THis system is what is changing as gays are accepted, and why some are so opposed to it.

Please read parts 2 and 3.




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