Can I just say, as a former Boy Scout, that Jen rocks hard? And so do all of the other people putting pressure on the Boy Scouts?
As far as I’m concerned, there have always been gay or transgendered Boy Scouts. We were the ones sewing our own sashes and pressing our own creases in our uniforms. (I know! Stereotype alert! I’m sorry. It was a cheap joke. But, um, in my case, it was true. In my troop, I was the only scout ironing my own uniform. And sometimes my little brother’s, too.)
One of the things I remember about being a scout was that scouting taught me self-reliance, in part because it was decidedly un-cool to be a Boy Scout. I remember an early episode of “The Simpsons” in which Bart was tricked into enlisting in a Boy Scout-type group called the Junior Campers. Even Lisa capped on him! “The few, the proud, the geeky,” she said. When Lisa Simpson is calling you un-cool, you are majorly un-cool.
If you’re 15 and going to a working-class high school in Pittsburgh, showing up in a Boy Scout uniform is a good way to get teased unmercifully, so you better learn how to stand up to bullies.
In all honesty, I also remember plenty of scouts who may or may not have been gay, bi or transgendered, but they definitely didn’t fit American stereotypes of masculinity. They were soft-spoken and polite, artistic and bookish and nerdy, more driven and enthusiastic than other boys their age, and I certainly had those qualities, too. Scouting helped me learn to stand up for myself and be respected among a group of other teens and pre-teens.
In other words, I can’t think of a group of kids better suited for Boy Scouting than young men outside of society’s rigid gender roles, or gay or bi, facing bullying and otherwise not easily fitting into other peer groups.
Scouting is about learning to become a good citizen and develop your leadership qualities (and sure, camping and building fires and making crafts and paddling canoes and all that stuff, too) not about what your sexual orientation or gender identity may turn out to be.
I guess if I have one tiny caveat, it’s this … it’s not clear to me whether the Boy Scouts are reversing their policy on “LGBT” scouts and leaders … or just LGB ones. The statement released by the Boy Scouts only mentions sexual orientation, not gender identity.
You may think I’m really splitting hairs, but here’s why I’m concerned … without protecting gender identity as well as sexual orientation, theoretically, you could have a female-to-male transman, or a male-to-female transwoman, denied permission to participate in their child’s troop or pack, for no good reason.
Or, you could have a young man born female, transitioning to male, denied permission to be a Boy Scout. (Whereas the Girl Scouts have accepted transgendered scouts — young women born male and living as females — which naturally outraged all of your usual whack-a-doos.)
Again, I know it’s a small percentage of people affected, and maybe I’m viewing thing solely through my own personal issues, but I think it’s a reason for concern, and gender identity and expression should be part of the discussion.
So, if you feel moved to action, you might also suggest that the Boy Scouts stop discriminating against transgendered scouts and/or transgendered parents, as well as gay scouts. It’s a minor point, but it’s an important one, I think, and I hope you do, too.