Even more specifically, I’m grateful for volunteers and staff across the country embracing the Journey to Excellence ... together wrapping our arms around this notion that we’re on a sacred mission to serve more young people … and gaining traction on “The Main Thing”—providing a quality Scouting experience to more and more young people.
Every qualified youth should have the opportunity to join the Scouts.
-Laurel Highlands Council President, Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Boy Scouts should be supporting all youth, and providing a quality Scouting experience to more and more young people, just as Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazucca has said.
We do a disservice to the youth of America by denying membership to LGBT youth, not only by refusing them access to this amazing program, but by contributing to a social climate which degrades and inflicts harm on the very youth we are seeking to serve[ii]. We should not say that “qualified” youth should have the opportunity to join the Scouts; instead we should affirm that all youth should have the opportunity to join the Scouts.
Studies have shown that youth who are surrounded by supportive friends and family are less likely to harm themselves [iii]:
Now the first longitudinal study to look at suicide ideation and self-harm in this population shows support from friends and family offers the most protection in preventing youths from thinking about suicide. Adolescents who know they can talk to their parents about problems and know they have friends who care about them are less likely to consider ending their lives, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.
LGBT youth face higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, due to the discrimination they feel on a daily basis[iv] and are much more likely to have attempted suicide or be clinically depressed[v][vi], and those feelings continue throughout their entire lives[vii].
Currently, more than half of LGBT youth do not feel safe in their communities and schools[viii]. The BSA however, is in a unique position to make a positive change in the lives of these youth and to create an atmosphere of caring and support. A recent study found that 94% of LGBT youth have been targeted (bullying, name-calling, harassment or physical violence) because of their sexuality[ix]. Up to 40% of the homeless youth in the country are LGBT, kicked out of their homes for who they are or leaving for fear of their own safety[x][xi]. But having a reach as wide and far-sweeping as the BSA allows us to be the change that these youth need[xii][xiii], to make them feel safer and giving them a place where they belong, bolstering our own ranks at the same time.
Schools with anti-harassment policies, especially those that include provisions to protect based on sexual orientation and gender identify make students feel safer at school[xiv], create fewer reports of missing school, fewer reports of feeling unsafe, greater academic achievement, higher educational aspirations and a greater sense of belonging[xv]. Programs at schools such as Exploring and after-school Scout meetings greatly add to this safe environment.
Currently, the BSA stands in opposition to major associations in keeping its ban in place: The American Medical Association[xvi], The American Psychiatric Association[xvii], The American Psychological Association[xviii], and The American Academy of Pediatrics[xix] have all affirmed the dignity of LGBT persons. The American Academy of Pediatrics writes:
The overall goal in caring for youth who are or think they might be gay, lesbian, or bisexual is the same as for all youth: to promote normal adolescent development, social and emotional well-being, and physical health. If their environment is critical of their emerging sexual orientation, these adolescents may experience profound isolation and fear of discovery, which interferes with achieving developmental tasks of adolescence related to self-esteem, identity, and intimacy. Nonheterosexual youth often are subjected to harassment and violence; 45% of gay men and 20% of lesbians surveyed were victims of verbal and physical assaults in secondary school specifically because of their sexual orientation.
Nonheterosexual youth are at higher risk of dropping out of school, being kicked out of their homes, and turning to life on the streets for survival. Some of these youth engage in substance use, and they are more likely than heterosexual peers to start using tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs at an earlier age.
The BSA, instead of adding to this culture of exclusion, could instead be the leader in welcoming all youth. But as long as the discriminatory policies still exist, the BSA will continue to lose charter partners and members[xx], awards will be publicly refused[xxi] and Eagle Scouts will continue to make headlines by returning their awards[xxii][xxiii][xxiv][xxv][xxvi]. These events force the BSA to spend time, energy and money on defending ourselves[xxvii], rather than serving the youth of the community and presenting the best program possible.
It is most imperative that the policy change in order to stop the institutionalized discrimination that contributes to the suicide of young people. And to better serve those youth and reinforce to all young people that they have dignity and worth, we must also stop dismissing adults based on their own sexual orientation. All youth need adults for guidance and to look up to; LGBT adults provide further evidence of a life worth living, and provide nonheterosexual youth members support and acceptance. The American Psychological Association and American Sociological Association has reaffirmed that same-gendered parents provide the same level of supportive and healthy parenting as heterosexual adults[xxviii] [ixx]. And the members of the BSA are at no increased risk of youth protection incidents by allowing LGBT leaders:
The vast majority of men who abuse boys either aren't attracted to adults of either gender, or are straight men with an emotional disturbance that sends them regressing back to kids. In study after study, only the tiniest fraction of these abusers show interest in adult men, a percentage well below the fraction of openly gay men in society. That's why the American Psychological Association testified to the US Senate: "There is no evidence that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to molest children.[xxix][xxx][xxxi][xxxii][xxxiii][xxxiv]
A good compromise, one that in my experience has the backing of many professional Scouters, and is currently being discussed by the national board, is to allow the Charter Organizations to select their leadership. While many Charter Organizations may as of yet feel uncomfortable with LGBT leaders, many mainstream Christian denomination, houses of worship of all faiths, community groups and school districts have long since moved on from this issue, affirming the dignity of all youth and adults. This compromise allows for greater freedom of choice for parents and youth, as well as allowing Charter Organizations to continue supporting units while remaining true to their own beliefs.
This compromise, however, is only a step, and should only allow Charter Organizations to continue to discriminate against adults. If we truly are to be a youth-serving organization, then we must truly serve all youth.
Again, it is not a perfect solution, but rather a step in the right direction, but one that is badly needed to reaffirm that the BSA is committed to the development of young people and actually concerned for their safety and well-being. Positive role-models and adult leadership of all sexualities are needed, but at the moment, the priority should be the youth, if that is all that can be changed.
And if that is the reality, while it will be a huge victory, I believe that the ban on adults will not be far behind, as time continues forward and those LGBT youth members become adults, either at 18 or 21 (depending on program). Which also leads to the other situation which will drive equality forward: LGBT youth in Troops who become adults, but retain youth status in Crews, Posts and Lodges.
But until these discriminatory policies are changed, membership numbers will continue to decline. Schools, community groups and churches are moving away from the BSA with more and more frequency[xxxv], and with them, the BSA loses their chance to have a positive impact on the youth of our nation[xxxvi].
The world is changing, even the idea of marriage equality, for years a far cry from being accepted, is now embraced by over half the country[xxxvii], and support of business that support LGBT equality continues to grow, and those businesses see very little backlash: instead they see gains to their bottom lines[xxxviii][xxxix].
Because if the discriminatory policy, the Boy Scouts have seen the loss of contributions from major corporations[xlv], such as UPS[xlvi], Intel[xlvii] and Merck[xlviii]. A reversal of this policy would restore these donations, as well as bring in new money from equality-minded individuals and organizations.
Companies with employees who are honest with who they are in the workplace have better interpersonal relationships with their coworkers and are more engaged in the workplace[xl]. Conversely, workplaces that have discriminatory policies in place see wasted money, less trust, less job satisfaction and less job loyalty[xli], costing over $64 billion a year.
If you choose to compare this change in policy to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a change to which there are certainly some parallels, more support is revealed. The armed forces have seen virtually no impact on letting their members live their lives honestly, which they credit not only to the brave men and women serving, but also the leadership who implemented the lifting of the ban[xlii]. In fact, almost 70% of those in the Army asked felt no change whatsoever since the repeal[xliii] and The Commandant of the Marine Corps says that he has not heard of any problems related to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell[xliv].
I worked full time for the Boy Scouts for five years. Deciding to leave for another career opportunity was a very hard decision; I truly enjoyed working with the volunteers and staff, as well as doing incredible work with our outdoor adventure team. What finally make the difference in deciding to leave was the BSA’s discriminatory policies.
I am an Eagle Scout, a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow and a Jack Ryan Award recipient. I served on camp staff for 11 seasons. Yet, if I had ever been honest, I would have been fired. It is impossible to describe the immense pain that comes from working for an organization that would not even have you as a member.
But I endured, knowing that I was making a positive impact in the lives of those attending and working at our camps.
I’ve said it many times, and I will continue to say it, Scouting saved my life. The bonds of friendship from camp staff, my Troop, my Crew and my Lodge are still some of the strongest friendships I have. They are family. Not once were any of them ever concerned with anyone’s sexuality.
I stayed quiet about my own sexual orientation for years, not only because it had no bearing on the work that I was performing, but also because I never once wanted anyone else to be in a position where they would have to lie to protect me.
I certainly hope that those volunteers and co-workers who valued my contributions fight for this cause, and I hope that the BSA does in fact remove this policy. But even if the ban stays in place, LGBT members will still be Scouts of all ages, adult volunteers, board members and employees.
I refuse to stand by and let this amazing organization be lost to irrelevancy; the Boy Scouts of America has done so much good, and will continue to do so. Let us help all the youth in America have the opportunity to join this amazing program and become Prepared. For Life.
[i]Mazucca, Bob. "Holiday Thoughts From the Chief." Web log post. Bob's Blog. ScoutWire, 20 Dec. 2011. Web. <http://scout-wire.org/2011/12/20/bob%E2%80%99s-blog-holiday-thoughts-from-the-chief/>.
[ii]Woodford, Michael R., Michael L. Howell, Perry Silverschanz, and Lotus Yu. "“That's So Gay!”: Examining the Covariates of Hearing This Expression Among Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual College Students." Journal of American College Health 60.6 (2012): 429-34. Print.
[iii]Paul, Maria. "News." What Shields Gay Youth from Suicide?: Northwestern University. Northwestern University, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2012/02/gay-youth-suicide.html>.
[iv]Hunt, Jerome. "Why the Gay and Transgender Population Experiences Higher Rates of Substance Use." Center for American Progress. American Progress, 9 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/report/2012/03/09/11228/why-the-gay-and-transgender-population-experiences-higher-rates-of-substance-use/>.
[v]Ford, Zack. "Study Shows Long-Term Consequences To Prejudice-Motivated Bullying And Victimization." ThinkProgress. N.p., 16 May 2011. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2011/05/16/177418/lgbt-bullying-consequences/?mobile=nc>.
[vi]Savage, Dan. "Gay Kids Are Still Killing Themselves." The Stranger. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2012/02/13/gay-kids-are-still-killing-themselves>.
[vii]Fisher, Christopher. Midlands LGBT Needs Assessment Community Report. Health Canal. Niversity of Nebraska at Omaha, 24 June 2011. Web. <http://www.healthcanal.com/mental-health-behavior/18365-Higher-suicide-risk-for-Nebraska-LGBT-community-surfaces-first-study-being-out-healthier.html>.
[viii]Growing Up LGBT in America: NCOD Report. Washington, D.C.: Human Rights Campaign, 2012. Print.
[ix]Paul, Maria. "WHAT SHIELDS GAY YOUTH FROM SUICIDE?" What Shields Gay Youth from Suicide?: Northwestern University. Northwestern University, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2012/02/gay-youth-suicide.html>.
[x]Wong, Curtis M. "Homeless LGBT Youth: The Next Battle For Equality." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 08 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/08/homeless-lgbt-youth-equality_n_1331171.html>.
[xi]"Gay and Transgender Youth Homelessness by the Numbers." Center for American Progress. Center for American Progress, 21 June 2010. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2010/06/21/7980/gay-and-transgender-youth-homelessness-by-the-numbers/>.
[xii]Liu, Richard T., and Brian Mustanski. Suicidal Ideation and Self-Harm in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth. N.p., 14 Feb. 2012. Web. <http://www.ajpmonline.org/webfiles/images/journals/amepre/AMEPRE_3315%5B3%5D-stamped.pdf>.
[xiii]Savage, Dan. "Gay Kids Are Still Killing Themselves." The Stranger. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2012/02/13/gay-kids-are-still-killing-themselves>.
[xiv]Growing Up LGBT in America: NCOD Report. Washington, D.C.: Human Rights Campaign, 2012. Print.
[xv]2009 National School Climate Survey. GLSEN. Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 14 Sept. 2010. Web. <http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/2624.html>.
[xvi]"AMA Policies on GLBT Issues." AMA Policy Regarding Sexual Orientation. American Medical Association, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/our-people/member-groups-sections/glbt-advisory-committee/ama-policy-regarding-sexual-orientation.page>.
[xviii]"APA on Children Raised by Gay and Lesbian Parents." APA on Children Raised by Gay and Lesbian Parents. American Psychological Association, 11 June 2011. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.
[xix]Frankowski, Barbara L. "Sexual Orientation and Adolescents." Sexual Orientation and Adolescents. American Academy of Pediatrics, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/113/6/1827.full>.
[xx]Towle, Andy. "Boy Scouts | Discrimination | Education | Florida." Towleroad. N.p., 12 Oct. 2011. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.towleroad.com/2011/10/bs.html?utm_source=feedburner>.
[xxi]Signorile, Michelangelo. "James Beard Foundation President Returns Award to Boy Scouts."The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 19 Apr. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelangelo-signorile/james-beard-foundation-pr_b_1439135.html>.
[xxii]Towle, Andy. "EAGLE SCOUT RENOUNCES RANK OVER BOY SCOUTS POLICY ON GAYS." Towleroad. N.p., 18 June 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.towleroad.com/2012/06/naka.html?utm_source=feedburner>.
[xxiii]Cox, Ted. "Returned Badges, Presidential Opposition: Backlash to the Boy Scoutsâ Anti-Gay Policies." The Good Men Project. N.p., 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/the-good-life-returned-badges-presidential-opposition-backlash-to-the-boy-scouts-anti-gay-policies/>.
[xxv]Rhodes, Dawn. "Oak Park Eagle Scout Returns Medal in Protest." Chicago Tribune. N.p., 30 July 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-30/news/ct-met-oak-park-eagle-scout-20120730_1_zach-wahls-anti-gay-policy-return-medals>.
[xxvii]Waldron, Leah. "Director of Community Relations at Virginia Council Boy Scouts of America Tells Me to 'Start My Own Club' - WingerJock." WingerJock. N.p., 10 Aug. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.wingerjock.com/2012/08/10/director-of-community-relations-at-virginia-council-boy-scouts-of-america-tells-me-to-start-my-own-club/>.
[xxviii]Sexual Orientation, Parents, & Children. American Psychological Association, 28 July 2004. Web. <http://www.apa.org/about/policy/parenting.aspx>.
[xxix]Tisinai, Rob. "Protect the Children (and Mean It)." Waking Up Now. N.p., 1 Aug. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://wakingupnow.com/blog/protect-the-children-and-mean-it>.
[xxx] Jenny, Carole; Roesler, Thomas A,; Poyer, Kimberly L. “Are Children at risk for sexual abuse by homosexuals?” Pediatrics 94, no 1 (1994). Print.
[xxxi] Groth, A Nicholas; Birnbaum, H Jean “Adult sexual orientation and attraction to underage persons.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 7, no. 3 (1978). Print.
[xxxii] McConaghy, N. “Paedophilia: A review of the evidence.” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. (1998). Print.
[xxxiii]Stevenson, Michael R. “Public policy, homosexuality, and sexual coercion of children.” Journal of Psychology & human sexuality 12, no 4 (2000). Print.
[xxxiv] Freund, Kurt; Watson, Robin J.; Rienzo, Douglas. “Heterosexuality, homosexuality , and the erotic age preference.” Journal of Sex Research 26, no. 1 (1989). Print.
[xxxv]Adam, Seth. "NJ School Drops Boy Scouts Charter over 'egregious' Anti-gay Ban." GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), 25 Oct. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.glaad.org/blog/nj-school-drops-boy-scouts-charter-over-egregious-anti-gay-ban>.
[xxxvi]Schroeder, Joanna. "This Is Why I Withdrew My Son From Cub Scouts." The Good Men Project. N.p., 7 Oct. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://goodmenproject.com/good-feed-blog/this-is-why-i-withdrew-my-son-from-cub-scouts/?utm_source=rss>.
[xxxvii]"Joe.My.God." Joe. My. God. N.p., 12 July 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2012/07/marriage-equality-mainstream-value.html>.
[xxxviii]Holden, Dominic. "NOM's Starbucks Boycott Backfires." The Stranger. N.p., 28 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2012/03/28/noms-starbucks-boycott-backfires>.
[xxxix]White, Martha C. "Some Businesses See Benefits to Pro-gay Stance." NBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/business/some-businesses-see-benefits-pro-gay-stance-877625?streamSlug=businessmain>.
[xl]Cassels, Peter. "Study: People More Comfortable With Out Co-Workers Than Closeted Ones." EDGE New England. N.p., 27 Sept. 2011. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.edgenewengland.com/news/workplace/125050/study:_people_more_comfortable_with_out_co-workers_than_closeted_ones_>.
[xli]Burns, Crosby. The Costly Business of Discrimination. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress, 2012. Print.
[xlii]Watts, Laurence. "Six Months on from DADT Repeal and Nothing's Changed." The Huffington Post. N.p., 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurence-watts/dadt-repeal-six-months-later_b_1359584.html>.
[xliii]Standifer, Cid. "Survey: DADT Repeal Has Less Impact than Expected - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times." Army Times. N.p., 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/03/military-times-2012-poll-dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal-has-less-impact-than-expected-031212w/>.
[xliv]Lavers, Michael K. "Top U.S. Marine: Openly Gay Servicemembers Not an Issue."Washington Blade. N.p., 28 Aug. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/08/28/top-u-s-marine-openly-gay-servicemembers-not-an-issue/>.
[xlv]Liebelson, Dana. "Boy Scouts Losing Big Funders Over Anti-Gay Policy." Mother Jones. N.p., 23 Jan. 2013. Web. 30 Jan. 2013. <http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/01/boy-scouts-verizon-protest-lgbt>.
[xlvi]McQuade, Aaron. "Boy Scouts of America No Longer Eligible for Grant Funding from The UPS Foundation." GLAAD. N.p., 12 Nov. 2012. Web. 30 Jan. 2013. <http://www.glaad.org/blog/boy-scouts-america-no-longer-eligible-grant-funding-ups-foundation>.
[xlvii]Ford, Zack. "Intel Clarifies That No Donations Will Be Made To Any Boy Scouts Troop That Discriminates." ThinkProgress. N.p., 21 Sept. 2012. Web. 30 Jan. 2013. <http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/09/21/891721/intel-clarifies-that-no-donations-will-be-made-to-any-boy-scouts-troop-that-discriminates/?mobile=nc>.
[xlviii]"Merck Foundation Suspends Funding to the Boy Scouts of America." Merck. N.p., 5 Dec. 2012. Web. 30 Jan. 2013. <http://www.mercknewsroom.com/news/company-statements/merck-foundation-suspends-funding-boy-scouts-america>.
[ixx] "Amicus Curiae (Perry v Schwartenager & United States v Windsor)" American Sociological Association. 1 March 2013. <http://equalityontrial.com/2013/02/28/american-sociological-association-files-supreme-court-brief-addressing-same-sex-parenting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=american-sociological-association-files-supreme-court-brief-addressing-same-sex-parenting>