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And we're back.  Here's what we have today.  First up, my new favorite song from Glee:

The Governor of Michigan admits that the war on unions doesn't benefit the workers.  Imagine that.

Really cool Walking Dead art installation, the fingers got cut off as the days counted down:

"Wait, I can do something.  There's injustice involving cake!"  More reasons to love Charm City Cakes.

Say goodbye to the iron, and hello to the cat.  This is why I only play Stars Wars Monopoly.

Speaking of Star Wars: Death Star lollipops:

It is sadly, now strange enough to print a newspaper, that it can be a reality show.

Awesome church sign of the day:

 That's it for today, have a great one!

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I honestly didn’t expect to be doing so much writing so quickly, I didn’t expect the BSA to move as fast as it has.  But I’m more than happy to have come out, guns blazing, if it means making the world a better place for those coming after me.

The first post of the week (The case against discrimination), was something I had worked on in the past, and of course, wish I had more time with.  I still obsess over word choice and phrasing and presenting the best case I possibly can.  But, I didn’t have any more time to wait.  I’m not sure if it changed anyone’s mind, but I certainly hope it helped or at least showed the science and logical proof to ending this ban.

I’ll be getting back to working on the feature “The secrets of the slideshows” and more regular blogging as well, I’m sure you’ve all missed that (again, let me have my fantasies that I have a massive, world-wide audience).  The slideshows themselves were very cathartic, actually.

They were the one gift that I could give the entire staff.  I worked with so many staff members, that honestly, unless you were around for three or more years, were a key staff member I worked with on a daily basis, or really screwed up your paperwork, I wasn’t going to remember you.  It was just the nature of the beast, sadly when you have about 250 staff members and C.I.T.s at Heritage and CSM, not to mention the staff I worked with at Guyasuta (I didn’t do Twin Echo staff, but I think that was going to change).

But the slideshow let me give everyone a gift.  Yes, the pictures were fun, and sometimes there were themes that emerged, but it was the music that I loved the most.  And if you listen to the music, you can probably hear hints of me in the selections I made.  I hope you’ll go back and watch the slideshows if you were on staff those years, I’ll be working on that series over the next few weeks.

But for the last post in this special series, I wanted to reproduce a Scoutmaster’s Minute:

Whose camp is it?

Scouts who come to Heritage Reservation for the first time ask “Who owns Heritage?” Well,
the answer to that is pretty simple. The Laurel Highlands Council, and because your unit is
from this area, that makes you a part of the Council. So in a way, you are a part owner of this
wonderful place.

But you are an owner of Heritage Reservation in a more important way. Every youth who
camps here leaves a little bit of themselves with this camp. The improvement project you
participate in, your care of the land and the water, your responsibility in not littering or
destroying any living thing or damaging any property stays here as part of you. That not only
makes you an owner of Heritage, it makes you a permanent part of it.


Pittsburgh (Plum, specifically) is the home of W. D. Boyce, the founder of the BSA.  He was a newspaper titan, and on a trip to London, got lost in the fog and was helped by a Scout, who refused to accept a tip from him.  He was so impressed by the program that he brought the program back to the United States.

And as it turns out, Boyce’s grandson, William Boyce Mueller, was gay.  Boyce never lived to meet his grandson, but do you really think he would have wanted the organization he founded to exclude his own relative?  Only a monster would expect that.

It’s an easy point to make, but maybe that just means it’s too easily overlooked: the Scout Law calls us to be trustworthy, friendly and kind.  The admonition of the Order of the Arrow calls us to love one another.  It’s not hard to treat one another with dignity and respect, and in doing so, supporting the children who may need the organization the most.  I'm not asking for much, just for a common recognition of our humanity.  We're all in this together, after all.

I’ve neglected it, but I have to give a special shout out to Alpha Phi Omega.  The brothers I worked with in the past (I was the advisor for a section conference as well as started Scouting University at SVC), have been very supportive.  APO has always had a close relationship with Scouting, and they’ve had their own issues to work through, mainly the integration of women, but they tend to move forward much faster and with much less drama.

And a special thank you to everyone who has read along, commented and sent me messages.  I never expected to get anywhere near the reaction that I have.  It’s been wonderful to talk with you all, reminisce about some fond memories, and also realize that I have much more support than I thought I did.  So thank you.

I hope that you can see why I think people should be judged on their actions, and their works, not on how they were created.  Why should a simple difference in hormones (in utero no less) be more important that the work I did over 11 summers (and five full-time years).  I think that if you worked with me, you can understand the sentiment.

A very good friend likes to call me "the glue" (and a couple others have picked up the phrase as well).  I still argue that I wasn't that important, that I was easily replaceable.   But I look back and see the 10,000 people I got registered for camp each year, the 100+ hour week I put in for MountainFest (including the marathon 20 hour day of registration), the program we put together for 10,000 campers at Campaganza, the 700 people at Volunteer Celebration and the untold sold-out Winter Weekends, and the myriad of other weekend events, website launches, graphic design projects and insurance thrown at me, and the fact that it took two people to "replace" me, maybe I was a little important.

I mentioned it before, but I think it bears repeating, especially after this week of posts.  Oftentimes, I forget that I’m out.  There are much more interesting things about me, and quite frankly, unless we’re dating, my sexuality isn’t going to affect you.

So it is my wish that people can look past who I love (but I'd rather welcome you to that celebration, anyway), and remember the work ethic, and the smile.  And realize, we're not so different.

I hope you enjoyed this week of posts and I hope you learned something along the way.  I’ll be back, we still have a host of other rights to fight for, but for now, I just hope I made a positive impact.  Thanks for reading.

All my best,

Mike

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The title, of course, is a nod to the “fireside chats” we had with Victor (I’ll have to tell the story of how Freedom threw him for a loop by all pointing “north” correctly).  The point was synergy: that when we work together, the outcome is greater than the sum of the parts.

It took me by surprise, but after leaving the BSA, I actually heard about a few other staff members who are LGBT.  Certainly there were some in the past that I worked with (having worked during two distinct time periods, generations, if you will, of camp staff, as well as for four different reservation directors), but they were all long gone.

Literally, friends I was working with every day, were also hiding, forced to, or risk losing their job.  And that’s the most insidious aspect of the discriminatory policy: the profound isolation that LGBT scouts (and adults and staff members) feel.

Unable to talk to anyone about it, you continue on thinking you’re the only one who is different.  When that’s not the case.  I just hope that LGBT youth realize they’re not alone, not nearly as isolated as they think.

The original discriminatory ban was put in place not due to some archaic reading of the words “morally straight,” or at least, that’s not the real underlying reason.  The BSA, like any non-profit, has real, legitimate business concerns.

That’s the nature of the non-profit world, and it makes sense: you have to have money to run an organization.  Grants and other streams of funding are oftentimes attached to how effective you can prove your organization and previous work has been.  Again, that’s just how the non-profit world works, across the board.

And to keep charter partners (and consequently the number of youth in the program, as opposed to having to find new charter partners would not guarantee all the youth moved), the BSA caved to pressure, mostly from the Mormon Church.  Certainly other large groups, religious and civic, were in support of the ban, and to keep those large percentages of charter partners, the policy was enacted.

But times change, slowly of course, and now the BSA is faced with the stark reality that it’s not profitable, in terms of money or public opinion, to demonize the LGBT community.  The majority of Americans support marriage equality and even as we continue to fight for our civil rights (which is a sad, sad fact that any minority has to fight for their own rights), the country has seen that there is no justifiable reason to deny this program to any young person.

So the new compromise, which again, is a huge step in the right direction and should be celebrated as such, puts the onus of discrimination on the charter partner.  Hopefully those units that are told to discriminate (by their charter partners) will be few and lose membership, although it will create some interesting interaction at events such as district camporees and the like.

My only fear is that in those areas of the country, where support for the LGBT community is the lowest, young children won’t have a place they feel welcomed, a place where they can find friends and experience the great outdoors while learning about leadership.

I think if the proposed change goes into effect, it won’t be long before everyone realizes the sky hasn’t fallen and lakes haven’t begun to boil, I just hope it’s in time to help the kids that really need it.

Oftentimes the BSA is called a “family values” organization.  A few thoughts:

First, it’s an outdated and insulting term.  If you want to imagine the 1950’s Leave it to Beaver as your perfect “family,” be my guest, but that romanticized view of America hasn’t existed since, well 1950.  There are families with two parents, one parent, grandparents, adoptive parents, the list goes on and on (and thinking to my own extended family, we’re pretty well represented, and I bet if you thought of yours, you would see many family structures there as well).  Who is the BSA, or anyone really, to say that’s not a family.  True, some structures may be more beneficial, studies have shown that two parent households (of the same or different genders) are more beneficial to children.  But if there’s love, everyone will make it through, no matter the circumstances.

Secondly, the LGBT community has a phrase, “family of choice.”  It’s one that I’ve seen more and more in mainstream culture and media as well.  The idea is that while we all have a family, related to us by blood, the ones we choose to surround ourselves with, the ones we love, are our family of choice.  The two can certainly overlap, but oftentimes, for young LGBT kids, thrown out of their homes, they have to create a new family.  One that cares for them and supports them, and actually loves them unconditionally.  That’s real family values.

And finally, having worked full-time for the BSA for five years, as well as 11 years on camp staff, the image that normally comes to mind when thinking “family values,” really does not fit the BSA.  At camp, you’re outside, dirty, working long, strenuous hours and the need to de-stress, including the fact that the staff is mostly men, is of course going to lead to situations never seen on “Leave it to Beaver.”  And the office was just like any other, with politics, fights and underhanded tactics (as well as amazing work, fantastic people and great shared goals); non-profits aren’t really so different from the business world, I promise.

Moving forward, I certainly hope the BSA realizes that the country, and the dollars, are on the side of embracing equality.  More and more businesses understand that, and I hope it is a lesson soon learned.

All my best,

Mike

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A few years back, there were three Freedom alumni, sitting outside the staff lounge.  We had come up to volunteer one weekend, and we ended up with an audience, telling stories of years gone by.

So I thought I’d share a few favorite stories with you.

Counting is important

One year we had a Senior Camp Commissioner who could just never get moves right.  Math eluded him.  Which led to seven of us, with the help of a Central Staff member having to move 30 floorboards from Mass Bay to Concord.  Without the tractor (it was doing moves on the ridge).  At eleven o’clock after opening campfire.  In the pouring rain.

We did one, maybe two trips beetling the floorboards, but realized it would take too long.  So we grabbed one of the push carts (the old ones, you know, where the wheels weren’t quite round), and balanced the remaining floorboards on top.

The seven of us, pushed the cart from Mass Bay to Concord, up and down the hills of the lower sites, through the thickening mud and the pouring rain, while the Central Staff member drove a vehicle backwards in front of us, so we would have the light of his headlights to see by.

Looking back, of course that move was horrific.  But the seven of us bonded over the event, and of course, made sure to double check the moves the SCC did before Saturday mornings.

Two for the price of one

Late one night, I was awoken by the sounds of a leader outside of my tent yelling for help.  Which was strange, since my tent had no real attractive features (a few others had Christmas lights strung).  One of his Scouts was having a severe allergic reaction and he had called an ambulance.

Luckily, I was the one best to deal with situation, so it’s actually good that he didn’t know to wake the CQ or go to another tent.  My tentmate offered help if I needed it, but I told him to go back to sleep.  I went down back to the office and got a hold of the medic and filled him in on the situation.

He met the ambulance and led it to the campsite, going past the office where I was waiting outside to hand him the medical like a fast food drive-thru.  He took care of everything, although as they were leaving, a second ambulance showed up.  To this day, we still have no idea why.

The medic was leading the first ambulance out and told the second to wait where they were and he would be back to lead them out.  Well, the ambulance decided to move, and it got stuck in the bedrock between Eco-Con and Field Sports.

So the medic came back and at that point, we then had to wake up another Ranger to bring out the backhoe to pull the ambulance out of the ditch.

The next morning I recounted this all to the camp director and then promptly told him I would be skipping breakfast so I could sleep.

Family food

It was during shut down one year, and it was miserable.  Cold and wet, I think it rained from the middle of week 8 until Monday night of closing staff week.

In between packing up what we could and drying as many tents as possible in the QM and Dining Hall, we came back to the staff site before a meal to find the family of a fellow staff member had set up a mini campsite outside the staff lounge and was cooking us a veritable feast.

On top of it all, he made two dutch ovens of cobbler.  We were all soaking wet and exhausted, and the home-cooked food and warm cobbler gave us all the energy to keep going.

This was actually something that happened quite a bit though, we would get home-cooked food sent up from families (the famous boxes of brownies), or if a staff member’s unit was in camp, usually any leftovers they had.

It was a nice break, a good treat, and really reinforced that we were all one giant, extended family, which was probably the best thing about camp staff.

That time I touched a really expensive painting, or at least, the frame

This one is more recent, but it fell to our department, so we had a lot of camping volunteers involved.

We had a giant event held at Heinz Field, which was really cool since I got to run into a friend from college who was working there, as well as walking on the field.  At this event were original paintings from Rockwell and Cisteri.

We did a fancy event, I even wore a suit, and gathered as many of the volunteers as we could as a way to say thank you, and the set-up during the day with the black shirt crew and some of the other staff (including a fun trip to Bettis Grill) was actually kind of fun, although very tiring.

I had about 700 nametags that I set up (since I was in charge of the registration), and I remember having to yell at three different professionals.  I had literally been setting the registration area up for hours (there were patches involved, and speakers and VIPs, it was a task), and upon walking in an hour before the event, three of them (not all at once, I had to keep yelling) tried to redo the entire registration area.

After the event, we moved the paintings to our office for it’s 40th anniversary celebration and set up an impromptu art gallery, with stanchions and everything.  As we were setting things up at the office, without thinking, I touched one of the frames.

Now, it wasn’t a big deal, but I of course, was mortified, considering the art, in total, was worth millions.  We all joked about it, and had a good laugh, once we realized that there was no harm.

That night was the longest at the office (didn’t really compare to camp).  I think after we finally got the artwork situated, it was about three o’clock in the morning, but it was kind of cool to set up an art gallery.


There are a lot of other stories I have from work.  Enough to fill books (which may be a project if I decide to do Camp NaNoWriMo), and thinking about what stories to share here, I thought back to a lot that’s happened.

I’ve worked with a lot of amazing camp staff members over the course of 11 summers.  And the volunteers that worked with us are some of the best people in the world, hands down.  Both groups put their heart and souls into the camps and the programs we ran.

And of course, since this is part of my special series, here’s the twist: in two of the stories above, I’m not the only LGBT person.

But the point is that it doesn’t matter.  It never has.

All my best,

Mike

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Hopefully this is the last time I have to write something like this.

The National Capital Area Council insisted a Cub Scout Pack remove the language they had on their website, stating that they welcome everyone, including the LGBT community to join.  NCAC threatened to withhold their charter.

The charter is all the official paperwork that registers a unit to a charter organization.  It includes things like insurance coverage and all the behind-the-scenes stuff that makes the kids “official” members of the BSA.

In theory (and oftentimes in practice), units operate without charters.  Usually it’s just a paperwork delay somewhere along the line, and once everything gets entered it’s retroactive back to when the new charter was needed (annually).  That can sometimes cause unexpected problems, especially when submitting advancement paperwork, or an Eagle application.

But this was a Cub Scout Pack.  Which means there are first graders, Tiger Cubs, who were in essence told by NCAC that they couldn’t be Scouts because they and their parents thought equality was important.

The proposed change is a huge step in the right direction, although I will be curious as to how it comes down to council and national employees.  Will each council have to decide, much like the individual units?  Or will national and the councils finally allow out employees and volunteers (there are district and council level volunteers, as well as region and national level as well).

And as a side note, Pittsburgh I think has always has an unofficial rivalry with NCAC, mostly because we get a lot of units that don't want to drive all the way to Goshen, their summer camp.  And from what I've heard, we're a lot better anyway, although I have heard very, very good things about their high adventure base (which I always mess up the spelling, so I won't try at the moment).

And sorry to bother you, but take a look over at Wherein I ask for your help and help me out.  It will only take two minutes, I promise.  After the hockey game and before the commercials start (unless you're rooting for someone in the Super Bowl of course), just take two minutes to shoot a quick e-mail to support equality.  Thanks!

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Take a few minutes and watch this moving video:



I don’t have a whole lot to add, the video was so well done.  Hearing his voice break up is just heartbreaking.

We’re people who have given up so much to work on camp staff.  Resigned, at least for a time, not to live a completely honest life, to hide such a big part of ourselves.

But we do it because we know we’re doing good work.  Yes, of course, it’s a lot of fun (trust me, stand in front of 500 screaming campers making an absolute fool of yourself, it actually is fun), even though the hours are long, the pay is small and the food oftentimes leaves something to be desired.

But we knew that we were making a real difference in a kid’s life.  Maybe not every kid that came through, but you knew the ones you had helped.  The ones who didn’t want to leave at the end of the week, or who gave you their troop t-shirt.  Or maybe it was the adult that you helped solve a problem in their unit, or the staff member who was having a rough time at home.

Living with your co-workers is a different and harrowing experience.  And in such close quarters, it can be very trying.  I’m thinking specifically of the way the staff lounge door used to slam shut (which sadly, has since been fixed.  It was very distinctive, and anyone who worked at Freedom before 2004 will know the sound) and the alarm clock symphony we had each morning, coming from 20 different tents.

And the showers that you could barely control the temperature, the late, rainy nights moving floorboards, resetting the dining hall twice a week so you could still have a campfire program, even if it was indoors.  We can remember the massive amounts of bluecards, the injuries incurred (oftentimes from campfires), the dehydration and the sickness.

But we can also remember the late nights talking with one another.  Impromptu bonfires and sculptures made of milk crates.  We can remember the early morning canoe trips when the horizon was blanketed in fog.  We can remember sitting in a unit’s campsite, being welcomed by their hospitality with a cup of coffee (or tea).

And we can look back on opening and closing staff weeks, and the banquets, celebrating each year.  We can look back on those we’ve lost and we can see in the current campers the next generation of camp staff.

And we know that camp has a positive affect (from a study conducted by Harris Interactive, selecting camps across the country, including the one I worked at):

  • 96% felt they played a role in helping others succeed and grow
  • 94% met new people
  • 92% help others realize their own abilities
  • 92% are with people they respect
  • 92% build friendships
  • 91% have fun
  • 88% worked with others on a badge or task
  • 86% try something new
  • 84% listened to others' opinions
  • 81% of parents saw a positive change from their son/daughter attending camp
  • 80% participate in decision making
  • 80% made a new friend
  • 80% are listened to by others
  • 79% felt as though they were among friends
  • 78% feel they accomplished something worthwhile
  • 78% recommed camp to other scouts
  • 76% receive positive reinforcement from an adult
  • 76% learned a new skill from an adult
  • 75% saw something they had never seen before
  • 73% helped someone else accomplish something
  • 72% receive positive reinforcement from a young person
  • 72% learned a new skill from a young person
  • 71% tested their mental/thinking ability
  • 69% reflect on their relationship with God
  • 68% participate in flag ceremonies
  • 68% take time to reflect on what they've learned
  • 67% participate in a religious service
  • 65% learned about the environment
  • 64% felt useful
  • 53% helped others overcome conflict/arguments


So the question remains, why would the BSA want to turn away anyone who is willing to help make a difference in the life of a child.  Someone who so desperately wants to work in a job that is oftentimes so hard to fill, just because of who he loves.

The BSA's discrimination hurts young people who want to work on camp staff, but it also hurts the young people who come to camp.  Why would the BSA want to deny those positive outcomes to any child, just because of how they were born, and who they will grow up to love.

All my best,

Mike

It Gets Better: If you need help, please, please talk to someone you trust.  If you're thinking of harming yourself, in a bad place, or don't have anyone to talk to, please call the Trevor Project, the call is anonymous, and they're there to listen to you: (866) 488-7386.  We're all here for you and we care about you.  You are not alone.  Please be safe.

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Aside from a few exceptions, all the blog posts that I wrote have now been released.  I wrote more than I thought I did, over 350 articles.  Now granted, I did try to focus on one subject for each one, unlike my other blogs, which tend to go out on tangents quite frequently.

I put the date of when I wrote them at the top of each one.  I’m still working out some of the bugs and wanted to make sure that the date was recorded to provide some context.  Going forward (there it is again, take a drink, or at least, drink if you read it in the voice of Luke Ravenstahl), I won’t be adding the date, but it should show up on the main blog feed.

The naming convention (starting the titles with ‘Wherein’) will continue, although there are of course, a few exceptions here and there (this special week of posts being one of them).  I’ve also switched from using the penname, to signing each post with my real name, as I’m safe now.  As they say, The King is dead, long live the King.

I didn’t realize how much I repeated myself.  But I guess there are just some themes and stories I keep going back to: they’re important and mean so much, so if you read through the archives, you’ll see them each about three times.

And while I did censor myself periodically, I tried to be as open and honest as I could be.  And that was one of the reactions that I’ve received a lot, how honest I am in my writing.

Writing is very cathartic for me, and being so open, even with myself, was a big help.  As was going back to read each entry, it was interesting to get a glimpse of my headspace at each moment in time, as well as see what’s really important.  There is a lot of emotion and a lot of honesty in my writing, it’s how I cope with things.

I’ll continue to write, trying to be as honest as I can be.  I’ve even felt inspired to do a video, but for now, I’ll probably pass.  Maybe it will become a collaborative effort, but for now, I’m more comfortable behind a keyboard than in front of a camera.  Well, I guess that’s always the case.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, even if the BSA’s ban is lifted, or, the current compromise being floated is put in place.  I’m still anxious to say that this will happen, I don’t want to get my hopes up just to be disappointed once more.  That will make fighting that much harder.  But fight on we must.

It’s not a perfect solution.  In fact it isn’t really a solution, more of a step in the right direction.  But we should celebrate what it is.

Yes, it gives the BSA an easy out.  An easy way to weasel out of having to take a stand (ignoring the fact that they’ve taken a stand for 30 years now), but it is still progress.

And yes, I hope that I can still help out.  I have some ideas how I can directly help the camp directors this year if they need it, as well as work with the Alumni Association.  And as long as my schedule works out, I’d love to go up for Beaver Weekend (and I’d be happy putting up tents if that’s where they want me, honest, I bet I'm still pretty good on a work crew).

There has been a lot of chatter on Facebook about the proposed policy change, almost all of it encouraging.  And it’s nice to know that I have some allies, even now.

The criticism of course, hurts.  The derogatory language and slurs hurt.  And it hurts not just me, but the other staff members and youth members, gay or straight.

Working on camp staff, we were judged by the work we performed, nothing else.  Scouting belongs in the great outdoors, and we should be looking to our camp staffs for guidance on this issue.  They already, almost universally, understand that a person is not defined by their sexuality, but instead their commitment and growth, their willingness to help a fellow Scout, talk with a volunteer and run the resident camp programs that so many use to define the Scouting movement.

These are the leaders not only of tomorrow, but of today.  They are the ones sacrificing their time, oftentimes their entire summers, to lead “the game with a purpose.”  We owe them the respect which they have already earned.  And as they run camping programs across the country, we should instead be focusing our attention to making sure they have the resources they need to put together the best program for the youth who come through the gates of their camps.

Heterosexual staff members can easily take for granted the world to which they’ve been exposed.  And this is not in any way to diminish their own stories and the hard work that they put in.  But LGBT youth carry additional burdens with them: a constant barrage of media telling them they are not worthy of love, that they are destroying society.  Even questioning if their own family and friends will still love them when they come out.

I like to think that I’m a remarkably strong individual, but no one comes out of that landscape unscathed, not even me.  But if a young person feels at home in Scouts, who are we to tell him or her that they’re not welcome, or that they are somehow broken.

Institutionalized discrimination hurts children.  It is a cause of emotional harm and in some cases, leads to their suicides.  I made this point exceptionally clear in my last post (the one with all the footnotes), and I hope that these two posts help those that don’t understand the fight for equality get a better perspective.  No one is asking for you to change your sexuality (since you can’t), but we will take the basic rights, decency and civility that we’ve been denied for so long.

Looking ahead, I’m very excited for the Pride celebrations.  I think I have a lot to be proud of.  Making it this far is exciting, and doing what I have in the past, to help those around me, and the fight now, are all things I’m proud of.  And I’m proud of what the LGBT community has accomplished, demanding the basic civil rights that we’re denied out of prejudice and bigotry.  I’m still totally afraid of large crowds, but I’ll force myself to enjoy it for once, hopefully I’ll run into some people at the events that I haven’t seen in a while.  And here's the "secret" about Pride: it celebrates radical inclusion.  Everyone is welcome (just like the Episcopal Church), and we mean everyone.  Come down and party with us.

My family and friends of course, have been nothing short of amazing.  They’ve all been supportive and while I still hate the feeling of being the center of attention, I am happy to be a resource and will continue to fight for equality, this week and in the future.

Coming out was tough, but I’m better for it.  I oftentimes forget that it’s happened, both because I was forced to hide for so long, but also because there are much more interesting and important aspects to me.  I still take the hate I see online and in the media to heart, but I feel as though I’m getting better at that.

And you know what would help even more?  Being welcomed back up to camp and spending an hour or so reading on that one rock by the lake that I miss so much.

All my best,

Mike

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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.
-Bob's Blog[i]

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>.
[xvii]http://www.psych.org/Departments/EDU/Library/APAOfficialDocumentsandRelated/PositionStatements/200001.aspx
[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 Scouts’ 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/>.
[xxiv]http://equalscouts.tumblr.com/
[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>.
[xxvi]http://eaglebadges.tumblr.com/
[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>

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The BSA’s national board meets next week, and on their agenda is a possible change to the membership policy.  You can read the media statement here.  Again, it’s not full and total equality, but a huge step in the right direction (more about that Thursday and Friday).

They’ve opened up a special phone number, (972) 580-2330, and e-mail address, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to take comments and you can leave a comment on their Facebook page.  All you have to say is that you are for the policy change.

I’m just asking for two minutes of your time, as a personal favor.  I’ll owe you a cup of coffee. Send a quick-email, add a facebook comment or call (they’re in Central Time by the way), just to say you support the policy change.  Even if you don’t think you know anyone associated with the BSA, you do (that would be me by the way, just as one example).

I’ll be releasing a special series of blog posts over the next few days as we push to get this change enacted.  And yes, I’d love to be able to go back to the camps I love to volunteer, but honestly, this is more about the safety and well-being of young people across the country.  And for that reason, we can’t afford to not push as hard as we can.

So please, all I’m asking for is two minutes, not a big commitment.  It would mean a great deal to me, the youth who are being told everyday they’re not as deserving as their peers and maybe even your future children.

If you’re still not convinced, read on, I’ll be making that case for equality in the following posts (links will be updated each day, or check out the main blog page):

Thursday - The case against discrimination

  • A comprehensive look at discrimination and how it harms young people, the need for role models and the losses that the BSA incurs from it’s discriminatory ban.  Study citations listed in the footnotes.


Friday - One month later

  • An update about my own story since I released all my previous blog posts, what life has been like since leaving the BSA and the ongoing fight for equality.


Saturday - BSA camp staff and the destruction wrought by discrimination

  • A moving video from a Program Director as he discusses what camp has meant to him and the fight for his rights.


Sunday - Fighting against first graders

  • A recent news story about what will hopefully be the last time first graders are discriminated against by the BSA.


Monday - Story time with Mike

  • Camp staff memories and the amazing alumni that I’ve worked with over the course of eleven summer seasons.


Tuesday - 1+1=3 : The business case for equality

  • With a nod to days gone by at camp, I attempt to do math.


Wednesday - Scoutmaster’s Minute

  • Bringing the discussion back home to Pittsburgh, home of the BSA’s founder, William D. Boyce.

 

It Gets Better: If you need help, please, please talk to someone you trust.  If you're thinking of harming yourself, in a bad place, or don't have anyone to talk to, please call the Trevor Project, the call is anonymous, and they're there to listen to you: (866) 488-7386.  We're all here for you and we care about you.  You are not alone.  Please be safe.

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“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall,

I have to admit, that I had to look up the cities of Seneca Falls and Selma:

Seneca Falls is a New York town where, in 1848, the women’s suffrage movement gathered momentum. Selma is an Alabama city where, in 1965, marchers amassed, blood was shed and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood his ground against the unconscionable oppression of black Americans.

Aside from of course, the sentence construction, which resounded very nicely, it's a historic moment.  Never before in an inauguration address has a president acknowledged, and then moved on to fight for, the LGBT community.

It's been talked about a lot this last week, but it really is monumental.

Before the riots at Stonewall that kicked off the equality movement, it was illegal to serve alcohol to anyone who was LGBT.  We could not assemble in groups, use the postal service to mail anything  associated with equality.  Our community was harassed, jailed and blackmailed.

Stonewall was the tipping point when we fought back (side note, it's hard to write this in the proper tense, since I wasn't born yet, but just go with it) for dignity and equality.  Certainly it's a fight that continues today, and has a ways to go, but at the same time, has been so rapid.

And it's empowering and amazing to have a president who will stand up for our rights.  There was a quote after the last election about how it was

"the minorities, women, African Americans, LGBT, Hispanics, that reelected the President (as well as so many other left-leaning victories).  Or as we like to call ourselves, citizens."

I've been more and more sad opening facebook and other social media as I see people fight and bicker and choose sides.  And I think that's part of the problem.  We don't need sides; we all have to live together.  And once we can recognize and embrace each other's humanity, and work through our problems together, then we'll be in a much better place.

All my best,

Mike

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