It was a polite gathering: The Boy Scout leader and young man who is a Scout sat with Board members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA (CHCYMCA), answering every question that we had for them about the place and presence of gay teenagers and gay Scout leaders in their Troop. Following up on my previous column about the Scouts selling popcorn at our YMCA, it was also revealed that the Scouts have been given a place to meet among one of our facilities, giving the perception that we support the Boy Scouts. The conflict is that we, at the CHCYMCA, practice full and total inclusion, while the Boy Scouts of America don’t. What was beautiful was the courteous and honest response of the Scouts to our simple questions: Can a gay dad or gay man be a Scout leader? And, can a gay young man be a Scout? And, true to the standards of the national Boy Scouts of America Council, the answer is simply “no.” I shared that I was, myself, a Cub Scout, with my mom as one of our Scout leaders, and my dad guided our Webelos pack. I also suggested that amid the rise of gay young men committing suicide, the Scouts could offer a harbor of hope for those who feel adrift in this world.
But, then there’s that U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in which the Boy Scouts of America could ban the inclusion of gays, whether one was a Scout or a Scout leader. This ruling took place a decade ago. Yet, like the U.S. military services, there are those who are leaders and Scouts who are gay, living under the closet motto, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
I gently shared that while I am supportive of the aims of the Boy Scouts, I was, and am, saddened that this group would not allow me to be a Scout leader because I am an out gay dad. They told me that times are changing, and that women are now allowed to be Boy Scout leaders. And, then I turned to one of the administrators of the YMCA, who is an out-lesbian mother of a young boy, and asked the Scout leader, “but she wouldn’t be allowed to be a Boy Scout leader, because she is an out-lesbian mother?” The Scout leader simply said, “That’s correct.” The Scout leader wanted us to be sure that we understood that they don’t talk about “this issue” on a weekly or monthly. But, it is a principle that is in place because of the Scouts’ understanding of what is a family and what is a parent. And, an acceptable parent of a Scout is one who is not an out-gay or lesbian.
In this season of holidays — including Hanukkah and Christmas — children and adults alike celebrate and recognize the importance of joy, peace, and love…or the absence thereof. It is also a season in which people focus on time with family, in all its complexities. As a Christian, I am reminded that parents mattered in the narrative of the nativity story. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, wanted to be faithful to the principles of the children of Israel, but had to also answer to an inner sense of compassion and mercy in staying with his betrothed, Mary, who was pregnant outside the bounds of marriage. And, parents matter. This was not your typical monolithic “nuclear” family. While the Boy Scouts of America and the U.S. military services deny the reality of the many ways we can be family with one another, we are witnessing fresh, new acts of God in an age long expected and hoped-for. : :