I really don’t know why I can’t seem to see these things coming. I blog about them. I write about prejudices, I have argued with countless anti-gay people, and I have diligently parented to the best of my ability. And yet, these situations emerge and again, I am caught like the proverbial deer in the headlights, unsure which path to take, and positive that all choices lead to certain destruction.
The latest happened during a casual conversation with my ten year old son, Jesse. We were talking about our day’s events when suddenly he remembered something he had been meaning to ask me. “Oh…DAD!” he blurted out interrupting me, “I wanted to ask you. If we don’t have camp this summer, can I join the Boy Scouts?”
The Boy Scouts? Really? Not Young Republicans? (These days the latter might be a much better alternative, actually.)
My mouth went dry and I knew that if I tried to use it, the best that would come out would be a stammer. “Blah blah blah blah..” Instead, Jesse continued, “They are really neat. They do all these different things and help people. You get these badges every time you accomplish something. It is…SO COOL!”
The Boy Scouts have not taken a lot of my head space, honestly. We don’t know many in the area. It did not appear to be a pressing issue. I shared the outrage of many against their public policies and found their treatment of gay scouts and gay parents to be offensive. I had even made some notes in January for a possible blog when they decided to delay their decision on the anti-gay policy until May.
“Well,” I started slowly. “Let’s talk about that. I do think all those things are great. Really great. The problem I am dealing with is having you in a group that would not allow me to be one of its leaders and participate with you.”
“Why wouldn’t they let you?” he asked baffled.
All the anti-gay rhetoric that I had read over the years from the Boy Scouts came washing through my brain like a tidal wave. I could not repeat all that to him. I could not tell him that I had tried to research the standards they expected from leaders only to find that their website was more about marketing and economic values than moral ones, save endorsements from hate groups like Focus on the Family. I also could not tell him about the survey the boy scouts had recently sent out asking respondents to react to the idea of someone like me having access to their children as if I was a potential pervert.
“They don’t like men like me,” I said simply. “They would not let me be involved.”
“WHY?” he said with a look of absolute shock. It was obvious that it had never occurred to him that anyone could not like his Dad.
“Because I am gay,” I answered.
His bafflement did not wane. “So what?” He asked, clearly not having an iota of an inkling as to why that might be an issue.
“They don’t like gay people.” I responded.
“So they would not let the kids of gay dads in?” he asked.
“No, I think they would be fine with you being there,” I said, not quite sure I was correct. “It is me that they don’t like.”
He shook his head. “That is just weird,” he concluded. His attention deficient disorder (caused by his drug exposure in the womb) kicked in and he was suddenly off chasing down legos. I was glad for the distraction.
As he ran off, I was left with a feeling of frustration, anger and shame. I felt violated that the spirit of Boy Scout bigotry had descended on my home and that I was forced to explain to my son that I was not as universally loved as he supposed. Instead, I had to expose him to the fact that like Washington state senator Kevin Ranker’s recent account of his family, ours too had to deal with some misperception in the world. In his article, Kevin discussed the view of his own gay dad: ““When my father came out, many in our community refused to accept it. Each day I saw my classmates, my friends, my educators and even family members questioning my father. Quietly questioning his ability — and even his right — to be a parent. But mostly, people dealt with my father’s life … by ignoring it. This quiet shame, this silence, was worse for me than outspoken hatred. My journey and my challenge was growing up knowing that society saw my father as unequal.”
This has been a state of affairs that my sons have been blissfully unaware. Until now.
Later, as I went down to tuck my sons in and kiss them goodnight, the residual Boy Scout taint still weighed on my mind. Jesse, it turns out, had processed it much more efficiently than I had.
I leaned down to kiss him. “Good night Pal. Sweet dreams. I am sorry about the Boy Scout thing.”
“That’s ok Dad. It’s no big deal. They are just jerks.”
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I just saw this today: http://www.out.com/news-opinion/2015/7/13/breaking-boy-scouts-executive-committee-unanimously-votes-end-gay-adult-ban
Why does it seem to be a human need to oppress someone else? I’m not expecting an answer. Not sure there is one. I can only pray we somehow wake up.
I would say, usually, and in this case, there seems to be a human need to oppress others because you are seeing it from the perspective of the oppressed. (And nothing wrong with that.) But from the perspective of those being oppressive, it’s not a need to oppress others. It’s usually the need for self-protection, and misguided beliefs about what’s necessary for self-protection. (Self-protection here meaning both oneself and one’s family or other group one belongs to.)
Good point and perspective. Thank you.
Shitty situation, and I can’t wait for the BSA to disappear off the face of the earth. I’m sorry your boys need to face this.
FWIW, BSA is not the only scouting organization. You might check out the Spiral Scouts (www.spiralscouts.org/) as a great alternative. If there isn’t a circle in your area, it’s actually pretty easy to start one.
sounds like Jesse reasoned it out perfectly…” they are just jerks”.
couldn’t have said it better myself…bravo jesse!
Yeah, I agree with you, bunch of jerks lols
That is a touching story. Your son rocks! Boy Scouts will never again exist the way it is today. It is a pivotal time, and the membership is about to be ripped apart. When the vote comes out on leaving the policy in place or changing it, thousands are leaving, and the boat will tip the other way. I’m rooting for the intolerant ones to leave. Either way, your son is growing up in a generation that is rejecting the shunning of loving parents like you, and overcoming any of this adversity will make your family stronger. ❤
It’s really a shame. I sure hope the Boy Scouts change their policies. How can they not?
As someone who never had a dad because he died before I was born (Never had a grandpa either because he also died before I was born) I can honestly say I would have loved to have a gay dad or any dad, Your sons are lucky 🙂 and it sounds like you are as well because your son seems pretty cool.
I hope someday if my daughter has kids that all this anti-gay rhetoric will be something she has to TEACH them (E.G. that it is a thing of the past) just as my mom had to teach me about the race riots and Hitler and all the crap that came before me that we have risen above. Thankfully being raised around many gay and trans people she just doesn’t understand what the big deal is and for that I’m grateful.
What a great kid!
The hardest things for me to explain to my son were always those that centered around injustice. Among other things, it’s so hard to see those little bits of innocence lost. Still, we keep paving the way for the day that won’t have to be an issue! Keep on keepin’ on!
I find the policy of Boy Scouts of America to be offensive and appalling.
I was a scout leader here in Sydney, Australia. I was not out at the time and I was still married. My son and my daughter were both patrol leaders in the troop. The fact is that Scouts Australia has an inclusive policy, even including girls.
I am proud to have been so involved in scouting and I personally benefited greatly from the experience of being a leader. I suspect it was partly that experience of taking the plunge into something that was completely new and seemed quite out of character that gave me the confidence eventually to be myself.
So I really get where you are coming from. Your children, and mine, have the right to have a father who is not treated as a second-class citizen.
Hopefully the times are changing for the better.