Last week my son’s Scout troop sent out an email about a change in schedule and a special parent/Scout meeting that would be held. It read in part:
“At the Eagle Court of Honor this past week, the BSA national policy on gays/lesbians became an issue which affected Troop __.
Being there may be questions about local policy, and after discussions with the Scoutmaster, Committee Chair, and Charter Representative, we felt a sharing of ___ Council policy and procedures followed by the Council on the topic would clarify some of the questions.”
My first reaction was, “Oh sh*t.”
My second was, “What happened at the Court of Honor?” It had been held at an unusual time, and we hadn’t attended.
My third was to email E and ask her to rearrange her schedule to attend the meeting with M and me.
M was given the mission of talking to other kids at school to find out what had happened at the Court of Honor. It turned out that during the ceremony, the Scout said he could not accept his Eagle award because he’s gay. (This is not a kid who had been openly gay in the troop before, but he first set off my gaydar 3 years ago when he was in my merit badge class, so it wasn’t a total surprise either.)
We all headed off to the troop meeting feeling anxious about what to expect. Most or all of the long-time troop leaders were aware that I’m a lesbian; I’ve openly acknowledged it to a few people, and the rest have made the obvious assumption based on M living with 2 women who he refers to as his parents and who are listed as such on the troop roster. The leaders have all completely ignored the national Scout policy, registered me as a merit badge counselor each year so I can teach a couple badges, and the troop leader even adjusted the words of one awards ceremony to refer to M and “his parents” rather than “his mom and dad.” Several of the older Scouts, who also know M socially, have figured things out as well. But I didn’t know what our brand-new troop leader was aware of, and I didn’t know how our troop would react if the Council actually chose to press the issue.
The Council president started speaking, and outlined the official policy. And then he proceeded to make it abundantly clear just how wrong and inappropriate and contrary to important Scouting values it was to have a discriminatory policy like that, and how strongly he felt that it needs to be changed. He said everyone he has talked to in the council about the issue is against the policy, and that the council leadership has recently begun working on how best to oppose it and/or get it changed. Another leader had brought along papers to hand out with info about Scouts for Equality. And the president made it clear that in the entire history of the council, not one Scout has ever been kicked out for being gay.
The troop parents started chiming in with questions or comments, and everyone who spoke up was vehemently opposed to the policy as well, perhaps best summed up by one woman’s comment, “What can we do to help change this disgusting policy?” A few of us offered up suggestions for other organizations that the Council president might be able to turn to for legal or logistical advice. The Scouts were very quiet – astonishingly so, considering that usually they whisper and wiggle throughout meetings – but I think they were all a little overwhelmed to hear adults talking about opposition to discrimination as something that touches on our troop now, and not as a history lesson from the past.
I was blown away by how positive it was. M was smiling. This is an organization that he’s been involved in for 2/3 of his life, and to hear so clearly from levels beyond our troop that they want to include Scouts and families like ours was wonderful. E has often wondered what would happen if/when M makes Eagle Scout, whether he would be comfortable having both of us stand up there with him as his parents. After last night’s meeting, I think we can all picture it. (Now he just needs to get started on the actual Eagle project!)
Ironically enough, just 2 days later our family structure was relevant again. M had a bad fall on the hiking trip this weekend, and the leaders were checking to see if he’d gotten a concussion. One of the rote questions he was asked, besides “What’s your name,” “Who’s the president,” etc, was “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” Fortunately, one of the people checking him out knew why he stumbled over answering that one, and that it had nothing to do with a bump on the head. (Ultimately he turned out to have a bruised arm, bruised hip, and split lip — but no broken bones or concussion.)