Maybe this year I really will write more of these (and imagine having your own platform as an assistant editor!).
Anyway … the Boy Scouts have done what many of us anticipated, opening their ranks to openly gay Scouts. Much could be said about what being openly gay means to an 11 year old boy (the minimum age for joining). My personal opinion is that most boys that age understand, as I did at 11, their same-sex attraction, but the very idea of being “openly gay” is as much a political identity as a sexual orientation, if not more so. Do we really expect 11, 12, 13 year olds to proclaim a gay identity? And why would we? Is that not more a matter of meeting our own adult expectations for each other (come out, come out, wherever you are)?
By opening their membership to gay Scouts, the organization has placed one foot in the future. The other (accepting openly gay leaders) will follow. This is one of those times to counsel patience, not anger. And also to remember the Scout councils that advocated for this change. I know from personal knowledge (I saw the letter the New York Scouting Council sent to its members) many of them have wanted this stain off their organization for years. Time is now firmly on the side of equality and kindness. Yes, kindness. For what I am often most reminded of when I read stories of exclusion, of the woman recently fired from her teaching job after listing her partner in her mother’s obituary, of so many other instances of our separation from the communities we live in, is the casual cruelty of it.
Physical violence is not the only violence we can commit. LGBTQ people have been enduring psychological violence for centuries. Every time some mother says she will take her sons out of Scouting if a gay child is allowed to simply tell the truth of who he is, every time we hear that AIDS was divine retribution, every time some ignorant politician says the increase in male-on-male rape in the military is because gay and lesbian solders were allowed to serve openly (rather than the military’s emphasis on reporting these assaults), we experience another moment of psychological violence. Over the years it can batter the soul. It hurts. It bruises. And each step taken toward equality by an iconic organization, whether it’s the military or the Boy Scouts, is a step away from the bruising of our spirits. Patience. We’re getting there.