Last week in the daily What You Need To Know segment, I included a news piece from NBCNews.com about Ryan Andresen, a young man who was tossed out of the Boy Scouts of America for being gay, on the verge of receiving that organization's penultimate rank of Eagle Scout.
It's a story that has been making its way around the internet, and re-opening not-so-old wounds in the process.
On one of the social networks I frequent, the question was asked:
If you are gay, why do you care if the homophobes form a homophobe only club and wont let you join?
It's a good question, and one that deserves an answer.
After all, despite not having been a Scout myself, and not being a parent, this is an issue I feel quite strongly about. So why do many of us care so deeply about whether the Boy Scouts of America excludes gay, bisexual, and trans* boys?
In part, we care because many kids who are in this position didn't know that they were GBT when they entered the Scouts.
Say a hypothetical kid has been a Scout since he was young (Ryan joined at six). Perhaps around age twelve or thirteen, he starts to realize that he is not attracted to girls like his friends are, but instead likes other guys. At this point, he's been a Scout for seven years already. Perhaps most of his friends are Scouts too, and maybe he attends Boy Scout Camp in the Summer. The BSA could be the foundation of his whole social world.
Except now, after helping define him for more than half his life, Scouting says that he's a lesser person now, incapable of honor or moral rightness, simply because he's gay.
It doesn't take a great leap of empathy to see how emotionally damaging that could be for a boy, particularly one at such a vulnerable time.
If his sexual orientation becomes public, he won't be able to partake in one of the primary activities of his social circle. On top of that, the messages the BSA gives about homosexuality may help ensure that his friends don't accept him.
Or of course he could do his level best to hide the truth about his sexuality, which just creates a different kind of isolation.
The remaining alternative isn't pretty either. Our hypothetical boy might instead buy into the nonsense he's learned from the BSA. That is, believe himself to truly be a lesser person than his peers. Down this road lies self hatred, destruction, and an adolescence spent desperately trying to force himself to be straight, with the psychological and emotional damage that so often entails.
We have to be protective of LGBT youth, because often we're the only ones who are. As Dr. Jack Drescher of the American Psychiatric Association has said,
'...LGBT youth are still members of the only minority group 'born into an enemy camp,' subject to family and community disapproval
That's why we care, even if we weren't Scouts ourselves, or don't have children who want to be Scouts. We have to be resistant to the message that LGBT people, and youth in particular, are not worthy of dignity, or capable of holding an equal place in society, simply because of who they are.
The Boy Scouts of America does exactly that, in the worst way.
(BSA Uniform & US Flag from Bigstock)