Riddle me this: when is inclusion really exclusion?
So, a bit over a month after announcing they would take an internal vote on whether to modify their ban on gay members, the Boy Scouts of America decided to remove “the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone” (emphasis mine). Which a lot of people are praising as a great step forward, while others are predicting the destruction of scouting (and the continued collapse of society and eventual destruction of the entire universe).
The anti-gay folks shouldn’t be upset. The way the BSA has worded this policy isn’t a loss for them in the least. It is, in fact, an insidious trap perfectly designed to increase the amount of self-loathing and self-delusion that can be instilled in young gay men.
A lot of people have pointed out that the ban allows gay boys into scouting until they turn 18, keeping the ban on gay scout leaders and lesbian den mothers firmly in place. They have paraphrased that policy as, “you’re welcome… for a while.” And most everyone can see that that is a half-measure, at best.
But it’s sneakier than that. A more accurate paraphrase would be, “you’re welcome now, and you can participate, make friends, learn things, and have great fun… but we’ll kick you out when you’re 18 unless, by some miracle, you cease to be gay by then.”
There is already incredible emotional and social pressure for young non-heterosexual boys to hide, obfuscate, and deny their orientation. The internal mantra of the closeted gay teen used to be “no one must know!” and if you broke that rule, your life would be ruined. This policy creates an atmosphere where you can let the secret out without facing at least one type of immediate rejection, but opens up new doors for indoctrination and oppression.
And it’s not just that “change before you’re 18” club that they have to metaphorically beat the gay boys with. The other one is that little, sneaky word in the new policy, “alone.” You can’t be kicked out for your sexual orientation alone. It’s the central tenet of the religiously-motivated rabidly anti-gay crowd: “I don’t hate gay people, I morally disapprove of their lifestyle.”
So, you won’t be kicked out for admitting you’re gay, but you might be kicked out for not acting manly enough. Or you might be kicked out for spending too much time with other openly gay teens. Or you might be kicked out for having a boyfriend.
Now, they will defend that last one by pointing out that scout law demands that all scouts be “clean in thought, word, and deed” and therefore straight scouts who engage in premarital sex would be disciplined, too. The sad thing is, a lot of otherwise gay-friendly people will nod their heads to that and say, “well, yes, that makes sense.”
But I didn’t say they would be kicked out for having sex with another guy. I said “kicked out for having a boyfriend.” Straight scouts don’t get kicked out for having a girlfriend. But I know gay scouts will face an extremely heightened scrutiny of any of their relationships. And activities that straight scouts will do with impunity will be punished, at least by some troops, when a gay scout does it.
Just go google “facebook gay kissing controversy” to see an example. Facebook is littered with pictures of straight couples kissing, of half-naked people of either gender in all sorts of compromising positions without anyone batting an eye. But if someone posts a picture of two fully clothed men kissing, some people will flag it as “graphic or sexually suggestive,” and sometimes it gets banned. It doesn’t get unbanned until other people kick up a fuss.
It’s a common double standard. Prime time TV is full of all kinds of sexually suggestive situations between opposite-gendered couples that no one reacts to, but if they show a gay couple having a fairly innocent kiss, anti-gay activists start screaming “graphic gay sex!”
It’s not just the obvious bigots who think that way. I’ve seen dozens of stories from teen-agers who were surprised when they came out to their liberal, gay-rights supporting parents, because the parents freaked out. “You’re too young! You can’t know whether you’re gay, or not!” The reason the parents have the freak-out is because while they think they’re open-minded, they actually have fully bought into the myth that being gay is about sex, only sex, and nothing but sex. Their support for gay-rights is about letting adults decide how to conduct their sex lives. So while they wouldn’t freak out if their 14-year-old daughter had a crush on a boy, or their 15-year-old son had a crush on a girl, because having crushes is a natural and innocent part of growing up and learning about love. But they go ballistic when their teen talks about being gay, because being gay must mean sex. It can’t possibly be an innocent crush.
My old scout manual explained that “Clean in thought, word, and deed” meant that a scout strove to be “pure, clean-minded, and manly.” That sounds great, until you think about all of the impure, dirty-minded, and unmanly stereotypes people have about gays. And how impure, dirty, and unmanly some people construe anything that a known gay guy says or does.
No policy is going to prevent bigoted parents from looking for (and trumping up, if necessary) reasons to kick the gay kid out of their son’s troop. No policy is going to prevent kids under the influence of such parents from misconstruing actions from the known gay troop member as some sort of sexual advance, and try to get the kid kicked out.
But this particular policy is quite clearly designed to encourage those behaviors. So, I’m one former scout who is not ready to celebrate, yet.