Monday, October 15, 2012

BSA denies Ryan Andresen Eagle Scout award because his is gay

Ryan Andresen, Boy Scout denied his Eagle award for being gay
The Boy Scouts of America recently denied 17-year-old Californian Ryan Andresen the Eagle Scout award on the basis that he is openly gay. Based on all reports, the boy worked hard for years, showing dedication to his troop and to the organization, and to me it seems unfathomable that in 2012 this type of discrimination still exists. (Sign the petition his mom started to help change the BSA's position here.)

First, let me say, as someone who grew up in the scouting tradition and chose to leave the scouts voluntarily at 14 because I was conflicted over my burgeoning understanding of my own sexuality and the blatantly discriminatory stance of the Boy Scouts of America organization, this recent turn of events troubles me deeply. On the one hand, I feel that society is finally coming to the realization that gay people are no different than straight people. But as we push for and are winning our rightful inclusion in all aspects of the law, including marriage and adoption rights, the Boy Scouts of America is still somehow allowed to discriminate.

I started this blog because I share many of the core values of the Boy Scouts organization. I sincerely believe that the ills of the world could be solved if young people were allowed to be themselves as they pursue the challenges laid out in a learning series like the Boy Scouts merit badge curriculum. An Eagle Scout must complete a rigorous journey through 21 merit badges - 10 core merit badges and 11 of their own choosing. This blog started with my quest to complete the hiking merit badge requirements, and after nearly a year I still am stuck on finishing its final task because it is so great a fitness challenge that it has taken me this much time to work up to accomplishing it.

And this is just one badge! Can you imagine what it must feel like for Ryan Andresen right now, having completed all of this hard work only to be denied his dream because he chose to be honest with himself and the world!?!? The policy of the Boy Scouts almost seems to prefer that boys and men remain closeted and testify to the beliefs they lay out with regard to moral uprightness in order to participate. According to the Scout Law, a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. I'm sure Ryan Andresen is all these things, and I hope his mom Karen is successful in helping him fight the Boy Scouts ruling to deny him his Eagle Scout award before the boy turns 18, the cut-off age for receiving the honor.

Meanwhile, I will continue my quest to pursue Boy Scouts merit badges simply because I recognize the value it brings me as an individual to do so. It's not to actually get the Eagle Scout award - obviously - since at 41 I'm 23 years older than the cut-off. But I will learn and grow from the experience, and that's exactly what I set out to do. In a way, every time I check off a merit badge from my list I feel it will be somehow vindicating.

Just like after 9/11 when we were told not to change the way we lived our lives because then the terrorists would win, I'm not going to let the Boy Scouts bully me, and I'm going to fight against their bullying of others. I'm going to put my voice along the likes of Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, the founder of Scouts for Equality, who is fighting for the inclusion of gays into the Boy Scouts organization. And I hope you will, too. Sign the Scouts for Equality petition here.

Watch Ryan on the Ellen show:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hiking: 20 mile trip plan to complete merit badge requirements

I have accomplished all requirements for the Boy Scouts Hiking Merit Badge except one, which is to hike 20 contiguous miles in a single day. This summer I laid out on this blog an ambitious plan to hike 20 miles from Palm Springs to San Jacinto Peak and back to the upper tram terminal. After careful consideration, however, I have determined this is just not do-able considering my current weight and fitness level. I am still planning on working up to this amazing hike, but in the interest of checking this Hiking Merit Badge goal off of my to do list I have decided to make a new plan.

Old Town Albuquerque will be one of the sights along my 20-mile hike
Currently, I'm back in Albuquerque enjoying Balloon Fiesta week and supporting my partner Khizer as he completes his final two weeks of training for the Duke City Marathon. I thought I would take advantage of the beautiful and crisp fall days here at an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet to do my final 20 miler as an urban hike. As such, I have mapped out a suitable route using and will plan to accomplish this hike Thursday, October 11.

I will start at Khizer's place here in Barelas and begin my hike by heading east, up Coal Avenue to Nob Hill. This first leg of the trip is three miles and has an approximate 300 foot elevation gain (the only true gain on the hike). I'll get some coffee at Starbucks and then head back down the hill via Central Avenue and follow it west through University Heights and Downtown all the way to the Rio Grande, nearly eight miles into my hike.

From there I will take the Paseo del Bosque Trail north for about four miles to Montano Road. At just over 12 miles into the hike I will stop to get lunch at Flying Star on Rio Grande, where Khizer will be working. It will be nice to see his smiling face as I'm more than halfway to my goal.

After lunch I will take Rio Grande Boulevard south, passing Central Avenue, and then take a network of local streets, including Tingley Drive, to Bridge Boulevard, at 18 miles. I will then go east on Bridge to Broadway, then north to Coal Avenue, then back west to 3rd, and finally south to arrive home at the 20-mile mark.

I estimate this hike will take about 10 hours, considering I will average a pace of between two and three miles per hour and take breaks whenever I find something interesting to look at and photograph - like balloons floating overhead, the gorgeous Rio Grande and cottonwood trees of the bosque, and of course Old Town.

I will wear plenty of sunscreen, wear my wide-brimmed hat and carry snacks and three liters of water (I'll need more but I'll be able to re-fill at the halfway point, so no problem).

Stay tuned for the hike report on Friday. Hmmmm, I wonder how I'll celebrate finally accomplishing this goal. Any suggestions?