|Ryan Andresen, Boy Scout denied his Eagle award for being gay|
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: