A Local Eagle Scout’s Perspective
I joined Scouting at age 12. I held nearly every position as a boy, including Senior Patrol Leader and Crew Chief at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for my troop. I earned my Eagle badge, and continued in my troop until I turned 18. At 18, I served on camp staff for the first time, at Heart of America Council’s summer camp for disabled scouts. After the first year on staff, they asked me to work toward being Program Director for the camp in what would be my fourth year. I served at my District and Council level, training boys and leaders how to handle Scouts and others with disabilities. I continued as an Assistant Scoutmaster during this time. I ran the camp for three years, after completing National Camp School.
By my final year at camp, I began to realize that being gay was not a phase. I helped train my replacement in my final year and made my break from Scouting so I could begin figuring out what being gay meant. I joined the gay college student group, but I was not out to my friends or family. When Matthew Shepard was killed, my boyfriend at the time asked me to appear with him on local television, with my face blurred, showing us holding hands. I was too afraid to do that in the small town we were from. Soon after, I came out to my friends, my family, and the Scouting Executive who had been in overall charge of the camp where I worked. I was encouraged by several people to move to the city (Kansas City), so that I would not be in danger in our small town. I moved, and a few years later met my spouse. We have now lived together for 11 years.
Five years after leaving Scouting, I was approached to help with my old troop. My best friend was working as a police officer in our town and had the chance to become Scoutmaster of our old troop. He needed someone he could trust to handle weekend activities and campouts, because as a junior member of the police department, he had to work weekends. He knew I was gay, and I told him that if asked, I would not lie about it. I told him I needed to talk to the executive I’d worked with, to see if it would be an issue. The executive said he had told no one, and I should go ahead if I wanted to. I attended two meetings before being pulled aside by the current Scoutmaster, and asked point-blank if I was gay. He heard the story the executive had apparently been telling everyone at my old camp. The troop had a lesbian member of leadership, because her son was a scout. Her partner was allowed to cook and drive for troop functions, but not allowed to be a member. They told me I could not be involved and asked me to leave.
For years, the Eagle badge that I worked so hard for has been at risk. I have heard horror stories of people who have listed the badge on their resumés not being verified when the rank was checked with Scouting headquarters. Living in two states where you can be fired for being gay, it has been that much more difficult. I have been passed over for promotion due to people finding out I was gay.
I lived through “the end of Scouting” about 25 years ago, when they allowed female adults to take part and go to summer camp. A few years later, with the abuse scandals, the Scouts instituted a policy where no boy could be alone with a single adult at any time, even their parent. That was also to prevent “the end of Scouting.”
In Canada, Britain and most of Europe, gay adults and gay kids are all included. In Britain, they have a waiting list of 34,000 to join.
Boy Scouts spokesman responds
Deron Smith, director of public relations for BSA, offered this response to Jason Boyer’s statement, particularly about Eagle badge revocation:
In terms of the Eagle rank: Scouting ranks, such as Eagle, represent a past achievement much like a diploma. Each year, more than 50,000 young men earn the rank of Eagle and do so after meeting some very challenging requirements. A Board of Review determines that a Scout has satisfactorily completed the requirements to earn that rank, and once that determination has been made — barring fraud or dishonesty in the completion of those requirements we would not revoke it.