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You won’t find many institutions in America more venerated than the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA is like apple pie or a Norman Rockwell painting: quintessentially American.

gay boy scouts

That’s what makes it so hard to have to address a piece of inane, bigoted drivel like Matt Walsh’s column for The Blaze from earlier this year. In it, Walsh asserts that the Boy Scouts of America is a sinking ship that has “betrayed” its mandate because of their recent “compromises with the Culture of Death.” Whatever that means.

Walsh believes the BSA betrayed America once by acknowledging the right of openly gay scoutmasters to take part — and then again when they kept their doors open for transgendered scouts.

Allowing openly gay scoutmasters into the BSA isn’t a betrayal. It’s not pandering. It’s not “something extra.” And it’s certainly not a defeat.

Walsh clearly subscribes to a Christian fundamentalist view of the world — and that’s precisely the problem. Suppose the BSA told Christians they couldn’t join any more. Think he would have an ax to grind then? Suppose he’d be upset if the BSA banned atheist youths? Suppose he’d be upset if Muslim youth were banned from the BSA?

I’d hazard a guess and say “no.” Why? Because he seems to filter all his thoughts through a breathtakingly narrow view of what “normal” even looks like. The same goes for the world’s enemies of same-sex marriage. If one type of person can do a thing and another type of person cannot do that thing, those people enjoy two different sets of rights. Gay marriage isn’t “gay marriage” — it’s marriage — equal treatment for equal human beings.

Allowing openly gay scoutmasters into the BSA isn’t a betrayal. It’s not pandering. It’s not “something extra.” And it’s certainly not a defeat.

It’s a decision not to be an insufferable, judgmental jackass.

Trans and Gay Kids Are Left With Nowhere to Turn

And so is the BSA’s decision not to slam their doors on transgendered Scouts. It’s painfully obvious that transgendered Scouts have been taking part in the organization for as long as the BSA has existed — all that’s changed is they now don’t have to lie about who they are.

The smallest minority on earth is the individual, which also happens to be the one person in the world qualified to search the contents of their own heart. Imagine what might happen to you and your place in the world if you looked into your heart and found something in conflict with the information on your birth certificate.

Put yourself there, for just a moment.

You might be … confused. You might feel lost and adrift. You might need a friend and a support group. Or, at the very least, you might need some kind of outlet for the frustration and confusion you’re understandably feeling right now.

But you can’t look to the Federal government because it’s currently staffed with racists. You can’t look to the American Church because most of them will ask you to kindly not let the door hit you on the way out — or, worse, they’ll make you “pray away the gay” at one of their concentration camps. By the way, in addition to being patently ridiculous, they objectively — does this really need to be said? — do not work. Gay conversion is insulting, dehumanizing, backwards and dangerous. You cannot “pray away the gay” — or “the transgender” — because it’s not a decision one actively makes about what they want out of life. I can’t believe it’s 2017, and I still need to type a sentence like that.

So. If leadership in D.C. has turned their back on the misunderstood and the American Church has never been there for them to begin with, where do you go?

The BSA as a Haven for the Outcast

For a long time, the Boy Scouts of America has been a place for boys who didn’t have anything else worthwhile in their lives. Some men tend to treat their local Scout Troops as daycares for their sons, while other men treat them as vital bonding experiences and accompany their kids on every trip and outing. And you know what? It’s a great experience for both types of boys.

The Boy Scouts teach practical skills like how to survive in the wilderness if you have to and how to exercise responsible, understanding, patient and level-headed leadership over your peers. And boys who’ve made it all the way to the rank of Eagle Scout find themselves prepared and primed for entry into college, the workforce or the armed forces.

I’ve never heard anybody claim that what’s missing from the Boy Scouts is hatred. For a very long time, the Boy Scouts maintained a sexual identity policy not unlike the military’s: We don’t want to hear about it. If we hear about it, we’ll make life difficult for you.

Is Walsh suggesting we shove people back into their respective closets to make the world more comfortable for him and those who agree with him? This isn’t about being “politically correct” — it’s about not being cruel to our fellow human beings.

And is it not the responsibility of any institution — particularly one which receives public funding — to honor the values which govern the nation it calls home? This writer believes it is. And guess what? America is overwhelmingly progressive-minded, no matter what our current government might look like. Most of us value equality, opportunity and mutual respect for all.

Anybody who doesn’t needs to shut up and get the hell out of our way and stop trying to sabotage real human progress.

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Our Differences Create Unity

Mr. Walsh? I want you to really ask yourself: Is it “surrendering” to open one’s heart and mind to ways of life that differ from our own? Of course not. But more than that, it’s necessary.

Because racism and bigotry don’t exist in a vacuum — they live in places where the light of experience and understanding has never shone. Racism and bigotry are what happens when one lacks practical and meaningful experiences with people and things different than they are.

But Walsh and limited thinkers like him don’t want to be exposed to new ideas. He appears to be disgusted with the idea of gay men instructing boys, as though this sort of thing hasn’t been happening without incident for thousands of years. He willingly commits the very old and very pathetic fallacy of assuming every single gay man is a pedophile and therefore dangerous.

If Walsh had any practical experience dealing with the non-heteronormative, he’d probably have a more enlightened opinion. Well, maybe. Maybe he’s just a raging, ignorant loser who can’t handle change.

And the less we talk about his opinion of young women, the better. He “reasons” that the Boy Scouts don’t need to include transgendered boys because the Girl Scouts — “The one with the cookies,” in his words — already exists.

He betrays his own ignorance yet again by assuming a transgendered boy is not a “real boy.” How sad. How petty. A boy must be lumped together in a group with which he does not identify, but which bystanders associate him with, because of superficial similarities? Because it makes us more comfortable inside?

That doesn’t sound like an America I want any part of.

Simplistic Ideas About Gender Are Killing Our Kids

Let’s make it simple for binary thinkers like Walsh: Boy Scouts is for human beings who identify as boys. Girl Scouts is for human beings who identify as girls. Hopefully, that’s not too difficult to follow.

At the end of his sad tirade, Walsh reaches his inevitable conclusion and calls on “Christian families” to leave the BSA and take their boys to a rival group with “traditional values” called Trail Life USA. So, it’s a schism you want? Really? Yeah, that’s healthy — that’s been the answer to all of America’s problems so far. It’s fixed racial tensions. It’s fixed our grotesque levels of income inequality. Yes — all of humanity’s oldest sources of strife will definitely be solved by building our walled gardens ever higher.

You simpleton. You excoriate wicked liberals for “caving” to the politically correct, but you’re bending over backwards to devote yourself to a cruel ideology from a book — at least from the sound of it —that’s you’ve never read. Or maybe you thought Leviticus had all the answers? Maybe find the words in red a little further down — there are some things about judgement that you should really see.

You’ve studied the word of your god and come to the conclusion that he’s the god of snap judgments, slammed doors, ignorance, cruelty, and folks assuming they have all the answers. If the Old Testament God is the god you worship, that’s your business. But the Boy Scouts of America — and the world in general, in case you haven’t been paying attention — have slowly been turning their back on this petty, legalistic, cruel caricature of a “god” for generations now, along with His “traditional values.”

You can have your Christian fundamentalist BSA knockoffs if you want to — so long as you understand they come with a side order of Klan rallies.

Kids who are LGBT+ are dying. Today. Suicide rates among youth LGBT+ are four times greater than for kids who identify as straight. In the past, the BSA was there for kids who felt like outcasts. By calling on the organization to exclude trans and gay kids, you are creating a world where these children would rather die than find out it gets better — and it does.

A Conservative Organization Changing for the Better

I’ve never known the Boy Scouts of America to look backwards. They’ve developed new skills programs and brand-new merit badges to keep up with the times. They’ve revisited their membership policies as often as they’ve needed to keep pace with the ever-shifting zeitgeist in America.

And you know what? They still come across as a pretty Conservative organization. The word “reverent” still caps off the Scout Law: “A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” I knew boys who uttered the word “reverent” with the rest of the Scout Law without any real weight or feeling. They paid lip service to a thing they didn’t feel particularly strongly about in their hearts — merely because they wanted to be respectful.

Merely because accepting as valid a thing you don’t agree with is the mark of a civilized society. None of the boys I knew, nor their fathers, had a “radical agenda” in the Boy Scouts. They were there because they wanted to learn how to tie knots, build wilderness survival huts and safely sharpen an ax to cut firewood.

Politics is in the DNA of the Boy Scouts, make no mistake — but practical experience says members of the organization take it far, far less seriously than ignorant bystanders like Walsh, who opine and whine at great physical and emotional distance. To put it more plainly, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

He and all his backwards friends can dig their heels in and pitch a fit if they want to, but they merely sound like spoiled children who never learned how to share. America is changing before our eyes — in fits and starts — and with two steps back for every leap forward, but we’re changing — and for the better.

The BSA — Continuing to Be a Refuge for Children

The Boy Scouts are changing, and the world is too, like it or not, as it begins to evaluate its oldest biases and assumptions. Being an emotionally mature adult means accepting change when it happens, even if you’re too stubborn to figure out on your own why that’s a good thing.

So, thank you, Boy Scouts of America, for being a national treasure. For continuing to provide a place where young men can go to feel good about themselves. You’ve chosen to keep yourselves vital and relevant as conventional wisdom and American values have evolved. How your critics stay so vocal with their heads in the sand is anybody’s guess.


Kate Harveston