Boy Scouts: A Belated Follow-Up Post


Posted by Bob Lord

Shortly after my post, Teaching Bigotry to Youth, I received an email from a friend, who is gay, thanking me for the post and, more importantly, giving me his perspective as a gay man. I often wonder if the reason many homophobes have such a hard time with this issue is that they have no gay friends or acquaintances, and therefore no real understanding. But even for those who don't fall in that category, I thought my friend's words were enlightening. His email appears after the jump, with a few names deleted.

Hi Bob, 

Thanks for
your blog on the boy scouts and your repost to some of the responses. I thought
most of what was said was quite tame compared to other homophobic comments I’ve
experienced over my life. For me, the big issue is belonging. Boy Scouts create
a belonging that boys are able to feel accepted as part of a group, included.
It’s not so much someone gay wanting to join, but all those boys (and men), who
have been part of an inclusive group for many, many years and then because they
discover they are gay are thrown out and lose a major peer support system. It’s
often the experience gays and lesbians have had within families, to be all fine
one day and then the next an alien, a stranger, excluded for belonging in so
many ways. Both <> and I have experienced such alienation. Kind of like I’ve
said to Tammy [Bob: my wife] in my last email, this experience of being the excluded outsider
has had repercussions throughout our lives. I say this even though I think of <> and I as Norman normal, well adjusted, highly functioning people in a long
term highly committed loving relationship. It makes one somehow constantly on
alert, on guard, setting fag enablers to stun as I’ve said before. We are fine
of course, so It’s not about us, but about the generations to follow, that I
don’t want to go through the same old crap as we did. There is an extremely
high suicide rate among lesbian and gay youth. I get very angry. Have you seen
the on-line “It gets better,” campaign. So many people, gay and straight have
contributed to it, even Clinton and Obama. A few months ago a 15 year old boy,
out at school and running a gay/lesbian alliance group, who had made a great
contribution to this project with his own video, still hung himself because of
all the homophobic bullying he experienced. If you can get hold of it, watch a
documentary called “Out in the Silence.” There is a website and movement to
challenge the bullying. The documentary is very moving, the experience of a 15
year old boy in Oil City, Pennsylvania. Happy ending. 

For me one
of the worst examples with the boy scouts was a few months ago. An 18 year old
had been in the scouts since he was 7. His dad was a scout leader. He had
passed every scouting badge with merit. He was a pillar of his scout group. He
applied to become an Eagle Scout. He passed whatever it is you need to pass
with honour. The guy who was to bestow this was some guy senior to the boy’s
father. The bastard refused to award the guy Eagle Scout status, because a few
months before he’d come out as gay. He was also told he had to leave the Scouts
Troup. His dad resigned.

Say one of
the boys turned out to be gay. I can imagine the crazy situation of the gay one
being told you can’t be a scout anymore, but your straight brother can stay.

As you
comment, the tax exemptions are an issue. Boy Scouts of American have large
public building holdings around Philadelphia. There was a court case about 4
years ago because they would not lease premises to Gay/Lesbian Switchboard. Boy
Scouts won and there was discussion about them losing grants from local
government, but of course this didn’t happen.

again American last year, don’t know where anymore. A 16 year old came out as
gay to his father. The father beat him up and then took him to a brothel and
forced him to have sex with a woman in order to” make him straight”. He even
wanted to see evidence that the boy had cum. Really, how sick can anyone get.
That sickened me. That boy will take years and years to get over such an
experience. The dad should have been charged with abuse, but of course that
only happens in the movies.

I get

Thanks for
standing up for us. Good to speak to you briefly again when I was talking to
Tammy the other day.

Neither of
us have enjoyed our first day back at work, but guess we’ll get used to it


My friend is just an average guy. The biggest difference between he and I is that he was born gay and I was born straight. Otherwise, we have similar world views and probably are at about the same level of intelligence. Tammy often jokes about our similar world views, saying we're brothers from other mothers. So, does it really make sense that he should be treated so much differently by society, so much more harshly, than I?  


  1. Hi, I’m Bob’s friend who sent the original email

    Please look at the “It Gets Better” and “Out in the Silence” websites and get a copy of the movie. It only costs a few dollars off the website. It has won awards at several film festivals and the mother of the boy has gone on to become an inspirational public speaker. What works extremely well is that the boy himself comes over as just such an ordinary Joe teenager, quite sporty and not stereotypically “gay”. He was on several sports teams and a regular jock. A new boy came to class and started to get homophobic abuse almost at once. Our hero of the film stood up for him in class and told the other boys to stop picking on him. He was asked immediately, “So what’s in it for you, are you gay?” to which he of course our hero said yes I am. He was cut dead overnight, pushed around, beaten and abused to the point he had to leave school. His Mom went to the Principal and Board of Trustees who said that it was the boy’s own fault. The family of the boy even started to get death threats, anonymous letters and phone calls threatening to burn their house down. It became unsafe for the boy to leave the house section

    I had very similar experiences as a teenager, so rarely went out from home because it always resulted in abuse in the street and the very real threat of physical violence – I was totally isolated and had no life. It was hell. Getting to and from school in safety was extremely difficult. I simply did not exist during my teenage years,because I was gay, I was excluded and was not welcome to take part in the activities of any of my peers and the isolation was incredible to bare. For me this was 40 years ago and I am one of the lucky ones to survive. The issues for all of us however, is that this is not 40 years ago and for many young gays and lesbians, things have not got better. Unlike the young man in the film, many endure without any form of support to combat the destructive isolation of homophobia and the constant harrasment and danger attached to basic everyday living.

    Some months after the boy came out and had to leave school, a film maker who had left Oil City for Washington 25 years earlier, put an advertisement in the local paper announcing his marriage to another guy. You can imagine there was heaps of abuse in letters to the editor that all got printed. However, the boy’s mother read the article and traced the film maker and told him of her son’s plight and asked him to help. He did come and was a real support and this moving film is the result and now it is used all over the US in anti-homophobic bullying campaigns. The film has a happy ending, but for many gay,lesbian and transgender youth this is not the case. The high suicide rates among gay/lesbian young people speak for themselves. This is happening in your community, your street. You can help by supporting all people to belong, to be included members of communities