Monday, June 30, 2014

A Scout Is ... Mindful of Civl Rights

Is there a merit badge for equality?
I never thought I'd see this.

I opened up the New York Times this morning over breakfast and was surprised to see that a group of Boy Scouts had marched in New York's Pride parade (now I'm ever more bummed out that I missed it). I know that I would have been cheering loudly had I been there, since I was a Boy Scout when I was in my teens.

In the late 70s, gay scouts were simply unthinkable. I don't think there were any fifteen-year olds in America who were willing to be out to their peers. Of course, this was the era of Aaron Fricke, who gained some fame by attempting to bring a male date to his prom in 1980. I'm the same age as Fricke, and was fascinated by the news stories at the time. But Fricke was a rarity in those days. (And his home town was three times the size of mine.)

I also remember when the Boy Scouts of America tossed then 19-year-old James Dale out of scouting (he was an assistant scoutmaster at the time). Dale had been in the Boy Scouts for 11 years. I followed that one too, though at the time, my scouting days were a distant memory (by 2000, I had been out of scouting for twenty years).

And then on Sunday, June 29, 2014, wearing rainbow neckerchiefs, a group of Boy Scouts marched in New York City's Pride parade. The New York Times described the Scouts' attire as "among the tamest," but if you ask me, it's much braver to in full Boy Scout uniform, proclaiming your support for equal rights.

Some of the those young men might be gay. Some might might be bisexual. Some might even be transgender. Most of them are probably straight.

Among the marchers was Pascal Tessier, who is probably the first person to come out and then become an Eagle Scout. He told the Times about the day the vote was taken:
“I woke up that morning very nervous, thinking, ‘This could be the last day I can call myself a scout,’ ” he said, referring to the day of last year’s vote to allow gay youths. “Looking back, I know scouting shaped my childhood. It made me who I am today. It taught me how to lead, taught me how to be respectful and responsible.”
The Boy Scouts saluted as they stopped at the Stonewall Inn, the site of the riots that were a major point in the struggle for gay rights. I salute them back.
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