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Columns

July 24, 2012

Scouts' gay ban creates problem where none exists

The Boy Scouts of America's "emphatic reaffirmation" of its vow to exclude any and all homosexuals from its hallowed ranks is ill-considered and pathetic, especially in view of its having reviewed the matter for two years.

And the review was "confidential," whatever that means. Secret considerations, in the closet?

The announcement was carefully cloaked in words of thoughtful consideration by a secret special committee supposedly having "a diversity of perspectives and opinions."

BSA claims its review "included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations." It is clear that what it is affirming is its established prejudice that homosexual means a type of person who is abnormal, immoral and dangerous.

Sexual behavior is essentially not addressed within scouting, except by the flat-out banning of members or leaders regarded as homosexual. Unfortunately, by establishing homosexuality as a category of person rather than a category of behavior, it manufactures a problem that would otherwise not exist.

Inevitably, the ranks of the Boy Scouts have always included gays, but they are not there for sex. The policy forces them into a closet, but the rule is redundant to requiring appropriate conduct _ by the boys, and especially by the leaders.

When growing boys are watching uncertainly to confirm emerging traits of masculinity, they are very vulnerable to the idea that some boys are "queer, not quite right," that do not measure up to being "real" boys. They can be filled with inner fears of being different and excluded.

Some are outwardly disrespected, get bullied or called "faggots." This happens quite apart from whether they may have some seeds of homosexuality within their emerging bodies.

The existence of a phantom category, to be avoided, is only reinforced by the BSA, and its position is destructive. Homosexuality is a human variance, not a moral flaw.

Boy Scouts is strongly rooted in finding adventure in nature, learning self-sufficiency, being of service to others, and building personal honor. There is no place for sexual behavior, anyway.

An openly gay leader might be thought to pose a risk of illegal exploitation. But how much more a closeted leader? And just how much risk is a lesbian den mother to a Cub Scout pack? One was recently banned. A gay leader can demonstrate dignity and dispel the kind of fear that the shunning of gays causes. It is socially destructive, protects no one, and can do little beyond sweeping any problems under the carpet.

It is hard to imagine what the BSA claim of "extensive research and evaluations" might mean in the context of its bigoted position. It claims support from "the vast majority of families" it serves. But it distances itself from its own contention by saying that matters such as sexual orientation are best addressed within family circles, with spiritual advisers and in an appropriate setting. This discomfort seems to reflect a backdrop of shame and reeks of exclusion.

In trying to draw an arbitrary line in the shifting sands of childhood development, the Scouts seem blind to the impact their projections can have upon boys growing up. When you create a hated category, and you set up issues of self-doubt and anxiety that play on the uncertainties of all growing boys about normalcy. Differences deserve respect, not scapegoating.

Kids who seem effeminate are often victimized by bullying among their peers, and subject to depression or despair within themselves. Suicide among gay youth has been found to exceed that of the general population, and suicide attempts are even higher yet.

Oddly enough, it is normal for some of us to be outside the arc of the majority. Orthodoxy kills. The odd man out can be killed for coming out, because being odd (or queer) is a crime in the eyes of some.

The Boy Scouts is not banning homosexual behavior, it is calling homosexual people "boogiemen" and banning them. There are no gay kids, but some kids will eventually find themselves to have a minority sexual orientation, through no fault of their own, and to their alarm.

So, in their posturing the Scouts are sponsoring dishonesty and shame. Normal men and adolescents, who realize and already identify as gay, are forced to deny such feelings, pretending to despise who they are, in order to participate in wonderful scouting activities. It should be an incidental matter, neither discussed nor acted upon in Scouting activities.

William Masters can be reached at wmasters@thedailystar.com. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star and its editorial board.

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