Boy Scouts of America's despicable anti-gay policy and the suffering of LGBT youth
Jul 20, 2012

Boy Scouts of America's despicable anti-gay policy and the suffering of LGBT youth

The ever convoluted path towards full LGBT equality took another turn for the worst:
"The Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday said the organization would continue to deny gay people membership, saying that the policy “is in the best interest of Scouting.”

Not to mention its long standing ban on atheists and agnostics. It is hard to know what the appropriate emotional reaction is to a story like this. Anger, disappointment, frustration, powerlessness? I feel all of these. This ban is disgusting, homophobic and unacceptable at every level in a modern society.

This issues strikes close to home for me because I was a member of Scouts Canada throughout my youth and believe that, by and large, the Scouts program is tremendously valuable to children. At the very least, Scouting was instrumental in instilling a love and passion for the outdoors to which I can hardly imagine being without. More broadly, it has helped inculcate independence, leadership, and a sense of community that undoubtably helped me and the millions of other children that participate in Scouts each year. An outdoors setting provides an excellent structure to develop these kinds of skills and plays no small role in why Scouts has been such a successful worldwide movement. I support this program in Canada and would like to be able to support it in the United States. But with the discrimination on both sexual orientation and religious beliefs I could not begin to do so.

The tragic reality is that LGBT youth suffer tremendously in today's society. One in four LGBT youth are homeless (compared to a 3% heterosexual rate) which makes 40% of the homeless youth LGBT. 90% of LGBT youth report having been harassed in the past year, 27% physically, and perhaps as many as 40% have attempted suicide. A third drop out of highschool, 3 times the background rate. Not surprising since the average student hears an anti-gay epithet 25 times a day. These kinds of numbers cannot be ignored. While much of the fight in the LGBT rights movement focuses on promoting gay marriage, the LGBT subset that suffers the most today is youth. Indeed, marriage is typically for established, financially secure adults and while having this positive symbolism in place is very meaningful, it does little to ameliorate the tragic situation facing so many LGBT youths today.

It is things like the above that Scouts aims, and should aim, to help. It gives young children an opportunity to experience a safe and constructive environment outside of their homes and schools that gives them a sense of belonging and community. It provides them with the kind of character building traits that allow one to survive the extreme bullying that can occur just as it teaches kids who might be bullies how to act appropriately. It is in these ways that Scouts provides a significant benefit to society and is correlated with decreased rates of suicide, drug use, pregancy, and homelessness. However, by banning sexual and religious minorities, it is not just turning a blind eye to the problems facing LGBT youth, it is actively entrenching these social norms that close doors towards these young children. 

Moreover, there is evidence that the tragic situation of LGBT youths can indeed be helped. Research by the Trevor Project shows that  “(LGBTQ) youth who believe they have just one school staff member with whom they can talk about problems are only 1/3 as likely as those without that support to… report making multiple suicide attempts in the past year." This shows precisely how the constructive support that an organization like Scouts can provide to youth can be beneficial. But it will only be beneficial if kids can actually feel safe and comfortable enough to talk about their issues. As long as this ban is in place, that is unlikely to happen.

Cases like this serve to remind us the length of the road ahead of us to full LGBT equality. I am confident that we will get there. But there remain significant problems with homophobia that have much wider consequences than simply preventing gay marriage, and we must work tirelessly to combat them.  A full acknowledgement of the seriousness of the situation, particularly for LGBT youth, needs to be omnipresent and discussion of issues like this cannot be allowed to occur without the painful reminder none of us probably want to hear. 

Thoughts on this post? Comment below!

Share this post:

Tweet It! Facebook Add Feed Reddit! Digg It! Stumble Delicious Follow

1 comment:

Simon said...

hi Bazie...excellent post. I was going to write one myself on this issue, but you covered all the bases. I understand that this disgraceful decision had a lot to do with pressure from the Catholic and Mormon churches. Figures eh? Oh well, I guess if I had been a Scout in the U.S. I never would have got my War on Terror badge... ;)

Post a Comment

Frequent Topics: