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Details of a Boy Scout uniform worn in front of the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Dallas. (Tony Gutierrez — AP)
The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.” This week, gay Boy Scouts are prepared for equality. At the same time, they are prepared for discrimination. They know that even if the policy changes to allow gay Boy Scouts, there will still be those who discriminate. There will be those who are frightened by change and by the full range of human expression of love and family.
National leaders of the Boy Scouts, BE PREPARED to look into the eyes of real boys, and take the next step toward equality.
As the leader of the Metropolitan Community Churches with ministries in almost every U.S. state and 40 countries, I have looked into the eyes of untold number of people—young and old alike. I have seen the look of people who have been persecuted and I have seen the look of people who have been respected. I want to see more joy, more pride, and more freedom in the eyes of gay boys who are in Boy Scouts.
It might surprise some people that there are already gay Boy Scouts. There have always been gay Boy Scouts because there have always been gay boys. Mostly, they have kept silent and wondered why they were different. Today, gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people are coming out earlier and earlier. Those of us who came out in our late teens, twenties, thirties or later, also knew we were different, but many of us saw no visible support around us to understand who we were or to feel safe enough to come out.
Today, the movement is huge, and young people know they are not alone.
Do not punish these boys for trusting they are not alone and for believing they are equal before God and the law. Do not ask them to leave. Do not tell them they are not good enough. Do not tell them that all of the badges they have earned are worthless. Some have already earned their “God and Country” emblem but this debate is saying loudly and clearly that if they are gay, they should never have been in Boy Scouts at all. Stop the harm!
Perhaps one day, there will be a Pink Triangle Badge of Courage for those boys who brave the bullying and prejudice to speak out if they are gay and learn about Stonewall, the Mattachine Society, and Matthew Sheppard. Straight boys will wear the Pink Triangle Badge of Courage when they learn the history of the thousands of gays who died under Hitler; they will study the travesties of fundamentalist religions that preach judgment rather than love.
Boy Scout leaders, BE PREPARED for more work. You still have to address the discrimination against adult troop leaders who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. You will still need to educate all members and leaders about what human diversity looks like. But, for now, BE PREPARED to look into the eyes of all the boys you are leading. If you make the right decision, be prepared to see the eyes of boys who are not afraid of persecution—they will be prepared to stand up for themselves, knowing they have the backing of the leaders they are trying to emulate.
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson is the moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches, which has ministries in over 40 countries. Dr. Wilson was part of the first LGBT faith delegation to meet with a sitting president in 1979. She recently completed a term as a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.