Who knew that those green socks and neckerchiefs were so darn sexy? Before I go to my son’s next Boy Scout Court of Honor, I’ll have to grill a steak, build a shed, and watch a football game, to fortify my heterosexual self against the threat of sweet, same-sex vibes coming off machine-embroidered merit badges and shoulder patches. And to think that without the keen senses of leaders of the BSA’s Great Salt Lake Council—the biggest and mightiest of all Boy Scout councils—I might not have realized just what a threat the official scouting uniform is to my straight identity.
A couple weeks ago, a handful of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and adult Scout leaders marched in Utah’s pride parade. They were warned in advance, apparently, by a stern Great Salt Lake Council email, that marching in uniform in the parade was NOT acceptable and NOT allowed. It was Rick Barnes, the chief Scout executive of the council who used the capital letters, understanding that nothing short of five exclamation marks will make your email intimidating like a few well-chosen capitalizations. It’s the first thing Cyber-Etiquette Merit Badge teaches.
They must have overlooked the capitals or not known what they meant, because Neil Whitaker and others, bless their hearts, marched in uniform, anyway, presuming, I guess, that the BSA’s new policy that all boys, regardless of sexual orientation, are perfectly welcome in Scouting means that Scouting exists to support all boys, regardless of sexual orientation.
Fortunately, the Great Salt Lake Council rushed in to clarify the policy by formally reprimanding Whitaker and Peter Brownstein (who walked without his uniform) for using Scouting to promote a political agenda. It may not be clear to those who don’t attend them, but gay pride parades in Utah have a political agenda, which is to concentrate Utah’s gay power on one narrow parade route for about an hour, so as to turn as many innocent bystanders gay as possible; and, let me tell you, those round-brimmed Scouting hats focus gay power like nothing else.
Defending himself, Whitaker said he wasn’t supporting any kind of agenda, but only celebrating a “cultural event.” Yeah, right. He thought this excuse would fly, because, as a matter of course, uniformed Scouts march every year in Utah’s “Days of ’47 parade, a statewide celebration of Mormon culture in Utah without any political agenda whatsoever. When did Mormons ever set out to turn other people Mormon?
Besides preserving me in my heterosexuality, if the Great Salt Lake Council hadn’t stepped in to reprimand Whitaker and the others, there’s no telling what damage these radical Scouters might have done to the staid integrity of Scouting by walking over steaming pavement in hundred-degree heat wearing heavy, canvas pants and hiking boots.
If left unchecked, such radical activity as uniformed parade following will reach into the very Scout Law, in which adolescent boys affirm that they will be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent, and we’ll hear unmanageable Scouts replacing “obedient” with “free-thinking”, and “thrifty” with “stylish.”
As a Mormon, an Eagle Scout, and the father of a Scout, I’m greatly relieved that the Great Salt Lake Council has moved so strongly to preserve Scouting as it was over a century ago, when there weren’t any gay people to infringe on heterosexual prerogative. According to its policy, the BSA might have to put up with gay Scouts, but it certainly doesn’t have to support them.
David Mason is an associate professor at Rhodes College in Memphis. He is the author of Theatre and Religion on Krishna’s Stage and My Mormonism: a primer for non-Mormons and Mormons, alike. Follow him on Twitter.