The Boy Scouts: Newly “Out and Proud”

Uniformed Boy Scouts marched front and center this past weekend, leading the Utah gay pride parade in Salt Lake City. 

No matter that officials from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) told the marchers not to wear their uniforms. (BSA policies prohibit Scouts from wearing uniforms while engaging in social or political advocacy.)

For these Scouts, the gay pride message trumped the Boy Scout regulations.

Kenji Mikesell, a gay Eagle Scout marching in uniform, justified his defiance because “It just feels like the right thing to do.” Sending a “welcoming” message for “gay kids getting involved in Scouting,” he says, is a “’we want you here’ type of thing.”

It was actually a bit of a risky move for these ‘out and proud’ Scouts, not because the Boy Scouts are likely to impose sanctions (doubtful), but because gay pride events notoriously feature sexually explicit costumes, slogans, and images. The wrong camera angle could have been a public relations disaster.

The progressive media, however, helpfully focused on middle-aged gay couples and their kids, not drag queens in speedos. (The concern was real enough, however, for Utah’s Scouts for Equality to warn supporters “to use caution when promoting inclusivity in the BSA at events” that sport “adult themes and imagery.”)

What should we make of the proud march of Utah’s gay Scouts?

First, expect more of the same, in every city, at every gay pride parade. Parade organizers and national LGBT advocacy groups will handle the choreography, because uniformed Boy Scouts waving rainbow flags are sure to generate prime-time media coverage (even if it’s the same few Scouts over and over).

It’s a paralyzing, no-win situation for Scouting officials: if they levy sanctions against the “openly gay” Scouts who violate the no-public-advocacy-while-in-uniform policy, they’ll be kicking the proverbial hornet’s nest, creating martyrs, stirring up LGBT animosity, and sending donors scurrying.

If they let “openly gay” kids flout the uniform rule—because they are only celebrating “who they are,” after all—the BSA will invite further challenges to any BSA rules that gays might perceive as unwelcoming, unsupportive, or limiting their identity expression. (The BSA reckoned poorly if it really thought changing the membership policy to admit “openly gay” teens would lessen the pressure from LGBT activists.)

Second, the Utah pride parade is a stark reminder that, no matter how loudly BSA insists that all “sexual conduct,” whether heterosexual and homosexual, is “contrary” to Scouting’s values, or how clearly BSA says that social and political advocacy is not permitted in Scouting, the gay culture—inherently sexual—is likely to waft in with the “openly gay” teen. 

Think back to the teenage Scouts marching in Utah. One hopes that a young Scout like Kenji skipped the other “Pride”events. But, then again, why would he? Perhaps, caught up in the celebration of “who he is,” he joined the audience at the Pride Pageant, which showcased “the most beautiful, talented and outrageous drag personalities in Utah.” Maybe, at his parents’ urging, he sought to learn how to avoid HIV, which now afflicts one in five gay men, and stopped by the Festival’s Health and Wellness Zone to pick up  “FREE condoms, lube, dental dams and more.” And, while he was there, he might have gotten a free HIV test, just in case.

One thing’s for sure. As he moved through the crowd, wearing his uniform, Kenji undoubtedly earned hugs and high fives. For to be “openly gay” in today’s culture, especially as a teen-age boy, is to be hailed far and wide as “so brave, so inspirational.”

Of course that will have an impact on other struggling youth, perhaps encouraging some to identify prematurely as gay.

Columnist Tom McDonald puts it well:

The idea of “gay teens” is particularly problematic. There are, quite obviously, same-sex attracted teens, but the idea that teenagers, who can’t even settle on a hairstyle or a musical preference, can declare a fixed lifetime sexual identity is absurd. Adolescence is a time of flux and experimentation. The emotional and sexual tsunami of teen years is trying enough when we’re just dealing with the behavior and its ramifications.

When we attach ontology to the mix (making these desires central to being), we just make everything more confusing. A teen with same-sex attraction is now a “Gay Teen.” It’s like joining a club you can never leave.

For Catholics following the Church’s teaching, the struggle against same-sex attraction (like the struggle against any disorder or sinful behavior) is one best undertaken privately, with the support of family, confessor, and counselors, or within the context of a peer support group, like Courage. This quiet, private approach also respects the privacy of other youth who might be oblivious to others’ struggles against same-sex attraction, or who might find their peers’ struggles unduly troubling.

The recent letter by the Chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) suggests that Catholic troops will try and take the quiet approach, neither encouraging nor pressuring youth to disclose same-sex attraction. However, the letter also notes that, in keeping with the new BSA policy, a youth need not hide his same-sex orientation either.

Therein lies the problem. The cultural voices, including those of some progressive Catholics and denominations (like the Methodists) that sponsor Boy Scout troops, too often respond to youth same-sex attraction with celebration. Accepting the “openly gay teen” has come to mean affirming his “gayness” and encouraging him to embrace same-sex sexual desires as ‘another normal,’ without shame.

Something’s got to give.

It won’t be Catholic doctrine, that’s for sure.

But given the ease with which the ‘out and proud’ Boy Scouts rolled past official Scout policies, I suspect the BSA will continue to give ground…until there’s nothing left on which to stand.

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2 thoughts on “The Boy Scouts: Newly “Out and Proud”

  1. A Scout is Trustworthy , loyal , helpful , friendly, clean , brave and reverent. Morally straight. Be Prepared! No Boy of Scout age should be engaging in sex. Violates the morality of Scouting. How does a 12 year old boy know he is gay? Someone told him he was, supported that behavior and then encouraged him. Scount
    If any boy in scouting is engaging in sex, (unless he is Married) he is not Morally straight. Whether Gay or not

  2. The good pastor of my parish has been persecuted by liberals including liberal Catholics after he announced his decision to drop Boy Scouts. Anyone who opposes to support gay rights, s/he is automatically called a bigot or a hater. As our beloved Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily years ago, we are living in a dictatorship of relativism.

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