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What happens when a son tells his gay dad, ‘I want to become a Boy Scout’?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I really don’t know why I can’t seem to see these things coming.

I blog about them. I write about prejudices, I have argued with countless anti-gay people, and I have diligently parented to the best of my ability.

And yet, these situations emerge and again, I am caught like the proverbial deer in the headlights, unsure which path to take, and positive that all choices lead to certain destruction.

AP File

The latest happened during a casual conversation with my ten-year-old son, Jesse. We were talking about our day’s events when suddenly he remembered something he had been meaning to ask me.

“Oh…DAD!” he blurted out interrupting me, “I wanted to ask you. If we don’t have camp this summer, can I join the Boy Scouts?”

The Boy Scouts? Really? Not Young Republicans? (These days the latter might be a much better alternative, actually.)

My mouth went dry and I knew that if I tried to use it, the best that would come out would be a stammer. “Blah blah blah blah..” Instead, Jesse continued, “They are really neat. They do all these different things and help people. You get these badges every time you accomplish something. It is…SO COOL!”

Deep breath.

The Boy Scouts have not taken a lot of my head space, honestly. We don’t know many in the area. It did not appear to be a pressing issue. I shared the outrage of many against their public policies and found their treatment of gay scouts and gay parents to be offensive. I had even made some notes in January for a possible blog when they decided to delay their decision on the anti-gay policy until May.

“Well,” I started slowly. “Let’s talk about that. I do think all those things are great. Really great. The problem I am dealing with is having you in a group that would not allow me to be one of its leaders and participate with you.”

“Why wouldn’t they let you?” he asked baffled.

All the anti-gay rhetoric that I had read over the years from the Boy Scouts came washing through my brain like a tidal wave. I could not repeat all that to him.

I could not tell him that I had tried to research the standards they expected from leaders only to find that their website was more about marketing and economic values than moral ones, save endorsements from hate groups like Focus on the Family.

I also could not tell him about the survey the boy scouts had recently sent out asking respondents to react to the idea of someone like me having access to their children as if I was a potential pervert.

“They don’t like men like me,” I said simply. “They would not let me be involved.”

“WHY?” he said with a look of absolute shock. It was obvious that it had never occurred to him that anyone could not like his Dad.

“Because I am gay,” I answered.

His bafflement did not wane. “So what?” He asked, clearly not having an iota of an inkling as to why that might be an issue.

“They don’t like gay people,” I responded.

“So they would not let the kids of gay dads in?” he asked.

“No, I think they would be fine with you being there,” I said, not quite sure I was correct. “It is me that they don’t like.”

He shook his head. “That is just weird,” he concluded.

His attention deficient disorder (caused by his drug exposure in the womb) kicked in and he was suddenly off chasing down Legos. I was glad for the distraction.

As he ran off, I was left with a feeling of frustration, anger and shame.

I felt violated that the spirit of Boy Scout bigotry had descended on my home and that I was forced to explain to my son that I was not as universally loved as he supposed.

Instead, I had to expose him to the fact that like Washington state senator Kevin Ranker’s recent account of his family, ours too had to deal with some misperception in the world.

In his article, Kevin discussed the view of his own gay dad:

“When my father came out, many in our community refused to accept it. Each day I saw my classmates, my friends, my educators and even family members questioning my father. Quietly questioning his ability — and even his right — to be a parent. But mostly, people dealt with my father’s life … by ignoring it. This quiet shame, this silence, was worse for me than outspoken hatred. My journey and my challenge was growing up knowing that society saw my father as unequal.”

This has been a state of affairs that my sons have been blissfully unaware. Until now.

Later, as I went down to tuck my sons in and kiss them goodnight, the residual Boy Scout taint still weighed on my mind. Jesse, it turns out, had processed it much more efficiently than I had.

I leaned down to kiss him. “Good night Pal. Sweet dreams. I am sorry about the Boy Scout thing.”

“That’s ok Dad. It’s no big deal. They are just jerks.”

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13 more reader comments:

  1. Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 1:07pm
  2. The dad says, “Son, there’s this other great group called The Navigators.”?

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 1:07pm
  3. They ARE just jerks.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 1:15pm
  4. you tell him, “Not in my life time!” =)

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 1:19pm
  5. The Navigators are the new and improved youth group for boys and girls, straight, gay, religious, atheist all inclusive group and one day the Boy Scout will fizzle out.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 1:26pm
  6. Both of my sons attended the boy scouts however our leaders knew i was gay n they did NOT tolerate hate, regardless of what the boy scouts as a whole represent!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 1:41pm
  7. Why gay dad? Any ethical dad knows to stay away from that KKK/Hitler BSA organization.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 1:46pm
  8. many places in the country do not have navigators – they are only in like 1 area so the rest of the country is boy scouts or nothing

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 1:50pm
  9. The boy said it best “that’s just weird” and “that’s ok. They are jerks.” I concur!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 1:51pm
  10. Another kick in the proverbial teeth…it never gets easy,taking these.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 2:07pm
  11. The only reason I was allowed to be in the BSA was because it was requested by my godfather, who was dying from AIDs.
    He was gay, and an Eagle Scout/
    When he passed, he had his ashes split between San Francisco Bay and the tree he planted in front of his Scout Hut when he was a youth.

    Whether or not a particular troop is “KKK/Hilter Youth”-esque strongly depends on the scoutmaster, and the local climate.

    Scouting was very influential in my growth, and I wouldn’t give up my experiences for anything, but as an adult the organization’s policies have alienated me to the point of not wanting anything to do with it.

    If they changed, I would come back.
    That being said, I feel very strongly that it is an amazing opportunity for growth, as long as the group you find doesn’t ram bigotry down the kid’s throat.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 2:12pm
  12. There shouldn’t have to be an alternative

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 3:52pm
  13. Truly enjoyed this article…thank you.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 3:54pm