Steven Cozza, Eagle Scout, Cofounder of Scouting for All Speaks at Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender
Youth Fundrasier in Washington, DC (Boy Scouts of America, "STOP hurting Children") November 16, 2003
How is everyone doing? I'm very honored to be here today. (Steven acknowledges Brian, a gay youth who spoke before
Steven, sharing his life experience as an out, gay teen in the DC metro area.) Brian you are a
perfect example of what a good scout should be.
I'm very honored to be here today to speak to you, at the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League's 6th Annual
fundraiser here in Washington, D.C.
I want to begin my talk by first recognizing the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (www.smyal.org). The Sexual
Minority Youth Assistance League reaches out to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth with a
variety of services including health education on HIV and other Sexually transmitted diseases as well as on drugs
and smoking. This organization helps create safe places in the DC Metro area community for GLBT youth, including
shelter referrals. The Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League is an important organization that symbolizes courage
and compassion in reaching out to sexual minority youth.
The courage and compassion of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League and other health and advocacy organizations
and groups such as GLSEN Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, the Southern Poverty Law Center and PFLAG Parents
Families and Friends of Lesbians, Gays and Transgendered, and Scouting for All is demonstrated by these organizations
through their reaching out to often hostile environments, and sometimes these hostile environments are, our schools.
They reach out with a message of acceptance, respect, and dignity that should be afforded all youth. The Sexual
Minority Youth Assistance League stands against the bigotry and discrimination that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and
transgender youth face in their daily lives through education, love and compassion. The Sexual Minority Assistance
League needs your continued financial support to help them continue their outreach to GLBT youth.
We must all count. We must all be able to experience the same rights that are afforded to all Americans. It is
sad to say that in America where we are all supposed to be free and treated equal, this is not true for some of
us. Some Americans are not included in the saying "for liberty and justice for all." We all stand with
our hands over our hearts and pledge allegiance to our flag, our country, but some in this country are still not
afforded the same rights and opportunities. An American institution, the Boy Scouts of America, which is supposed
to represent the very best in us has now chosen to embrace the very worst in us, bigotry and discrimination. If
you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and or an atheist you are NOT allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts
We have a President, President Bush, who is supposed to represent all the American people, but is the Honorary
President of the Boy Scouts of America. What message does our President give gay and atheist youth when he says
"No child left behind", but he represents an organization which leaves gay and atheist youth behind.
The question I leave with you, should we turn our backs and walk away when we experience or become aware of a social
injustice or do we stand up and be counted"? That is the question I hope you will ask yourselves as I talk
to you today.
I'm going to begin my talk by reading a poem titled "Remember Me" written by Robbie Kirkland, a 15 year
old gay kid who killed himself because he felt rejected. He felt like he didn't belong.
Poems by Robbie Kirkland
I may be gone, but I hope I'm not forgotten. Remember me. (9-1-94)
"I'm Dying and No One Cares"
I try to stand and walk I fall to the hard cold ground.
It feels as if to life I'm no longer bound.
The others look and laugh at my plight.
Blood pours from my nose,
I am not a pretty sight.
I try to stand and again but fall
To the others I call But they don't care
The pain is unbearable
The world is not fair
I'm lost and cold I wish one would lend a hand to hold
My tears mix with my blood
The end of my life It nears
I'm Dying and no one cares
The pain. The pain. THE PAIN!
I scream in pain!
My body shakes in violent spasms
I cry out in pain again!
I scream My blood pours like a stream
I'm Dying and no one cares
I scream in pain one last time and then it's over.
I am Dead and no one cares.
Robbie was born on February 22, 1982. He killed himself on January 2, 1997 when he was 15. A time in his life he
should have been dreaming about becoming whoever he wanted to be. Instead he was struggling with the
bigotry of homophobia. It was homophobia that killed Robbie Kirkland.
Homophobia a social disease which I am a shamed to say, is part of our American culture, like the social diseases
of racism, and sexism. Homophobia can be found in our institutions such as the Boys Scouts of
America. It can also be found within ourselves. We are not born to be bigoted. We are not born to be racist. We
are not born to be sexist. We are not born to be homophobic. We are taught these social diseases. So there is hope
through education that we can continue to work towards healing social change and lesson the harmful impact these
social diseases bring to our society. They bring with them, hatred, discrimination, apathy, self-righteousness
and sometimes death.
Stopping homophobia and the other "ISMs" can only be done if YOU acknowledge they exist and then decide
to do something about them.
I've dedicated our effort in Scouting for All in the memory of Robin Reed a 15 year old student from the high school
I graduated from, Petaluma High School and to all gay youth who have taken their lives because they felt
like they didn't belong. Robin Reed was also a gay kid. He killed himself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge
in 1995. Five years later my sister, a friend and I started Petaluma High School's first GSA Gay Straight Alliance
My dad tried to start a support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender kids back in 1985, the year I
was born. He wanted to have the group on campus at Petaluma High School. The school district told him that type
of group would not allowed. It was too bad that the school district didn't allow the GLBT group. If Petaluma High
School had a Gay Straight Alliance Club, GSA in 1995 Robin Reed might be alive today, standing here in my place
sharing with you how it is to grow up gay with the support of groups and organizations like Gay Straight Alliances
and the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League. So the next time you hear someone making fun of someone else
at your school, at your work or in your neighborhood. Think about Robin Reed and Robbie Kirkland and all those
other young bright Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning kids who took their own lives. Think about
how it hurts to be rejected and made fun of. And most important don't turn your back and walk the other way.
Homophobia is all around us and within us all. And we can only begin to heal by acknowledging Homophobia exists.
And we must first begin that healing by finding the courage to acknowledge that homophobia exists
I am proud to be representing Scouting For All. Scouting for All is an organization my dad, and I founded in our
stand against the discrimination of the Boy Scouts of America against gay youth and adults and atheists. When I
found out the Boy Scouts of America discriminated against my gay friends I couldn't believe it. I became very ashamed
of being a scout. I couldn't stay in scouting if I didn't try and do something to change the policy. I could have
easily just let the problem be someone else's and continued to go on the backpacking trips and scout adventures,
that I loved to do. But if I did that, I just couldn't live with myself. So I decided to take a stand.
The BSA was just teaching scouts to discriminate. They didn't practice their own scout oath and law when they discriminated
against my gay friends. I had a Christian camp counselor named Robert Espindola, he taught morals and family values
and about God. And you know something he is gay. I couldn't believe that my friend Robert would not be allowed
to be in scouting simply because he was gay. I allowed myself to feel their pain and decided to do something. to
change the policy. I wrote to government officials and then decided to write a letter to the editor about the scout
law and how the Boy Scouts of America was not following their own scout law when they discriminated. I was afraid
of how the kids at school would act towards me. Some made fun of me but eventually most of them thought what I
was doing was ok. When some would call me fag or gay. I'd just say what's wrong with being gay? Being gay is normal.
I got death threats but they just made me more determined to continue to try and change the policy because they
just told me there are ignorant people out there that need to be educated about what being gay is and that being
gay is normal. The support of my sister, mom, and dad and my friends have kept me going. And also knowing that
gay kids were being hurt by the rejection of the BSA kept me going.
Now, I think its important to talk about all of us. How "you" as an individual and how "we"
as a group can make a difference against the bigotry, discrimination, homophobia gay youth face every day of their
But before we do that its important that we allow ourselves to feel the pain those that are discriminated against
experience. Put yourselves in their shoes. Ask yourself how would it feel as a heterosexual to not have the same
rights as are afforded to all other people in our society. How would it feel for example not to be able to be a
member of the Boy Scouts of America or not be able to be legally married or be able to adopt children, not to be
able to join the military? How would it feel to have to live in some cases under a "Don't ask Don't tell"
policy as if there was something wrong with you that had to be concealed and hidden? Ask yourself how would that
feel. If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and are experiencing those social injustices don't by into
homophobic messages presented to you every day.
I think as a people, we tend to believe something is "normal," "OK," or "healthy"
if society accepts it. Some things we take for granted because institutions and laws may say it's ok. We may even
believe in something
that is discriminatory against us because we were taught it is ok.
Slavery at one time was accepted in this country as "normal," "OK," "healthy." Even
some of the slaves accepted slavery as their purpose in life. Because that was what they were taught. Women not
having the right
to vote, African Americans not having civil rights until the 60s and being segregated, not being able to eat in
the same restaurants or drink from the same drinking fountains as whites, and Native Americans weren't allowed
to be citizens until 1928 and they were here first!
Even some of those who were discriminated against believed it was ok. It was "normal." Because our laws
and institutions said, it was. Things didn't change until individuals in our society found the courage too began
to question these laws and institutions. Things didn't change until people began to come together to stand against
these social injustices. That is what we have to do.
Let us not buy into the messages today that we are no good if we are gay,
that we are no good if we are lesbian,
that we are no good if we are bisexual,
that we are no good if we are transgender.
Lets not buy into the message that if we love someone as a gay or lesbian that we don't have the right to marry,
or have the right to have employee benefits for our partners.
Or have the right to adopt
or have the rights that are given to all others in our society
Let's not buy into the message that you as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender youth don't exist, don't count.
We must stand together and speak out loud against these laws, against those institutions that discriminate against
us, whether we are gay or not. We are all human beings and we should stand together to defend our rights as human
beings. When the Boy Scouts of America discriminates against my gay friends, they discriminate against me. They
discriminate against all of us as human beings. We must not turn our backs on any human being experiencing social
The message that I want to leave with all of you here today is that EVERY PERSON here is important, is of value,
is special in this life!
As Martin Luther King said:
"We must not allow any force to make us feel like we don't count. Maintain a sense of dignity and respect!"
As young people we owe it to our future and the future of this earth that we stand together for human rights and
that we embrace our diversity and cherish our differences.
Lets stand together!
Thank you very much.