Eagle Scout Comes Out To His Scout Leaders
M.J. Christensen, Eagle Scout
April 12, 2004
Dear Harlan, Rick, and John,
I am writing this letter to all three of you, because it concerns all three of you.
I don't know if you realize just how important you were in my life throughout my formative years. My experience
in Scouting, especially in Troop 600, is something that I treasure dearly, and I want the three of you to know
just how much I appreciate what you did for me during that time. I don't think I can imagine who I would have
become if it had not been for my years in Troop 600, and I know that I would never have made Eagle Scout if it
had not been for your hard work and influence. Even today, when someone mentions the idea of a father, four men
come to mind, the first being my father, who died last year, followed shortly by the three of you.
The last few years have been quite a struggle for me, with the death of both of my parents, and I wonder if I
would have been able to bear it if I didn't have the strength of character that Scouting provides. Again, I have
to thank you three for much of that.
The reason that I am writing you this evening is that I have something that I want to share with you. It is something
that I have very little trouble telling anyone these days, but it is also something that I have a great
deal of difficulty telling you, because even though we no longer have a relationship, I care a great deal about
what the three of you think about me. There's nothing for it than to just come out with it, pardon the pun. You
see, I'm gay. I don't know if any of you knew or suspected this, nor do I even know if any of you will really
care. The reason I must tell you is because of the stance National Council of the Boy Scouts of America has taken
on gays in Scouting. There is very little I would like to do right now more than rejoin a Troop as an Assistant
Scoutmaster, and if I had the choice, it would be Troop 600. However, even though National BSA has no idea about
my sexual orientation, they would exclude me from membership by default, and would revoke my Eagle Scout Rank as
well. In fact, this is one reason that it was so difficult for me to come out, even though, looking back, I've
known that I was gay for a very long time. The fact of the matter was that I could be gay, or I could be
a Scout, and the latter meant so much to me.
Don't get me wrong, I am not expecting any action on your part. I still believe greatly in the Scouting movement
and what it stands for, even while I disagree wholeheartedly with National and the way they are running the organization.
However, there are a few developments in the works that may bring me into the spotlight soon, and I wanted you
to hear it from me, and not from another source. For one, I am in the process of interviewing
for the Assistant Regional Director's position for Scouting for All (www.scoutingforall.org), a national organization
working to fight the BSA's policies of discrimination. If I get the position, which is volunteer, but which I
have a very high chance of getting, I will be in charge of bringing Scouting for All to the Denver Area. This
may cause some media publicity, and I didn't want you to read a newspaper article about a radical queer Eagle Scout,
find out that it was me, and not be forewarned.
Also, I have been working on a manuscript, which I hope will be ready for publication some time this year, which
focuses mainly on my time in the Scouts and how much it meant to me, but also how it complicated my coming
out process. Although, even if published, I thought the likelihood of your reading this book would be slim, you
are mentioned, as is Troop 600 of Arvada, Colorado. Do not worry, there are no negative connotations
about the Troop, as I really did have a positive experience in Troop 600, and never saw any signs of open bigotry.
However, I thought that if I do get the book published, some people might feel like contacting the Adult
Leadership of my old Troop, especially you, Harlan.
I personally believe that there are some very good reasons to oppose the BSA's policy of bigotry even if you are
straight, and I would like to share a few of them with you, if you don't mind. For one, the phrase the BSA always
wants to quote in reference to the indistinct policy regarding gays is 'To keep myself physically strong, mentally
awake, and morally straight.' As you well know, this was written in 1911. The term 'straight' to refer to a heterosexual
didn't come into use until the late 1950's, and not into common use until after that. The other point they always
seem to use is the point of the Scout Law that states 'a Scout is Clean.' I still don't understand how this one
applies, but I think it is supposed to refer to some vague Christian moral objection to gay sex. If sexual 'cleanliness'
was truly expected of all Scouters, then a case could be made to ban anyone who ever had an
affair, remarried, had sex before marriage, etc. The Scout Law also states that 'A Scout is Thrifty. ' Does
that mean I should be excluded from being a Scouter because I am in the process of filing bankruptcy?
It also bothers me that every gay Eagle Scout who has publicly come out to the BSA has had his Eagle Rank officially
revoked, despite the sentiment 'once an Eagle, always an Eagle.' However, Russell Henderson, one of
Matthew Shepard's murderers, has not had his Eagle Badge revoked. In other words, in the opinion of National BSA,
it's more okay to murder a queer than to be one. If that is the case, I will be happy when I receive my letter
revoking my Eagle Scout. Scariest of all, however, is the statistic that up to one half of all male teen suicides
are homosexual. It stands to reason that the largest youth organization in the country telling gay men and boys
they are not welcome helps contribute to the homophobia and self-hatred that makes these kids want to die. How
many of these kids were Scouts? If the BSA had a more open, loving, and inclusive policy, how many of these
kids might have been saved? I don't know, but if the number is only one, then that is reason alone to wake up
and change the policy. Otherwise, the BSA is guilty of third-degree murder.
I don't expect you to do anything in regards to the policy on gays. I don't even know if any of you are still
active in the Scouts, though if I know you, you won't drop out completely until they nail shut your coffins. However,
I do ask this: If you have a Scout or Scouter in your Troop that you suspect might be gay, keep these words in
mind before you implement any policy. Think about the kind of Scout I was, and I hope that will help you realize
that we queers really aren't that bad of folk.
Okay, I guess it's time for me to get off my soapbox. I will have plenty of time on it in the future, I'm sure.
I really didn't write to you to preach to you, only to explain. I still want you to know how much I love you
all, and how much your presence in my life meant to me. I really wanted you to hear this from me above all else,
because if we meet at a Scouting event again, I may be holding a picket sign or a blow horn, and I wanted you to
know that it's nothing personal. I love the Boy Scouts, and the traditions on which it was founded. In fact,
if I didn't love Scouting, I wouldn't care enough to want to change it.
If you would like to get in touch with me, you may mail me at the address at the top of this letter, email me at
(edited), or call me at (edited). Also, if you would be interested in reading my manuscript, let me know and I
can email you the file. All of your names appear on the dedication page. I hope that this letter finds you and
yours well and happy.