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Scout Tale - A True Story: Gay Scout Mother's Lament

September 6, 2006

When my son, Daniel, was three years old I took him to his godbrother's Eagle Court of Honor. He sat, riveted through the ceremony and, toward the end, turned to me and said, "I want to be an Eagle Scout, like Robert." I answered him with patronizing enthusiasm, thinking of the many years of hard work and dedication the Eagle Rank required. I mistook it as a childish whim, thinking that he expected to achieve this goal rather sooner than later, and wondering if he would still follow his three year old's dream through his entire childhood.

When Daniel was four and a half, he started showing symptom's of psychological problems. Although very bright, emotionally he was immature for his age, and he was extremely oppositional and anxious. The only time he was able to relax his little body was when he was asleep. We took him to the pediatrician, who referred us to a therapist that specialized in biofeedback, a technique that has been used successfully to help people learn to relax. Daniel continued to idolize Robert, who often babysat him. After church every Sunday, we went to Robert's family's house for coffee and there Daniel heard more stories of Scouting and of a new Eagle candidate, Robert's younger brother David.Daniel went to Kindergarten, doing very well academically but not so well socially or with personal organization and time management. He intensely disliked the rough and tumble play of the boys, exploding in anger as a result of the normal jostles and bumps of a soccer game. I signed him up for T-ball, thinking that he might be able to make friends with some of the boys in his class in this non-contact sport. Baseball may not be a contact sport, but, until the coaches taught them the right way to play the game, T-ball most certainly is, with it's mob, pig pile style of fielding. By the end of the first practice, he was sporting a split lip. Still, he stuck out the season, even playing one more year of rookie league before giving up baseball for good. And though he got along well enough with all the students in his class, when recess time came the boys all went off to play sports and he was left with the girls. All well and good during Kindergarten through second grade, when boys and girls still think of each other as human beings, but by third grade he was left alone...except for Scouts.

At the end of Kindergarten Daniel brought home the information about Tiger Cubs. He asked me if this was Boy Scouts and when I said, "yes," he said he wanted to do it so that he could be an "Eagle Scout like Robert." We signed up together as parent/Tiger teammates and had a wonderful time. He made friends with all the boys in our den, especially with one, Sean. He loved the activities, was good at them, and was accepted as an equal by the other boys. At the end of the year I decided to be a den leader. Through his Cub Scout years, while he continued to struggle at school with organization, time management, and emotional issues, (though his grades continued to be good), when his behavior at home deteriorated to the point where we had to start individual and family therapy to help him with his violent emotions and to learn how to manage him, Scouts was the one place that he was 100% successful. Scouts in our den came and went, but Sean and Daniel stayed the course. Sean's mother and I became co-den leaders when our assistant den leader moved away, and Daniel and Sean became close friends, earned their Arrow of Light, and, with the three other boys in our den, crossed over into Boy Scouts together.

Throughout his Boy Scout years, Daniel has never taken his eye off of that Eagle. In seventh grade he went from being an honor roll student to failing every academic course. His psychological problems became worse, now including thoughts of suicide, and he went back into therapy. My husband and I were frantic and so began two agonizing years of testing. We had him evaluated by the most highly recommended child psychiatrist in the city, and had the middle school evaluate him for learning disabilities. In the meantime, he continued to fail everything except his arts courses (he's a very gifted artist and musician) and Phys. Ed. He became more and more depressed and the only thing that kept him from complete despair was Scouts. He continued to rise through the Scouting ranks successfully, completing, and enjoying the merit badges and holding his first position of responsibility, as Assistant Patrol Leader (to Sean's Patrol Leader). Near the end of eighth grade all the tests were finally finished. The school found a learning disability which had been masked until middle school by Daniel's extremely high IQ, and although the psychiatrist could make no firm diagnosis because of his age, (except for saying that he was "the most complicated kid he'd ever seen) he felt sure that something was amiss, and would develop as Daniel became an adult. The school set up a 504 plan for him to help him with his academics and off he went to high school.

High School was four stressful years of struggle for Daniel. The Assistant Principal, who was also the 504 officer, told us that "504's were bullsh--- and he didn't have time to deal with them." (The Special Ed. Administrator in the district where I teach almost croaked when I told her that. In our district you'd be fired immediately for such a statement.) It took a letter from us, implying the threat of legal action just to get a meeting. Daniel never really got the appropriate assistance and he barely graduated from High School. His only consistant successes were drafting classes at the vocational school, band (until he was told by the new band director that he could not participate because band period conflicted with drafting - the old band director always worked it out), and, oddly enough, three years of Latin and Greek.In Scouts, he earned his Star and Life ranks, and became a leader in the Troop. He was elected to the Order of the Arrow. He served in more Positions of Responsibility, as Chaplain's Assistant and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader. He planned and submitted his Eagle Project for approval and successfully completed the project, a huge accomplishment
for someone with his particular learning disability. He asked several people forrecommendations, was finishing up his last three merit badges, and was completing the final paperwork. Then the Troop Leaders found that he was gay.

Daniel started realizing that he was gay around the age of fifteen. At sixteen, he came out to us. We told our extended family and he told a few close friends, including Sean, who was then Senior Patrol leader, with Daniel as his Assistant. All his family and friends were completely supportive. No one rejected him, for which I was extremely grateful. No mother wants to see her child in the pain of being rejected by someone he thought loved him. His younger brother's reaction was my favorite. When told that Daniel was gay he replied, "So what?" We met with the top adult leaders of the troop. We are so grateful to them. They were completely supportive. They wanted Daniel to stay in the troop and finish his Eagle. Daniel, however, decided to withdraw. We had been doing some recent research and had found incidences of troops being dechartered and leaders banned from scouting for supporting homosexuals. Since national BSA won their Supreme Court case, they've been pretty ruthless. We were grateful to our leaders, as I've said, but I don't think they realized the danger in which they were putting themselves and the troop. There was one adult leader in our troop whom we knew would not hesitate to alert national, as this person had recently distributed anti-gay pamphlets on car windshields all over town. So, about two hours of paperwork away, Daniel lost his Eagle, his dream since he was three years old. Not only that, he lost Boy Scouts, the only consistantly positive part of his entire childhood. For about two weeks he was very stoic, then one night he burst into tears in my arms. He has, once since then, said he wished he weren't gay. With all that, he still loves the Boy Scouts. He just hates the policy and the men at national who continue to stand by it. He wants his younger brother to continue in Scouts and hopes to someday attend his Eagle Court of Honor.Daniel has recently been diagnosed with mental illness. He is doing his best to make his way in life as a new adult. During a discussion with him shortly after he withdrew from Boy Scouts, he said the following. I can't remember his exact words, but the gist of it went like this. "I could stay in the closet, but I won't be ashamed or afraid of what I am, because ‘a Scout is Brave.' I could lie about being gay if someone asked me, but I won't because ‘a Scout is Trustworthy.' And I could stay in the troop, get my Eagle, and put the troop and the leaders in danger, but I won't because ‘a Scout is Loyal.'In other words, if he weren't such a good Boy Scout, he still would be a Boy Scout.

To whom it may concern at BSA national,

You are forbidden to use any part of this document in any scouting publication unless you also print the last four paragraphs in full.

The Author




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