Terrance Heath

A Scout Is ... Queer?

Filed By Terrance Heath | April 20, 2008 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Politics
Tags: boy scouts

Well, you won't find it among the characteristics listed on the Scout Law. But, yeah, in my case a scout is queer.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from the National Eagle Scout Association. (Yes, I'm an Eagle Scout.) I either ignored it or forgot about. But they didn't forget about me. I got this in my inbox this afternoon.

Do you have fond memories of all those camping trips on your Trail to Eagle? Or do you ever wonder where the other Eagles from your troop are now? Have you considered how being an Eagle Scout shapes your life even today?

The National Eagle Scout Association recently authorized the National Eagle Scout Search Project which will culminate in the publication of the Eagle Scout Roll of Honor. Roll of Honor will be the first-ever registration and publication of its kind - capturing nearly 100 years of Eagle Scout history, tradition, service and achievement.

Oh geez. Now I've got a dilemma.

See, the Boy Scouts aren't all that keen on queers.

Eagle-MedalOn June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of the Boy Scouts of America having the constitutional right to exclude gay people. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist interpreted the First Amendment's protection of the freedom of association to mean that the Supreme Court could not force one of America's most treasured institutions "to accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organization's expressive message," thus overturning last year's New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that the Scouts had violated the state law banning anti-gay discrimination.

The Dale of Boy Scouts of America vs. Dale, No. 99-699 is a 30-year-old advertising director of POZ magazine and a one-time assistant scoutmaster of the Boy Scouts. I befriended James Dale in 1988 during our freshman year at Rutgers, where we were both drawn to the State University of New Jersey for more than just the classes. With its liberal reputation, and proximity to New York City, Rutgers promised to be a comfortable environment for people like us to come out.

But several months after Dale appeared in the pages of Newark's Star-Ledger as one of the most visible members of the university's Gay and Lesbian Alliance in 1990, he received two letters -- one from the Monmouth Council of Boy Scouts, the other from the district council -- informing him that "avowed homosexuals" were not permitted in the organization, and that his 12-year membership was being revoked.

They say so right on their legal issues website.

  • Volunteer Adult Leadership
    Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. Scouting's moral position with respect to homosexual conduct accords with the moral positions of many millions of Americans and with religious denominations to which a majority of Americans belong. Because of these views concerning the morality of homosexual conduct, Boy Scouts of America believes that a known or avowed homosexual is not an appropriate role model of the Scout Oath and Law for adolescent boys.

  • Employment
    With respect to positions limited to professional Scouters or, because of their close relationship to the mission of Scouting, positions limited to registered members of the Boy Scouts of America, acceptance of the Declaration of Religious Principle, the Scout Oath, and the Scout Law is required. Accordingly, in the exercise of its constitutional right to bring the values of Scouting to youth members, Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals, or others as professional Scouters or in other capacities in which such employment would tend to interfere with its mission of reinforcing the values of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law in young people.

  • Youth Leadership
    Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting's values and beliefs. Most boys join Scouting when they are 10 or 11 years old. As they continue in the program, all Scouts are expected to take leadership positions. In the unlikely event that an older boy were to hold himself out as homosexual, he would not be able to continue in a youth leadership position.

In the time I was an active Boy Scout, I served as a Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and (briefly, before going off to college) Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. I was out by then, to myself and to most of my classmates at school. But not to the Scouts (even though I'm sure most of the guys in my troop knew). I knew what the official response would be. Plus, my Dad was the assistant scoutmaster, whom I once heard say "A boy who doesn't want to be in scouting shouldn't be in scouting," only to forbid me to quit when I told him I wanted to. (The cognitive dissonance was starting to become suffocating.)

For what it's worth, I picked up some leadership experience during that time. It came in handy in college, when I was co-director of the LGBT student group, and when we successfully lobbied the University Council to pass a non-discrimination policy concerning sexual orientation for work and study at the university.

But the Boy Scouts and the National Eagle Scout Association probably don't want to hear about that. They don't want to hear, really, anything about the life I've manage to build for myself. (Which is a pretty damn good one, if I do say so myself.) I guess that's because according to them, I can't be queer and be "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful , thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent." It screws with their framing. So, I couldn't be queer and be a scout.

(And because of their policy, it's unlikely either of our sons will be a Boy Scout, for obvious reasons.)

But I was. And I am. An Eagle Scout even.

Now the National Eagle Scout Association wants to include me in their directory. They want me to call them so they can "verify" my information. Will they ask if I'm married? If I have kids? Probably.

So, what should I do?

  • Ignore their request.
  • Call them, see what kind of questions they ask, answer honestly, and see what happens.
  • Contact them that due to their discriminatory policy I will not be participating, and would like to be removed from their email list, etc.

I'm honestly not sure.

Any other queer Scouts or Eagle Scouts out there? How'd you guys handle this?

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Well, Terrence, I have a similar problem.

I participate in a group called Community Unity, which promotes diversity awareness and "peaceful resolution of conflicts" --- in other words, they are anti-violence. They also promote religious tolerance and inter-faith dialogue. The group operates in a rural county in southern Indiana, and was formed in response to a KKK rally several years ago. They hold a festival each year called "World on the Square" where exhibit booths are set up for all the nationalities that live in the county or surrounding areas. We are up to hosting about 30+ different nationalities in recent years.

Trouble is, we rent our festival tents from the local Boy Scouts, even though the Boy Scouts are not tolerant of certain facets of human "diversity", as you point out above. This year I've been asked to be a co-chair of the festival, and I'm debating with myself about whether I should say something about my objection to doing business with the Boy Scouts. I suspect that others in the group will accuse me of splitting hairs and causing dis-unity.

My only advice would be "let your conscience be your guide" but I would also offer that probably the third option you list would be the most forthright. But just remember that if they strip you of your Eagle Scout status, there is no going back.

Frankly, I don't want to be a member of any club or group that puts out mixed vibes, some to the effect that they don't really want me (anybody from Indiana Equality happen to read this?)

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 20, 2008 2:37 AM

Terrance, you have got to be true to yourself, because you have two sons. I would strongly tell the scouts that you do not wish to be associated with an organization that practices bigotry.

They will know where you are coming from without an additonal word. If they have the guts to contact you back for an explanation of that remark I would reply that you do not consider them morally straight.

If they ask again tell them you do not regard them as clean in thought, word, and deed.

Good Luck

Hi Terrance,

If the scouts give you trouble for being gay you might point out their history to them.

The Boy Scouts was founded by Robert Baden-Powell. He was bisexual (http://www.nndb.com/people/049/000044914/ ) and was also a cross-dresser.


Robert married late in life. He was 55 and his bride, Olave St Clair Soames, was 23. It may have taken so long due to needing a woman who would play a male role in the relationship. http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/baden_powell_r,2.html reports that Olave "altered her appearance to suit him, flattening her breasts and shearing her hair." This was in a time when most women maintained long hair.

With Robert's love of cross-dressing and Olave's butch look one can only imagine what kind of relationship they had behind closed doors.


Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 20, 2008 6:46 AM

The history of the Boy scouts (which began in Britain) and it's founder are well known. It is also well known that from the beginning the scouts had Man-Boy love problems. I just didn't want to go there in my previous posting because someone might accuse me of "blaming the victim" again.

What is important in the here and now is that this is decided law and the current court will not overturn it. It would be interesting to know if the British Boy Scouts also discriminate or if it is solely American discrimination. Would you consider transferring to the British Scouts?

This ought to be interesting Terrrence, for many people.
My friend, a woman of operative history, is an Eagle Scout.

I think a mix of both #2 and #3 would be best. Call 'em up and listen to their questions. Out yourself if needed and ask them to remove you if they get snotty. I'd also throw in a "My kids will never and that's awfully sad..." for good measure. :)

Hi Terrance! Look at you in your little Scout uniform! OMG - that hair is so effin cute!

As for the Scouts, my brother is an Eagle Scout and I think Scouting did him a lot of good. It taught him leadership, etc. However, I also think it did a lot of harm, too. My stepdad forced my brother to participate in Scouts to toughen him up. He was always a "sissy boy." My stepdad even went as far as giving my brother military crew cuts so that he would look more manly.

My family is Mormon, and you know the Mos love them some Scouting. My mom's ward is having a chili cook off to raise money for their troop. She asked me if I would participate, and I told her no because of the Scouts' disicriminatory policies towards gay people. I would love to support them, but they don't want my kind around.

I agree with Bil. Answer their questions and use it as an opportunity to dialogue. They'll never know what they're missing out on if you don't speak up.

JK Johnson | April 20, 2008 1:43 PM


I suggest you google "Mormon and Scouting." You may be amazed at the relationship between the two. Here is part of one site:

Total Articles: 8
Mormonism has morphed the Boy Scouts into a religious organization in which they use to indoctrinate the young men into a lifetime of church membership. Awards and rewards are based on Mormon Priesthood rules and regulations. More emphasis is placed on indoctrination and obedience to the Mormon Gospel. Young men are accelerated through the program faster than boys outside the Mormon controlled BSA. Mormon boys can receive an Eagle Award simply by placing bags on neighbor doors to collect food for homeless shelters.

Women are not allowed to participate (except as "Den Mother") - in fact, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not have a Girl Scouting program.

JK Johnson | April 20, 2008 1:52 PM

This is an article from www.ask.com that talks more about Mormons, Scouting and Money:

Mormons Taking Over Scouting?
Many readers are surely aware of the fact that there continue to be legal and social problems due to the Boy Scouts' discrimination and bigotry against atheists and gays. What readers may not realize is just how much of this may be ultimately due to the efforts of the Mormon church. Mormons control a significant percentage of all Boy Scout troops; if policies change to treat gays and atheists equally, the Mormons will walk - taking all of their money with them.
As MSNBC reports, Mormon involvement in Scouting has even reached the point where Brigham Young University is offering a new major in Scouting:

The Boy Scouts are the official boys’ youth group of the LDS, and more than one in nine Scouts are Mormons. Critics say the church exerts disproportionate influence through membership on the national advisory council and vigorous fund-raising. (In New York, LDS leaders recently launched a fund-raising campaign with pamphlets carrying an endorsement from the church’s current prophet.) Next to the Mormons, the Roman Catholic Church is also a major supporter of the Boy Scouts and their endorsement of anti-gay and anti-atheist policies has been crucial for the continued bigotry and discrimination. The exclusion of gays and atheists from the Boy Scouts qualifies as bigotry because the exclusion is based upon the assumption that being gay and being an atheist makes one fundamentally inferior. If the Scouts discriminated against Jews or blacks because such people were incompatible with the moral and patriotic misson of the Scouts, the outcry would be tremendous. But such bigotry against gays and atheists seems acceptable - especially when backed by major American churches.

The only country that its a major problem is here in the US.Yep im a ex Eagle Scout myself and opps im trans.The Mormon church has the most members as scouts so they are a problem how other countries get around it is they have scouting groups for different religons then have a national committiee but they are each free to set there own rules and set there own ranks etc.I personaly beleive it's time for the BSA to adopt a similar policy so there truely can be Scouting for all and Terrence have you ever seen the rainbow square knot check it out I have one in my collection. BTW I went to 69 national jamboree 71 world jamboree in japan Philmont and 73 national jamborree.oh yeah im also a brotherhood member of the OA thats Order of the Arrow for you nonscouts.

Jamboree? WTF! And they say gays aren't allowed in Scouts. How gay can you get - Jamboree????

agcasebeer | April 21, 2008 3:28 AM

Good to hear there's other T Eagle Scouts. I earned mine in '77, with bronze, gold, and silver palms, I hold a God and Country; was nominated for OA but I'd turned 18 and was in college by then and never did the initiation. Never made it to a jamboree, but did go to Philmont twice, the Minnesota Canoe Base once, and our troop's more experienced members took a 2-week summer camp in Manitoba. Many trips to the nearby Red River Gorge as well. Fantastic!

In those days, GLBT wasn't mentioned much in society or Scouting, but Scouting hadn't become as bigoted as it presently is. There are 3 other Scouts from my troop who are GLBT, of course none of us admitted it then. I know of many Eagle Scouts who are now T - the famous Texas activist Phyllis Frye being the best known.

I'm not signing up on that list. I'm proud of my Scouting involvement, but I want nothing to do with Scouting until they cease to be an organ of the Southern Baptist Convention and the LDS Church.

I'm an Eagle Scout and a hetro-ish crossdresser (who also performs as a drag queen). I had no idea I was following in Baden-Powell's heels. ;)

Seriously, you have to do what you think is right for you. Personally, I might tell them what you've said here: that you're a queer Eagle Scout. Let them deal with it.