“I’m an Eagle Scout.”
Nate and I were on our first date where each of us shared our own life stories over margaritas and candlelight. I was already falling for the guy, but it was salt on the margarita glass rim when he admitted he had become what only 5% of any Boy Scout ever becomes — the highest rank, the BEST (annnd happens to be the sexiest thing a gay man had ever told me. EVER. End of story.).
You may already know this, but it deserves repeating: It takes a TON to be ranked an Eagle Scout. Not only does a guy have to work diligently for badges and invest gazillions of hours in community service, he must be committed in a way so many men just can’t be. Example: I made it as far as Webelo Cub Scout (that’s about fifth grade) before I got sick of having to wear my uniform every Wednesday for after school Scout meetings and spending my weekends learning how to tie knots. Nate, though, stuck it to the end (that’s like, twenty years!) — chocked full of intense camping, hours of volunteering, skill tests — a devotion that tends to be seen in a very selective few.
We actually have a framed newspaper clipping in our home office that shows an awkward teenage Nate wearing his uniform and receiving the coveted honor. I’m proud of him every time I see it. Even if I didn’t know my future life partner at that moment in his life, it’s something I never forget about him. It defines him. His ranking separates him from the rest of the world. It is the one of the sexiest things about him (just one of many, guys) that I admire — the same way I admire astronauts, teachers, and Beyoncé.
That’s why I support Nate in whatever decision he makes when it comes to choosing whether he should keep or forfeit his honor in retaliation over the recent announcements of banning gays in Boy Scouts. But I believe that he should NOT give up his Eagle Scout status in the name of the recent discrimination towards gays from the Boy Scouts Of America.
If you’ve been living under a rock, perhaps you have not heard that the Scouts announced to withhold the ban on keeping openly out homosexuals from their organization. Add it to the gazillion other hateful things this country is doing to the LGBT community, but this one really stings Nate. Not only did he grow up with its morals embedded in his stature, but with children in our future, it pains us to think that conservative people in the organization want youth to suffer in the name of a legacy. Nate has admitted how many difficult times he had in Scouts knowing he was “different” — perhaps if there was someone he could comfortably talk to about it, it would have made his experience a better one. Having confidants in one’s community — isn’t that what camaraderie is really about? Isn’t that why solders calls themselves brother, and teammates call each other best friends? That sense of bond is formed on trust, affection, and admiration. Someone who is not allowed to be 100% themselves cannot fully flourish in that environment and defeats the purpose of even being part of such an organization. But Nate swears the lessons he learned in the Scouts are something he’d never forget, and he believes there’s a need for it to exist and be available for any kind of man — gay or straight. Many boys — no matter their sexual orientation — deserve the access to these lessons. So should we just turn our cheek and assume it’s no longer a good organization or should we fight back?
Let me say this: As a gay man, I truly admire those that have given up their Eagle status in the name of equality. To be willing to sacrifice your honor in support against the discrimination against gay scouts is a beautiful gesture, and I respect those people beyond words. As someone not an Eagle Scout, I can only begin to imagine the courage it took to make such a monumental decision. But I do think there’s another way to look at it.
What if instead of throwing away that honor, you make your honor more public? What if you use that legacy as proof that you can be whoever the hell you want — gay, straight, a fashion designer, a cab driver, a rocket scientist WHATEVER YOU WANT — and still make one killer Eagle Scout AND human being. What if you were a man that stuck his chest out in pride to defeat these bullies — not let them defeat you by bowing out when someone doesn’t agree with you. Yes, there are flaws in the Scout system. We shouldn’t actively support an organization that openly teaches discrimination and hate. But Eagle Scouts have a status that is admirable — many young boys dream of that honor no matter what their sexual orientation may be. So, if we can be actively inside of the barracks of the organization, we can at least be cheering for our youth on the outside. Because isn’t this organization really about… the youth? If you hand over your honor, aren’t you telling youth that you’re not willing to fight for them — you’re more willing to walk away from the whole issue and clear your name to have no part?
How about using your name, ranking and power to SPEAK UP?
What if gay (and straight alliance) Eagle Scouts made themselves even more public so gay youth interested in joining Scouts know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Clearly, no human should join in to a community and be forced to pretend to be something they’re not (which is what a gay person will have to do under this ruling if he chooses to join the Scouts), but some kids will — should we just let that be? I do understand that there may be internal struggles in the organization, but turning your back to something won’t change it. So, now we’re just going to tell gay people to not join in with the straights because it’s going to be difficult?
Hate is a powerful creature that stirs up anger, remorse, frustration, but it also unleashes random acts of heroism. These young boys need voices louder than their many small-minded Scoutmasters and the archaic beliefs of the organization. BE that voice instead of backing down and mumbling in frustration. We shouldn’t tell even questing gay boys that they shouldn’t join an organization because they are different, but instead prove that being different means you’ll try to succeed even harder to prove haters wrong. It’s an unfortunate unpleasant fact but a powerful life lesson.
Again, I’m not an Eagle Scout ( I did make it to 4-H’s highest honor! Go ahead, chuckle.), but I know this: my partner didn’t earn his Eagle Scout honor because he gave up when things got tough. He worked his ass off to prove that he is one of the few unique members of our society willing to invest and defend what he believes in. He is a fighter. That’s what Eagle Scouts are made to do — survive the harshest conditions… not only in the woods, but also in this wilderness we call the world. — Byron Flitsch