Big Gay Al on the Boy Scouts and Homosexuality – UPDATES

“Look, I appreciate what you kids did. I really do. But this isn’t what I wanted. I’m proud to be gay. And I’m proud to be in a country where I’m free to express myself. But freedom is a two-way street. If I’m free to express myself, then the scouts have to be free to express themselves too. I know these [scout leaders]. They are good men. They are kind men. They do what they think is best for the kids. No matter how wrong we think they might be, it isn’t right for us to force them to think our way. It’s up to us to persuade and help them see the light, not extort them to? I will continue to persuade them to change their minds, but this is the wrong way to do it. So, I am hereby dropping my case and allowing the scouts their right to not allow gays into their private club.”

South Park, Season 3, Episode 5

Big Gay Al is wiser and more liberal-minded than most.

When my kids were in scouting they grew up and established long friendships with scouts who were gay. It was never an issue, for the kids or the leaders. In fact, when the subject came up ten years ago or so, I recall a scoutmaster spelling it out pretty plainly: regarding gay scouts, it mattered not at all, and as long as a leader was there for the troop and to be a scouter, and not just to advance a political agenda, who cared? That’s the BSA we have known and have supported for many years.

Increasingly, it seems to me that understanding, acceptance and peaceable, respectful human relations must be built by meeting people one-on-one — not by identifying them as a part of a “group” other than the one you belong to, and immediately turning on the hate — but actually getting to know the people behind an organization, because every organization, every church, every corporation, every trade union, every fraternal group (even the “private” ones, be they the Boy Scouts or the Augusta National Golf Club) is made up of people. And once you get to know people, you can suddenly see the human being behind the policy and then — oh, well look at that…we just have different outlooks. Let’s dare to say, “so what”?

There was a story earlier this week about Sir Elton John and his friendship with Rush Limbaugh. It’s a friendship that would seem incongruous on its face, but the two men have met each other as human beings — not as representatives of a suspect-and-fearsome “other.” They both take a measure of heat from their “clubs” for publicly acknowledging their friendship. They both say, “so what?”

In her column this week, Elizabeth Duffy writes about the Grounding Power of Grace, and she makes a sound point:

“. . . the ego is the enemy of human relationships. It allows us to build imaginary castles around ourselves, to define our own realities, to carry on relationships behind a veil where any time the demands of others become too much to bear, we can retract ourselves, unplug, and return to the privacy and independence we hold so dear.

Only grace allows us each to extend a hand towards the other.”

It’s so easy to be angry — it’s the cheapest and easiest thing to do; like hate, it requires nothing much of us, and gives us even less. It’s more difficult to extend a hand to someone else and say, “I see you; you see me; we are not bad people, we just disagree.”

That takes grace.

The brilliance of our constitution is that, in explicitely naming a freedom of association, it says no one can become the prisoner of someone else’s insistence. No one needs to be (as Big Gay Al says) “extorted” into thinking “correctly.” If a group chooses to limit its membership, well, the excluded members are still completely free to create their own associations and assemblies. Thus, the founders provided for the nation to find a way for people to be both together as a nation, and apart as individuals; together to one degree, but still “alone” to another.

It’s sort of the right to choose your friends, or — if you prefer — the shared right to discriminate.

If people are unhappy with the BSA, why not start another organization and call it the “BSA: Better Scouting Association”; let it live or die on its merits, and let the BSA live or die on its own. That seems reasonable to me. When did “community” start to mean “we all must be together, all the time?” That sounds unhealthy and suffocating, to me. There’s something to be said for going Groucho and saying “I refuse to belong to any club that will have me as a member”.

“. . . let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Gibran, The Prophet

It is nothing but a polite fiction to suggest that human beings do not sometimes crave to be with people who have similar interests, inclinations and outlooks. Even families cannot constantly be together and in each other’s faces; they must have time apart. It’s not an awful thing, in and of itself. When I was a little girl my brother built a fort. I wasn’t allowed in. Instead of running to my mother demanding that she “make him” let me into his crummy fort, I made my own.

It gave me…fortitude. :-)

UPDATE: Okay, either people are NOT reading this post all the way through (in which case they won’t read this either) or they’re so busy being emotional while reading it that they’re missing a very large point I am making here, which is that the constitutional right to freedom of association is a good thing. Stop hyperventilating, folks. It’s not possible that I am both “homophobe” and “fag hag.” I’m neither.

UPDATE II: How to NOT make friends and influence people

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • MG

    Great post. It does start with allowing each other to be people, not official representatives of “the other side”. And yet, we seem to have two basic “sides” today, one embracing a live-and-let-live philosophy honoring individual dignity…and another insisting on conformity and obeisance to the collective. I worry about what options are left when live-and-let-live is cornered (so to speak) by those who refuse to accept differences, distinctions and do not grasp the concept of the dignity of each individual person. As Morgan Earp said in Tombstone, “they’re bugs Wyatt. There ain’t no live-and-let-live with bugs!” Let’s pray for more of us adopting the spirit of your post.

  • Bro AJK

    Dear Elizabeth,

    As an Eagle Scout, I mourn that the BSA is taking a beating for their stance, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court nearly 11 years ago. I pay to join the BSA. I pay because I agree with their values. What some people are forgetting are that:
    1) Membership is voluntary, just like going to Chik-Fil-A for lunch;
    2) The BSA’s policies have come from the 1980s when the organization was accosted with lawsuits regarding pedophiles in its ranks (acknowledging that the cases were homosexual in nature, not that all those with homosexual tendencies are pedophiles-can’t people get that straight!);
    3) The BSA since then has seen active homosexual leaders as a hindrance to its mission of developing boys into men who are morally straight. It doesn’t always work, but that is the decision; and
    4) The BSA is not going to ask if a member has homosexual tendencies-it expects him/her to have the restraint and character not to make that public, act on them, or both.

    Once again, you can put words to my emotions. Thank you very much.

  • dry valleys

    You hear a lot about the likes of Limbaugh, and many others who express homophobic sentiment in public, being tolerant towards LGBT people in private. It belies what they go onto the airwaves and say. Perhaps this is because they don’t genuinely believe their own words, but just bellow them out because they’re talented entertainers and businessmen who’ve figured out a way to make money by exploiting people’s sentiments?

    The same goes for many/most of the “values”- upholding politicians, in fact, not just those whose own lives show their own hypocrisy but those who in their heart of hearts don’t believe a word of their own claims.

    [I don't much listen to Limbaugh, so I cannot say if he genuinely says things that denigrate homosexuals or if he has simply been painted that way. I mean, I get called "homophobic" all the time, which is enormously amusing to my gay family members (I also get called the opposite, so there you go). I somehow doubt that he is "homophobic" (such a stupid and inaccurate) word, but that he simply has a different point of view, and that Sir Elton is man enough to know that people can disagree and still be decent people. -admin]

  • mike

    Would you say the same if they excluded based on race? I doubt it. Let’s be honest, this is not a principled stance for freedom of association, it’s religious special pleading

  • Steve 1950

    I’m tired of gay. I’m tired of hearing about it. I’m tired of all the noise it makes. Gay, gay, gay; women this, women that; gay, gay gay. Tired of it all. Gonna sit with on the front porch with my border collie and tune out.

  • Steve 1950

    Also, race race race. Racist this, racist that, race and more race. Tired of that too. All of you, just shut up.

  • George @ Convert Journal

    I could not disagree with you more. The scouts form young men. Unchallenged, openly homosexual leaders and scouts damage that moral formation. The scouts take no issue with those who privately suffer from same sex attraction, but with the scandal of those who openly present themselves as normal and moral in a homosexual lifestyle. They are not and it is not.

  • Noe

    The words of an abbot to Fr. Longenecker about “greater versus lesser good” might be a way of reaching liberal minds on these kinds of things – that is not AT ALL to say allowing them in the BSA would be a “good” of any kind – but a way of putting a mode of thought in liberals minds that has them asking WHY GOOD minded people might not find them in the BSA to be a GOOD idea. Speaking in positives over negatives. In this interior role-play, lacking access to the minds of non-liberal opponents (might be better to actually leave it to their imaginations, lest our fears and assumptions speak more than our knowledge) – Liberals would be forced to use the data they have in their own minds – and admit at least to some degree the non-role-model lifestyles of the significant number of gys they know and remember coming up, as well as the things accepted as within “normative” for these communities, though not necessarily widespread. However, I’m sorry that South Park will only reach…the kinds of people it will reach.

  • Roz Smith

    How would the so called GLBTG community react if evangelical Christians insisted they had a right to membership and participation in all of the GLBTG community’s organizations and activities in the name of inclusion? Since GLBTG individuals probably account for less than 3 percent if the population with activists being only a fraction of that small minority their organization could easily be swamped. At which time I suspect GLBTG activists would rapidly rediscover the joys of the freedom of association.

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    The Scouts should NOT be sexualized in any way. The same goes for Girl Scouts, public schools and all other organizations and institutions (including families) in which children are nurtured and educated. It is precisely the sexualization (in the guise of “education”) of childhood experiences that robs children of their innocence, and renders them jaded, anxious, rebellious, confused, and even fearful — about adulthood. They are encouraged and stimulated to think about and imagine and engage in sexual activities, even to the point of deciding which ones they prefer, and what that might mean about their sexual identity or even whether their bodies conform to their imaginations. The emphasis on sex in their everyday lives while they are still in formation can plant seeds of wild expectation or discontent or utter confusion, and can easily blur the line between childhood and adulthood — the consequences of which we are currently dealing with in our society. We aging Boomers might ask ourselves how we would have responded back at the age of 10 or 12, to the question of whether we would prefer having sex with a woman or with a man? Quite likely we would have been overwhelmed and frightened and confused — yet this is what our society is doing to our children now.

  • doc

    I’m puzzled at the notion that gay scouts (to say nothing of gay scout leaders) are perfectly fine. Feel free to disregard the scout commitment to be morally straight, but why does anyone think it’s harmless to have teenage boys on overnight campouts with the objects of their sexual desires?

    [what does "morally straight" mean to you? It doesn't mean "not gay." -admin]

  • Liz

    Fabulous post! Seems we’ve forgotten how to live and let live.

    Re: “Would you say the same if they excluded based on race? ”
    You mean like the Congressional Black Caucus, the Asian American Journalists Association, the Hispanic Business Association, etc.? Should we also bar single-sex organizations like N.O.W. and the Girls Scouts?

  • daisy

    The church has paid over a billion dollars because of the ped scandals. Penn State and all the restaurants, hotels, gift shops are going to lose millions becuase of tolerating Sandusky. One of these days the rumors about the swimming, softball and girl’s basketball are going to break wide open. The BSA is being very wise.

  • John

    I speak her as a fatehr of three boys, two of whom are Eagle Scouts and one in the ranks. There are situations that regularly arise in scouting where i would not want to put my sons or other peoples boys.
    1) Camping trips. Boys share tents with boys. As an adult leader , I am not allowed in a boys tent ever, under any circumstances. Boys will be two to a tent for a week at a time. Would I be comfortable putting my son in a tent with somebody who is perhaps sexually attracted to him? Maybe, maybe not, depends. Would I put somebody else’s son, for who I am responsable, in that situation? Flat out NO WAY. Would I be comfortable putting two boys in a tent who are potentially attracted to each other? Not any more than I would put one male and one female teenager in the smae tent. That would be asking for trouble.
    2) Scout camp- boys showers are communal, not individual stalls. Again, would I put someone elses child, for who I am resposible, in that shower with a gay 17 year old? No more than I would send a 13 year old girl in to shower with a 17 year old boy.
    3) As to the ban on gay leaders, this I am less comfortable with. When the history of sex abuse by scout leaders is looked at, and it has occured, and probably will occur again, the most probable targets are not the 11 year olds. It is the 14 and 15 year old boys who wind up the target of abuse. This looks more like it has a homosexual component to it then just pedophilia. Given this history, I understand where this ban has come from. It is unfortunate, but given the history, it looks like the bad apples have spoiled it for the good.

    [I have two Eagle Scouts, myself. I'm NOT saying the BSA should allow gay members. I'm saying gays should start their own group and let whoever wants to join, join. I'm saying freedom of association is a good thing. Did you actually read the piece? --admin]

  • Andrew

    I must be honest that I don’t understand the point of this article. The article seems to be defending and attacking the BSA at the same time. “I love the BSA but I love gay people too.” You have to know the person, not the group, hug the world, kumbaya… what a bunch of nonsense. The BSA doesn’t hate gay people individually or as a group. What it hates is immoral, or more to the point, destructive behavior. Homosexual behavior is no different than say drug addiction. I’ve known lots of gay people too, and while I may be friends with them personally and may love and care about them, I feel truly sorry for them and abhor their homosexual behavior. I would not promote their behavior any more than I would a drug addicts. Our society is truly diseased when we promote the spread of mental illnesses. Let’s dress little boys up in dresses and put them in the girl scouts. Let’s encourage them to have barbaric sex change operations. This is rationale behavior? Call it hate or anything you like to make yourself feel better, but I personally want nothing to do with thinking like this. I regard it as no different than some pervert trying to molest my child. Anybody who tries to come near me, my family, or the BSA that I send my boys to, with this type of nonsense will be met with a vicious response.

    [The POINT is the right to free association, which I support. It's not that difficult, I don't think, but people tend to read while emoting, these days. -admin]

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  • Lisa

    I have two children, a son and a daughter.

    My daughter was a Daisy and a Brownie in the Girl Scouts…until they decided that a political agenda was more important than teaching teamwork, friendship, creativity, etc. I could see no reason why a 9 yr old needed to have adult subjects such as reproductive issues and transgender rights explained to her. She still sleeps with a teddy bear, for crying out loud! Her troop disbanded over a general parental dissatisfaction with the direction of Girl Scouts of America over a year ago. It is a shame. My daughter loved the special “girly” time with her friends.

    My son, is now entering Webelos. I attended a leaders bbq last weekend where all the parents agreed on one main principle: Leave our little boys to be little boys. Let them grow and mature on their own without pushing socio-political agendas at them. They are 8 YEAR OLDS. They want to go camping. They want to hike. They want to climb on rocks, get dirty and bathe as little as possible. They still think girls have cooties and they really don’t want to hear about the rest of it.

    Our children need to be allowed to be children. You are absolutely correct about freedom of association. While I am certain the time will come for me to talk to my children about sexuality, I do not think it needs to be done in a group setting such as BSA or GSA. Private organizations have a right to admit or deny on their own. And if you choose to join, it is your responsibility to respect their rules and beliefs. Period.

    I’m very glad I found you on twitter recently. I am really enjoying your articles. Well done.

  • t-bird

    Yes, they’re free to make their own Gay Scouts of America, as well as churches, schools, and mosques, but are you suggesting activists dismantle a grievance industry? Horrors!

  • Mary

    I cannot stand it when someone accuses me or anyone else of being “homophobic” because we believe that homosexual behavior is immoral. The last I heard, God told us that it is! Since I believe in what God has to say about something this does not make me homophobic.

    Why is there also this need by gay activists to preface a comment with, “I’m gay and I’m proud”? With all the talk by gay activists about being treated equally they are certainly not demonstrating a desire for equality when they preface a comment with an expression of pride over their sexual orientation. How convoluted is this?

    The BSA has every right to take a moral position. Frankly, I’m tired of all the homosexual activists demanding “their rights” without permitting others their own rights. How hypocritical!

  • JohnAGJ

    It “was never an issue”, Ms. Scalia, because most Scouts are not gay and those who are are forced to remain closeted. It is rather easy for those with no experience in being gay to make such a claim because they are part of the overwhelming majority which this culture caters to – yes, even in these days when gays supposedly are out for “special rights”. Essentially what you seem to be asking for is a DADT policy that works great for those not affected by it, but not so much for those who are. It’s still discrimination no matter how you dress it up. I’m also not surprised to find the usual offensive and ignorant comments linking homosexuality and pedophilia here (not from you, Ms. Scalia). Apparently some folks here have yet to learn the lesson they are complaining “liberals” and those who disagree with them supposedly haven’t.

    Having said all this, I would agree with you that BSA has every right to set their membership policies as a private organization. Hence why I supported their case at SCOTUS over a decade ago no matter how much I personally disagree with them. They are entitled to their right to freedom of association under the Constitution just like every other group is. What they are not entitled to, nor is ANY group, is public funding. On that I suspect we would disagree because I oppose any public dollars, either directly or indirectly, going to BSA because of its discriminatory policy excluding gays. Of course, in fairness I’m not in a very giving mood right now for just about EVERY special interest group – regardless of what they stand for or what their pet issue is – when it comes to public dollars. Trillion dollar deficits and insanity by government on spending tend to make me somewhat stingy when it comes to tax dollars I guess.

    One more thing: your article and some comments here fall into the same trap I see time and time again in assuming that those who oppose the BSA’s exclusionary policy and/or support gay rights are ipso facto “liberals”. Wrong. While it is undeniable that gay rights has become a staple of the liberal movement, there are many conservatives, moderates, libertarians, etc. who likewise do not follow the social con party line on this and never will. If the culture wars are still hot, it isn’t just because of the liberals but the social cons seeking to turn back the clock when it comes to gays and on other matters. I staunchly oppose their efforts just as much as I do the liberal dunces who seek a socialist utopia.

    I’ll be honest and admit that I have no clue how we resolve all of this. Some of the answers I’ve seen from liberals and social cons are simply not acceptable. I have no wish to see gays discriminated against nor do I want to see folks of certain religious bents treated poorly as well. A rigorous enforcement of the First & Fourteenth Amendments would seem to be in order IMO, although we probably don’t agree exactly on how those should be applied. Perhaps this is something that will just have to work itself out and be settled by the next generation.

    [I appreciate your measured comment, but I do think that you are short-changing the boys and men we know in scouting. They were not tolerant b/c of closets, but because their commitment was to scouting and to each other. It goes, again, to what I was saying about actually knowing people instead of thinking in terms of ID groups -admin]

  • Skay

    “You hear a lot about the likes of Limbaugh, and many others who express homophobic sentiment in public, being tolerant towards LGBT people in private.”

    Have you ever listened to Rush’s show–or are you repeating what others have told you? Many things are said about him that have no basis in fact. He may not believe in gay marriage or like what some of the gay activists are doing–but that does not make one homophobic.

    I have a close family member whom I love very much and this family member is gay. Our relationship is such that we are there for each other whenever the occasion arrises and enjoy each others company. Homosexuality and heterosexuality never comes up. We have other things to talk about. That does not mean that I agree with gay marriage or a lot of what the gay activists are doing. If you think I am homophobic than I would just say that you don’t know what you are talking about.

    Sadly the Girl Scouts now have an association with Planned Parenthood. It is not the same group that I grew up in or was a leader in while my girls were Brownies and Girl Scouts.
    My daughter found that out when she started a pre-Brownie troop.
    I think there is now a compeating group that many are joining–as you suggested, anchoress,that could be done for those who are not happy with the Boy Scout rules. I personally understand the Boy Scout reasoning–considering all that has happened in recent years–including within the Church. I have two wonderful grandsons–and I will just stop there.