Many, many years ago in the town I was then living and working in, an assistant scoutmaster murdered his two children, apparently as a part of an ongoing bitter dispute with his ex-wife. He also attempted, at least half-heartedly, to take his own life.
The point of bringing up this sad, gruesome story is to illustrate that any organization, particularly ones dependent on volunteers, occasionally end up with the really screwy in positions of authority. Boy Scouts of America, this means you. This guy slipped in. I’m also quite sure he wasn’t the first scoutmaster ever to commit an uspeakable crime, and I’m aware that other leaders have betrayed the trust that parents, children, and the organization have put in them.
Any organization that serves children has a sacred obligation to keep them safe. Why the Boy Scout organization seems to think that they are serving this purpose by ejecting a chapter that has chosen to keep an openly gay scoutmaster is completely beyond me. It further disgusts me that many people seem to think that this policy serves to keep young boys away from sexual predators. Background checks and a better reporting structure would go a far longer way in achieving that goal.
I read through many, many comments on the news story on Yahoo, and in addition to outright bigotry and a few sensible folks who pointed out that out gay men are fairly unlikely to be closet pedophiles, there were a whole bunch of people, some of them clearly fairly well-meaning, who were just plain confused on the subject. Where are all these gay people coming from, why are they infiltrating American society, and why would gay men want to be Boy Scout leaders unless they had some hidden agenda?
Estimates of how many gay people there are range roughly from 1% to 10% of the population. The number I’m personally most comfortable with is 4%-6%. Even the lowest estimates are a heck of a lot of gay people. And we’ve always been here. We just used to be invisible.
It used to be possible for most people to pretend that they didn’t know any gay people. That they didn’t occupy every segment of society. We were there, you just couldn’t see us.
I can’t speak for the motivations of individual gay men who wish to be scout leaders, but I doubt a secret gay agenda is part of it. And I’m pretty sure they’re not recruiting either. More gay people are born every day.
If I had to guess why a gay man would would want to mentor children, I would guess that it’s about being a role model. Or sharing something they enjoyed as a child. Or participating fully in a larger society, and not being shut out because they just happen to be gay.
And probably sometimes being a role model for more than one way of being a man. Because here’s another secret. There are gay kids in those Boy Scout troops. If you have a troop of 20, using the lowest estimate, there’s a one in five chance that there is a kid in that troop who either already knows he’s gay or will grow up to be a gay adult. If you use the highest estimate, it’s an average of two kids per troop. This isn’t to suggest that straight men can’t be effective role models for gay boys, but I think it is hurtful for there never to be any gay ones. Especially if the reason that there are no gay ones is that they are marginalized and unwelcome.