In April 1991, I earned the rank of Eagle Scout. A best friend’s father spoke on my behalf at the award ceremony. I became one of the two to five percent of Boy Scouts to achieve this rank. It was the ultimate achievement in scouting and I imagined it would open doors for me, ensure my entrance into the Naval Academy, and pave a path to future successes. By becoming an Eagle Scout, I joined such noteworthy people as Steven Spielberg, Michael Moore, Gerald Ford, Bill Bradley, Michael Bloomberg, media personality Mike Rowe, biologist E. O. Wilson, associate Supreme court Justice Stephen Breyer, former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and numerous Congressmen, astronauts, and professional athletes who have achieved this rank since Arthur Rose Eldred was notified by letter on August 21, 1912, that he had the honor of being the first Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
Yet more than one decade since I learned about the BSA’s anti-gay policy—and more than 20 years since achieving the rank of Eagle Scout—I am more than ashamed that I did not take action sooner. Indeed, for the last two decades, I thought: “once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout.” No more.
I choose to return my Eagle Scout rank and renounce my affiliation with the Boy Scouts. I am returning all of my scouting materials to the BSA. I ask that the BSA organization stop sending me newsletters and other materials and remove my name from its database. Although the anti-gay policy has compelled my renunciation, there are other aspects of the BSA that trouble me as well. For years, I have not supported organizations such as the United Way because of its willingness to support the BSA. I have always felt uncomfortable with the organization’s militaristic beginnings, as well as the bastardization of Indian cultures through both the BSA and its Order of the Arrow program of which I was a part. To this day, scouts are still taught about “Indian lore” (“playing Indian,” as historian Philip Deloria put it) and recite meaningless so-called Indian phrases during camping trips.
Now I sever all ties to the BSA.
On June 28, 1969, police raided a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. Patrons and a growing crowd fought back what had for years been routine repression. What ensued was a five day riot that signaled a resistance to oppression and burgeoning liberation struggle for gay and lesbian rights.
Indeed, in life, as in scouting, timing is everything. My actions are inspired by this history and come on the heels not only of activism within and around the BSA by people opposed to BSA’s anti-gay policy but also the efforts of other likeminded Eagle Scouts who have surrendered their rank in protest. The combined efforts of all Eagle Scouts in particular and anyone ever involved in general with the Boy Scouts can take such an important and meaningful step by urging the BSA to drop its ban on gay leaders and troops.
My actions also respond to the court order in June 2012 that the BSA release nearly 20,000 pages of the organization’s “perversion files,” confidential records documenting suspected and confirmed cases of sexual abuse and violence within the group, as well as what the BSA did about those cases. I have always stated that children in scouting have more to be concerned with because of the “straight” national and local Boy Scout leadership that has been party to charges of child pornography, child exploitation, internet sex-crime, assault and battery, and molestation, than from any gay person. The bottom line: a simple Google search provides all of the information a person needs to determine that there is more to fear from heterosexual scouts and troop leaders than any gay or lesbian leader or troop.
A number of noted biographers of Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, have shown a large amount of evidence that suggests that Powell was gay or bi-sexual—at the least a repressed homosexual. That history works to complicate the BSA’s claims regarding its founding and policies.
My actions are an effort to stand in solidarity with Jennifer Tyrrell, the lesbian mom from Ohio who was removed from her position as “den leader” of her seven-year-old son’s Cub Scout pack after the BSA learned she is gay. I support the initiative and courage of James Dale, the assistant Scoutmaster from New Jersey whose 2000 case against the BSA made it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, where the justices narrowly decided against his efforts to be readmitted to his position and therefore reversed a decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court. For the countless other people who have been expelled or banned from participating in the Boy Scouts, I take this stand.
Read more: Homophobia, “Perversion Files,” and Why I Chose to Renounce My Eagle Scout Rank