A number of the families in my second son’s class have formed a Jewish Cub Scout troop, as a way to have organized father-son activities, and as a way to get the boys to channel their energies into something productive and, in many cases, “mitzvahdik” (earning chesed badges, etc.). Not sure why they needed to make it officially BSA (Boy Scouts of America), but they did.
Asher came home with the flyer, and informed us that his 2 best friends were doing this, and he wanted to do this with his Abba too.
Josh and I just looked at each other with that parental “I guess we have to have THIS conversation now” look.
BSA has been in the press in recent years for its refusal to include gay men in their leadership, and going so far as to expel “out” BSA members who publicly admit to being gay. I’m sure I could link to any number of articles about this in order to show I am not making this up, but you all know how to use Google. And as this is a personal post, not an academic or professional journal, I am not taking the time to find the links for you at this moment. I’ll link to some articles when I have time.
I can’t imagine what occurs when a child, hoping for a safe environment, tries to confide in a troop leader, but I’m hoping the adults who lead individual troops have compassion and understanding for boys who are trying to make sense of themselves.
As the BSA is a private, religious organization, we believe they have the right to set their own rules. Even if we think those rules are wrong on some very deep levels. However, we do not have to support them. And so this is what we explained to Asher. He is old enough to grasp this. Our belief is that the BSA is discriminatory in the same way that blacks and Jews have been discriminated against. Biblical arguments, moral arguments, all have been used in history to justify discrimination of blacks and Jews, and now gay people. We believe this is fundamentally wrong, and by allowing our son (and my husband) to participate in, and pay dues to, the BSA, we are saying “we’ll look the other way.” There were many people in history that stood up for Jews and for blacks, and now it is our turn to stand up for those we feel are being wronged.
We explained this to him, and we had a really meaningful family discussion about this, and bigotry in general. We have always taken our kids out of school on a special day in May, when a rally is held every year in our state capitol, in order to lobby for GLBT advocacy. So this topic, and our feelings about it, is not a new one. But connecting it with not participating in this activity was a big step, and one that we are proud our son has embraced. He is disappointed, for sure. But he really “got it”. I’ll be interested to see how he explains this to his friends on Wednesday when he returns to school, and I’ll be interested in their reactions.
I am sad that we had to have this conversation with him. I am sad there is so much hatred and bigotry in the world. I am sad that he is unable to reap the benefits of belonging to a boys-only “troop” and having that sense of camaraderie and responsibility that I know is a hallmark of the BSA. I’m sure we’ll find other outlets, I’m sure my husband and my sons will get their father-son time in. But I’m still sad. And I ache for the boys and young men who are gay, who may be struggling and suffering, who do not have strong, responsible role models to whom they can turn for guidance, comfort and understanding.