I asked Jay to write about his experiences in Scouting because I think it’s important to get to know and understand each other, that young men like Jay, a gay Scout, are not new to Scouting, they have always been there – Clarke
To all my fellow Scouters –
We are all engaged in a conversation about whether or not to keep a policy in place at the national level that keeps gay people from active service in Scouting, as either adults or Scouts.
I want to help you be an informed, active participant in deciding the future of our great organization.
Scouting is, in my belief, the best program for boys. The Boy Scouts of America has an unparalleled record in producing many great, talented leaders. It is my honest opinion that all youth, regardless of race, ethnicity, faith, ability, sexual orientation or other factors beyond their control be welcomed in Scouting.
I want to tell you the story of a hypothetical Scout, one like many of the Scouts you have known.
He’s a Scout in your troop, who has been an active and integral part of your troop since crossing over from Cub Scouts. He has been a Patrol Leader, Troop Guide and an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader.
He is currently a Life Scout at the age of 15 and has begun to work on his Eagle Scout leadership project. The Scoutmaster has come to rely on him and his abilities as a leader in the troop. He exemplifies the Scout Oath and Law.
He has quelled many arguments between the younger scouts and stepped up to assist during skills instruction for the lower ranks.
In your heart of hearts you know he deserves the honor of Eagle Scout.
In school he is doing well, admittedly he is not greatest student of all time but his tenacity and perseverance to learn make him a great student that will go far in life. He is also very active in his church, and attends the weekly youth group with several friends. He also helps out on Sunday during services.
During a Monday night meeting you learn that this Scout is gay. The other Scouts have known for quite some time and don’t seem to be bothered by this fact.
How do you proceed as a leader?
As leaders we need to think thoroughly and carefully about all our Scouts – and even more so when Scouts are in situations like our hypothetical Scout. There are some things that you need to know about life for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gendered) teens in America.
Estimates of the total LGBT student population vary from study to study. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) reports that five to six percent of American students are LGBT. A conservative estimate means there are 2.25 to 2.7 million school-age LGBT youth. 
A 2005 survey of school students by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that:
- 65% of teens have been verbally or physically harassed or assaulted during the past year because of their perceived or actual appearance, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, race/ethnicity, disability or religion.
- 33% of teens report that students in their school are frequently harassed because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation.
- 52% of teens frequently hear students make homophobic remarks. (Some studies have shown that LGBT students will hear on average 25 epithets a day at school)
- 51% of teens frequently hear students make sexist remarks.
- 69% of teens frequently hear students say, “That’s so gay” or “You’re so gay”; expressions where “gay” is meant to mean something bad or devalued.
- 90% of LGBT teens (vs. 62% of non-LGBT teens) have been verbally or physically harassed or assaulted during the past year because of their perceived or actual appearance, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, race/ethnicity, disability or religion.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.
Overall 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9-12) seriously considered suicide in the past year.
Scouting ought to be a safe haven. What a world of difference we could make for a Scout who comes out as gay if we open up our doors and arms to have him join in our brotherhood.
As a Scouter I have made a commitment to the Scouts and Scouters in my troop. I have committed to obeying the Scout Oath and Law at all times.
I can think of many reasons why gay Scouts should be welcome in Scouting. I can’t think of any legitimate reasons they should not.
I know personally how important it is to have a welcoming and open atmosphere in Scouting. I am gay and an Eagle Scout. I’ve used some of my experiences in Scouting to describe our hypothetical Scout.
I have been across the country on trips with my troop. I’m a brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow. I’ve served as a Patrol Leader, Troop Guide, Senior Patrol Leader, Junior Assistant Scoutmaster and now Assistant Scoutmaster. I’ve also completed Wood Badge, including my tickets (hello fellow Beaver patrol members!).
Scouting has been an integral part of my life since I joined in 2003 at the age of 13. I want scouting to always be a part of my life. It has given so much to me and I want nothing more than to give back.
I hid that I was gay deeply until I peeled away at the layers I built up over so many years. I was bullied in school for many years for being “different.” I learned that being anything other than normal was unacceptable.
Finally, I left scouting because I felt like I was not welcome; I had a lot of hard feelings over the policy. I felt I could not discuss my life like my friends could. I felt as if the very essence of my being was taboo.
Before I returned to Scouting the Scoutmaster and Charter Representative of my old troop told me they didn’t care if I was gay or not. They knew me for the person I was. They knew I had potential as a leader and wanted my help.
I am a better person for having come out. I am happier. I feel freer. I feel that I am truly living by the Scout Oath and Law by being honest and truthful. I’m also being loyal to my friends and not showing them something that is not myself.
I know first-hand that being gay is immaterial to being a good scout.
I know first-hand that leaders have a crucial role in providing an accepting, safe environment for boys to be who they are.
You may feel apprehensive if and when a Scout does come out as gay. Be free to ask questions and seek out other LGBT people or those who are allies to the LGBT community. There are many religious groups who are open and affirming of LGBT individuals, there are hundreds upon thousands of LGBT civic organizations such as the Trevor Project, Human Rights Campaign, Scouts for Equality and many, many more who are an open and willing source of support.
Yours in Scouting, Now and Always,
Jay – Assistant Scoutmaster, Eagle Scout, Proud gay man