It's so encouraging to hear stories like this! Thanks to Sean's #bravery, the Boy Scouts of America continues to inch closer towards equality. Are you willing to share your story, too? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My name is Sean, and in light of this past Saturday being National Coming Out Day, I would like to share my coming out story within the Boy Scouts of America, specifically with an individual very close to me named Tom.*Scouting has always been a hugely important part of Tom’s life. In addition to being an ordained minister, he is an Eagle Scout, the son of an Eagle, the father of another, a Vigil member of the OA, and has many more Scouting accolades than he lets on. However, he is (was) very homophobic. For years as a youth, and now as an adult, we've disagreed strongly about the BSA's policies regarding gays in Scouting. About a year ago (before he knew I was gay) he made a comment to me...the irony of which almost crushed me. "Sean, I respect you as a leader, so we can agree to disagree, but I just don't think gays are capable of being good leaders or are safe to be around children." Now, at this point, I had already come out to another anti-gay Scouter and close friend, John. In addition to being my friend, he regards me as one of the best OA ceremonialists he's seen, one of the strongest leaders he's met, and one of the most loyal Scouters to the program. Upon learning about my sexual orientation, John broke down and said “Sean...realizing that this membership rule kicks out people like you, and two of my other friends...I can't support that policy. We need people like you around.” My coming out to him had completely changed his perspective.
Given my previous conversation with John, and after deep reflection, I summoned the courage to confront Tom, my other long-time friend mentioned earlier. So, after speaking to my boyfriend (also an Eagle), and two other friends...we decided we would come out to him together to show him who the BSA’s discrimination was affecting. We started a group message on Facebook, and began debating the policy. One by one, all three of us said to him, “We're gay. We don't want to hit on children, and we don't want sexuality to be a part of Scouting, because we are here to teach about first aid, emergency preparedness...how to build fires and sharpen axes. Ropes and knots, and how to be an upstanding citizen.” He went silent for a moment, and then told us he had been crying during this silence. Why? He finally realized that we had all willingly put a great personal strain on our relationships with our significant others so we could remain a part of Scouting. He understood our arguments were not because of our sexuality, but rather because we want to pass on the skills that we were taught by the previous generation, skills that many youth today don't have. And, while he remains morally opposed to homosexuality, he stands behind an inclusive, conduct-based membership policy, and that we should all be allowed to openly participate in order to ensure that the next generation strives to be better leaders than ourselves.
*names changed to protect identities
Author: Rob Vaines