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Author: Vic Leon-Cutler | Date: 17th August 2017
I'm Nathanael, most people call me Nat, some Nate, but I also respond to 'oi' regularly.
I am transgender and bisexual.
So why did I join FLAGS?
I joined FLAGS the moment I turned 18 and it wasn't just because some of my best friends were part of the Unit. Everything the Unit exists for, the values they hold and the aims they have was what I felt Scouting should be or at least aim to be, and so why wouldn't I put my name down for it?!
I have been in Scouting for nearly 10 years now and in that time I, with the help and support of my peers and leaders, began to discover my own sexuality and later, my gender identity. The differing experience I had between adult leaders was shocking, some would be so affirming and supportive, but as a young person I experienced both homophobia and transphobia within Scouting. This experience was damaging but it has motivated me to do something about it. I know just how valuable adult training is and through the support of FLAGS I gained the confidence to apply for and be appointed as ACC Inclusion and Diversity in my local area. In this role I plan to manage a county ASU dedicated to supporting and advising on matters of I&D as well as looking to improve adult training in this area.
Outside of Scouting I am training for Church Ministry and studying theology, this is a very different ball game! FLAGS have embraced my Christian faith and I regularly have conversations with other members about how my gender identity and faith interact and how I can be both trans and Christian. If you're interested in how this works for me you can check out my blog at https://transformingtheologynate.wordpress.com/ or follow me on twitter at @trans_anglican.
FLAGS have helped me navigate my way through the Scouting world and given me the confidence required to use my own experiences to improve the organisation on both a local and national level. But also, outside of Scouting, FLAGS have supported me to pursue the passion I have for theology and the Church - something I didn't expect when I signed up.
Author: Vic Leon-Cutler | Date: 11th July 2017
I have just had the most amazing weekend with a bunch of beautiful people.
I was attending Gilwell 24 with my ESU, but in the end it was only my daughter who could go and then last week she discovered that she could attend Pride which left me at Gilwell all alone. I wondered if FLAGS were going to be a bit short handed in the Rainbow Café so I offered to help out. My offer was accepted so at 08.30 Saturday morning I joined in with the prep for the day and that is where I stayed pretty much all day until about 00.30 on Sunday morning. Bearing in mind I hadn't actually met any of these folks before Saturday I really was made so very welcome and felt at ease straight away so thank you all for being so lovely. The cafe was busy all day; it was great to meet so many Explorers buying mocktails as well as some of the Leaders but the best part of it was spending the day with the FLAGS folks, you all made it so much fun and I am really looking forward to doing it again at the next G24.
Author: Vic Leon-Cutler | Date: 10th July 2017
I attended Gilwell 24 on the weekend for my first ever time and it’s safe to say that I’ll be there next year.
The activities offered are amazing and the atmosphere is insane but there’s another reason as to why Giwell 24 shall be seeing my face again next year, and it’s because of the people I met. I went to the FLAGS Scout Active Support Unit's Rainbow Café just to see what was going on and because it seemed like a really chilled out, fun place to be.
However, in no way did I think that over 11 hours later I would still be there, dancing non-stop to some cheesy (but great) tunes… but I was. I believe I now know all the words to the YMCA after dancing to it 5 times. The staff who were at the Rainbow Café were always up for a laugh and really made that place as special as it was. If being there 11 hours later wasn’t a big enough shock for me then the realisation that I came to definitely was. Dancing non-stop and being surrounded by people just like me gave me the opportunity to be my true self. 100% me. A chance I don’t get in normal day-to-day life. I had a chance where I could let loose and be free and it was this chance that led me to the realisation of my sexuality.
We live in a heteronormative society where it is assumed that boys will be with girls and girls will be with boys but as we all know, it isn’t like that. Yes, some people are straight but some people are gay or bisexual or pansexual… the list goes on. Being surrounded by mostly accepting people in day-to-day life I thought that I was being myself… but I wasn’t. Yes, I am able to be the guy that I know I am as everyone had accepted me as transgender but being focused on my gender identity, I had not taken any notice into who I was attracted to and the rainbow café gave me chance to focus on that. I didn’t have to constantly worry about passing as male and I didn’t have to constantly worry in case my voice was slightly too high because I was in a safe environment.
“I’m gay! Wow, wait, what?" Yes, that thought popped into my head multiple times whilst dancing non-stop but as it was such a shock I tried to push it away, I tried not to focus on it and I tried not to think about it but you cannot push away who you are. You can’t be someone else and you can’t change who you are. If you can’t change it, embrace it. Eventually I left the Rainbow Café to head to the closing ceremony for Gilwell 24 and then the event was over but Gilwell 24 2017 will always be a special memory to me because meeting everyone at the rainbow café and talking about what it’s like being an LGBTQIA+ young person in today’s society enabled me to accept myself as gay. I now can’t imagine how my life would be if I hadn’t met FLAGS at Gilwell 24. After less than 72 hours my life has been changed for the better and I am not confused at all. My identity has never seemed clearer than now and it’s all down to FLAGS and the support they’ve given me.
I released a coming out video on my Youtube channel the morning after Gilwell 24 and did not expect as big of a response as it got. I was so worried about not being understood and not being accepted but everyone has been the complete opposite and the support received has made me speechless for once in my life.
Thank you FLAGS, keep up the amazing work and I can’t wait to join you in 2 years. Until then #KeepDancing !
Author: Rob Sharratt | Date: 7th July 2017
Pride in London 2017 - Less that 24 Hours to Go!
So here we go, with less than 24 hours, the project team are counting the minutes until we meet everyone for the Morning Meeting at The University of Westminster.
We are really pleased to announce that we have 10 Young People joining us and over 100 Adult members from across the country.
Don't forget to bring your sun lotion and lots of water as it's predicted to be a hot one!
See you at the event,
FLAGS and Pride in London Project Team
Author: Rob Sharratt | Date: 7th July 2017
Gilwell 24 is Here!
The FLAGS Team are now checked into Gilwell Park and are setting up ready for Gilwell 24 2017!
The cafe is starting to come together nicely and we'll be ready for a start at 9am on Saturday morning.
We hope to see as many of you as possible at our Rainbow Mocktail bar where you can have a Berry Bliss or a Dark Invader, or buy some FLAGS merchandise.
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 2nd August 2015
By Ian from 3rd Hove
“On Saturday 1st August, if you were in Brighton, you couldn't help notice something was afoot. Thousands of people had gathered to take part in, watch and support the 25th LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) Pride parade and festival.
19 adult members of the Scout Association from the Southeast and further afield, including District and County Commissioners, beaver, cub, scout and explorer leaders, and members of FLAGS (Fellowship of Lesbian and Gay Scouts) gathered at an ungodly hour of the morning to prepare for the festivities ahead.
The diversity message we carried was scouts are a diverse bunch and welcome LGBT members and leaders. This was given added poignancy by the announcement, with provisos, by the Boy Scouts of America, that adult leaders who identify as LGBT will be allowed to carry on their work or join the organisation (led by Eagle Scouts - their equivalent of Queen Scouts - who found that they couldn't continue as adult members and gain leadership roles if they identified as LGBT - and were effectively "fired" at 18 years-old).
25 years after Brighton's first Pride march, the political message may have waned somewhat, but the re-routing of the march away from a perceived bomb threat, and seeing the Royal Ordnance Corps Bomb Disposal Unit going in the opposite direction to the parade at the start to explode a suspect package, reminds me that there are people who are so violently opposed to the various messages of LGBT Pride, that they might consider it a target, along with the public thronging the streets.
Along with help from a very friendly drag queen, whose unexpected help in rabble-rousing was unparalleled, the 19-strong contingent had a strong reception from the crowds along the 2 mile route. Present and former scouts were in evidence, and many said hello. We were upstaged by a troupe of acrobats in monkey costumes that we had the good or bad fortune to be next to - but I suppose that is par for the course.
Why take part in a parade like Pride as scouts? What does this achieve? Well, it shows the world that we are here and we support the values of acceptance and tolerance that Pride stands for. It shows that there are LGBT or LGBT-friendly (I must say I didn't enquire of everyone!) members of the organisation who don't mind showing their faces at an event like Pride. I suppose for people like me and some others present, it is because I was a gay youth member, and found great comfort from newspaper and TV reports of positive role models growing up (I think the Independent and Channel 4 were particularly good when I grew up). I would like to think that all 19 marchers/paraders were good role models that day.
More "Oggy oggy oggies" than I can remember, with audience participation, slight sunburn, a hoarse voice and one of those frozen grins that you get when you pose for too many wedding photographs, were my abiding memories of a very interesting and enjoyable day.”
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 12th July 2015
By Scott Ideson
It’s currently past one in the morning, and I’m sat in a bustling marquee in a field within walking distance of the M25 listening to the dulcet tones of L.M.F.A.O playing in the distance. I’ve been awake about 18 hours, and have at least seven hours until activities end. I’m at Gilwell24, of course!
There are over 4000 Explorers on site at Gilwell Park today taking part in the yearly action-packed fun-filled 24 hour extravaganza that is Gilwell24. Today activities included DJing sessions on a red double decker bus courtesy of Volvo, kiteboarding, firefighting, laser quest, scuba diving, amongst many, many others. Of course, tonight the activities continue – the disco being the favourite!
This weekend, FLAGS are attending Gilwell24 again - this time running our own activities within the Global Zone. Old favourites returned. Diversity Jenga and rainbow paracord woggles were as popular as ever. Although the woggles ended up being fluorescent pink – but shhhh, we won’t mention that!
New to our repertoire of activities was the Diversitree. Diversity. Tree. Get it? Please say you get it...? The Diversitree allowed us to consult youth members and find out their views and opinions on diversity and inclusion in Scouting. Explorers got the chance to write their ideas on post-it notes which were then stuck to our Diversitree. Questions asked included:
What makes you unique in Scouting?
What could your unit do to improve your Scouting experience?
Who is your Scouting hero?
Do you think Scouting is inclusive? And why?
We also set out some statements for the young people to ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ (agree/disagree), surrounding how welcome they feel in Scouting for example. Some, of course, were less serious than others! Beyoncé or Bieber?
As a member of FLAGS, it was terrific to see young people in our movement’s passion for equality and inclusion and how much they embrace diversity in Scouting and in their lives more widely. Scouting is more diverse in its membership than ever before and it’s humbling to see we’re as equally as accepting. The mostly positive comments from the weekend demonstrate that we have a movement to be proud of, but there is still some way to go to ensure that our youth members feel equally as welcome in their groups, districts and counties as the friends they’ve made from across the country at Gilwell24 this weekend.
P.S. FLAGS is also now on Instagram! Be sure to follow us on @flagscouts where you can find some fantastic photos from our activities from throughout the weekend at Gilwell24!
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 27th June 2015
Wow, What an Incredible Day !!!
I wanted to start with a huge thank you, before telling you about this incredible event. Our celebrations wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the hard work for the project team in the run up to the event. I'd like to take time to say thank you to Laura and the rest of the team for their dedication and commitment. I'd also like to thank all our speakers, wheel stewards, Stilt Walkers and those who supported the breakfast.
The day started off with an amazing welcome from all the project team, and some great talks by some of volunteers. This included a welcome from Dean Jeffreys, Regional Commissioner for London, as well as a great talk from our Jagz Barth, our Deputy Youth Commissioner, telling us why inclusion is so important to The Scout Association.
The morning continued with a chance to get to know other volunteer, and take part in some great activities which helped to demonstrate the diversity of The Scout Association. Volunteers were able to share their experiences with others, as well as tell us more about their experience of The Scout Association as an LGBT Adult. We were also pleased to be joined by Scout Radio, you can here some of their interview here.
As we moved on to the parade, we were joined by more volunteers, and young people and ended with over 120 people taking part in the latest celebration of diversity in the UK. This year, we were pleased to be positioned at number ten in the parade, being one of the first groups with a float in the parade. Once again this year we were pleased to be supported by National Express with their Scout branded Coach. This year, we were also joined by the fabulous stilt walkers, which helped us look amazing !!!
During the parade we were also pleased to be joined by a number of the senior volunteer team, including Tim Kidd, Debbie Bainbridge, Kester Sharpe, Alex Peace-Gadsby and Dan Wood. This is the first year a number of these had attended and they were impressed not only buy the turn out, but also by the excellent reception by the by-standers.
As the parade came to an end, I haven't felt so proud to stand with a group of volunteers and celebrate the diversity of The Scout Association. We have come so far in the last five years, and I want to thank all those who have helped us get there. Its been a long journey, but now i feel we can truly say we are one of the best groups at Pride in London, and continue to show everyone that Scouting is for everyone !!!
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 13th June 2015
So, over the last few weeks, I've spent a lot of time ensuring we are ready for pride events across the UK. It was great to see so many members of FLAGS at Birmingham Pride, it was most certainly our best attendance to date. Id like to say a massive thanks to Russell for his hard work in ensuring the event was a success. We will be adding some pictures from the parade to our website shortly. We are now in the final countdown to Edinburgh and London. Don't forget there is still time to sign up to be involved in London. You can find out about all our pride events for this year on our website.
We also started off this month celebrating National Volunteers Week, we have over 100 volunteers who support FLAGS and help us to demonstrate to people across the UK. Id like to take another opportunity to say THANK YOU to all the amazing volunteers who support help make FLAGS possible.
Last weekend, I was pleased to attend a LGBT Round Table with representatives across Europe. The purpose of the round table was to develop training for other Associations around Europe. It was a great opportunity for me to share our experience of support LGBT members, as well as sharing some of the actions we have taken over the last few year to promote inclusion in Scouting. I was able to make some great contacts from across Europe, as well as take some great ideas about how we can engage more LGBT people in Scouting. The outcomes of the round table will be seen in November at a training event, where we hope to be able to share more of our experiences.
Coming up this month we have our first team meeting of year, where we will be discussing our progress against our service agreement, as well as checking in on finances and membership.
Just a quick reminder for members to pay their membership fees by the end of this month.
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 29th May 2015
I started my journey in Scouting back in 1996 as a Cub, when I was just a mere 8 years old. I struggled a little to start with, but within a few months I was striving! Once I had finished Cubs my family moved home, so I moved to a Scout Troop closer to our new home. I knew A LOT of members through school, other clubs and drama groups etc.
After these years in Scouts, I was approached by the District to see whether I would like to join this brand spanking new section called "Explorer Scouts" and I became one of the first members of "Nomad Explorer Scout Unit".
I realised I was gay at an early (ish) age, around 12 years old. I officially came out to my parents at the age of 16, but what’s this got to do with Scouting I hear you say? Well just before I came out to my family, I had a few months of ups and downs and finally confided in my Explorer Scout leader for someone to rely on and a be a role model to me.
I then started as a Young Leader at my current Scout Troop and I was taken in with open arms. After a year of being a Young Leader, I came out to my Scout Leader (now Group Scout Leader) and again was accepted by her. This open minded way of life was VERY overwhelming for me and now at 26 years old no one batters an eyelid...this is how it should be!!
I can't thank the people in my Scouting journey enough: Dave, Phil, Debbie, Arthur, Heidi, Clare, Peter … THANK YOU XX
I Found out about FLAGS 3 years ago when I joined them at London Pride and I have never looked back since!! I’ve now met my life long partner Joe through an event last year, now 10 months down the line we are living together and ready to spend our lives together!
If I have learnt anything in Scouting, it is that it’s an OPEN and DIVERSE organisation, to be me and believe in myself.
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 20th May 2015
Welcome to my monthly blog, which this time I'll try and keep short and sweet !!!
This month I've been focusing on the run up to pride season, as well as membership renewal, and our events calendar. I've also got some exciting news from our international friends.
So, the first key activity of this month was our team meeting, this is a chance for me to find out what's going on around the team, and where the teams focus has been. The main focus of this call was to discuss our budget for the coming year, as well as agreeing our events. You'll be pleased to hear we have a breakeven budget planned for the next year, and we plan to share this with you in the coming weeks. We are also in the process of finalising our financial statements for last year. We're share both of these documents with you shortly.
This month we also had a chance to chat about the plans for our events in the next couple of years. We already have a number of events planned in, and are also looking adding new events including socials, and a focus on Scotland and Wales. We're currently looking for new adult events to attend to promote #scouting4all, if you know any events then please do let Sarah know. More details in the next newsletter.
This month we are completing the membership renewal process, if you haven't yet completed thee membership renewal form then please check out our last membership newsletter. If your not a member of the unit yet, and your eligible then please do join up today by completing an adult information form and return to Dan.
I wanted to update you on our international work, this month I'm in the process of planning my attendance at the WOSM LGBT round table. I have now had to chat with the team about some of the barriers and challenges we face in ensuring LGBT members are represented throughout the association. This will be an exciting event at the beginning of June which I'll tell you about afterwards.
Lastly, I wanted to share with you some exciting news from our friends in Victoria, Australia. Following several conversations their state council have now agreed they can set up a network like flags, and have taken the first step forwards to promoting LGBT equality in scouting. Check out their poster and read what Scott had to say to us last week.
"Our Victorian State Leadership Team have endorsed a poster to be created to show that Scouts Victoria endorses supporting IDAHOT this Sunday AND we form the Rainbow Scouts Network for GLBTI youth/leaders and their supporters. It's a massive step forward and the final green light to move forward.
...and because Victoria and New South Wales are the biggest states and almost always lead by example and initiative, we could well influence Scouts Australia following our lead" - Scotty Harrison.
Well I'm now in the process of packing for an exciting weekend at Birmingham pride, so looking forward to seeing many of you there !!!
Yours in scouting,
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 3rd May 2015
The FLAGS events team has been busily coordinating and planning for the West Yorkshire Big Camp 2015 for the last month. All the work in planning activities and organising with the camp team culminated today in the first of two days at the camp. A team of 6 FLAGS members have been onsite today to run the activities on “The Street” promoting inclusion and diversity within the movement with the activities set to continue for another day.
Our activities focused on using fun games and activities to promote a message of inclusion, which were well received and enjoyed by all that took part (young people and leaders alike). Activities included paracord woggles in bright pink and rainbow (a range of the other colour combinations were available), diversity wordsearches containing diversity orientated words, diversity Jenga and Pick-up-Sticks. Photos of some of the activities and woggles are on the Facebook pages. At one point we had a queue of about 20 people all desperate to get a new woggle to wear.
Our location shared a tent with the Value Tree – an activity where leaves on the tree were filled in with messages promoting values that members shared and it was excellent to see inclusion and diversity featuring as part of the words written by young members of the movement.
To top it all we have once again built relationships, this time with members of our West Yorkshire scouting family, which hopefully will extend for many years to come. A big thanks to Marcus Coulson, Andy Cole, Owen Wallace-Williams, Andrew Mitchell and Joanne Mitchell for working on our activities today, especially in the cold and rain.
Yours in scouting,
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 24th April 2015
Welcome to my first ever Managers Blog !!! following the unit camp, members told me you wanted to hear more about what’s going in the unit, and how you can get involved. So, what better why then a monthly blog to tell you what’s been happening, and our plans for the future. This month’s is a little longer then usual, but please bare with me as I have loads to tell you.
Working with HQ
As mentioned as the unit camp, I hold a bi-monthly call with HQ and the Specialist Advisors for Inclusion and Diversity to talk about what FLAGS are working on, and how we can support their work. This month Debbie, UK Commissioner for Adult Support joined us to talk about the wider diversity strategy and the work plan for the year ahead. The call was a great opportunity to share my thoughts for what HQ should be focusing on, but also an opportunity to explore the work we can do over the next 12 months.
Here is just the headlines of the areas we discussed, and working together we will look at how these can be taken forwards on the next year. Throughout my blogs, I’ll not only give you an update on how we doing against our service agreement, but also how we are moving some of these areas forwards.
1.LGBT Role Models
We want to take as many opportunities as we can to showcase LGBT adults in Scouting and show more people that it’s ok to be Gay and a Scout Leader. We’ll being using pride events, and other key moments throughout the year to showcase leaders and young people, and show we’re a diverse movement. We’re also looking at ways of developing videos to share our experiences.
2.Supporting Young People
We’re going to spend time over the next year looking at how LGBT young people would like to be supported in Scouting, and collecting an evidence base to feedback to HQ and Debbie.
This will continue to be a key focus for the next 12 months, we will initially be looking to support more of the key pride events, and then be looking at how we can enable local scouting to attend events
We want to look at creating a small reange of diversity programme ideas for leaders to use with young people. We will do this in partnership with HQ.
We want to review our attendance at Gilwell Reunion to ensure we are providing the right support to all members of the unit, and the wider association.
In September we will complete a membership survey to ensure we are still meeting the needs of our members, and begin to complete information for our new service agreement.
This month our international work has stepped up a gear, and we are being asked by more international Scout Associations for advice and guidance on supporting LGBT members. Earlier this month I took the time to have a skype call with Australia to share with them our experience of London Pride, and also start them on the move to setting up their own LGBT fellowship.
This month, the UK Scout Association hosted the Overture Network; this is an informal network for Scout and Guide Associations in Europe to share experience and best practice. During the weekend I had the opportunity to network and share best practice with organisations across the Europe, and have not only made some great friends but also developed relationships with different organisations. I took the time to build a longer term relationship with the Rainbow Scouts of Austria, and also with Scouts Ireland. You can read more about the relationships here.
This coming month Ill be attending a roundtable with the europeaon region of WOSM, Ill update you on this in my next blog.
There’s loads of ways that you as members can get involved in supporting the unit and its members. Why not check out our service agreement,, and let us know if there’s a way you could support it. Here are just a few of the areas were currently looking for support
Finally, Thanks for taking the time to read this extra large manager’s blog. Each month a member of the team will also provide a short update on their projects, as well as continuing to let you know how you can get involved.
Author: Rob Vaines | Date: 15th February 2015
To celebrate LGBT History Month, Deanna, an Explorer Scout Leader from Hampshire, tells us about her experiences as a transgender person in Scouting:
At around 13, I became aware of some gender confusion in my life and started feeling like I should have been born female instead of male. I kept this to myself as I had no idea why, or if anyone else had similar thoughts. The first time I started properly accepting my gender issues was at the age of 18 in 2000. The internet helped me to find out that there were other people in similar situations.
In 2008, I started living and socialising part of the time as female and the year after I began to live full-time as a female, with the name Deanna.
Scouting was a big part of my life and was the biggest thing holding me back from transitioning to living as a woman earlier. I didn't know what the reaction would be from leaders or other members. Thankfully, it turned out to be a non-event for everyone else.
I notified my District Commissioner and Scouting HQ to explain the situation and had a meeting with my other Explorer Leaders to discuss how we should let the Explorer Scouts know. We decided on a straightforward letter explaining Gender Identity Disorder and stating that I would be returning to Scouting as a woman called Deanna.
When the time came, we sat everyone down and explained what was happening, and to my surprise, everyone was really positive. I even got a few 'congratulations' from various people.
Since then I have become involved in FLAGS, the Scout Active Support Unit which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults in Scouting. Through FLAGS I’ve helped to inform policy and procedures and represented Scouting at Pride in London.
I am also training to provide support through the diversity and inclusion teams at the County and national level (Specialist Advisers for Inclusion and Diversity), to raise awareness of equality of all forms, and to dispel myths around LGBT members in Scouting.
A big part of transgender support is acceptance, support and being treated as every other person in your identified gender. It's worth bearing in mind that not everyone identifies as one gender or the other, and there are people that are quite 'fluid' in their gender and may change over time or be somewhere in the middle.
Author: Rob Vaines | Date: 5th February 2015
Less than half of 18-24 year olds are registered to vote.
Use these resources to make sure that young people have their voices heard in the upcoming general election http://bit.ly/1zCKRpP
Author: Rob Vaines | Date: 8th January 2015
I am a Young Leader at a Cub Pack. Cubs is the section of Scouting in the UK for 8-10 year olds.
I’ve always been known as Aimee at Cubs but I guess as a boy with a girls name, until tonight. Tonight when I went I had my bow in my hair and my nails painted.
I overhead this conversation between an eight year old Cub and another Leader;
Cub: Is she a girl?
This cub then proceeded to use my correct pronouns for the night despite others around her still getting them wrong.
It truly is the smallest things that make the largest of differences, this girl is 8, she’s young and still learning every day, but today she showed she does know about respect.
Through the night I got many other questions about my Gender Identity but I had to remain on task but it did raise the idea of doing a night around Equalities and how despite our differences, we are still all human.
I am proud to say I scout, and I feel incredibly lucky to have amazing opportunities in Scouting.
Aimee, is 17 years old, a photographer and an Explorer Scout
Author: Rob Vaines | Date: 16th October 2014
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 | Date: 10th September 2014
so last night, I was all coffee'd up, popped a few pro-plus!!!!
to see an amazing strategy briefing from Scouts for Equality, that was live streamed from US 9pm EST, yeah sure I could have watched the recorded version on You Tube, when I was more awake, but I wanted to let our Brother (& Sister) Scouts in America that the UK was supporting them all the way, (even if it meant staying awake til silly o' clock)
I have been truly inspired by some of the great work that I have been seeing coming out of America these past few months, and would like to share it with as many of our FLAGS members as possible. It would be great to have a 'proper' associate chapter here in the UK, with members to show just how much they are supported over here - lets work together on this one!!!!
Author: Rob Vaines | Date: 26th August 2014
International Commissioner, Dan Wood, talks about coming out and being part of a truly inclusive Scout Movement...
Everyone is welcome
Scout values mean a lot to me and guide me in the way I live my life. That’s why I am all the more proud that Scouting takes such a strong stance on inclusion, as recently represented at Pride events across the UK, including Manchester Pride this weekend.
I wanted to express my support for all those that take part in these events and to encourage those who are working for an even more inclusive Scout Movement and tackling discrimination here and around the world. To young people or adults suffering prejudice or discrimination or who feel unable to be open about their sexuality wherever you are, I want you to know that we’re on your side and that you will be welcomed and supported in UK Scouting.
Speaking out on equality
I was asked to do a local radio interview a few months ago following the news about Tom Daley coming out. They wanted a perspective from someone local with some similar experiences. I felt that by saying what he said in the way he said it Tom had set a positive example and done a great service to others. I admire him greatly for it. At first I wasn’t sure about the prospect of telling my own story on air but Tom’s example was empowering and inspiring. As I listened to the callers who phoned in to remark on the news, I was struck by the overwhelming number of positive and supportive comments but also disappointed to hear some far less encouraging things that felt like they belonged to a less enlightened age.
It reminded me how I felt hearing similar comments as a teenager and I wondered about the impact of these words, especially on the young and vulnerable. Like so many people, I also get that sinking feeling in the pits of my stomach when I read in the news about how LGBT people, just like me, in different communities around the world are treated badly, excluded, forced to hide who they are, denied their rights and sense of identity, or spoken about derogatorily simply because of their sexuality. Nobody should have to hide or live in fear because of who they are. This has since galvanised my determination to continue to speak out. I invite you to join me in doing so. We are stronger together and when we know we are not alone.
As a relatively young gay man who struggled with coming out to family and friends over ten years ago, it saddens me to still hear about the homophobia that exists, but at the same time I am very proud to know that our country has come so far in embracing equality and valuing our human diversity. This is hard-won progress and a continuing struggle. Developing young people and a society with positive values such as those instilled by Scouting is at the heart of that challenge.
Overcoming stereotypes and being accepted
I first came out to my closest friend who was a fellow Scout. It was my best mate Ross’s 18th birthday (I was 19 – the same age as Daley). I had agonised about who to tell, how and when to tell them. I felt I needed to do this because I didn’t want to live my life any longer in secrecy. I also needed to release the feelings that I had unhealthily suppressed for such a long time. Nearly all my friends at that age were dating and not long before, I had too, with girls. I knew it might be a bit of a surprise to them and I wasn’t sure how some of them would take it.
I suppose I had stereotyped my friends perhaps more than they had me – they were into football and Ross was soon to join the army (a real ‘lad’s, lad’). On that night in the pub, I plucked up the courage to tell him. We stood alone together at the bar and I said I had something that I needed him to know because I needed his support. He was the perfect friend. He listened and he told me it did not change anything about our friendship. Ross later helped me to be more open with others and to gain greater acceptance. We all need to feel acceptance and belonging and this is something the ‘Scout family’ seems typically good at. In the months that followed I told most of my closest friends who were similarly supportive and mostly Scouts.
Working out how to tell my parents was far more difficult and when I told my friends, I hadn’t particularly thought through how I would do this. I worried about how they would react, but my primary concern was any adverse effect it might have on them. It took me years to find the courage and self-acceptance to be able to tell them. I told my Mum first. We sat on a quiet park bench in our lunch hour. She was upset, mainly that I hadn’t felt able to tell her sooner. She was also brilliantly supportive and loving.
Telling my Dad was to be far more challenging for lots of reasons and it wasn’t for nearly eight years after that I told him properly – you can imagine the deception (mainly by omission) involved in the meantime. It was horrendous and I deeply regret it. But I maintain that my motivation was not so much my own fear at his reaction but how much I feared it might affect him.
Channelling energies into what matters
The long months and years of procrastinating and spending time with my own thoughts felt like emotional torture at times. When I did tell him, the only way I felt able to do it was to write it down in a letter. I spent several weeks thinking about what to say and how to do it, agonising over the words. I felt physically sick with anxiety about the prospect. This was prompted by having met my partner Louis, with whom I naturally wanted to spend that Christmas.
The time between leaving it for him and his reaction felt like a lifetime. We cried a lot and hugged and he told me he loved me, but as I expected, he was a bit confused by it all and struggled initially to really understand. The fact that I had kept it from him for so long hadn’t helped. Although he did his best to show his love and support for me, it was obvious that he was a little uncomfortable and had caricatured prejudices, which I thought had died out in the 80s. I continue to have a good relationship with my parents these days and they both get on very well with Louis who is now considered ‘one of the family’.
Standing up for what’s right, building friends and alliances
I still experience ‘casual’ prejudice and discrimination all the time although I don’t particularly let it bother me. The number of times, I’ve been invited to things along with ‘my wife’, the awkwardness on booking hotel rooms at home and abroad, the occasional more explicit abusive remark, the in-built sense of caution at showing any public affection: a hug, holding hands, a kiss. All of these things necessitate a sort of constant ‘coming out’ process. I agree with Tom that it shouldn’t be this way; but it is.
Living life with freedom is not just about physical freedom, important though that clearly is, psychological and social incarceration can be as, if not more, damaging over time. Feeling you can be as open as you want to be is, I think, a very liberating and hugely powerful. Our long walk has been happening for decades and the struggle for human rights is shared with so many others who have been subjected, marginalised and discriminated against.
I think it is for all of us, in defence of our common humanity, to stand up for human dignity and to challenge all forms of exclusion and oppression, even the ‘casual’, unthinking remark that in each tiny cut can erode an individual’s self-worth. By telling our personal stories, we can build allies, greater understanding and collaborate with others to overcome discrimination.
Leadership and being a role model
In my leadership roles, I am clear that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people have the same needs as any other teenager. They’ll enjoy, achieve and stay safe if they feel able to be themselves; feel valued for who they are; feel included and part of a community; have access to resources and information relevant to them; feel safe and supported and feel they have people to talk to if things aren’t going so well.
For lesbian, gay and bisexual young people, the decision to come out often isn't an easy one. Recent Stonewall research into the experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people found that more than half experience homophobic bullying at school and 99% regularly hear homophobic language, including phrases such as 'that's so gay'. Homophobic bullying and homophobic language have a huge impact on young people’s attainment as well as their mental and physical well-being. This has to change and I think Stonewall do amazing work to tackle this. I am pleased that Scouting works with them.
I couldn’t help to run an organisation which is about success and openness and pride of young people if I was hidden, closeted and frightened. As a leader of an organisation and team, I recognise that I am also a role model. You can be too. Don’t be a bystander – be a Scout! Scouts should be leaders in their communities, ready to be themselves and help others and make a difference to the world.
Author: Rob Vaines | Date: 16th August 2014
I have just found the most AMAZING short film on youtube!!!!!
please watch this video, and support our brother Scouts in America - not just because you support LGBT in Scouting - but because you support BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS
More information about the work FLAGS is doing to support Scouts for Equality can be found here
Author: Rob Vaines | Date: 8th August 2014
Today I opened my inbox to find the recent FLAGS (Fellowship of Lesbian and Gay Scouters) update about the continuing problems in America about being Gay and a Member of the Boy Scouts of America and it set me thinking about a few things and also made me re read the original handbook 'Scouting for Boys' Baden Powel NEVER excluded any boy from the movement. The first Scout Camp was Boy’s from all walks of life no that of the Upper and Middle Classes. Scouting crossed ALL groups.
We need to remember that Scouting was founded as an inclusive organisation to bring boys together from all walks of life and back grounds. BP himself saw the potential in Girls wanting to become Scouts instead of just turning his back and saying go away! He and his wife founded the Girl Guides.
There is too much strife and inequality in the world which we as Scouts are told to love our fellow man through the scout law:-
1) A Scout is to be trusted.
2) A Scout is loyal.
3) A Scout is friendly and considerate.
4) A Scout belongs to the worldwide family of Scouts.
5) A Scout has courage in all difficulties.
6) A Scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property.
7) A Scout has self-respect and respect for others.
By ignoring any one of these key laws we fail as Scouts.
We all joined a movement of over 28 Million members who all wear the World Scout Membership Badge who’s symbols have not changed in over 100 years through this badge we ARE ALL Equal!
The Encircling rope = Symbolises the unity and family of the World Scout Movement
The Bond = Showing the family of Scouting
The reef knot = which can’t be undone no matter how hard it is pulled, it is symbolic of the strength of world Scouting’s unity and family.
The two five pointed stars = stand for truth and knowledge.
The Fleur de lys = 1) To God 2) Service to Others 3) Obedience to the Scout law
We are all together as one! WE ARE SCOUTS! We should fight for a greater equality for our American
Scouters who should not be persecuted because of who they are.
From Baden Powel’s “Scouting for Boys”:-
The co-operation of tiny sea insects has brought about the formation of coral islands. No
enterprise is too big where there is goodwill and co-operation in carrying it out. Every day we
are turning away boys anxious to join the Movement, because we have not the men or women to
take them in hand. There is a vast reserve of loyal patriotism and Christian spirit lying dormant
in our nation to-day, mainly because it sees no direct opportunity for expressing itself. Here in
this joyous brotherhood there is vast opportunity open to all in a happy work that shows results under your hands and a work that is worthwhile because it gives every man his chance of service for his fellow-men and for God.
Old Socrates spoke truly when he said, “No man goeth about a more godly purpose than he who is mindful of the right upbringing not only of his own, but of other men’s children.”
SUBMITTED: Dean Chapman - Bristol