Not too long ago I found a note stuffed into Gus’ school folder along with his homework: the Cub Scouts were recruiting.
Not surprisingly, I have very mixed feelings about the Boy Scouts of America. On the one hand, they offer a lot of fun activities that young boys really dig. On the other hand, they’re one of the most blatantly unapologetic homophobic organizations in the world.
Of course, Gus doesn’t understand any of the negative issues. He was just very excited about joining. And frankly, denying him the opportunity to be a Cub Scout would make Kelly and me hypocrites: we both had been Cub Scouts.
To be honest, I really enjoyed being a Cub Scout. I have fond memories of attending the Gulls’ baseball games, going backpacking and just hanging out with other boys my age.
I think it helped that I was in an entirely all-Greek troop, based out of our church. I fit in better.
A few years before I had joined the troop, I was asked about joining my neighborhood Cub Scouts. They were based out of our local LDS ward. The Scout Master showed up on Easter night to pitch the idea, having been given my name by one of the other kids on the street. His pitch was that although my family wasn’t LDS, I was still welcome. Never mind that the meetings and all the ceremonies were held at the ward house. That wasn’t a problem, they’d still respect me. Seriously, he said they’d still respect me!
I said I’d think about it, even though I knew I wasn’t going to join.
When we shut the door, I turned to my mom and asked how could they respect me when he clearly thought nothing of coming to our house, unannounced, on what is our most important religious holiday? She agreed that wasn’t the place for me.
Fitting in growing up is important. Whether we like it or not, doing so makes childhood a little easier. And because our kids’ family doesn’t look like almost any others, we want to make sure they fit in whenever possible. We decided that since Gus so badly wanted to be a Cub Scout, we’d let him. It helped that his troop is based out of the Greek Church — the same one I was in over 30 years ago.
So a couple of weeks ago, he and I walked into the little church gym for his first troop meeting. Gus loved it. He reveled in it. He was so excited when he recognized one of his buddies from Sunday School, that he had to get up, march right over and plop himself right next to the kid.
I sat making small talk with the other dads. I figured, like my parents before me, I’d sit with him this first time and after that just drop him off and pick him up an hour later.
No such luck. Now, in Cub Scouts, the parents have to stay the entire time. For Gus to enjoy this experience, I had to make the commitment, too. I figured I could sit there and talk with the other dads for an hour a week.
But as we were leaving, the Den Mother asked to talk to me and another dad. She wanted to know if we’d be willing to help. The other dad enthusiastically agreed, but I hesitated.
I know that I could have just said “no” and been done with it. But I was a Cub Scout. And Cub Scouts take an oath of honor to be honest and brave.
So I told the woman I’d be glad to if the group would let me. I informed her, however, that as a gay man I was prohibited from helping. Without skipping a beat she told me she didn’t care and asked again if I would help. Here’s the funny thing: her tone hinted at annoyance, like I was using being gay as an excuse!
I could have made a political statement and simply refused because of the organization’s homophobic policies. But what good would that have done? It wouldn’t change anything. And my son’s small troop would have had to struggle with one less adult.
For me it boiled down to what I think is best for my boys. I want them to have as “normal” of a childhood as possible — given that they’re being raised by two non-LDS gay men in suburban Salt Lake. And who knows? Maybe my being there will do some good. When I told my friend Kerri about Gus joining the Cub Scouts, she said that she had refused to allow her son to join because they just “piss her off too much.”
Then she added, “Maybe Gus can be that change they need so much.”