Open Letter to the Boy Scouts of America

by Jennifer Schumaker

Mr. Sean Roy

Director of the Executives

Boy Scouts of America

Last year I came into your offices in beautiful Balboa Park and you told me face to face that my son and I are not welcome in the Boy Scouts. You tried to be kind about it, but there you stood on land rented in part by thousands and thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender tax-payers’ dollars and told me we could not join the Scouts. Your policies state that my son and I are not “morally straight.” Well, I don’t think you believed it.

Lavender Menance

I want to tell you, Mr. Roy, that you are part of a revolution. What does this mean? It doesn’t mean that you marched into your higher-up’s office and demanded that the Boy Scouts stop discriminating against me and my boy. It means that you stood there and watched another occasion of oppression “revolving.” You did not haul me out, you did not try to degrade me (any further than the institutional degrading you were inclined or compelled to uphold). You listened to what one lesbian, head held high, had to say about her family. I believe we communicated.

It is sometimes disheartening that a revolution is required for me to be accepted for who I am. But in my fervor to prevent my son and others from feeling the ostracism I have felt – let alone the violence and humiliation so many before me suffered and many still suffer— I will continue to participate in the revolution. I will turn the oppressor/oppressed relationship around so that it can be viewed and experienced as it really occurs: with the problem located in the one who is doing the oppressing. With the bigotry located in the one practicing bigotry. With the fear and hatred located in the one fearing and hating. I will stand, proud of who I am, and offer you the opportunity to see your attitude against me for what it is: yours.

Notice I do not call you a “bigot” or any other name. I do not call you one of “them” and myself one of “us.” I identify the behavior in you and in those who hold up bigoted policies. You and I are products of the same society. We were both raised to believe there is something wrong with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. But we don’t have to keep feeding those messages. We can be free of them –or start to be.

You do not have to choose oppression. You can start to respond to the revolution. I’m sure you see it all around you: on TV, on the sidewalks, in the new generation, in people like me and my family. You can be a part of the transformation of the society that is raising my son and all the other sons and daughters and nephews and nieces, including yours. The revolution comes when you see that you can change.

Let me tell you a secret. My son doesn’t need you to change your heart all that badly. It would be wonderful, of course, and something to celebrate. But let’s face it, he’s doing pretty well compared to other LGBT or questioning youth. He has me and my community. But what about your son? What about your friends’ sons? What about all your friends, family, and coworkers and their friends, families, and coworkers? What about all those kids coming up who don’t have a lesbian activist soccer mom at the wheel of the minivan? Who is going to make sure they are OK?

Take an active part in the revolution! You don’t have to march up to the boss today. How about you find someone to gather signatures from actual den mothers? Take a look at the support for LGBT inclusion in the Scouts that is already there?

I’ll start you off with a scene from one stage of the peaceful revolution, my kids’ public school in suburbia. The Scouts were giving the flag salute, accompanied by a local den mother. They were proudly attired in their uniforms and reverently performed their duties. The den mother is an acquaintance of mine, another PTA and classroom volunteer, just like me. After the ceremony, I approached her and with trembling voice (you’ve met me; you can see I don’t tremble easily), I told her how hard it was to see her there when I’m officially excluded from wearing that uniform. Her face registered surprise and disbelief. “Why would you be excluded?” she asked. I told her that since I’m lesbian, I’m not allowed. Her face fell and she put her hand on my arm, saying, “You know, it’s really getting to the point with me where they either change that or I’d seriously consider quitting.” I called this mom today to talk with her about this column, and she said, “I believe in inclusion and acceptance for everyone, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation, and I think the Boy Scouts of America need to enter the 21st century and stop their discriminatory practices.”

So, Mr. Roy, there’s one “straight” suburban den mother for you. How about you take it from here? Those of us who have been working so hard at this peaceful revolution will be right there to help you.

To all my readers, whether you are transgender, bisexual, heterosexual, gay or lesbian; whether you are moms, dads, singles, youths, aunts, uncles, urbanites or suburbanites–whoever you are—please give this column to someone you know who is involved with the Boy Scouts.

Please take a bit of your time to continue this part of the revolution. As you know, it always comes back to you manifold. Just talking about this column has brought new empowerment within my family, and a smile to my son’s face. Let’s see what else we can do!

For more information about Scouting for All, visit Scouting for All

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