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05/23/2013

Why I care so much about the Boy Scouts vote

by Jeremy Hooper

While LGBT rights fights are uniquely personal for LGBT people for obvious reasons, there is usually some degree of distance between known experience and current debate.

With marriage, the fight tends to be prospective. You fight for the right to someday marry, both for yourself and future generations. It is exciting, but is an unknown to all of us until we obtain the freedom.

With hate crimes or nondiscrimination laws, the fight can feel theoretical. You hope you will never have to use them, but you fight because you know they are necessary. You want them there, but you're better off if you never need to implement the protections.

With some of the other policy debates, the whole thing can get so bogged down in legalese, procedural hangups, and bureaucracy layers that it doesn't even feel like a debate about human beings. When fighting for things like immigration or economic justice, it can be sadly easy to lose site of the human toll attached.


But all of us remember being children. And for all of us LGBT people? That typically means that we remember what it feels like to feel shunned, cast out, scared, and vulnerable.

We also remember what it feels like to live in a society that only seems to reinforce these shuns, out-castings, fears, and vulnerabilities. We remember those verbal slights that we overheard, dealt out by both peers and adult caretakers. We look back on the times when we studied our cherished loved one's reactions to situations that seem somehow relatable to us, even if we don't fully understand why. We think back on the days when we pondered the bits and pieces of political conversations that we should've been far too carefree to pay any mind. Or to all those moments when we internalized negativity without ever realizing we were doing so. It's all in our consciousness because it very much shaped our consciousness.


Right now, as I write this, young people across America are hearing bits and pieces of an adult debate surrounding an institution with which they have some degree of familiarity. They know that it has to do with people like that funny Mitch and Cam from Modern Family. They think they heard their neighbor say something about marching against adults who will abuse kids if they are allowed to ties knots while wearing khaki. They saw something in the paper about Boy Scouts needing "saving," whatever that means. And some of them know that there is some kind of vote happening today, and that if it goes in Mitch and Cam's direction, then some of their friends' parents have told them they can't be in the Boy Scouts anymore. It's all very confusing.

Then there is that bright young boy, barely twelve-years-old. He knows exactly what's going on; he's been quietly following every word for reasons that even he doesn't understand. This kid doesn't yet know who he is, but he does know a few things for sure. He knows that he feels some sort of empathetic connection with people who seem up against hardships. He knows his take on girls is a little different from his friends who think they have cooties. He knows he really enjoys Mitch and Cam, but that he wishes The New Normal had been given another chance to show its stuff. He knows he loves the outdoors, playing baseball both in real life and on XBox, drawing pictures of cars, playing pop hits on his guitar, occasionally teasing his sister, and cooking with his mom. He's a good kid, they all say.

Oh, and he knows he loves his Boy Scout troop. He knows he doesn't want to ever be told he has to leave that troop for any reason beyond his control.


Today, the Boy Scouts of America will make a choice. There are some kids who won't come to understand what it means until many years after today's vote. But right now, smack dab in the middle of an all-too-confusing process of figuring out while aboard this wacky ride we call childhood, are some kids who do, in fact, have some sort of heightened understanding of what's going on today. These are the kids who have so
166016 10152419089658840 262124675 Nmuch to lose, and the kids whose chances at a better ride comes at the expense of no one. They will someday reflect on this, a pivotal moment in their lives that carries an emotional weight many times greater than their linear years. They are absorbing this day, destined to become lodged in the memory bank that will fund their journeys from here on out.

When pushing so hard for this policy change, I haven't really been thinking about what Tony Perkins or John Stemberger or Eric Teetsel or Sen. Ted Cruz say. Instead, I've been imagining my younger self and how I would have processed what is happening right now. Because I do know what I saw and heard. I know what I understood and what I never could. I remember what it felt like. What it feels like.

If I can take out even one of those bumps for even one of these young children, then I will consider my day successful. But on this particular day, the Boy Scouts have the power to remove countless bumps for countless children both now and to come. What a gift! What an opportunity! What a chance to do better by so many of their fellow human beings, here on a first step toward the full inclusion that will eventually remedy all of these negative experiences.

Please don't blow it, grown adults who should know better.

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