She was a girl I knew from my kids’ childhood years. She and my kids and their friends roamed the streets playing games on summer nights. Her smile had a hint of swagger now that she had become a teenager.
She was walking hand in hand with a girl.
I tried not to stare. I couldn’t reconcile the memory I had of her as a little girl in pigtails to the girl who was now dating another girl. Many thoughts went through my brain, but in my heart, I felt love for the girl she had been, and for what she is now. I wondered what price she was paying for being openly gay.
This brief incident came to mind as I read the recent news reports that the Boy Scouts of America is reconsidering its policy that bans “open and avowed” gay members and leaders. It’s obvious that President Obama’s highly public stand on gay marriage last year has emboldened activists into politicizing a long-standing policy by an organization that does so much good for a young man’s character.
Because yes, even with the fallout from the “pervert files” — a collection of abuse files spanning decades — and now the gay ban, the Boy Scouts of America still represents everything that is good about this nation.
My son was eight and a brand new Wolf Cub Scout when I was called to be his den leader. It was my first foray into the wonderfully goofy world of scouting, with the funny cheers and determined dads at pinewood derbies.
There were also serious times, like learning the importance of the flag and how to honor it. Through merit badges, my son knows how the government operates, how to shoot a rifle, how to administer first-aid and how to survive in the wilderness.
Eventually, my son earned his Eagle rank at 14. Today, I have the Scouts to thank for our chore list on the fridge, a throwback from when my son was eight and was supposed to assign chores to the family for a few weeks.
Under the current Scout policy, some boys could go from that wide-eyed cub scout, advancing for years to an almost Eagle Scout and be denied that last rank if they openly show they are gay.
Even heterosexuals make moral mistakes. Why deny the completion of a program or one’s ability to serve, due to their sexual orientation? So long as the individuals are not imposing their lifestyle on others, and there is always two-deep leadership, there should be room in the program for all.
I think back to my children’s friend from long ago, and how kids grow up to be young men and young women. At that vulnerable time of their life, the last thing they need is someone to kick them out of a program that could make a difference in the shaping of their character for years to come.
Still, I want the Scouting program to succeed, for what it has done for my son, and thousands upon thousands of other mothers’ sons. Having them overturn their policy may alienate their staunchest supporters. Leaving policy to the sponsoring organization is a good compromise. Clearly, the sponsoring organizations have as much or more at stake than activists wanting to make a political statement.
Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing coach and a long-time journalist who lives in Grantsville. She blogs at pink-ink-pink.blogspot.com.