Last Fall my husband and I spent a lot of time debating internally, on here, and on Facebook what to do about our Boy Scout problem.
Our son wanted to be a Boy Scout. His sister is a Girl Scout and I could not be happier with the benefits she’s seen from that. He wanted the same. Except, of course, the two organizations are not the same and the Boy Scouts had a policy against allowing gay members or volunteers.
Although I found the views of the BSA repugnant, I was at a complete loss as to how to explain the problem to my son. My son has always known gay people. He has always known that some families are made up of two dads, two moms, one mom, one dad. In fact, he has stated how much more fun life would be if he had two dads (especially during the Super Bowl). In Kindergarten when another kid said that two boys couldn’t get married because you couldn’t have kids, my son put him in his place, “That’s not true, my Uncle Ken is married to another boy and he has kids!”
What he didn’t know though was that some people didn’t like when two boys were married to each other. He also didn’t know the word “gay.” My kids have always known how babies are born, they know that’s called sex. I found it very easy to explain to them. But the reason I found sex easy to explain is because I simply explained it as something you do to have babies. I never explained that there are other reasons to have sex. Although at his age I was running around trying to force boys to kiss me, both my kids are surprisingly uninterested in kissing and surprisingly unaware of the over-sexed culture we live in.
I was squeamish about telling my son he couldn’t be a Boy Scout because I thought doing so would open up a whole new conversation about sex. So we simply stalled. We didn’t say yes or no about being a Scout, I just didn’t sign him up. I bought us some time.
Then, Jason Collins came out. My son was understandably shocked to find me reading Sports Illustrated and he wanted to know why. So, I told him. In telling him I realized what an idiot I’d been, that it was totally easy to explain.
We talked about what it meant to be gay, that even if you aren’t married to another boy, you know you would want to marry or date another boy. We talked about how some people were mean to others who are gay, they don’t want gay people to do things other people can do. We talked about Jason Collins being brave for telling other people something they might not want to hear. We talked about how he was or wasn’t like Jackie Robinson. We talked about his uncles that are married to each other, and which of his uncles would want to marry other boys (Hey, Richard, you’ve been outed and your godson wants to know when you’re getting married). We talked about the Save-the-Date for two men he doesn’t know that’s currently on my fridge. I assured him that no one was being mean to his uncles (well, you know, for being gay).
Then he took the magazine from me and that was that. But it let me know that whatever the Boy Scouts decided it would be ok. My son now had the info he needed to be able to make the decision himself.
I’m glad we stalled last year. I don’t think we could have had that conversation a year ago. I’m glad we stalled last year, because now even though the Boy Scouts didn’t make a perfect decision, it’s clear that they’re progressing and I won’t feel bad if my son decides to join.
So, thank you BSA for inching towards the future and thank you Jason Collins for forcing me to see how easy the conversation actually was.
It’s funny how the conversations we put off turn out to be so easy with kids. When we had Nutmeg I pondered over and over how we would explain to her why we are atheists. When we moved to Chicago I worried more. Church bells everywhere! One day when she was 3 she asked me, “Why don’t we go to church, Mommy?” I said we didn’t belong to church because we are not part of the Christian religion or something like that. I pause and wait for questions and angst to flow in, and she says, “OK.” And goes on playing. And in the years since, it has not come up much. I asked her recently if she believed in God, and she says,”Bible God or Greek gods?” I said, “Either?” She says, “Bible, no. Greek, yes.” So there ya go. lol