When I heard that the Boy Scouts of America had ended its ban on gay scout leaders, my first thought was, “Good for them.” I’ve been pleased to see the strides the LGBT community is making. Then I heard that the LDS Church was considering severing ties with the Boy Scouts of America because of the move, and my first thought was, “Shame on them,” especially considering that while a Boy Scout troop could no longer discriminate against a scout leader because he is gay, the new policy still allowed a church-sponsored scout unit to refuse the position to someone based on his not sharing the same religious beliefs.
Then I started seeing a lot of other people getting fired up about it too, a reaction which usually spurs me to calm down and re-examine an issue. It’s a tendency of mine that makes my wife crazy. If you’ve followed any of my work here at The Independent, you’ll understand what I mean when I say this article was almost a “Devil’s Advocate” piece.
First, let’s get the easy one out of the way. Even though I’m not a member of the LDS Church and don’t agree with their stance on homosexuality, I can see where they’re coming from regarding the Boy Scouts of America decision. The whole anti-homosexuality thing is kind of one of their big stances.
Now, was this an opportunity for them to show a little lenience, a little acknowledgment of that whole “brotherly love” thing without having to recant their stance outright? Sure. But does it surprise me that they chose not to? Nope. And that’s their choice.
Right or wrong, they don’t agree with homosexuality, and if you don’t support something … well, you don’t support it. If you are against puppy mills, you don’t buy your puppy from a pet shop that might be getting their animals from one. If you think Tom Cruise says offensive things about postpartum women or is “one of those crazy Scientologists,” you might not choose to watch his movies anymore. I knew several people unhappy enough with Orson Scott Card’s support of California’s Proposition 8 that they chose not to watch “Ender’s Game” when it came out in the theaters.
It all goes ’round full circle.
So the LDS Church’s reaction was kind of a given. The interesting revelation I had was as a parent of the shining light of my life, my five-year-old daughter.
Let’s put homosexuality and religious opinions of such preferences aside for a moment and look at this purely from a sexual orientation standpoint. I’m a heterosexual man. I love women (my wife the most, of course), but I am not attracted to young girls. However, if you didn’t know me that well, would you feel totally comfortable with me taking a troop of young Girl Scouts—including your daughter—out in the woods to go camping (and since I looked it up and discovered that two adults are required, let’s ask the same question, except now it’s me and one of my guy friends)?
No, you say? What’s this? Are you discriminating against me because I’m heterosexual? Of course not. It’s just kind of a standard thing that doesn’t really happen. If you knew me and had seen how much I love my daughter and am capable of playing “girly” games and getting along, you probably would feel okay about it, but to just give me carte blanche over a bunch of girls? C’mon. Most parents aren’t going to go for that. It’s not an issue of homosexuality vs. heterosexuality; it’s simply a strong parental instinct that kicks in when it comes to having a relatively unknown adult who happens to be attracted to the same gender as your child in somewhat close quarters far from your ability to protect said child.
Given the circumstances, I actually was guessing there would be more concern voiced from people in general regarding the Boy Scouts of America policy change, but I would attribute the relative quiet to one of two things: either people are afraid of being labeled “homophobic” and are hiding their feelings, or we truly are coming around to accepting gay people in society. While I’d like to think it’s the latter, I think the former plays a strong role as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Boy Scout numbers drop across the board, not just within the LDS Church.
Here’s where some people might say that they wouldn’t have any problem sending out two women to camp with a Boy Scout troop, and I agree that probably more people would be okay with that than my earlier scenario involving me and my friend and the Girl Scout troop. But I would say two things about this. First, well, we are talking about the perceived differences between men and women in general. Women are considered more maternal. Guys are guys.
Second, I would also emphasize that just some people might say that. Maybe it depends on the age of the boys. After all, think about how many news stories have popped up recently about female teachers seducing their students.
Of course, continuing down that road is where we really start bringing out the flaw in this thinking, whether from a religious perspective or simply a parenting standpoint. It’s assuming that all heterosexuals—and in the case of the Boy Scouts, homosexual men—have pedophilic (or at least hebephilic) tendencies, neither of which is the case.
In fact, the American Psychiatric Association doesn’t even consider pedophilia a sexual orientation. They call pedophilia a disorder, a “paraphilia,” a condition characterized by abnormal sexual desires.
But even though parents may know this on a logical level, when it comes to that protective and emotional side, fear kicks in. Whereas being a part of the LGBT community has started gaining acceptance and is often worn as a badge of honor, pedophilia is still lurking in the back of the closet. As a parent, you just don’t know if that adult—male or female—in charge of your children is thinking about them in a way you don’t want them to be thinking.
This is simple parenting, and while I don’t agree with the fear (or outright objection in the case of the LDS Church) when it comes gay scout leaders, I can understand it. Until we come to a place where the LGBT community is more accepted—or we just start letting anyone be a scout leader, male or female, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts—it’s going to be an issue.
If you are one of those angered by this situation in one form or fashion, I’m not necessarily trying to convince you one way or another. I’m just trying to get you to perhaps look at it from a different side, even if it’s a side I don’t necessarily agree with.
Maybe I should have made this a “Devil’s Advocate” piece after all.