On My Honor

Having just returned from my (successful) Eagle Scout Board of Review, I should be basking in the triumph of a well-earned accomplishment. Instead, I am worrying and wondering, "What have I done?"

The BSA excludes homosexuals from its ranks, and has even fought to the Supreme Court for the right to so discriminate. I took this as a reason to actively not earn my Eagle, until I began to realize that I had as much a right to work toward it as any other Scout, and wanted it for many of the same reasons. Plus, as a friend of mine pointed out, "it would be a big 'up yours' to be an upstanding member, get the reward, and then turn around and say, 'By the way, I like boys!'" In any case, I thought I would try to prove that one can indeed be both gay and an excellent Scout, helping to further confirm the absurdity of the BSA policy. So I did the merit badges and project, and here I am, an Eagle. What I didn't consider is that my "up yours" to the BSA could be perceived as an "up yours" to the mentors and former Scout leaders who sat on my Board of Review tonight.

My coming out is a matter of time, for my own sanity. So, these men, some of them father figures to me over the years, will feel justifiably deceived when that happens, no? Duped, even betrayed, for having passed me off to the highest level of Scouting? My last question tonight was if I had "violated the law of the land;" I confessed that I had perhaps broken the speed limit here or there, but done nothing more serious than that. It was then explained to me, "We just don't want someone to get their Eagle this week if they're going to jail the next." "Especially with our signatures on it," someone added, indicating it was, to some degree, a matter of their personal reputation and judgment. I assured them I am a law-abiding citizen except, I said lightly, for the exceptions I mentioned. "It's more about moral things," the district advancement person said. "That is very, very, very serious..."


I pledged, on my honor, to "do my best to do my duty to God," even if it's not in the context of the LDS Church, but they may well interpret my leaving the Church as turning my back on God. I pledged to be "morally straight," not straight, but many of them will probably not see a difference.

So, how now do I come out without hurting these men? Will I be stripped of my Eagle status? Or will I effectively strip these men of their status, or at the very least damage the community's trust in their judgment?

Furthermore, for the past few weeks I've been going to church for the sole reason of Scout-related business. I've told my bishop, privately, that I will probably not always be apart of the Church. But the rest of the ward has no idea, so if I stop going to church now that I have my Eagle, will not my Young Men's leaders feel used and unfairly taken advantage of?

Yet I have neither desire nor reason to go to church (I'm certainly not being forced by my [inactive] mom); three hours of hurt because of my differing sexual and religious orientations confirmed that to me today (not to say I'm leaving because I've been "offended," but because my religious beliefs have changed, something I will post about soon, and because on a thousand levels I don't fit in--church attendance is not making me a better person in any way--and the truth is, I hardly consider myself Mormon, if at all, anymore). So, so long as it is a net negative experience for me, why should I feel compelled to continue going? I have as much desire and reason to attend a Catholic mass or a Baptist sermon as I do LDS services, even though I am fairly heavily invested in the ward...

I'll end by noting that this whole scenario is IMHO rather unfair--I should be able to be myself and earn my just rewards without worrying about things like this. But the reality is not so, and right now this is the reality I and other gay Scouts have to work with. Accordingly, any advice as to how I should proceed given these circumstances would be much appreciated!


MoHoHawaii said...

I enjoyed this post. You seem much more self-confident than last year.

I like what Carol Lynn Pearson said on her recent Mormon Stories dot org podcast (segment #4, starting at about 33:02). She said that she tells young gay people that they should believe in themselves before they believe in anything else (for example, a religion). I think her advice is good, and I kind of get the sense from what you wrote today that that's where you are.

As for coming out, the experience is always bittersweet. There will be tears of joy and sadness. Some relationships will grow deeper; others may wither. It's an intense time you'll never forget and has the same intensity of feeling that people ascribe to spiritual experiences. Come out it with integrity and kindness and do it only when you are ready.

As far as your scout leaders and church leaders go, my feeling is that the Church hasn't really done you a lot of favors growing up. You don't really owe it much. However, if you appreciate the efforts that any of your youth leaders have made on your behalf over the years, thank them personally and privately when the time comes. They will still love you, especially if they see your confidence and the brightness of your hope for your life. Think of it as a missionary experience that might benefit the next gay young person who comes along after you.

I see great things in your future.

J G-W said...

I'd say that the BSA has been neither "friendly, courteous, kind" nor "helpful" when it comes to the issue of gay scouts.

No one but you can judge how "trustworthy" and "reverent" you've been. Whatever else, you've at least been "brave."

I personally have debated whether I ought to turn in my Eagle badge, for some of the reasons you've cited here.

I think you have a right and a responsibility to stand up and say, "I'm gay, and that part of me is nothing to be ashamed of. I've worked hard for this honor, and I deserve it on the same basis as all others who've made the same effort I have." If they think being gay makes you less worthy of being a scout, and they want to take that honor away from you, that will only add tarnish to an organization that has already tarnished itself through discrimination...

Butterflies and hand-grenades said...

Frank, just don't worry!! You will do fine, and honestly the members of the church who approved your eagle probably know you are gay. I don't say this to be mean, but you are much too polite and graceful to be straight :D. And remember this as well, the boy scouts program is independent of the church. You are "one up-ing" the bigotry inspired hatred fostered by an organization that, in my opinion, destroys individuality and fosters self doubt. If you spend your life worrying about how you possible hurt others, you wont actually be living.

Abelard Enigma said...

First off, congratulations on earning the rank of Eagle scout. As one who has served on a number of Eagle boards of review throughout the years, I am well aware of the service and dedication it takes to achieve it. You worked hard and you deserve it.

That said, I also understand your ambivalence.

As far as what those who mentored you will feel when you come out - I think you may be underestimating them. I've known several young men over the years who earned their eagle rank and then ultimately went inactive. I've never heard anyone who worked with these young men express feelings that they were deceived because these young men did not go on to live the Mormon dream (temple marriage and a gaggle of kids). If anyone does feel that way then shame on them.

They may feel you've lost your way - and in a sense they are right, at least in the LDS context. But not because of anything you've done. And the reality is that you are finding yourself - your true self.

Bravone said...

FLS, as an Eagle Scout, former scout leader, and friend, I congratulate you for BECOMING an Eagle. I have always thought 'earning an Eagle award' is far different than 'becoming' an Eagle. Anyone can, with the right amount of effort and support, earn the badge. Far fewer are those who actually become Eagles.

You are an Eagle. I know you, and know that you embody all the good traits that scouting truly stands for. You live and breathe the Scout Law.

I am proud of you! I'd be honored to be on your Eagle board of review. You may not take the course that some of your leaders took, but I have complete confidence that you will always live a life of integrity and truly model the values scouting hopes young men aspire to acquire.

Better invite me to the ceremony!

Mister Curie said...

From another gay Eagle scout, congratulations FLS on becoming an Eagle!

I don't think you need to worry about the connections between scouting and homosexuality when you come out. As long as you don't come out specifically as an "Up yours!" to your leaders, I don't think they are likely to make the connection between scouting and homosexuality. They will likely be worried about your soul, but I don't think scouting is even going to cross their mind, particularly if they really care about you.

boskers said...

I wish I had come to that spiritual realization when I was as young as you are. I'm admittedly jealous, but at the same time very much impressed.

As for the Scouts thing, I echo what's already been said. Don't be obnoxious about it. And even if you're as eloquent as the Queen of England, there will still be those who refuse to understand. Once you come out they'll be eying you like ravenous vultures, waiting for any little reason to tear away your well-earned honor.

Bravone said...

FLS, It was an honor to attend your Eagle Award ceremony tonight. Understanding the feelings you expressed in your post, it was especially meaningful for me. I am proud of you for your efforts in scouting, school, and community.

I wish you could have been in the car with my son and I afterward to hear the fine things he, as your peer and friend, said about you. You are a good man, will be successful at whatever endevor you choose, and have great potential to be a force for good in many lives.