Stand Up

Eagle Scout returning badge(I’m at the right, attempting to grow into my ears and noes at my 1997 Eagle Scout court of honor)

In case you haven’t heard, I have joined the ever-growing number of Eagle Scouts across the country who are turning in their awards in protest over Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policies.

I first announced my position here on my blog and then I cross-posted over to the Huffington Post. Three days later the Huffington Post approved the post and placed it on their front page for more than a day.

Folks at Talk of the Nation read the post and invited me on. Listen to me chatting with host Neal Conan and fielding calls.

Over the past week I’ve received an outpouring of support.

As soon as I got off the radio, Billy, the gay Eagle Scout marrying my cousin, told me that he was going to send his badge back, too.

A gay friend wrote me on Facebook: Kelsey, thank you. I read this out loud to [my partner] as I was trying to soothe our baby girl, Grace, and started to cry. It means a lot when a straight white male (with such enormous biceps) sticks up for the gays.

Each of the above was worth 10,000 negative comments.

And there were plenty of negative comments, too. I received this email from a fella by the name of Jim Miazza:

“I watched my 2 sons earn Eagle, I am gld that BSA National protected them from but f-ers like you.”

I don’t mind being on the other side of any issue with that guy!

Still, when people praise me for my stand, I sort of hang my head and take the compliment. I wish I could look into the distance, put my fists on my hips, and say something meaningful about truth, justice, and the American way. Instead I stare at the ground and mumble a thank you.

It’s been a week since all of this began and I think I’ve finally figured out why I can’t whole-heartedly accept the praise.

First, I’m sad that an organization that provided me with so many wonderful experiences continues to move in a direction that excludes an entire group of Americans.

But also…

I suffer from everybody Loves Raymond Syndrome.

I grew up in a place where there are many folks who would disagree with me. Despite our different views of the world, these people are my friends, family, fellow scouts, and neighbors. While I’m able to separate debate on issues like this from personal attacks, I worry that they won’t.

I don’t like not being liked.

Also…

I have to feed my family.

I speak at a wide array of schools of varying sizes and ideologies. This is one of the primary ways that I feed my family and spread my message. Before I stood up on this issue, I considered how this could negatively impact my relationship with such schools. Would I have invitations retracted? Would I receive fewer requests? How could speaking out negatively impact my career?

Also…

I don’t have the time.

I leave for Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa on Friday to continue researching my next book. I have a lot of writing and pre-travel loose ends to tie up. I have other things to do. I’m too busy to stand.

A friend I worked with as a SCUBA instructor in Key West wrote me: “You, my FRIEND, are a hero. Ya got the stones of a GIANT.”

I think a hero wouldn’t hesitate to stand up. I looked around, dipped my toe in the water, had a bunch of selfish thoughts, stepped back to consider some more, and then reluctantly stood.

I could have played it safe and stayed silent. I actually considered turning down Talk of the Nation. Instead, I stood and continue to do so. Tonight I’ll be speaking out on the Alan Colmes Show shortly after 11PM. I just received an email from GLAAD (Gays & Lesbians Alliance Against Defamation) wanting me to join their efforts. I will.

Standing isn’t always safe or convenient, but you do it when what’s inside of you ignores all of the reasons you shouldn’t

I stand because I value the lessons that Boy Scouts instilled in me.

I stand for my son Griffin who I hope will join Scouts if they change their anti-gay policy.

I stand for the gay scouts who shouldn’t have to stand alone.

I stand because this issue is bigger than me.

I stand not because I’m a hero, but because I’m a former Eagle Scout.

When do you stand? When have you stood for something? What was it?

 
5 comments
KT Jayne says:

Kelsey, it doesn’t take balls to stand on an issue like this, it takes conscience.

When my son was in scouts, he was constantly teased for being weird. Is he weird? Yes, he has Asperger’s and it’s a requirement for the diagnosis. The leadership told him and me that we needed to grow thicker skins and get over it. Consequently, he quit scouts and joined DeMolay where he was whole heartedly accepted and never put down for being different.

There is another side to this issue, however. What values are we teaching these boys? It’s not about “family values” or even “marriage values”. It’s about teaching tolerance of diversity. It would be so wonderful if we were all cookie cutter people and we were all exactly the same. But we are not. We are all unique and wonderful for that uniqueness. Even the ideal of what a family is has changed drastically in the last 20 years.

It feels as if the scouts should consider their position on a global level. After all, if we are protesting sexual preference as a family issue, then why not disallow families with single parents? In the big picture scope of things, this is not a traditional family and divorce is certainly not preached in the Bible. If we are taking a stand on a specific value then we need to follow it across the board, not just the part of the board that is the most convenient for us.

At a time in history when so many boys need the mentorship and guidance that scouts can offer, and the scouts themselves are struggling for membership, it seems silly to exclude someone for something so silly as their preference in partners. I understand their argument, be it ignorant and misguided, that they don’t want to promote inappropriate activities, but wouldn’t that activity happen whether they promoted it or not? It also puts forth the extremely stupid viewpoint that gay guys can’t control themselves in a tent in the middle of the night in the woods for a camping trip. Please! People are going to experiment no matter what their persuasion.

We need to put into the heads of these boys that it is okay to be different. I’m thoroughly convinced that the United States was founded by a bunch of men with ADD and issues with authority that were extremists. If it weren’t for those men, the BSA would have no legs to stand on, now would they?

I hope that on the flip side of this, you still keep in your heart the lessons that you learned from scouts, because they are truly life lessons and you have obviously carried the experience and determination that you learned as an Eagle Scout with you into your adult life.

So hurray for being different. And hurray for you, Kelsey for taking a stand. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. You are still one of my heros!

Kelsey says:

KT, thanks for the great note. I’m glad your son was able to move beyond Scouts.

I highly value what I learned in Scout. I’m proud of my experiences, my troop, and what we accomplished together. I am not proud of BSA.

Also, I alway like a good John Cougar Mellencamp quote. Well played!

KT Jayne says:

Funny, I thought it was Alice Cooper. Must be one of those, everyone has said it at least once quotes….lol.

[...] The decision wasn’t made lightly. Scouts helped give me the confidence and independence to travel around the world alone as an author and journalist gathering stories. But Scouts also gave me the moral compass to stand up and act against injustice. [...]

[...] When the Boy Scouts of America doubled down on their policy of discriminating against gay scouts and leaders, I announced that I was going to return my Eagle Scout awards. The decision wasn’t made lightly. Scouting helped give me the confidence and independence to travel around the world alone as an author and journalist gathering stories. But it also gave me the moral compass to stand up and act against injustice. [...]

Let your voice be heard!