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If the Local Option happens, how will Troops deal with practical problems?

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  • If the Local Option happens, how will Troops deal with practical problems?

    Okay, the Local Option may well happen, regardless of what many want. This thread will be for discussion of how your troops would deal with some of the practical problems that may arise, assuming you choose to continue to stay in the organization.

    1) Participation in gay-themed events?
    Three scouts who have come out as gay join your troop. They want to participate in a local Gay Pride parade (such as this one: in uniform. Some of the straight scouts object to the unit appearing to support such an activity. It doesn't appear to be overtly political or partisan. You're a little uncomfortable yourself after looking at the themes of some of the floats in the parade, and some of the groups sponsoring the floats. Their parents are okay with their participation, and are encouraging them to march. They want to hand out recruitment flyers for your troop as they march. Do you say okay? If not, why not?

    2) Tenting accomodations on camp-outs

    A scout who has come out as gay doesn't have a tent-mate and doesn't own a tent. None of the other boys want to share a tent with him. Can you order someone to do so?

    You loan him an extra tent and let him sleep solo. How do you deal with the angry call from his Mom, who happens to be an attorney, who claims that you are stigmatizing him?

    One of the boys says it is okay if he tents with him. The next morning, he tells his SPL that during the night, the gay scout discussed some things with him and made some comments that made him uncomfortable, and he wants to tent alone or with someone else that night. You discuss the issue with the gay scout who says nothing happened and he didn't say anything inappropriate. You let the straight scout tent with two other boys. You get an angry call from the straight scout's mother who tells you that under no circumstances should you ever let her son in the same tent with "that boy." The gay scout's mom calls you and demands to know why the first scout is making up lies about her son, and that she wants something done about him. It becomes a big point of dissension within your troop. What do you do?

    Two 17-year old scouts who have "come out" as gay and have joined the troop together, have stated they are dating each other, and want to share a tent together. You have no idea what is going on in there at night, but other scouts have made comments that they have heard things from the tent that make them uncomfortable. How do you approach that conversation? They tell you that there is nothing sexual going on. They have never had any public displays of affection within the troop. Can you separate them? Can you have a policy that gay scouts can't share a tent together? Can you have a policy that two scouts can't share a tent if they are in a romantic relationship? If you do so, how do you deal with the call from their parents (who are all attorneys) that you are stigmatizing their sons?

    3) Deaing with the "T" in "LGBT"
    Under the rubric of "Transgendered" are included a lot of groups that describe themeselves as transexual, transgendered, or transvestite. Some members of these groups will insist on wearing the clothing of the opposite sex as an intrinsic part of their sexual identity. This is probably less of a problem if all scout leaders wear their uniforms on camp outs and social events, but not every troop camps in uniform. Most would agree that you shouldn't wear anything that will represent a safety hazard. Would you be okay with a male scout leader, or a scout, who chooses to wear make-up such as eye shadow or fashion accessories? How would you tell him he can't? Should the SPL have a talk with the scouts about not commenting on Mr. Smith? Will that be considered as stigmatizing him? Is there anything in the regulations that says he cannot cross-dress? (This is a growing issue in workplace and employment law, BTW.) If two or three gay scouts want to do a skit from La Cage Aux Folles, can you tell them no if there are no sexual references? If one of the adult leaders insists on wearing a rainbow colored neckerchief slide, or one of those rainbow knot patches, can you stop him from doing so? No? If not, how will you deal with the questions from the scouts that arise from why he is wearing it?

    4) When the issue is raised by Scouts?
    I think most people agree that there should be no discussion of sexual issues in Scouting, and most potential homosexual and bisexual leaders don't want to bring it up. (Most of your scout leaders will be parents, and so unless adoptive parents, many will technically be bisexual, in that they had sex with a woman at least once.) Homosexuality is intrinsically based around sex, though - both in choice of sexual partners and choice of sex acts. This is pretty much self-definition - no one cares, or considers someone as "gay" if two men or two women have an intense friendship, strong feelings for each other, room togetehr, or even raise a child together (as a man and his brother might), if they don't have a sexual interest in one another. The desire to have sex with another man or another women is, I think we can agree, what makes someone define themselves as "gay." A simple interest in humming show tunes, dressing with a degree of style or flair, or a predeliction for Judy Garland movies does not. It's all about sex. It's actually about 4 or 5 really specific sex acts, some of which can only be done with another male.

    If we agree that there is no discussion of sexual issues in scouting, not no time no how no way, it's not really an issue. When someone defines his identity as a person by his sexual preferences, and insists that you acknowledge them as an organization, it's back on the table. Boys are boys, and they like to talk about taboo subjects - fart jokes, potty humor, sex humor, etc., whether an adult is around or not. How will an issue like this NOT be raised by teenage boys , and how will you deal with the bruised feelings that will result from such discussions? Many scouts will have strong religious and moral objections to such sexual behaviors, and may feel that such behaviors are immoral, and that they have a right to express their religious beliefs. If such views are raised among Scouts, it could be uncomfortable to gay scout leaders or boys who have defined themselves as gay. What will be your response? Tell them that such discussion isn't allowed? If a scout makes a comment about homosexuality, and another scout finds it offensive, will you counsel him? What if a gay scout raises the issue of his homosexuality (without discussing specific sex-related talk, but just refers to himself as gay) and another objects based on his religious beliefs? What if he tells you he is opposed to homosexuality because he was born that way? How will you handle this? Will you try to have a discussion about sex without talking about sex?

    5) All-Gay troops
    A local gay organization announces that they are chartering a troop for LGBT children, such as the ones in Canada. In addition to rainbow neck scarves, they will admit "transgendered" boys - that is, girls who sexually identify as boys, as well as, what the heck, lesbians. Maybe even atheists. It's a political hot potato, no one wants to address it. They will be attending your local camporee. What kind of talk will you give your scouts before this event?

    6) "That Guy"
    Will you be okay with a new potential unmarried adult leader, with no kids, who is openly homosexual and is really enthusiastic about being a part of your troop? How will you deal with the situation if he passes the background check and still creeps you out?

    Just spitballin' here. These are the kinds of issues that adult leadership training may have to focus upon in the future - how would you handle these?

  • #2
    I thought about responding to each point but frankly most of your questions and concerns are based on a flawed initial premise in the first place - that homosexuality is intrinsically about sex - that it's just not worth it.

    Instead, I would ask, how will you deal with people that show such an abundance of ignorance that they come up with this kind of bigotry cloaked in "concereed questions".


    • AZMike
      AZMike commented
      Editing a comment
      You feel that it is bigotry for us to accept the argument that has been offered by those who support this change - that a lot of gay teens and gay adults want to join the Scouts and can't or won't, and that changing the policy will allow them to do so - and that we should try get out in front of this to start coming up with some solutions to potential problems (liability, safety, unit retention) based on this supposed huge influx of gay teens and gay adults. Based on your viewpoint, most companies' HR programs are "bigoted," because they have to establish guidelines that will try to accommodate differing perceptions of what is acceptable behavior within a working community. Our particular working community involves shared sleeping arrangements, shared hygienic arrangements, and a population of young males who are at a hormonal peak of poor judgement. It is also a group that has been taught one moral view, and now will be told that the previous moral view is suddenly non-operative, and that they will now conform to the latest moral view. And you don't think this will all create a new set of problems?

      You feel that it is a flawed initial premise that homosexuality is intrinsically about sex.

      Fair enough. What is it intrinsically about then, CalicoPenn?

  • #3
    My wife asked this very same question this morning, so it must be on the minds of a lot of people. It's the same concern a normal parent would have about they teenage son or daughter camping in the same tent with scouts of the opposite sex. Fact of the matter it is all about sex at this age and if a scout is sexually attracted to anther scout, that can be cause for concern. We live in a litigious world and I can see traps all over this.

    I guess we start with how other countries deal with it.



    • Lodge 489
      Lodge 489 commented
      Editing a comment
      While I was attending a training event at the Philmont Training Center four years ago one afternoon I got to sit in on a discussion with the folks who were going through Venture Crew Leader training for the week. The couple teaching the class said that the number one problem that they had when camping with their Crew, was at night keeping the boys and girls out of each other's tents. There were probably another five or six crew leaders who spoke up and said the same thing. You put boys and girls that age together and the hormones are going to kick in. So, to say that sex isn't an issue - just take a look at the "challenges" that some crews have and you will realize it is.

  • #4
    Barry beat me to it. At 17 it IS all about sex.

    A lot of your stuff is pretty out there, Mike. Fact is with a local option you get to decide what's over the line. BLT (whatever) parade? No. Transgender girl? No. Creepy adult. No. You can beat around all the political issues you like, but the bottom line for me is THIS IS A FRIGGIN' SCOUT TROOP and I don't get paid to deal with all the fallout and crap which will come from the above.

    I do believe you have a point when it comes to the logistics of campouts. My 20-something son agrees with Calico and doesn't think it's an issue. My 20-something son doesn't have a 12-year-old child in the troop and doesn't have to answer to the parents who don't want their sons exposed to whatever is going on in the next tent. Logically, it's difficult for me to get past the comparison of allowing girls in the troop. The same parents wouldn't want their sons exposed to whatever is going on in the next tent if it were a boy and girl. We have substantial YP guidelines for dealing with co-ed groups and I would expect -- make that hope -- national will be forthcoming with similar guidelines. I say hope because it wouldn't surprise me at all if national punts this to the COs too


    • #5
      Now then. I came close to writing a missive on this as I have practical experience of having gay and bi scouts and leaders in my troop. However I fear it may get boring if I write it all and I also fear coming across as some kind of arrogant European liberal.

      So if anyone does want to ask some practical questions feel free to PM me.


      • #6
        Cambridgeskip, I think your experiences would be helpful to us.

        Added: plus the last time I checked, private messaging was not working. But I think your experiences would be of general interest anyway.


        • #7
          We had a gay scout in our troop. He hadn't come out yet, but anyone who cared to contemplate such things easily knew he was gay. He was elected SPL, inducted into the OA, and made Eagle. I was SM and was pretty attuned to the troop and never once did his orientation become an issue. He did not talk about gay issues, did not make it an issue at all. The rest of the fellows just accepted him for who he was - a little weird at times, but cool and a good Scout. He's now in grad school and will undoubtedly become a community leader. I hope he becomes a Scoutmaster. He'd be great.


          • #8
            "on a flawed initial premise in the first place - that homosexuality is intrinsically about sex."

            Yes, that famously flawed premise of taking words to mean what they've traditionally meant, what most dictionaries say they mean, and what most people mean when they say them.

            Sexuality isn't intrinsically about sex?


            • #9
              Trev -- I'd have absolutely no problem with that Scout in my Troop.

              Skip -- I'd love to hear the thoughts of an arrogant European liberal on the topic. :-)


              • #10
                Ok then, by popular demand it would seem.....

                First of I think people are arguing semantics here. Yes homosexuality is about sex, but no more and no less so then heterosexuality is. If a new leader arrives at your group and introduces himself by saying "hello, my name is CambridgeSkip, pleased to meet you all. A bit about me. I live on any street, any town, I work at any company, I'm married to Mrs Cambridgeskip and you have probably already met my children, scout 1 and scout 2" then the scouts can probably deduce that the new leader has a sexual relationship. Same way they can deduce that their own parents do, and their teacher does and pretty much every other adult in their life. Those adults don't discuss sex with those scouts. So there is no reason why a gay scout leader would do so. They would just introduce themselves as something like "hello, my name is CambridgeSkip, pleased to meet you all. A bit about me. I live on any street, any town, I work at any company, I live with my partner/husband/civil partner Mr Cambridgeskip" and leave it at that.

                And yes, a gay leader has been introduced to the troop. Although in that case she was not as upfront about it. Just introduced herself without refering to any relationship. Which is fine. Over time though it just became known that she was gay. She would refer to her partner in conversation in exactly the same way that I would to Mrs Cambridgeskip. None of the scouts had an issue with it. You will probably be surprised at just how accepting the scouts will be.

                Second lets talk numbers. A quick bit of googling reveals varying opinions on what proportion of the population are gay. Anywhere between 1% and 6%. This seems to very between country, gender, enthnicity and all kinds of other factors. The detail is not important. What is important is that gays and bisexuals are in the minority. So odds are that at any given time, unless you have an absolutely massive troop you are unlikely to have more than 1 or 2 scouts who are gay at any given time. The nature of random distribution means that you may well have bubbles. In BPs ideal troop of 32 you'll have times with no gay scouts, other times you may have 4 or 5. but 1 or 2 will be typical. So you have a very small number. What are the odds of two of them ending up dating? Slim. They would typically need to be of around the same age and also actually interested in each other. I have had gay and bi scouts in the troop and can say that I have never had an actual relationship form. Will it one day? Possibly it will. I will treat it exactly the same as when I have had a boy and a girl in the troop dating (which I have had). They are expected to be "hands off" at scouts and they sleep in seperate tents.

                So tenting arrangements. On many threads there seems to be a lot of worry about this but I have found scouts to be amazingly pragmatic. It has simply never been an issue. That might not actually sound very helpful but it's true. They organise themselves (and in some circumstances I organise them) in terms of tenting arrangements and get on with it. They don't worry about it. As I said above if a relationship formed I would ensure that they were in seperate tents. Also if I knew a given individual had issues with being in the same tent as someone that is gay then that can be dealt with. A descrete reshuffle of the tents is all that is needed, same as if there were any other personality clash. I can point to two lads in my troop who are kept seperated because I know they will come to blows if I don't. But those individuals who have a problem will be in the minority as well. In short, don't worry about it!

                Gay Pride etc. To be honest this has never come up. I've never had scouts that want to go. If I did I guess I would risk assess it like I would any other activity or event. What will happen there? What is the likely age range? What are the numbers like? How many adults will I need? Is it appropriate? I am aware of gay pride events that are relatively conservative in nature which I think I would be happy for them to attend and equally I know of events that are overtly sexual in their nature where I don't think I would happy for them to go as I don't think it is appropriate. Take it as it comes.

                Over all I think you need to remember that your average gay teenager is not really any different to a straight teenager. They join scouts because they want to camp, climb and canoe. They can be trusted to get on with it

                So that is my practical experience. I am happy to be grilled on it in more detail!


                • #11
                  Thank you Cambridgeskip, When I read the OP my first thought was that the beauty of local option is that we don't need to worry about what other units will do or how they will respond. We can now devote our attenction to our own local unit. I tend to agree, though, with the basic theme you mentioned, "You will probably be surprised at just how accepting the scouts will be."
                  Referring to the OP again, I think most of the problems will be with the adults and the adult perceptions. All this worry over tenting, camporees, adult appearances, etc. seems to be mostly a search for problems as opposed to solutions. This unit was introduced to a gay leader and the boys and the adults just shurgged because 'gayness' wasn't part of the introduction. No one new to the introduction had any idea, nor did they until somehow it just filtered in through the 'grapevine' (that mysterious, nebulous, seemingly everpresent source of 'truth'). And by then, big deal. As far as the boys are concerned, sex, applied to leaders, is about the most distasteful thing they could ever think about (I mean, like, EUUUWWW!).
                  As far as THEY are concerned, the boys in this unit seem already to have sorted things out with regard to homo- and hetero- things. As you say, "You will probably be surprised at just how accepting the scouts will be." Unless, I add, they are somehow influenced by the adults to think in other terms. But then again, for the time being, looking at this unit, that is not a problem for us.


                  • #12
                    Thanks Cambridgeskip, you throw a bucket of reality upon the flames of panic & fear..


                    • #13
                      Thanks, Cambridgeskip. The voice of experience is always welcome (and, hopefully, calming to some).


                      • #14
                        Thanks, Skip. As with Trev's youth member, I wouldn't have an issue with your lady skipper, either. I'm not (yet) certain how our sponsoring church will respond, but we'll see.

                        But your lady skipper is really an example of how BSA policy works NOW, with the so-called don't-ask/don't-tell policy. Depending on the chartered organization, a homosexual leader who is descrete about their situation could be -- and are -- welcome in many units currently. True, there have been instances where homosexuals have been "outed" and removed by their CO, which is why I preface this with "depending on the CO." Perhaps with the more liberal rules in the UK, your volunteer was a bit more open about her relationship than she could be here, but to me that's just a matter of degree.

                        And I think you are correct that the Scouts will be very accepting of homosexuals. They are also very accepting of the kid who brags about hitting 120mph in his Mustang, the kid who got busted for pot, the four kids hospialized for for alcohol poisoning and the couple caught having sex in a store room at a local school. Yes, young people can be very accepting.

                        Much of what we are dealing with it this is a very viceral and emotional to many folks. Their view's on homosexual are based on their faith and moral values, not statistical analysis. Then consider we are dealing with their CHILDREN, you add layers and layers of emotion and fear to the situation.


                        • #15
                          No TwoCub, our policy is not "If you are discreet".. it is, "If anyone finds out".. The den leader that was booted out this summer, was not because she was teaching the tiger scouts about sex, or that she was hitting on the mothers of the Tiger scouts.. It was because someone reported her as being homosexual.. The one kicked out of scouts because he was picked up by his significant other, and did nothing but get into a car with another man, was kicked out because someone asked, and another scout leader told him it was his boyfriend.. If he didn't ask and recieve an honest answer the guy he got into the car with could have just been a friend, brother or cousin.. The guy who was popcorn kernal for a unit, was kicked out because someone knew he "was", it was not because he was fluanting his sexuality with every box of popcorn sold..

                          If Cambridgskip gay leader was here in the USA, she would be out on her ear, because eventually it was realized she "was"..

                          You can kick out a heterosexual for improper sexual behavior around the scouts, so too can you kick out a homosexual... But, improper sexual behavior is not saying something like "Let me introduce you to my husband." It is not improper if said by a femail adult leader, it is equally not improper if said by a male adult leader..

                          Don't ask, Don't tell is basically, "If we find out the truth, your out."