Homophobia Week

(Note: a portion of this article comes from a piece I wrote on April 30. I felt there were some things from that piece that need to be repeated.) It seems like the past few days have been unusually homophobic. Jimmie Walker from the 1970s T.V. show, Good Times, has joined Kirk Cameron among the few and dishonored actors opposing gay marriage. I can just picture Walker and Cameron with Wallace ’68 bumper stickers, especially since that was about how long ago they were in a Hollywood program that people actually watched. Among celebrities who people actually know about, Jon Voight has voiced support for Brad Pitt’s mother’s letter endorsing Mitt Romney and praising him for his opposition to gay marriage. Your two ex wives say hi, Jon. Confirming what everyone already knew—Chick Fil A is a homophobic business—company president Dan Cathy said, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about,” Hey, Dan: if you want to run your business based on a strict adherence to the Bible, you may want to replace your employees with slaves. Leviticus says you can! Finally, despite efforts by activists to change the policy, the Boy Scouts of America has announced that it will continue its ban on gays. Just so that there is no controversy that such a ban exists, I will quote a press release that the BSA issued last month: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.” Until they removed it from their website to avoid controversy, their official policy stated: “Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting’s values and beliefs. Most boys join Scouting when they are 10 or 11 years old. As they continue in the program, all Scouts are expected to take leadership positions. In the unlikely event that an older boy were to hold himself out as homosexual, he would not be able to continue in a youth leadership position.” The actions of the Boy Scouts of America are bigoted and completely unjust. As referenced above, such actions entail discrimination based on an immutable trait. For many years, Boy Scouts apologists loved to claim, despite the obvious wording in the BSA’s policy to the contrary, that the exclusion was based on fear of male scoutmasters sexually abusing boys. Even if this were true, the policy would still be asinine. Such logic seems to imply either that all gay people are pedophiles, that gay men are the equivalent of women (and that, therefore, letting a gay man sleep in a tent with boys is the equivalent of letting a heterosexual man sleep in a tent with girls) or both. Yet if it was not already, it must be painfully obvious now that the policy is rooted in opposition to homosexuality. If it were based on fear of sex abuse, why would the BSA exclude a lesbian from leadership? After all, a lesbian is a lot less likely to sexually abuse a boy than a heterosexual woman would be. However, as disgusted as I was and am with the Boy Scouts of America, I could not help but shake my head at Jennifer Tyrrell upon reading this story. In an email urging people to sign her petition, she said, “When Cruz told us last year that he wanted to be a Boy Scout, my partner and I were concerned. We knew the organization has discriminated against families like ours before. But the other families in Cruz’s group were so welcoming and supportive — they even asked me to be a den leader on the first day.” As soon as I read this, I almost did a face-palm. Why would she have ever gotten involved with the organization? It is clear that she did not intend to serve as a test case, as she did not begin protesting until the policy began to impact her directly. A civil rights movement cannot be run this way. Members of oppressed minorities, as well as their allies, must not be involved in institutions that support their oppression. I regret to say that as a little boy, when I was unaware of the pressing issue of gay rights, I was a boy scout. I have not been affiliated with the organization in roughly fifteen years. If I had it to do over again, I would not join. I don’t have a son, but if I did, I would not encourage him to join the Boy Scouts of America. And this is the difference between my views and those of Jennifer Tyrrell: if my son wanted to join the Boy Scouts of America, I would not let him. Instead, I would sit him down and explain to him why the BSA is a bad organization. Tyrrell should have explained to her son that the BSA is “mean to people like your mommies.” The vast majority of the time, children love their parents. If they know that a person or group is mean to their parents, they will generally not want to be associated with that person or group. This case is a cautionary tale about the futility of staying in bigoted organizations while opposing their policies. The fair-minded families who welcomed Jennifer Tyrrell must now make a choice. They can do what they should have done long ago and quit the BSA or they can retain membership and tacitly condone its policies. There is no third option. Those who support gay rights must learn to make sacrifices as members of other social movements have. Abolitionists refused to buy sugar or cotton because these products were made with slave labor. Blacks in Montgomery refused to ride the city’s buses in the 1950s because they were segregated. As a consequence of publishing his autobiography against slavery, Frederick Douglass had to leave his native land behind and go to Great Britain. If Frederick Douglass was willing to flee the country, surely those who support gay rights can avoid participating in the Boy Scouts of America. On a final note, I would like to respond to those who claim that the government cannot force the Boy Scouts of America to change its policy. That is indeed true. However, it is also true that the government has an obligation to deny the Boy Scouts of America the right to use taxpayer-funded property until it allows gays and lesbians to participate.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Homophobia Week

  1. I always appreciate what you write. Thanks, Charles.

  2. c. ligg

    I am a homosexual black male who mentors young boys who are usually white. I have worked on occasion with Boy Scouts of America. There parents have an issue with me because I encourage these young boys to accept being gay. It’s something you born with. Bigoted parenting is a big problem in America. Parents should love there child even if they homosexual. I show these young children love and attention that parents dont show. These young boys that I mentor in after school programs and camping trips. Need a gay male like me to influence them in a positive way about their potential gayness even if I am black. Because love knows no color. People need to stop being discriminatory toward gay people and accept us and their gay children into our society. So what a little boy gay. If his father or mother not gay then he needs a gay mentor/ role model like me to help guide him and show and teach him things about being gay. Since I am older its a lot he can learn from me. Lets face it a straight parent not qualified to be role model for a gay child. Americans need to be more considerate for gay. Because god, he made us too.

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