What does the definition of me, the boy scouts, and homosexuality have in common?
Last month, the 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted (with more than 60% in favor) to allow openly gay scouts to participate in the organization while maintaining its ban on gay and lesbian scout leaders.
The more I thought about the decision, several questions began to form in my mind about the ruling which, in my view, seemed to suffer from its own crisis of identity and purpose.
First, any private organization should have the right to make its own rules and choose its own specific members, thus, by default, excluding others. If I decide to form a sports club and only permit males aged 25-34 years old who have played in the majors, that’s my prerogative because it’s my club. American Mensa, of which I am a life member, also has its own specific entrance requirements—those who do not meet the criteria are denied membership. If, however, I am a public organization that takes public money, no such restrictions should apply—anything that is formed in the public interest should function without access restrictions.
Second, what exactly is inherent in being a homosexual that permits being a boy scout but precludes being a scout leader? If you’ve been gay for several years and faithfully served in the BSA, why would you be able to be a scout for that entire period, but when the time comes for a promotion you are denied the opportunity based on a sexual orientation?
Third, there are many deviant people in this world who are cut from both heterosexual and homosexual molds, so what would automatically disqualify the latter, especially if someone in the former group has proven themselves to be inadequate, incompetent, or incapable? Codes of conduct for scout leaders when dealing with their members should be universal, thereby letting everyone know there are certain lines that should not be crossed.
Fourth, I firmly believe that what goes on in a person’s private life is private. It would be inappropriate for my employer to ask me what goes on in my bedroom, as it would also be crude and unprofessional for me to discuss such topics at work. The hospital in which I work has a global code of conduct that all employees must adhere to in order to establish a uniform standard of professionalism. As long as I, or anyone else, adhere to that code while at work, how does what I do at home, in private, have any bearing on anything, assuming my private life does not affect my work?
Fifth, I can’t recall at any point in my life anyone asking me “Are you heterosexual?” to which I would startlingly respond, “None of your business.” I would respond similarly if asked, “What colors are your bed sheets?” “Do you own any guns?” “Are you a homesteader?” or “What color is your wife wearing today?” Private matters are private, and there is no valid rationale as to how the responses to any of these questions would influence my performance at a voluntary organization, social club, or work (positions in religious institutions are excluded). Therefore, why would asking someone, “Are you homosexual?” and then making a decision on that particular response be any different?
Sixth, at what point in time did we all feel the need to be validated by public or private organizations? After all, I define me, and not you. So what gives the BSA the right to tell private citizens, “You’re OK—but you, no way.” The BSA may be extending itself a bit too far and making its mission to fulfill a “higher level” of moral representation; the problem is that the “legitimacy” of private citizens is not defined by external organizations. People are the ones who form institutions and they give meaning and purpose to them, not the other way around.
Before anybody gets upset or rejoices over decisions like those made by the BSA, we should all stop and think just what our sadness or jubilation is based on. After all, once anyone hands over the “definition of me” to something else (“Tell me I’m OK” or “Tell me I’m pretty enough”), no matter how the issue is framed, they have already lost the battle without knowing it.
Dr. C.H.E. Sadaphal