I know my story is not unique, but that is all the more reason to tell it. I grew up in the Boy Scouts of America and from the time I was a small child my mother was the Den Leader of our Cub Scout troop until I went off to college, and I was proud to have earned my Eagle Scout badge.
Between the weekly meetings, monthly campouts, annual summer camps, ski trips and canoe trips, the time and energy that I dedicated to the organization is astounding. That dedication is matched only by the leadership experience, confidence and character that I gained through my relationship with scouting. I wish that the story ended there, but it does not.
By the time I was finishing high school I was aware that I was gay; shortly after starting college I came out and became politically active. My commitment to integrity compelled me to share the truth about my sexual orientation. And a sense of community responsibility and leadership skills propelled me into working for justice for my LGBT peers.
I owe much of my character to my family and church. But, I also recognize the values of integrity, responsibility and leadership were honed in my years with the Boy Scouts of America.
It became increasingly clear that I could no longer claim pride in an organization that would not accept me as a gay man. So I returned my Eagle Scout uniform and badge to the council. It was received there at the headquarters by my former scoutmaster and our family friend. It was one of the hardest days of my then 20-year-old life.
Again, a part of me wishes that the story ended there. But now more than 10 years later, the Boy Scouts of America is in the midst of reevaluating its stance. Soon the Scouts’ Executive Committee will send out a resolution to the 300 local scouting councils on whether to allow gay scouts, which they’ll vote on at their annual meeting later this month.
As someone who has been there, let me say bluntly that scouting offers what young gay men need most: confidence, camaraderie and responsibility.
To think that these might be available without judgment and rejection is why I am reaching out now. If you are or were involved with the Boy Scouts of America, please use this opportunity to make sure that those boys who most need what scouting has to offer are not left out.
KENT DOSS lives in Laguna Beach.