02/1/13

Coming Out

I don’t know why I’ve chosen to do it now and in this way. I apologize, in advance, to so many of you who won’t understand.

I know it will catch many by surprise, considering the image I project in my music life. Others may have long suspected. Regardless, I am aware that your view of me will be forever changed.

My parents and wife know and maybe a few confidantes along the way. Otherwise, I’ve been pretty private about it.

There’s nothing unique about my story, really. I’ve known since very young. 7 or 8. Suffered pretty relentless teasing about it. Kids laughed at the way I dressed and my extra-curriculur interests. Suggested I wasn’t a real boy/man. Heard an occasional “fag” or “queer.” Definitely caught some grief on the ball field and basketball court. As the campaign goes, though, things certainly have “gotten better.” And, many of those same attributes, which were the subject of shame in my youth, have become the qualities employers and friends have affirmatively sought in my adulthood. I’m more independent and self-assured and thoughtful for the experience of it, even if some memories will never be resolved.

Now, well into my thirties, I still have reservations about sharing the truth with others, afraid of what they might assume by association. And, then there is the matter of the kids. What do you tell them? What kind of messages are they receiving from others, at school and in the news? Would you allow them to follow their own hearts?

But, for me, in the face of the present and public outcry, to continue silently and anonymously seems a sort of lie and abdication. As a member of that community with some audience, I think I have a kind of duty to render an opinion, whether anyone asked or not. I really don’t have a lot to gain from this announcement. It just seems right.

The sashes and the knee high socks. An occasional “overnight” with the boys. “Pitching a tent,” so to speak.

You’ve probably guessed by now.

I’m a Boy Scout.

And, not just any Totin-Chip-Card carrying Scout, either. An Eagle Scout. Order of the Arrow, service project, bolo-tie, and all.

Long before the present controversy over whether the Boy Scouts of America should count open homosexuals among its ranks, I’ve had my reservations about the direction of scouting and my fidelity to it. The world is a different place. I’m a different person.

And, so this is a dicey subject for me. To condemn Boy Scouts is to betray a part of me and my family and my heritage. But, to affirm it, without some qualification, would be to also betray an important part of what I’ve come to believe about liberty and personal consciousness and freedom before God. And, so I would try to avoid doing either.

I’m proud to be a Boy Scout and of the Eagle Scout rank, in particular. I’m probably not what you’d call a “Scout’s Scout.” I have sensitive hands and I generally prefer Aldo boots to hiking ones. My father-in-law and Uncle-in-law, both also Eagle Scouts, won’t let me roast a marshmallow. But, I worked hard in scouting and was asked, as a result, to really face some of the limits of who I was as a person, even at a young age. To this day, I think there are very few opportunities as a young person to develop that kind of perspective. It’s a “boy lead” structure that puts real responsibility on young men. Almost any that I have, responsibility that is, I would credit so much of it to my time in scouting.

But, more importantly, Boy Scouts is an organization built on things like principle and honor and standards and values, particularly those in service and self-sacrifice. And, I can lend my support to almost any group that does.

But, some of those values aren’t modern. Belief in God. Gender segregation. Rejection of homosexuality. And, with all three, I would probably express some departure, in form and practice, if not in substance.

But to point that out doesn’t make you some grand philosopher king. I can’t think of anything easier to confess, or to accuse, than that Boy Scouts isn’t perfect. Welcome to the human race.

Even still, I would say that the scouting virtues of kindness and friendliness and courteousness and the duty to “help other people at all times” would be self-condemning in this instance. It’s like the church and military. Those they would seek to exclude are already participating. I remember them clearly myself. It’s just a question of whether they would be permitted to do so with some dignity and without the fear of shame.

As with religion, however, these are matters largely of personal conviction. So, solutions that permit some autonomy to handle these issues at the local level seem best suited, to me. But, more critically, because scouting is an organization that esteems so highly the ideals of conviction and personal conscious, I would hope that it would always err on the side of allowing individual scouts to find their own way.

None of the tease “confession” in my open was hyperbolic. A little melodramatic, maybe, but not exaggerated. Of course, I would be embarrassed to equate some of the discomfort one might have experienced by association with scouting, now or then, to the deeply scarring and life threatening experiences that gay and lesbian youth have suffered. That psychology and consequence is deep.

Yet, there is this strange parallelism in our country where the mainstreaming of LGBT identification has come at the hour of scouting’s increasing marginalization. The tables have, in a sense, been turned. To associate yourself as a Boy Scout is to side increasingly with the less popular view.

I have sorrow in my heart for the controversy. He is not now, and I don’t expect my son ever will be, a scout. I always assumed he would. That is, of course, as much about the many other choices vying for the attention of kids today as it is some intentional choice not to. But, all the same, there is some hole.

I’m a Boy Scout. And, here’s to Boy Scout’s being as trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent as they can find it in their oath and law and motto and slogan to be.

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Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by juiceboxjackson.

Today’s blong here:

On My Honor