A strange thing happened a few weeks ago. Apropos of not much, the Boy Scouts of America announced that they were reconsidering their institutional discrimination against openly-gay scouts and scoutmasters. This was referred to as "re-evaluating their ban of gay Scouts."
It is sad but true that the discrimination against openly-gay Scouts has never been seriously questioned until the BSA themselves announced it. Undoubtedly there were individual cases of protest and of course discrimination, but it has mostly been taken for granted that the Scouts discriminate. It has been accepted generally because the BSA is a private organization.
But no longer; the BSA actually receives government funding to prop up its declining revenues. And those revenues are declining because membership is declining. We don't know exactly how much the institutional discrimination impacted membership, but apparently it has by now reached a point at which the BSA must reconsider--against their will--admitting new members just because they want to become Boy Scouts. (That's so crazy it just might work!)
That's where it was last week, when Andy Ostrow wrote a pithy article that caught my attention. In last week's Huffington Post, he wrote an article called Gay Boy Scouts: What are Conservatives so Afraid Of? and I must say he didn't waste any words. He begins:
"Here's the thing that I find fascinating about conservatives: they think that simply banning the things that terrify them actually make them go away. Of course, logic and reality dictate otherwise. This phenomenon is most prevalent when the subject is homosexuality... be it relating to gay marriage, gays in the military or gays in the Boy Scouts."
Let's go one better: banning abortion isn't going to make it go away either. The murder of doctors and nurses, along with the bombing of women's health-care clinics, isn't going to get rid of abortion, as evangelical preachers know full well when they are forced to pay for an abortion themselves after their girl friend sounds the alarm that she's pregnant.
Nor is making it harder to vote going to make Democrats go away, but I thought that was so obvious that it didn't need to be said...although I was wrong. And we can ask just how much impact the child-abuse scandal has impacted Scouting membership now that some cases have come to light. Banning gay scouts and scoutmasters certainly didn't prevent some predatory men from getting their hands on some young members of their troops. Wouldn't it be a good plan to focus more on the character of potential scoutmasters and troop leaders rather than focus on whether they are straight or gay--or is that just too crazy?
Ostrow goes on to say:
"The Boy Scouts of America this week announced that it's delaying until [M]ay a decision on whether to lift its ban of gay scouts or scout leaders. This comes on the heels of recent buzz that the organization was very close to ending the ban as early as this week. As expected, the specter [sic] of such a decision has been met with intense opposition, rooted in a frustrating and unsurprising cocktail of ignorance, intolerance and religious fanaticism."
In other words (mine, not Ostrow's), the most frustrated and closeted gay evangelicals are beside themselves with fear at the idea that there will be men or boys who are actually comfortable with their gay identity in Scouting troops. They can't imagine themselves facing their own sexuality because it is barricaded in the closet while they impute "limp wrists" to four-year-olds and urge their followers to break that little wrist so that their toddlers can't exhibit questionable masculinity.
Of course, as Ostrow mentions in passing, the Moral Majority responded to the initial announcement by stating that they would pull their funding from the Boy Scouts--and close down their church's troops, I expect--if the national organization dared to admit the existence of gay Scouts, let alone give them respect as Americans who are equal before the Constitution.
Parenthetically, I once knew a boy when I was in high school who was a fantastic dancer, physically beautiful and used to spend every afternoon and evening practicing his ballroom dancing along with his best (male) friend. That was in the Sixties: by now he has been married three times. I never questioned his masculinity after he fell madly in love with my best friend--which was no problem; I was dating the best friend. The four of us had a lot of fun together, going out dancing. We are all still friends.
Ostrow's article continues:
"So let's get right to the chase then. Banning gays from the Boy Scouts doesn't mean there will be no gays in the Boy Scouts. Just like there's no way for conservatives to keep gays out of the military (fighting for your freedom), the schools (teaching your kids), hospitals (keeping you healthy/alive), politics (making your laws), police and fire stations (keeping you safe), television and film (entertaining you) and yes, your beloved sports teams (fueling your machismo). All a ban does is give these narrow-minded fools a false sense of security: 'If I don't actually see gays then they're not there, right!?'"
I think it's deeper than that, but Ostrow puts it well enough. Personally, nothing would surprise me in the conduct of the hysterical preachers--see what happens when another Ted Haggard is outed by his boyfriend. I don't think for one minute that every crazy preacher has the character that Haggard demonstrated when he faced his scandal and rebuilt his life.
But you cannot rebuild your life until you face your life. The unrelenting preoccupation with sexuality is very likely, I should say, to produce obsession with sexuality, which is not the same thing as being a closeted homosexual. But when the preachers lose it and break down, like the televangelists whether gay or straight, they have to hit the bottom before they can get back up. That's a rule of human conduct: if you won't live and let live, you will destroy yourself all the while you think that you are destroying others. How many Hollywood productions have been made to illustrate that simple point?
I mean, what's your justification for spending your life trying to make sure that gay people can't live in society unmolested? Do you want them to go away so that you won't see them and you can pretend that they aren't there? That's what Ostrow is saying, and I think that he is right. Seldom have I seen it put more succinctly.
For more info: check out an interesting take on this idea of self-destruction in the film called Toys in the Attic, which features an offbeat and impressive performance by Dean Martin even when he is co-starred with the great Geraldine Page. Seriously, it is a definitive film.