Update (Feb. 4, 2013, 1:10 p.m.): Be sure to head over to QNotes to read the editorial, “Critics of Boy Scout policy should follow Scouters’ lead,” published this morning.
There was much controversy this past week as news broke that the national board of the Boy Scouts of America would be considering ending their national anti-gay membership and leadership policy.
“This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” Scouts spokesperson Deron Smith said in a statement. “BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.”
Smith also promised that the Scouts’ national leaders would “not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents” and that the national body “would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”
The news of this week is stunning, reversing decades of exclusion of gay men and boys from participation in the nation’s preeminent organization for training and equipping young men with the tools, principles and values necessary for becoming good citizens.
There’s no firm deadline determined for making the decision, but it could come down as soon as this coming week’s national executive board meeting. And, in the meantime, LGBT and progressive leaders are speaking out with a variety of talking points, some helpful and others I believe ignore the reality of this small bit of forward movement, the chink in the armor of the Scouts’ long-standing discriminatory practices that will inevitably give way to extraordinary progress. Continue reading this post…
[Note: I know my blog has been dormant here lately. Work and school has been taking its toll. I have always deeply appreciated the kind support of my friends, fans and followers. Though I may not be posting regularly here, you can always find me at my day job and, one day, we’ll see about getting InterstateQ.com kick-started again. For now, an important message below…]
As many of you have already heard, the Boy Scouts of America will be considering easing up their controversial national policy excluding gay Scouts and Scout leaders (see local North Carolina coverage, including some remarks from me, for more). The policy would allow local units to decide their own membership and leadership standards. The policy is a step forward and a huge development, no doubt, but it isn’t perfect. The policy excluding members and leaders on the basis of religious belief is not being amended and the local-based policy will result in gaps that could still leave some young gay boys and men at the mercy of hostile, anti-gay leaders, bullying and harassment (see this Associated Press article in which I contributed some comments for more on this issue). Regardless, this step toward progress is one I support. Below, my letter to the national Boy Scouts of America’s office, which is accepting input on the proposed policy change. You can provide your own input via email at email@example.com or you can call the National Service Desk at 972-580-2330. A representative will take your call and ask if you are for or against the policy change (h/t Dallas Voice).
My letter to the Boy Scouts of America:
Dear fellow Scouters,
I am writing in support of the proposed national policy change that would allow local chartering organizations to determine their own membership and leadership standards for individual troops and packs. Though I believe the policy does not yet go quite far enough in addressing all issues of discrimination, rejection and exclusion, I believe this is the right step forward. I urge you to approve the proposed policy.
In 2000, I was dismissed from Scouting at the age of 14, after I came out as gay and started an anti-bullying club at my high school. I had been involved in Scouting since elementary school. Scouting was an integral part of my life. It was a support network of family and friends. At the time of my dismissal, I had recently served as my troop’s chaplain aide and was a few short community service hours and a scoutmaster review away from obtaining my Life rank. If I had not have been dismissed, I’m more than sure I would have earned my Eagle award shortly thereafter. I am saddened that opportunity was taken away from me, as my scoutmaster put, “If you choose to live that lifestyle, then you’re choosing not to be a Boy Scout.” They were harsh, scary and intimidating words for a 14-year-old to hear from a man he respected.
With this policy change, I hope that other young men like me who are in Scouting now will not be faced with the same humiliation, exclusion, derision and rejection I once was. As an organization that cares about the well-being and development of our young men into future citizens, I am sure you also do not want our young people to be treated in such ways.
In the first edition of the Boy Scouts Handbook in 1911, Scouting promised that “every American boy shall have the opportunity of becoming a good scout.” It has, as of yet, been more of an ideal, but I hope that this proposed policy change will finally begin to fulfill this promise and move the Boy Scouts of America forward in remaining true to its core American values and principles. Indeed, moving toward inclusion will ensure that Scouting truly means what it stands for when it teaches young men the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
I urge you to pass the change and continue your movement toward acceptance of all your Scouters, gay or straight.
Matt Hill Comer
Dismissed Gay Scouter, Troop 715
New Philadelphia Moravian Church
Old Hickory Council, Winston-Salem, N.C.
The following was prompted, in part, by Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James’ Sunday tweet in which he shared a recent message from the pastor of Charlotte’s Calvary Church. In it, the pastor said, “God’s Plan is to Vote Yes [on Amendment One].” James’ tweet and the pastor’s message was the final impetus that led to this message – this public “talking to myself” – that follows below, as these thoughts have been swirling in my mind for months.
As a person who grew up in the fundamentalist and evangelical Baptist faith, I’ve always felt a connection with those with whom I disagree on many matters of theology and doctrine, especially as it relates to sexuality. While my own faith has grown in different ways, I still identify as a Baptist and, in many ways, still proclaim that old evangelical faith of my childhood and of my ancestors. Even in the face my personal growth in faith, however, I’ve always been able to maintain some semblance of respect – some feeling of Christian brother- and sisterhood – with those who find themselves on the other side of the divide in our Christian family on homosexuality and matters of civic, social and religious equality for LGBT people.
Jeremy Hooper of GoodAsYou.org, among others, has been doing amazing work documenting the vitriol from religious right leaders in North Carolina during the debate over our proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. I’ve been surfing over to his blog many times to see his latest updates. It’s important work, and the words and statements Hooper documents need to be preserved for posterity, thereby enabling future generations to learn from the painful mistakes of their elders today. But, while reading the comments and statements Hooper shares, it has become increasingly more difficult for me to reconcile – to continue living in some spirit of Christian fellowship – with people who would see me and my life ostracized, marginalized and criminalized – some, even, to the point of physical abuse and, dare they say it, death.
I once firmly believed, despite the theological and doctrinal gap between us, that some sort of reconciliation and mutual respect was possible – that even among intense debate over the meaning of Scripture and the nature of the divine, those more fundamentalist or evangelical Christians and I could still manage to live, work, speak, love and act with true Christian grace and humility.
After months of incredibly incendiary and hateful debate, I fear such a notion was mere naïveté. The hate-filled words and actions of those I consider my brothers and sisters are pushing me away from – not drawing me closer toward – our God and our spiritual family. Whatever became of, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35)?
How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes it’s okay to punch a young gay boy or “crack” his “limp” wrist, as a Fayetteville, N.C., pastor told his congregation? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes that by me living life openly and honestly and expecting dignity and equality in return that I somehow have “signed America’s death warrant” and opened the doors to legalized pedophilia and bestiality? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes the government should jail or fine me for expressing my love toward another person? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes I and any future lifelong partner of mine and our family aren’t deserving of the same medical and legal benefits as my straight family members and friends and their families?
Of course, the list goes on and on.
In church yesterday, as our congregation celebrated this fifth Sunday of Easter, my pastor spoke of “doubting Thomas,” and the rightful place doubts and honest questions should have in a healthy, growing faith. It was a message, I think, I was meant to hear, for my doubts and questions have only grown since the beginning of this maddening and sickening debate in North Carolina.
How can so many of God’s children use God’s name in promoting division, prejudice, mean-spiritedness and hatred when the gospel I know speaks only of unity, fellowship, kindness and love? How can I reconcile my contempt for words of malice with Christ’s commandment to love one another as he loved us? How can I continue believing in the oneness of the body of Christ, yet be faced with the very stark reality that so many of my fellow Christians wish me cast out, placed aside and left behind?
My pastor’s message was prompted, of course, by John’s account of Thomas’ doubtful nature. But, it was the accompanying epistle reading, perhaps, that related so plainly to my own questions (emphasis added):
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21-24, NRSV)
In thinking through my questions, I was also reminded of those old, familiar words from Ecclesiastes:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (3:1, NRSV)
As well as (once more, emphasis added):
Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work. (3:16-17, NRSV)
I can’t and won’t claim to have the answers I seek, but I think I’m heading in the right direction. I’ve always believed that many a well-meaning Christian have simply no real knowledge or awareness of the pain they cause in the lives of LGBT people. I’ve known too many good and kind-hearted people who fit this description – too many, dear friends and family included, who simply heed the misguided teachings and proclamations of their chosen religious leaders. These people would never intentionally hurt anyone and many have simply never had the opportunity to meet or speak with an LGBT person, much less the opportunity to learn how to love and include them unconditionally.
It isn’t my place to judge them. It isn’t my place to lash out with anger. It isn’t my place to threaten retribution. Instead, it is my place, as Christ commanded, to love and to teach, to live in kindness and charity. It’s a hard place to live in – difficult to practice love and fellowship when I know it might very well remain unrequited. Surely, it’s far more difficult than the easier path giving way to anger, frustration and bitterness. But, no one said it would be easy: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me,” Christ said (Luke 9:23, NRSV).
I am comforted knowing that history, no doubt guided by the hand of divine justice, falls squarely on the side of the oppressed:
The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed (Psalm 103:6, NRSV).
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, NRSV).
In time, just as many did following the abominable era of slavery, the shameful mistreatment of women and the tumultuous days of Jim Crow and segregation, my fellow Christians who would seek to strip away my rights, my dignity and my humanity, will come to understand the errors of their ways. They will look back in shock; they will wonder why they said what they said, why they promoted division and hatred, why they voted to harm others. They will tell their children and grandchildren of the time when the world was a more hostile, less welcoming place. They will impart wisdom, borne from a personal experience wherein they themselves inflicted pain on others and learned lessons only that may teach. And, humanity will be better and stronger for it.
At least, that’s what I hope – even if doubt beckons me in the opposition direction.
No matter the outcome of North Carolina’s vote on Tuesday, I trust that our current struggle will not be in vain. I trust that some greater meaning and purpose is handed down in a lesson from which we can all learn better how to love one another and live in true Christian fellowship that celebrates, rather than takes insidious advantage of, our disagreements and differences.
The photograph used in this commentary is entitled “The Crucifixion of Christ,” a painting by artist Becki Jayne Harrelson, copyright © 1993. I encourage you to visit her website, peruse her other works and support her own, unique ministry.
The N.C. Baptist State Convention has made their position on discrimination and bigotry quite clear, and despite their pressure to either ignore completely or twist the Gospel to fit their own needs, there are plenty of Baptists across North Carolina who are willing and ready to step up and speak out against hate and, especially, hate in God’s name.
Above all others, Baptists have a history that enables them to stand up for the true Gospel. The misdeeds of our forbears should be lesson enough to prove that the Gospel cannot be a message of hate, exclusion, division and bigotry. To the contrary, Jesus’ ultimate message of radical love and inclusion is “good news” to the masses. Our God is the Lord of salvation, mercy, freedom, justice and love.
To that end, national Baptist organizations, local churches and local Baptist leaders and congregants will gather in Charlotte this weekend for the first in a series of events in the “Many Voices, One Love,” campaign sponsored by the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB), the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (BPFNA), and the Alliance of Baptists.
The event, “NC Baptists Against Amendment One: Justice, Equality and Personal Freedom,” will be held at Myers Park Baptist Church, 1900 Queens Rd., Charlotte, N.C., Feb. 25, 2012, from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
A featured panel discussion will be held 9:45-10:45 a.m., moderated by Dan Murrey and featuring Myers Park Pastor Stephen Shoemaker, as well as Ken Godwin, Chaz Seale and Ricky Woods. Angela Yarber, pastor of my hometown Wake Forest Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., will also be a panelist.
Representatives from The Human Rights Campaign, the Faith and Justice Servant Leadership Group of Myers Park Baptist Church and The Coalition to Protect NC Families will also be present at the event.
(Update, Feb. 13, 2012, 3:25 p.m.: As Charlotte remains silent on matters of LGBT equality, the New Jersey Senate pushes forward with a marriage equality bill and Washington state becomes the seventh to legalize equality in marriage for LGBT couples. Queen City, take note: The future is coming fast, and you’re being left in the dust.)
My post on Friday recounting the exchange between Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, a Q&A panel audience member and me and Mayfield’s insistence that Charlotte “has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh” caught the ire of a couple of my readers.
In particular, “Hunter” cut right to the chase (certainly, in a more forceful way than I would have):
Mayfield’s statement is utter bullshit.
The Charlotte City Council takes positions on state legislative matters all the time. Cities have legislative agendas, and Charlotte is no exception.
Shame on Mayfield for daring this speak such obvious lies.
Anyone with even a single iota of knowledge on how local government works knows that city councils and other local governing bodies (e.g. county commissions, transportation commissions, etc.) take public positions on state and federal matters on a regular basis. That usually happens yearly when, as Hunter points out, local governments adopt their state and federal legislative agendas.
The City of Charlotte is no exception. The council’s Governmental Affairs Committee meets regularly in order to discuss, debate and propose the city’s annual state and federal legislative agenda. They even publish a calendar outlining the timing of their deliberations and subsequent approval by city staff and city council.
The city’s 2012 state legislative agenda has yet to be finalized and I couldn’t find a copy of its proposed contents on the city’s and county’s website. I did, however, find the proposed 2011 state legislative agenda, complete with a full 22 pages of in-depth public policy position statements on items ranging from public safety and criminal justice to infrastructure, taxing and budgeting needs.
Perhaps I should have posted more about this on Friday; I just figured the existence of legislative agendas was a no-brainer. Hunter’s comment reminded me, perhaps, that’s not true, despite the fact that so many current council members and candidates certainly knew what a legislative agenda was during campaign season.
Back at the old day job, we spearheaded an initiative to get council candidates on-the-record responses to four issues of importance to local LGBT citizens and residents.
The fourth question in our candidate questionnaire asked:
Would you support the adoption by city council of a legislative agenda that includes items to (a) seek legislative approval to extend public accommodations and public housing ordinances to include both sexual orientation and gender identity, (b) oppose the state’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a statute which bans recognition of same-sex marriages, and (c) oppose any attempt to pass a state constitutional amendment that would ban recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships and other legal arrangements?
Yes I would support A, B and C. I believe that by building relationships and commitments among the Council members we can ensure enough support to sustain a yes vote.
That doesn’t square so easily with Mayfield’s response at the Thursday evening panel, when she argued, “Charlotte City Council has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh.”
Mayfield also said (emphasis added):
As far as taking a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh, it has never been the policy of the Charlotte City Council to make a statement one way or another. We really focus on what’s happening in the City of Charlotte. We do not step outside of our realm too often. If it’s going to benefit the city, that’s our focus.
And, that bears a more in-depth response than the one I offered on Thursday evening, when I said, “It might have been something that came out of Raleigh, but it is something that will affect Charlotte. It will affect all the LGBT people who live in Charlotte — people who are represented by the people on city council and who will be affected by the amendment.”
A few of many ways the amendment impacts Charlotte and why it is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council:
- The amendment would bar the extension of health and other benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees. The city doesn’t currently offer these benefits, but, as mentioned by Mayfield, the issue is currently being discussed and considered by council members and city staff. If the city truly desires to one day offer these benefits to LGBT employees’ families, then taking a position on the amendment and its ban on domestic partner benefits is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
- The amendment could mean the end of domestic violence protection for individuals, both gay and straight, in unmarried relationships. The city-county’s joint police department would have to explore new ways to combat and control domestic violence between unmarried partners. How would the police department ensure the safety of a person being battered and abused by an unmarried partner? How much authority would they have to remove the abuser from the household if law prohibits the recognition of their relationship? The city oversees and administers the police department, therefore it is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
- The amendment could invalidate joint child-custody and visitation arrangements between unmarried couples. Though the county primarily oversees the social services and children’s welfare programs here, if the city has any stake at all in the preservation of healthy homes and families, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
- Studies have found that LGBT people in states with anti-LGBT constitutional amendments face increased mental health problems. According to anti-amendment organizers, one such study found that LGBT people reported increases in mood disorder (36.6% increase), generalized anxiety disorder (248.2% increase), alcohol use disorder (41.9% increase), and psychiatric comorbidity (36.3% increase). Again, the county primarily provides health services to the public, but if the city has any stake in protecting, preserving and promoting a healthy population and workforce, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
- The amendment could result in a chilling effect in businesses currently located in North Carolina and those thinking of moving here. North Carolina is home to 15 Fortune 500 companies. The five largest — Charlotte’s Bank of America, Lowe’s and Duke Energy, and Winston-Salem’s Reynolds American and BB&T — each offer protections to LGB employees. With the exception of Lowe’s and Duke Energy, all offer protections to transgender workings. And, four — Bank of America, Duke Energy, Reynolds American and BB&T — each offer domestic partner benefits in addition to some some 50 other private companies across the state. Research of the “creative class” by Richard Florida has found that more and more workers within “creative” professional fields highly value respect, tolerance, inclusion and diversity. Such values are respected even among straight workers, who seek to know that a diversity of viewpoints, life experiences and people will be honored at their workplaces. According to anti-amendment organizers, the creative class workers were more than 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts in the three years following marriage equality there than in the three years prior. What kind of message will this amendment send to current and potential employees and businesses in North Carolina? Will the amendment cause some citizens, along with their tax income and personal economic activity, to flee the state? Will some employees of major companies like Bank of America request to be moved to the company’s already-large presence in places like Boston or New York City (where marriage equality is recognized)? Will young entrepreneurs — the backbone of our small business economy — find it harder to recruit and retain highly-skilled and highly-valuable employees? Will companies themselves — those like Bank of America — find it easier to do business in less hostile places? According to the city council’s own 2012 Strategic Focus Area Plan for Economic Development, Charlotte seeks to “be the most prosperous and livable city for all citizens through quality economic development.” If the amendment holds any potential harm for economic development and growth, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
So, above and beyond the fact that it is utterly false to say that Charlotte “has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh,” it is also false to say that Charlotte, inherently, has no interest in the potential approval on May 8 of this anti-LGBT, anti-family, anti-personal freedom and anti-business constitutional amendment. The interest is wide and varied, far beyond the simple impact on the personal lives of LGBT Charlotteans. The amendment could affect local government and its employees, local law enforcement, the health and well-being of local families and children and the economic well-being of our entire city, region and state.
This amendment is, without a doubt, a major question of concern for this city and its people and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council. Like Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham and Greensboro, the Charlotte City Council should consider and pass a resolution opposing the amendment and its potential harms to our fair city and this great state.
I encourage you to click over to the previous post on this subject, scroll to the bottom and find the contact information for Charlotte City Council. Send them an email or call them, asking them to take up a resolution opposing this amendment.
The Christian Action League, perhaps among one of the most far-right, anti-LGBT hate groups in North Carolina, posted yesterday an extraordinary insight into their religiously-bigoted efforts to write discrimination into our state constitution and further increase the hate-filled, divisive politics that has become the brand of modern-day right-wing ideologues.
The Rev. Rocky Carpenter, pastor of Harmony Community Church in Peachland, N.C., has started up a weekly prayer effort to guide Tar Heel bigots in their quest to constitutionalize discrimination against LGBT people in North Carolina. “Harmony,” it seems, is a state of being to which queer folk don’t get access.
From the Christian Action League:
“At the first Vote FOR Marriage NC meeting I went to, Tami Fitzgerald (Vote FOR Marriage NC chairwoman) asked for a prayer leader. God quickened my heart, and after praying for a week, I called her to let her know that I was the man to lead the prayer effort,” said the Rev. Carpenter. He said his beautiful wife of 27 years, four children and two grandchildren were also among the reasons he stepped up to the plate.
“We must preserve marriage God’s way,” he added. “God is calling his elect to boldly and lovingly stand for the preservation of marriage according to his word in this great state of North Carolina!”
He said to be victorious in this battle, Christians should “pray without ceasing” and “enlist as many as possible to pray.”
For that reason he is calling on pastors and their congregations to use their e-mail and social networking sites to spread the word about the importance of defending traditional marriage and the need to call on God for his help. He said it will take pastors to lead the charge, but that all believers should be joining in prayer since James 5:16 promises that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
The Rev. Carpenter is also designating Friday of each week as the Vote FOR Marriage NC corporate prayer day since the sixth day of the week corresponds to the sixth day of creation when, according to Gen. 1:26-28, God created man and woman.
According to the anti-gay activist group, Carpenter is asking folks to pray for three outcomes (again from Christian Action League):
- “Pray for the salvation of our gay and lesbian neighbors (Isaiah 59:1,2),” he wrote, reminding recipients of the message that homosexuals are not the enemy (Ephesians 6:12).
- He also asked for prayer for Vote FOR Marriage coalition leaders (1 Tim. 2:1,2), for workers (Matthew 9:37, 38), and for financial provision (2 Cor. 9:7).
- Most of all, he challenged marriage supporters to pray that “God would be glorified in this effort! (Rev. 4:11)”
I hereby propose an alternative to Carpenter’s prayer Fridays: On Fridays through May 8, I hope you’ll join me for “Freaky Fanatic Friday” tweets, highlighting some of the insane and horrendously bigoted comments being made by anti-gay activists in North Carolina.
- Gay “have to wear a diaper or a butt plug just to be able to contain their bowels.” Patrick L. Wooden, Upper Room Church of God in Christ, Raleigh, N.C.
- “I know of a case where in a hospital a homosexual male had a cellphone lodged in his anus and as they were operating on him the phone went off, the phone started ringing!” Patrick L. Wooden.
- Gay sex “will most certainly mean the extinction of the human race.” Patrick L. Wooden.
- Gay people are a “darkened, twisted, immense depository of depravity.” Rev. Ron Baity, Berean Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C.
- Loving, committed same-sex couples are “greatest threat to marriage and morality in this country.” N.C. Family Policy Council.
- On the amendment: “It’s also to put a big letter of shame on the behavior. We don’t want them here. We don’t want them marrying. If you’re going to do it in San Francisco, it’s your own business.” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James.
- “The public in my opinion knows the difference between perversity and diversity.” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James.
- Homosexuality is “caused by something radically wrong with the human heart!” Rev. Mark Creech, Christian Action League.
- Homosexuality is “unnatural,” “biologically destructive,” caused by “abuse or acquired taste.” N.C. Family Policy Council.
- Durham lesbian blogger Pam Spaulding needs “man [to] rock her world, in the name of the Lord.” Patrick L. Wooden.
I got my first taste of Boy Scouts in first or second grade. A friend of mine was a member of a local Cub Scout unit. Of course, I just had to be a member, too. For whatever reason, I ended up fading out of that pack. It wasn’t until fourth grade that my interests were piqued again. This time, several friends of mine at South Fork Elementary were members of the Cub Scout Pack 715, their home base the church right next-door to the school. I became a member, and that’s where I stayed, eventually working my way into Boy Scout Troop 715.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my childhood and adolescent experience in the Boy Scouts. The lessons, values, principles and ideals imparted to me there have become part-and-parcel of my being. They will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, my involvement with the Boy Scouts of America couldn’t last the same lifetime.
After I came out of the closet, I was dismissed from Scouting. I’ll save you the gory details — a lot of nasty, behind-the-scenes and bureaucratic red-tape things were said and done, that’s all you need to know. (Some background via old press clips here, here, here, here and here.)
What I will tell you, though, is just how the feelings of abandonment, rejection and betrayal that I felt as a 14-year-old recently-out gay kid are just as strong today as they were then. My troop’s scoutmasters, other leaders and my peers were more than mentors and friends. Many of them were family. Never in a million years would my naive, young mind have anticipated the actions of my adult leaders and friends. Just as the lessons the Scouts gave me will be with me for the rest of my life, so, too, will the hurt they left in my youthful heart and soul.
A couple weeks ago, I was emboldened and encouraged when I read Scouting magazine’s editor, Eagle Scout Bryan Wendell, posting about GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week. I wrote in a post for the day-job:
There even seems to be a breath of fresh air in some of the most ardently anti-gay organizations. Eagle Scout Bryan Wendell, the senior editor of the official Boy Scouts of America Scouting magazine blogged on Monday about No Name Calling Week. That the Boy Scouts, who still hold virulently anti-gay policies that prohibit openly gay or bisexual youth and young men from membership and leadership roles, would openly discuss and promote an anti-bullying event sponsored by an LGBT organization is a sure sign of progress. Young people — no doubt influenced by their many peers organizing in high school or college LGBT student organizations — are making strides to make their communities, organizations and, ultimately, our nation a better place.
Today — Feb. 8, 2012 — the Boy Scouts of America celebrated their 102nd birthday. As another year passes and the organization becomes older, I wish for it to become wiser. As younger members — like Scouting‘s Wendell — rise into adult leadership positions, I have hope that they will.
The Boy Scouts of America is a great organization. The work they have done building up the lives and spirits of America’s boys and young men is gargantuan. The annals of history are filled with the good deeds of men who learned their first lessons in patriotism, loyalty, honesty and dedication from their childhoods in the Boy Scouts.
On this birthday, I wish only the best for the Boy Scouts of America — that, in time, they grow to understand the true value of their essential mission and its importance to the lives of America’s boys and young men, and that they come to uphold the promise they made in their first edition of the Boy Scouts Handbook in 1911, that “every American boy shall have the opportunity of becoming a good scout.”
I might not have ever had the opportunity to earn my Eagle Scout award, but in the future, perhaps, other gay young men will.
When you blow out your candles today, Boy Scouts, I hope your wish is the same as mine — that your friends and all of the boys and young men who follow you will be treated with the dignity, respect, love, friendship, brotherhood and acceptance that they deserve.
An aerial photograph showing the construction of the new I-85 bridge over the Yadkin River at the Davidson County and Rowan County lines. Credit: N.C. DOT, via Flickr.
The Charlotte Observer published a short piece on Gov. Bev Perdue’s and state transportation official’s press conference yesterday on recently-begun highway construction projects in and around the Charlotte-metro area. In particular, the governor focused on the widening of I-85 through Cabarrus County, the construction of northern junction of I-85 and I-485 and the completion of the final 5.7-mile leg of I-485 in northeast Charlotte.
The Charlotte-metro aren’t the only current interstate projects that will benefit the growing Queen City. A bit farther up I-85 and north of the already-widened portion in Rowan County, work crews are busy building a new bridge and roadway to both replace the decrepit Yadkin River bridge and widen the interstate. Continue reading this post…
By now, many of you might have heard through QNotes, Facebook, Twitter, or Creative Loafing fine editor, Mark Kemp, that I will be stepping down from my position at QNotes on Jan. 20. It’s been a fantastic experience and one for which I’m truly grateful. Below is the letter I sent to many personal friends, acquaintances and colleagues after my resignation was announced by the paper.
Dear friends and colleagues,
It is with humility and gratitude that I write tonight to let you know that I will be stepping down from my role as editor of QNotes, the Charlotte-based LGBT newspaper and North Carolina’s premier source of news, opinion and arts and entertainment coverage. My last day with the paper will be Jan. 20, 2012, as announced by the paper on Tuesday evening (http://goqnotes.com/14053/).
On Jan. 23, I will begin work as the new communications and programs manager for Campus Pride, a Charlotte-based, national non-profit group that works to create safer environments for LGBT students on college and university campuses across the United States. An official announcement from the organization should be soon forthcoming.
As I prepare to take on new challenges, I find it necessary to pause and thank each and every one of you for your support of me and of this newspaper. Each of you has contributed in myriad ways to the success of this community, of Charlotte, of North Carolina and of this organization. Personally, each of you has made my life richer and fuller.
But, don’t think for a minute that this is a goodbye. You don’t get away from me that easily, haha.
Though I am leaving QNotes, I will remain an avid and vocal supporter for our community and for independent, progressive and LGBT-inclusive news-media. As always, I’ll continue to advocate for fair and equitable coverage from mainstream news-media organizations and will remain a committed advocate for progress and change. I hope new opportunities allow me to be more involved in our community in new and exciting ways, especially as the May 8, 2012, vote on North Carolina’s anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment draws near.
Again, thank you for all you have done to support me both personally and professionally. Thank you once more for the support you have given and will continue to give to QNotes and my yet-to-be-announced successor.
I humbly welcome your continued support, friendship and kindness, and hope you will continue to follow me in my new endeavors at Campus Pride. I’m excited about the opportunity to help Campus Pride grow and further fulfill its mission in supporting the future leaders of our community and nation.
Additionally, I hope you’ll stop by from time-to-time here at my blog, InterstateQ.com, where I will resume more regular posting. There, I will continue to provide the same objective, fair and progressive-minded coverage of the ongoing anti-LGBT amendment campaign you’ve come to expect from my work at QNotes and where I will continue providing commentary on local, state and national LGBT and progressive political affairs.
With love and wishes for a happy New Year,
Though they knew not the family they would father decades and centuries later, they fought bravely — ensuring my freedom today and tomorrow. A grateful thank you to all those who have served and shaped this nation and its history in ways still untold.
Michael Easter II (abt. 1760-April 28, 1821) Revolutionary War, Infantry
Michael Easter (June 21, 1828-Feb. 6, 1914), Civil War, (2) Co. F, 29th Virginia Infantry, C.S.A.
Levi Easter (Oct. 15, 1830-Sept. 14, 1917), Civil War, (2) Co. F, 29th Virginia Infantry, C.S.A.
W.M. Comer (March 19, 1928- ) World War II & Korean War, Marines
(Re-posted from May 28, 2007)