What could a gay kid learn from the Boy Scouts anyway?

January 31, 2013 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

  1. How to pitch a tent. (snicker)
  2. How to camp. (snap)
  3. How to tie knots. Lots and lots of knots.
  4. How to build a fire.
  5. How to cook dinner, wrapped in tin foil, over said fire.
  6. S’mores, s’chmores. How to bend a coat hanger to hold your Pop-Tart and toast it over said fire.
  7. Dirty jokes. Lots and lots of dirty jokes.
  8. CPR (No Scout-on-Scout mouth-to-mouth — with CPR Annie just like everyone else)
  9. Camping out in Central Illinois in mid-January is ball-shrivelingly cold.
  10. Sharing a sleeping bag with your Dad – while lame in theory – is quite beneficial when camping out in Central Illinois in mid-January.
  11. How to use a compass.
  12. How to read a map.
  13. How to survive overnight in the woods. Hint: don’t lose your bug spray.
  14. How to shit in the woods. How to clean up.
  15. Swear words. Lots and lots of swear words.
  16. How to carve, paint and race a car made of pine.
  17. How to rock some green shorts and a kerchief.
  18. How to sew. Badges, not ball gowns. (But badges onto a sash)
  19. How to dig a post hole… and what a post hole is.
  20. How to survive (in silence) doing manual labor, on minimal food and water for 2 days.
  21. You can make your parents proud for something other than drawing and good grades.
  22. If you make them really proud and get inducted into the Order of the Arrow, they’ll buy you a silver arrowhead necklace inlaid with turquoise.
  23. That Scouts, much like band and ROTC, are toxic to popularity.
  24. That Life is pretty cool, but Eagle is way better.
  25. That I should have stuck with it.

Earlier this week it was reported that the Boy Scouts may overturn their ban on allowing openly gay and lesbian scouts and leaders. While much of the motivation may come from loss of funding and declining membership, it’s still a positive sign that an organization as old and entrenched as the BSA — who very recently voted to keep the ban — is headed in the right direction.

I loathed much of my time as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout — I would have much rather stayed inside to work on my Superhero Drawing and TV-Watching Merit Badges — but I genuinely value the ways it tested me and got me out of my shell, if not out of the closet. Religious arguments aside, (please God, just this once?) many may wonder why a gay kid would want to be a Scout anyway, what with all the hiking and bad food and troops of straight people. But the same arguments have been used about the military. And professional sports. And marriage (okay, not as much hiking there). But this gay learned a lot from his experience in the Scouts. And while it may not have been my canteen of pond water, I deserved to experience the mastery and the misery just like every other red-blooded American kid. And I’m more trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent because of it.

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Any other LGBT former (or current) Scouts out there? What was your experience like? Please leave a comment and get your Blog Commenting Badge!

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9 responses to “What could a gay kid learn from the Boy Scouts anyway?”

  1. Ira says:

    I was a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout, and a Sea Explorer. I actually loved it, primarily because as Cub and Boy Scouts we pretty much just went camping, and our Sea Explorer post actually had a 35′ cabin cruiser loaned to us by a patron, and we got to go boating up and down the Bay. Besides, I liked spending time with teen-aged boys, and I learned quite a few skills in tents on overnights that I was later able to, ahem, apply to life as a gay man.

    And I think the experience of having to depend on my own abilities, which was afforded me a lot as a Scout, made me a more confident, self-reliant person. But not any less gay.

    BTW, I was OA also, but I didn’t get no silver arrowhead… 🙁

    • Brent M. Almond says:

      I’ve never heard of Sea Explorers (maybe because I was living in Illinois…) Did you get to dress like a pirate? 😉

  2. Noah says:

    I was never in any of those social organizations as a boy, sadly. I often wonder how different my life would be now had I been in any of those groups as a lad back then! All of these organizations would highly benefit from having people in them that can be who they are without having to filter or deny their individuality and orientation. YOU would make a fantastic scoutmaster if wanted to. Hopefully that day is coming for you and JJ. I see many merit badges in your future 🙂

    • Brent M. Almond says:

      LOL — maybe Cub Scouts. I’ll let Papa handle the Boy Scouts. I’ve already done my time in the woods. 🙂

  3. Brent,

    I have never liked the Scouts ban on openly gay scout leaders and I am glad to see they are changing their policy. Now, to answer your question, what could a gay child learn from the scouts. My personal opinion (especially now since they are changing there stance on gay scout leaders) is they would learn tolerance. They would learn about leadership, community, and fellowship. They might even learn enough to hopefully help each other make this world one heck of a better place then what we grew up with (and yes I was a scout)

    Aaron Brink aka DadBlunder

    • Brent M. Almond says:


      Did you make it to Eagle? I definitely learned to get along (or at least try to) with kids I normally wouldn’t have been around or chosen to be friends with. Unfortunately I was also hiding a big part of myself the whole time, trying to conform to what I thought was the norm. I do still like the kind of discipline and maturity it teaches, while still being fun and not militaristic. I’m hoping things come around by the time my son is old enough for scouts, if he wants to try them out.


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