Yesterday I got a little postcard in the mail that stirred up surprising emotions for me.
It was a postcard from the National Eagle Scout Association. At the top of the card it said, "Dear Eagle Scout John D. Wrathall," my old name. My pre-marriage name. (Göran and I gave each other the name "Gustav-Wrathall" at our wedding ceremony in 1995.)
The card informed me that the NESA was compiling an "Eagle Scout Roll of Honor," and I should call a certain 800 number to ensure the accuracy of my record.
Of course, the Boy Scouts of America has a policy that excludes "avowed homosexuals" from its ranks -- both leaders and scouts.
At the time that I was coming to terms with my gayness, it occasionally occurred to me that my being gay might be considered incompatible with my being an Eagle Scout. But at the time, I had other things to do than sort all that out. I guess in practice I've lived a sort of "Don't ask, don't tell" policy with the scouts. I sort of figured if somebody in the scouting organization knew that I was gay, they might strip me of my rank. But I didn't feel the need to draw attention to the fact.
There was a time when I felt great anger about the BSA policy. But I no longer harbor any ill feelings against the BSA. In my ward, when I've been asked if I would contribute financially to scouting, I have gladly opened my wallet. I am proud of the fact that I achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. I am grateful for the skills I learned through scouting, the most important of which, I think, was learning to relate to other young men and boys in a mature, nurturing way. Becoming an Eagle Scout was a kind of rite of passage for me. It was also closely identified in my mind with family and Church -- both of which have assumed increasing importance to me the older I get.
It is not with any pleasure that I consider the possibility of severing ties with the Boy Scouts. In a way, scouting helped impress upon me the importance of virtues like honesty, integrity, and respect for sexuality, all of which were key values in my coming out process, and in my decision to enter into a committed relationship and to seek to honor that relationship.
Nevertheless, by means of this little postcard, I am being asked to stand up and be counted. I'm not sure I ought to live with "Don't ask, don't tell" any more.
In typical fashion, the postcard asks us to respond within seven days. You're either an Eagle Scout, and proud of that fact, or you're not.
I feel I ought to write a letter to the Boy Scouts of America, telling them what scouting means to me, and what a struggle it was to come to terms with being gay, and what it has meant to me to accept my sexuality, and to seek to build a positive life based on love and commitment to my partner. I also feel I ought, in light of the BSA's current policy on gays, to resign and turn in my badge. But I feel a great sadness about that.
But is it a grandiose and meaningless gesture? Will anyone care? Or is taking care of this piece of unfinished business the best way that I can live the scout law to be "trustworthy" and honest?