New York Boy Scout Troop Hires Openly Gay Camp Leader, Because Why Shouldn't They?

As much as people try to halt progress, it has a habit of marching on nonetheless. For instance: Although the Boy Scouts' national organization continues to prohibit the hiring of openly gay adults, the New York Boy Scouts chapter has just hired the first openly gay camp leader. Because there's no good reason not to, after all.

The Boy Scouts officially began allowing openly gay scouts under the age of eighteen last year, but still do not allow openly gay scout leaders or for any other openly gay adults to be part of the organization. But the Boy Scouts’ Greater New York Councils has decided to defy that policy in order to hire 18-year-old Eagle Scout Pascal Tessier as a camp leader. Change is in the air.

Tessier has campaigned for change in the Boy Scouts for a long time. He advocated for the inclusion of openly gay scouts prior to the ban being lifted, and in 2014 wrote an open letter on his eighteenth birthday in which he sadly said goodbye to the organization in which he had participated in since the age of four, but which no longer welcomed him. In urging Boy Scouts of America president Robert Gates to lift the ban that now kept him out, Tessier wrote, "Openly gay adults will eventually be allowed in Scouting." And now it seems he's a part of making that happen.

So far the national Boy Scouts organization hasn't taken any action against the New York chapter for flouting policy. Boy Scouts of America communications director Deron Smith did say in a statement that this is not an indication that the policy banning openly gay adults is changing, however. He added, “While we were only recently made aware of this issue, we are looking into the matter." Boy Scouts of America has in the past taken steps to remove individual gay scout leaders, including revoking the charter of two Seattle troops who refused to turn their backs on an openly gay scoutmaster.

But given that Tessier has the backing of the entire Boy Scouts’ Greater New York Councils, hopefully Boy Scouts of America will, you know, let fairness win the day.

The Boy Scouts doesn't have the best track record when it comes to being progressive. Getting the national organization to budge on the issue of openly gay scouts took years of activism, and the group has also been accused of allegedly covering up numerous instances of child abuse by scout leaders, including multiple cases involving serial abusers. In this, they aren't much different than most other all-male or extremely male-dominated groups. From fraternities to the military to the Catholic Church to college football, groups that are run primarily by men and/or aimed primarily at men and boys tend to support the status quo, especially when it comes to issues surrounding gender. This is in contrast to organizations made up mostly of women or aimed at women and girls such as the Girl Scouts or the YWCA, which tend to be much more inclusive.

Still, as activists like Tressier and even official bodies like the Boy Scouts' Greater New York Councils prove, it doesn't have to be that way. The Boy Scouts of America could be a progressive, inclusive organization that advocates acceptance and fairness, even where it goes against prevailing social norms. And hopefully that's what it will be someday, not just in certain troops or in certain place, but everywhere, because it could be a tremendous force for good.

We talk all the time about the need to reach young men early, to counteract the toxic masculinity of our culture by teaching boys differently. The Boy Scouts could be a huge way to do that, in the same way that the Girl Scouts is a great opportunity to teach girls confidence, self-respect, and familiarity with things like business and STEM. But as long as the national organization continues to cling to outdated notions — including harmful views of LGBT people — that day is still a long way off.

Still, progress is clearly still happening. Not even the Boy Scouts can hold out forever.

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