Thursday, April 19, 2012

Boys Scouts of America Should Be Ashamed

It amazes me that in the year 2012, we here in the US are still seeing such blatant prejudice towards gay and lesbian (and all other LGBTQ) individuals. Last evening I received an e-mail from GLAAD informing me of a story/situation in Ohio regarding a woman who held the position of Tiger Den Leader to her son's cub scout troop. She volunteered for the position when no one else stepped up, registered with BSA and met with the group once a week and also for weekend community service projects. Her family was open from the beginning about being a nontraditional family. This woman, Jennifer, and her wife have 4 children, and they are active in their community.

Recently, she was removed of her position as Den Leader and Boy Scouts of America didn't even try to hide why. In a statement issued to her, she was told that because of her sexual orientation she does not "meet the high standards membership that the BSA seeks". Jennifer and her partner are hurt and saddened that one of the most prominent and well known youth organizations in the country, that prides itself on developing good character and leadership skills, would go against their own principles and commit this act of bigotry.

What bothers me about this issue is that this woman is making the effort to be involved in her son's life by providing him with opportunities to grow and learn through an extra curricular activity, and then goes even one step further and volunteers to be the troop leader, and in return is treated this way. No parent - gay, straight, transgender, etc. - should be punished for doing the right thing and involving their child in an activity that will further develop their character. And certainly no parent should be punished for being a responsible parent and recognizing that someone needs to take on the role of "Den Leader", and volunteer to do so.

What does BSA think? That a gay Den Leader starts off a meeting by announcing to the young 'cubs', "Welcome, everyone! I am gay, and you should be too! Let's talk about very gay things and perhaps I can turn you gay before the end of the night!" NO! In fact, this woman has the support of every single other parent of a child in this troop. The parents are outraged and stand behind her in solidarity. They respect and support Jennifer and appreciate her having taken on the role when no one else could offer up that much of their own time and resources.

I understand that Boy Scouts of America is a private organization, free to have whatever rules and regulations they choose. However, I think that unless they change this outdated and prejudiced policy, they are going to see participation slowly drop, funding decrease, and animosity grow toward the group itself. (I'm not dumb - I understand how closely intertwined politics and religion are with BSA, but I would still bet that we see those things happen in the next ten years.)

I was a Girl Scout for 12 years, from the age of 6-18. I then went on to work at a Girl Scout resident camp. Girl Scouts of America has updated their policies. They accept gay youth and gay volunteers into their organization. They recognize that by doing this, they are telling the public, "We don't judge people based off their sexual orientation!" and "We understand that everyone has something to offer!" and "Just because you're gay doesn't mean that you would lead this troop any differenly than a straight person!" They have received some backlash of course, from very conservative or religious groups, however the majority of the response has been extremely positive.

Does anyone remember the video that went viral a few months ago - it was a pre-adolescent girl ranting about how The Girl Scouts of Colorado allowed a young boy who prefers to present himself as a girl (a gender non conforming child) to be a member of a GS troop. She urged the public to protest this by not buying Girl Scout cookies this year. Let me tell you - for the next few days after that video went viral, my Facebook news feed was filled with people stating that they planned to buy EXTRA cookies in response to this girl's ridiculousness. I think society is coming to terms with the fact that change is on it's way. It's happening now. There's no stopping it, no matter how hard some may try.

When my 88 year old closed-minded, semi-racist (but getting better every day!) homophobic, socially conservative, former user of the "n" word & the word "faggot", and rural area-residing grandfather can put his arm around me in front of my grandmother's casket on the night of her viewing and quietly tell me, "You know, she loved you grandkids no matter how you chose to live your life. No matter what lifestyle you chose or who you decided to love, she loved you all just the same." When that can happen at his age, with his deep-seated opinions and morals, then I know things are truly changing. I can only imagine how many other grandfathers and grandmothers, and anyone really, around the country are going through similar processes in their heads. Those are the only words we've ever exchanged about my sexual orientation, and those few sentences confirmed my suspicions that my grandparents, towards the end of their lives, began to accept and embrace the way the world is morphing.

All in all, people in this country need to quit resisting change. Easier said than done, I understand that. But the only real constant in this society is change itself. The Boy Scouts of America needs to reverse the discriminatory action they took against Jennifer Tyrrell and immediately reinstate her membership and role within their organization.

In the future, even if their policies change, I'm not sure I'd allow a son of mine to be a part of such a bigoted organization. I plan on teaching the future-him to accept others, to do his best to not judge anyone, and to be respectful of anyone and everyone. I can appreciate that the BSA has positively affected thousands (millions?) of boys in the US, and I have many friends who were deeply influenced by being involved in Boy Scouts. But I want nothing to do with an organization that practices and encourages discrimination.

Here's a link to the petition. I hope that one day our children or grandchildren will look back on instances like this and say, "Wow. I can't imagine things used to be like this. How crazy is that? What's the big deal about gay people anyway?"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why I Love Valentine's Day

This morning on my way to work I checked Facebook on my phone. Among the statuses of "Happy Valentine's Day!" and posted photos of flowers, candy and balloons that friends found when they arrived at work, there were just as many "Happy Singles Awareness Day" and "I hate this holiday" statuses. It made me sad, because I'm pretty sure majority of those people are single today and wish that they weren't. I have been that person before, plenty of times! So I understand. But, when I was single on past Valentine's Days, I wasn't bitter about it.

When I was a kid I loved Valentine's Day. Despite the hassle of having to go out the night before, probably after two different sport practices and a Girl Scout meeting, my mom would pile my sister and I into the car and take us to Happy Harry's (awesome drug store in the Delaware area, now bought out by Walgreens - Boo.) and let us select our boxes of Valentines to share with classmates. We'd go home and stay up late, filling out each card, smudging names and my mom, scrambling to find class lists to ensure that we didn't leave out any classmates.

My mom always left early for work when we were kids. She was out of the house by 6:30am. But no matter what, when Kelsey and I woke up, there would be a small, heart shaped box of Russell Stover's chocolates waiting for us on the counter, with a card in a purple or pink envelope. As a kid, this was such a highlight and made me feel so special. Some years my mom would plan something awesome. I remember a few years coming home from school with Kelsey to a note on the front door with a rhyming message, a clue to lead us to another part of the house. Kelsey and I would embark on a Valentine's themed scavenger hunt, ending with us finding stuffed puppy dogs with heart tags on their collars in the dryer, or heart shaped balloons tied to our bedposts with a ring pop tied to the ribbon.

In college, I always received a package in the mail from her, filled with Nicco Candy Hearts, Red Hots, and a heart shaped Reese's Peanut Butter cup, and a Valentine's Card with a $20 bill, my mom's handwriting scrawled: "Use this to get something good for dinner with your friends! Love you to the moon and back! Mom" Growing up, Valentine's Day wasn't so much a day to celebrate a romance, but a day to celebrate the people who you love the most.

Another status I read this morning from a friend stated that she wasn't celebrating Valentine's Day with her loved one because they don't support corporate greed on such a commercialized holiday. I can respect that, but don't we all give into corporate greed somewhat at Christmastime? Buying our zillions of square feet of wrapping paper and standing in long lines to pay for our carts full of presents. Yes, corporate America benefits from that, but for people like myself, I'm just happy to have found a gift that I think a loved one will smile as they open, because it's from me and I thought to buy it for them. Commercialism sucks, but it's part of our lives. And if someone made a buck off the fact that my mom bought some chocolate, or Hallmark benefited from my mom's thoughtful choices of cards for Kelsey and I for years, then I'm okay with that. Because those are things I've never forgotten, memories that are seared into my being and probably helped make me who I am.

One of my favorite parts of Valentine's Day has always been making my own Valentines and sending them to the people I love the most. The last few years I've been so busy with this whole "being an adult in the real world" thing that I haven't had much time to work as hard as I used to. But, I still make a point to tell those who are closest to me how much I love them. Hell, when I was looking at flowers on, I was considering which bouquet would be prettiest for my niece... let alone my significant other! I've always seen this holiday as a day to celebrate love in all forms of the word.

Others say that you should show love every day of the year, not just Valentine's Day. But, truth be told, we do get wrapped up in daily life. Jobs, dog, kids, activities, classes... I see Valentine's Day as a day to sit back and reflect on the people you appreciate in your life and the people who love you despite your flaws and shortcomings. Valentine's Day is beyond the realm of romantic love, at least to me.

So yes, tonight Hillary and I have plans to make our way over to Brookline for some yummy sushi, perusing our favorite book store, and then finishing the night with frozen yogurt. Yes, we will hold hands and express our love today more than we usually do. Today is a great reminder for us to slow down, enjoy a night together and reflect on the love we have for each other. But, If I were single today, I would be just as lucky and just as happy. My first thought when I woke up this morning was to text my mom and my sister to tell them that I love them. I got to work and sent a quick email to a few people who I love and who have affected my life in a positive way.

And, here I am on the internets, to express my love for all of you who have left me kind comments over the years, who showed "tough love" when I needed it, who grieved with me over losses and who have celebrated my triumphs and my happiness. Thank you, I love you, and Happy Valentine's Day from a girl who considers everyone in her life her valentine.