Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Boy Scouts Take Baby Steps for Gay Youth

But Still Dance Around Gay Leaders 

On May 23rd, the Boy Scout Council of America, headquartered in Texas, approved a half-measure that would allow openly gay Scouts into the organization for the first time, effective January 1.  The historic decision was approved by 60% of approximately 1,400 volunteer leaders from across the United States.

The proposal approved last Thursday was seen as a compromise, and the Scouts stressed that they would not condone sexual conduct by any Scout- gay or straight.  A BSA statement said “The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue.”

What Happens to the Older Scout?

Sounds progressive until you realize that an eighteen year-old gay Eagle Scout who is prepped for leadership and has earned the highest award can not become a Troop Leader because he is gay.  How do you tell a Boy Scout who has been groomed for success earning badges through cooperative efforts with his troop as well as self-reliance, that he is no longer accepted by an organization that should be inclusive of everyone, including troop leaders?

If a Scout is brought up to be a friend to all, to be kind, to never turn his back on those in need of support and help, then why can’t these qualities that make better citizens, leaders, and neighbors translate into gay adults serving as leaders?

The Times They Are A’Changin’

There are over thirteen states that permit same-sex marriage now, reflecting a shift in acceptance of GLBT persons.  Why can’t the Boy Scouts keep in step with the changing times?

Even the biggest sponsors of scouting, the faith-based organizations, are more open-minded.   The single largest sponsor of Scout troops, the Mormon Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) stated that the welcoming change of gay scouts won’t affect its support for Scouting.

President Obama and United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have released statements expressing disappointment in the National Council’s decision to exclude gay leaders. .  Regardless of sexual orientation, the President believes that leadership positions in the Scouts should be open to all.

Old Fears and Stereotypes Still Prevail

Gay adult leaders will not put Scouts at greater risk.  This is a stereotype that has perpetuated.  According to the American Psychological Association, “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men.” 

However, as far back as 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts could legally bar homosexuals from being troop leaders. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released May 9 found that 56% believe openly gay adults should be allowed to serve as Scout leaders.

Why can’t the Boy Scouts be more like the Girl Scouts whose policy has always been one of diversity and inclusiveness?

Monday, May 20, 2013

“That’s so Gay “Presumption

I recently read on-line in GAYSTARNEWS, May 16. 2013, that Glee star, Matthew Morrison, aka Will Schuster, Spanish teacher and Glee Club coach, had to come out straight to a magazine writer who thought he was gay.  Of course, the writer/interviewer should have done his homework before presuming anything about this talented singer, songwriter, and actor of both  stage and television.

Matthew is not gay, but is a strong ally of the LGBT movement.  He has released a new video for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBT advocacy organization, in which he speaks out, as part of a campaign, for marriage equality. HRC will receive part of the proceeds of his new solo album “Where It All Began," to be released in June.

Just as the magazine writer presumed Morrison was gay, so do many people project their preconceived notions of what should constitute male and female behavior unto a person deemed in question. Although the arts do attract a gay following, you can’t presume that all male ballet dancers are gay, for example. Think Danish  ex-principal dancer with the New York City Ballet Peter Martins.  After a long relationship with dancer Heather Watts, he married NYCB star Darci Kistler, the mother of his daughter. More recently, beautiful actress Natalie Portman who starred with and, was choreographed by, French dancer Benjamin Millepied in Black Swan. Portman and Millepied are married and have a son.

Similarly, many think the field of fashion is supposedly rife with gay male designers. But Bronx-born Jewish Ralph Lauren with his expensive belts and jeans projects an image as macho as “The Marlboro Man” from yesteryear.  Lauren is married to Ricky, often seen in his ads, and is the father of three sons. Tommy Hilfiger, with his successful lifestyle label, is married for the second time, with five children.
At the other extreme, you have the first active gay male athlete in one of the major U.S. sports to come out via Sports Illustrated. Jason Collins, the ex-Center for the Washington Wizards, now a free agent, who was engaged to a girl, surprised everyone with his announcement.  Even his twin brother Jarron who went to Stanford University with him, told Jimmy Kimmel on May 15, 2013, that he missed “red flags” about Jason’s sexual orientation.  Jarron  presumed his brother, who always dated girls, was heterosexual.

GLBT persons come in all sizes and shapes and can be found in all professions.  You can’t presume their sexual orientation any more than you can a heterosexual’s. That is presumptuous.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Family is Family. Adoption, Foster Care or Biological

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I realized how lucky I was to have two children.  If it weren’t for adoption and the gift of life from two birth mothers, whom I never knew, I would not be a parent.  I would not have been celebrating Mother’s Day nor the past joys that comes from the first steps, the first tooth, the first prom, the high school and then college graduations. 

Yet, if I were lesbian, it would not have been automatic that I would have received a child, let alone two.  Some states ban LGBT people from adopting, but the vast majority are silent about the issue making it legal for child welfare agencies to discriminate against potential adoptive and foster parents because they are gay.

Studies of Gay Parenting

Researchers estimate that as many as two million LGBT people are interested in adoption.  Agencies and programs that discriminate against gays attest that “it is not in a child’s best interest to be adopted by a same-sex couple.”  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  UCLA released a study that found that same-sex parents are just as effective at raising foster children as heterosexual couples.  The study also said that there is no scientific basis to discriminate against gay and lesbian parents.  The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that “whether a child is raised by same-sex or opposite-sex parents has no bearing on the child’s wellbeing.”

The nation’s foster care crisis could be alleviated if the 400,000 children in the foster care system could be adopted by LGBT people.  LGBT youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, in part because of the discrimination they experience in their schools and biological families. 

Congress Reintroduces Every Child Deserves a Family Act

Recently, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Ny), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) announced that they plan to reintroduce the Every Child Deserves a Family Act which would prevent child welfare agencies from discriminating against LGBT Americans who want to be adoptive or foster parents. 

If passed, the bill would also prevent child welfare programs from discriminating against LGBT children.  Because of the discrimination they experience in their schools and biological families, LGBT youth are overrepresented in the foster care system.

The bill is a big step toward not only solving the foster care quagmire, but giving LGBT people the dignity and respect they deserve as well as the joys of parenting.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

34, Black, and Gay

Which one is defining him?

Last Monday, NBA free agent Jason Collins came out in a first person essay in Sports Illustrated online which began “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center.  I’m black.  And I’m gay.”  It was a gutsy move as it made the 7’ ex-Washington Wizards center the first openly gay male athlete who is still active in a major American team sport.

Reactions to His Announcement

The reaction to Jason’s big news was mostly positive.  President Barack Obama contacted Collins to say “I think for a lot of young people out there who are gay or lesbian and struggling with these issues to see a role model like that who is unafraid is a great thing.”  Stanford University classmate Chelsea Clinton tweeted him congratulations.  Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker also tweeted their support.  Commissioner David Stern said the League was proud that Collins has “assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.” Collins himself confessed that a “huge weight has been lifted” from his shoulders after becoming the first openly gay major pro athlete and he is waiting for someone else to “raise their hand” to follow his lead.

All were not happy with Collins’s announcement, however.  ESPN basketball reporter Chris Broussard stated on Monday that Collins’s coming out “amounted to walking in an open rebellion to God.”  Right Wing Watch Bryan Fischer thinks Collins should have stayed in the closet because he’ll be “eyeballing” team members in the locker room.  Westboro Baptist Church, known for picketing funerals, blaming weather disasters on the GLBTQ population, will surely find in Collins a scapegoat for their extreme beliefs. Collins has received death threat tweets on Twitter.

A Litmus Test

Collins, who has struggled with his sexual orientation, may be seen as a litmus test for younger GLBTQ athletes to follow his lead. But this in itself troubles sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer who thinks his public announcement may put pressure on other athletes to come out. Should athletes, movie stars, celebrities come out so others will, and normalize homosexuality so it won’t be so feared in America? So the workplace, marriage, health, and residential laws are the same as for heterosexuals?
For now, Collins’s sexual orientation will define him.  It shouldn’t.  When will the discussion no longer be necessary?