I am a full-time paid professional employee of the Boy Scouts of America. I am also gay.
I spend 14-hour days and 80-hour workweeks promoting the Scouting program and providing the best possible services to build and retain membership. I do this with honor because I am a product of the program. I am an Eagle Scout and a member of Scouting’s Honor Society. I’ve dedicated more than two decades of my life to the Boy Scouts of America – first as a Scout and now for over five years as an employee.
When I was a Scout, the program offered me many important life experiences and skills in areas including leadership, communication and conflict resolution. My many experiences and memories still impact my life now. These opportunities need to be made available to all youth, regardless of their sexual orientation.
There are dozens of other gay professionals like me in the Scouts. I have met them through Scouting training courses and programs for adult leaders and employees. We dedicate ourselves to Scouting and fully support the organization. Yet we live with apprehension, hiding our personal lives and not knowing if we could be outed and fired at any moment. We continually face awkward questions about our personal lives. While the Scouts claim to be a family organization, for us there are two options for having a family: hide the people we love or leave Scouting. Because of this ban, not only can my co-workers not know who I am, but many of my friends and neighbors also do not know. I live my life in silence as a result of the Scouts’ anti-gay policy. I constantly fear being fired.
As an employee, I have a unique commitment to the organization, but I also face losing my job every single day because of who I am. My hope is to make Scouting stronger so it may flourish in local communities. But in order for Scouting to continue as the premier youth-serving agency in this country, it must be inclusive of gay boys and adults. And I’ll tell you why.
The Boy Scouts of America is not, I believe, on a sustainable path as long as any portion of the ban on gay members continues. Strategic partnerships will be drastically reduced. I have personal experience working with many organizations that refused to be partners with my local Scouting council because of the ban on gay members. One instance stands out because the organization was a statewide conservation group, and the Boy Scouts have taught me to be respectful and responsible with our natural world. The conservation group refused to work with the Boy Scouts because the staff feared that their gay volunteers would be exposed to potential embarrassment by working with an organization that discriminates against gay people.
Scouting employees know it is now more difficult to accomplish our recruiting and partnership goals because of the discriminatory ban. Twenty-eight of 30 national youth-serving organizations, many of which are our strategic partners, are strongly opposed to the anti-gay policy, and corporations nationwide are questioning their financial commitment to the Boy Scouts or cutting ties altogether.
On Thursday, 1,400 Scouting volunteers from all across the country will meet in Dallas to vote on a proposal that could end the ban on gay youth. However, gay adult leaders and employees, like me, would remain banned from Scouting.
I have hoped for years that the time would come when the ban would be lifted. The Boy Scouts need to catch up with the American people’s view on equality. Boy Scout members span political parties and socioeconomic classes and live in locations as dense as New York City and as rural as Wyoming. A Washington Post–ABC News poll released just this month shows a majority of Americans believe that both gay youth and adults should be allowed to join the Boy Scouts of America.
The proposed resolution to allow openly gay youth is a good first step, but it cannot stop there. If the resolution to repeal the ban on gay Scouts is approved, dedicated gay adult volunteers and employees, like me, will still be kept in the closet, and I will have no choice but to resign. For too many years, I eschewed relationships, felt uncomfortable around co-workers and was forced to remain cloaked in secrecy. I cannot continue to live in the shadows. It is not healthy, nor is it ethical.
This week, the nation will know if the Boy Scouts of America is listening to equality opponents, who would ultimately destroy the organization, or if acceptance and understanding will prevail. I dream of the day the Boy Scouts of America becomes a fully inclusive youth organization. All boys should be able to benefit, as I have, from Scouting, regardless of their sexual orientation.
TIME has verified that the author, who prefers to remain anonymous, is an employee of the BSA.
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