Boy Scouts and Human Rights: Teaching Kids to Take a Stand


After my son saw the local Boy Scouts selling Christmas trees in the town square last year, that was it, he insisted on joining the local troop.

He asked how old he had to be to join the troop and what kinds of activities they did beyond selling trees. My son loves math and that’s what initially drew him in, the concept of selling things, calculating change and getting to do it with children his own age. It’s a pretty awesome day when your child who is on the spectrum tells you point-blank that he is excited about doing something. Yay, Boy Scouts!

pride flag boy scout flagThere’s none of the guesswork and risk involved either, like when you are a parent who picks your kid’s extracurricular activities, and you suffer the chance that you buy all of the equipment only to have your guess about what your child might enjoy be wrong and all of your money go down the tubes.

Furthermore, my son tends to be picky about what he shows interest in, and math is his preferred subject. I was so happy for his excitement and looked into joining the Boy Scouts right away. That’s when I hit my first roadblock.

Right before I began to research the organization, I remembered that the Boy Scouts had placed a ban on allowing openly gay scoutmasters and children to join their ranks. Huge roadblock. I knew that with scouting comes paying dues and even though my son was over the moon about getting involved, I was not about to pay money to an organization that discriminated against people on the basis of sexual orientation. I felt like Boy Scouts seems like it wants to help children achieve their potential, but in actuality, their discriminatory practices were doing the opposite by behaving as though there is something wrong with being gay. I didn’t want to have to tell my son that he couldn’t join. 

boy scout talking with leader

Many discussions around our kitchen table revolve around acceptance and love. We have told our children so many times that they can say it in their sleep, “Everyone wants to feel included and loved.” 

So with all of this buzzing in my mind, I Googled “Boy Scouts gay rights”. Here is what came up on that page:

On May 23, 2013, the 1,400 voting members of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America voted to lift the ban of letting openly gay individuals into the Scouts by 61% to 38%. Openly gay boys are allowed to become Scouts from January 2014 but openly gay adults were still forbidden to be leaders.

On July 10, 2015, the Boy Scouts of America Executive Committee… voted unanimously to approve a policy change that would effectively end the national ban on gay adults. The vote by the Executive Committee required ratification by the National Board prior to enactment. Officials for the Boy Scouts of America stated that the vote would take place later that month. Affirming the decision of the National Executive Committee, on July 27, the National Executive Board voted to lift the organization’s ban on openly gay adults. The final vote to approve included 45 votes in favor and 12 votes against.

Although the bans were lifted only a short time ago, I felt instant relief that they had been lifted. There is even talk that the word “boy” will be removed from the title as girls are now allowed to join the Boy Scouts. It seemed to me that the scouting organization was moving in the right direction. 

But as I was doing my research, my son sat next to me and asked what I was doing. He could read the pages that I was looking at over my shoulder and knew that it had something to do with scouting. I said,

“I’m doing some research about Boy Scouts.” My son, ever the constant learner, asked what I was researching. And so, I told him. Just like that. I said,

Do you remember how we told you that people can love whomever they want? The Boy Scouts used to ban people who love people of their same gender.

I taught him the term gay and we talked for a bit more. I asked him if he would want to give his money to someone who didn’t think it was okay for people to simply love who they love. He said no. And then I told him about dues and how his father and I didn’t want to give money to an organization that was against it either. It was an amazing conversation for me. My son is seven and I’m not sure how much made sense to him. But I wasn’t going to let the teachable moment go by simply because of his age. 

As parents, we may worry that our children are too young to have certain conversations. I hear parents say, “What am I going to tell my children? How will I explain this to them?” especially when it comes to sex, sexuality, and gender expression. 

Just tell them. 

There is no right age to start introducing these topics. The more we make a big deal of sex, sexuality, and gender expression, and the more we hide from those topics, the more negative power and fear can grow. We live in an incredible time where children’s books are being written that put complex topics and themes like these in terms that are simple and non-threatening for children and adults. 

Cover of a book titled, "You Be You: The Kid's Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family."

I am shocked when I see the news every day and see more and more people being killed due to ignorance and fear. Our children are small and the world is still open to them, so now is the perfect time to change the tides. We can’t fear these conversations. We simply have to have them. We can’t continue to exist in the 1950s mode of parenting where sex, sexuality, and gender expression are things that should be hushed until a parent draws the shorter straw to talk about them with the child. 

The other day, I ran into a friend of mine who gave me this perfect quote and helped to inspire this blog post. 

Children don’t know what a microwave is until you tell them and then they just accept the truth from you without question. Sexual orientation is no different. It doesn’t have to be this intense conversation, it can be as simple as explaining a microwave. Your child will just accept the answer because that’s where their brain is at this time. – Jason Lorber, VPR Commentator and former Vermont Legislator. 

After all our thought, research, and discussions, my husband and I decided that our son could join the Boy Scouts. Joining the Boy Scouts this year is a new adventure for my son and our family. And maybe his interest will dwindle at some point and we’ll be finding more dust on his uniform than dirt. And maybe I’m stepping into this new activity with some caution.

But I will say that his joining the troop will not be a waste of money, as the lessons that he and his sister have learned, that we need to take steps as a society to include, validate, and love each other, are priceless.

Boy Scouts and Human Rights: Teaching Kids to Take a Stand for LGBTQIA Folks


  1. Well written Meredith Gordon!

    I love your Nike version of explaining things to kids: Just. Tell. Them.

    Here’s a thought: if you’re a parent having the challenge of explaining a topic to your child — whether it’s about sexual orientation, drugs, death, or masturbation (I think those are the big four) — don’t assume your child will freak out. Instead, look in the mirror and notice the sweat dripping down your own silly face.


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