“The Boy Scouts Accepted Me With Open Arms”

I’m not a big fan of last week’s decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay Scouts — but continue the ban on all gay adults, in any capacity.

Here’s the message that sends to all teenagers, of any sexual orientation: It’s okay to be a gay kid. Gay adults, though, are horrible human beings.

Of course, I was never a Boy Scout.

Jeff Durkin was. A gay Boy Scout.

In fact, Jeff was a gay Eagle Scout.

Jeff Durkin (right) with Troop 36 scoutmaster Jack Berry.

Jeff Durkin (right) with Troop 36 scoutmaster Jack Berry.

The Westporter — who just graduated from the University of Massachusetts as a linguistics major, and hopes to teach English in Japan — has a special perspective on the BSA.

A few days before the decision, Jeff wrote to the Connecticut Yankee Council — the governing body for over 17,000 Scouts and nearly 4,600 adult volunteers in Fairfield and New Haven Counties.

Jeff said:

In 2009 with Troop 36, I earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Scouts taught me to be proud of myself, and to lead other people. I feel that the only way to uphold that message is to be all-inclusive….

Regardless of the decision you make, gays will remain in Scouts. But instead of being told they are fully functioning human beings, they will be told there is a part of them that is shameful and that they shouldn’t tell anyone about it.

I went through this experience enough as a child, and Scouts was the one place I felt I belonged. My Scout troop was the first group of people I came out as gay to. They accepted me with open arms. I knew then what it meant to be part of a community. I thank you for that, and I hope that you make that experience easier for kids everywhere.

An hour later, Yankee Council president Michael Abrahamson wrote back. He said:

I appreciate your sharing your thoughts, and I am glad that you found success in Scouting. Your words show me that you do understand the meaning of being an Eagle Scout.

I know that you were a part of one of the finest troops in our council, and I am not at all surprised that Mr. Jack Berry and the rest of Troop 36 supported you.

I want you to know that we at the Connecticut Yankee Council have taken the position of formally welcoming both youth and adults regardless of their sexual orientation. We hope that the National organization will soon follow our lead and adopt a similar position.

I know that the lessons of scouting will serve you well, and again I thank you for your insight.

The national Boy Scouts of America might not fully understand or appreciate their own values — things like kindness, character, living your life with honesty.

But the Connecticut Yankee Council sure does.

Yankee Council

5 responses to ““The Boy Scouts Accepted Me With Open Arms”

  1. Great post, thanks for sharing, Jeff and Dan! Though, if I may, Jeff *is* a gay Eagle Scout. Once an Eagle, always an Eagle ;).

  2. Eric William Buchroeder

    If you believe in treating others as you would wish to be treated you have to include everybody. It’s simple. This lesson comes early to some and later to others.

  3. Gary Singer

    Good for the Connecticut Council. Many other States will follow. But prejudice will remain, shamefully. Equality has come a long way, but there’s still a way to go. Hopefully, that trip will be short

  4. David Stalling

    This is really nice to read. My father, Ed Stalling Sr. (who was also an Eagle Scout) was the Scoutmaster of Troop 36 for more than 30 years and my brothers Ed, Bob and myself all earned the rank of Eagle Scout with Troop 36. I, too, am a gay Eagle Scout. Troop 36 has always been a great troop and I am glad to hear it still is. I plan to enroll my son in Boys Scouts but find it pretty disturbingly ridiculous that I am not allow to serve as a leader in his troop.

  5. David Stalling

    PS: I greatly admire and respect Jeff Durkin’s courage, honesty and integrity; he is a true Eagle Scout!