Cate and Elizabeth Wirth, a lesbian couple in Vermont, were told by a Vermont district director of the Boy Scouts that they could no longer volunteer for their son’s Cub Scout troop after it became known that they are a couple. According to the Rutland Herald, Richard Stockton, Scout executive for the Green Mountain Council, confirmed, “The national policy of the Boy Scouts of America is we don’t accept gays and lesbians as volunteers.”
This is awful, but given the Boy Scout’s previous history with gay matters, it is perhaps not surprising. (For the record, I also have a serious problem with the fact that the Boy Scouts don’t allow atheists or agnostics to be leaders, either.)
What is interesting, however, and what I hope will stir some discussion among those of you who are around over the holiday, is this comment from one of the mothers:
Cate Wirth said Tuesday that she expects her son to remain in Scouting, despite this incident. And as of Tuesday afternoon, she had not told the boy about the comments.
“I still think Scouts is a good thing for him because he doesn’t have a dad and he’s really drawn to a lot of stereotypical male stuff that Scouting does, outdoorsy stuff,” Wirth said. “I don’t want my personal issues to impact his life in that way. I was concerned if he knew about it he might be uncomfortable going.”
She said of her decision to allow him to continue in Scouts, “Politically, if he weren’t a 10-year-old boy I’d feel differently about it. I wouldn’t support the organization. But his needs come first.”
First, kudos to Wirth for putting her son’s needs and interests above all. I’m not sure I could have resisted the urge to yank my son out of the organization.
At the same time, I find myself uneasy about her words. “Stereotypically male stuff” does not in fact need to be done by a male. That’s one of the arguments trotted out by those who say all children should have a mother and a father, so let’s put that old canard to rest right now. My opinion is that yes, there are certain ineffable things about being male that are usually best conveyed by someone who identifies with that gender (parent or otherwise). Specific activities, on the other hand, should not be so gendered.
If the Wirths are not outdoorsy types themselves, however, that is fine. I’d like to imagine, though, that there are options other than the Boy Scouts for their son—but then again, without knowing their particular location, schedules, etc., it is hard for me to say. Perhaps the Boy Scouts are indeed the best alternative for them. The whole situation reminds me of the many trade-offs we must make as parents. Again, they deserve credit for making what must be a hard decision.
I have to wonder, though: Tanney told them, “We wouldn’t want you pushing your lifestyle on the boys.” How long before their son lets slip a remark about having two moms or accidentally reveals a family photo that he tucked away in his backpack? Would the Scouts go so far as to reject the son of lesbian moms, regardless of his own sexual orientation, because of the danger of exposing other boys to their “lifestyle”?
What would you do in their situation? Do you feel it is necessary to give your children exposure to male influence (or female influence if you’re a gay dad), and if so, how do you do it?