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Choosing Scouts

It all started with Sister-Bug. She’s super social. She’s very much “all girls- all the time”. Papa-Bug and I realized that she would do really well in Girl Scouts. We looked into the organization and felt like it was good, forward thinking, very accepting, and something we could support. In a wonderful coincidence, a friend of Brother-Bug’s needed some younger Scout members in her troop. We explained the concepts of Scouts to Sister-Bug. She was all in. We bought the tunic and patches.

She had a great investiture (that’s a big word for a kid to say…and I love hearing her try to say it) and was so proud of herself. Brother-Bug looked on. And later told us he wanted to do some scouts. The uniform…the patches… It was all so alluring.


But… … Boy Scouts? Cub Scouts?

Now, my dad was an Eagle, so I had heard good things about scouts while I was growing up. But the politics. The anti-gay, “morally straight” yuckiness of it all. We explained to Brother-Bug that the Boy Scouts had some politics we really, really didn’t agree with. He was on the fence. He knows that our politics are important to us and of course he wants to please us. But he also was really interested in Scouts. What to do?

I started calling around, asking people I knew about Scouts in the area and what they would do with my quirky son and his outspoken, justice-oriented parents. I couldn’t find any alternative scouting groups like Campfire Kids or Spiral Scouts. The nature schools were all really expensive. I kept coming back to Cub Scouts as the only viable option at the present time.

This spurred a number of great discussions in our family. We’ve talked about how my politics, and Papa-Bug’s politics, and Brother-Bugs politics aren’t all the same – and they shouldn’t be. We should question and explore and disagree and discuss. If he’s okay with Scouts, then that is ultimately his choice. We’ve talked about the power of the boycott and why boycotting Boy Scouts until they change their ways might be one choice to make, but also how we can sometimes change organizations because we are a part of them and that kind of internal shifting that also can happen. Both are good options.

Ultimately what we want to do as parents is help our kids follow their dreams and desires with awareness. Shutting down something our child is interested in, simply because it makes us uncomfortable isn’t fair to that child. Our job is to keep them safe and thriving. And what they learn from us and our responses to events and decisions in their lives…that’s going to matter much more than many other details that touch their days.

So we kept looking.

Brother-Bug and I visited one area group. It wasn’t a good fit. The leader looked at me like I was turning plaid when I asked how her group felt about bullying, queer kids, and gender creative kids (and I hadn’t even mentioned queer Scout leaders or cultural appropriation yet!). I left worried about both meeting Brother-Bug’s desires and also finding him a safe space. He left happy that there had been ice cream, and still on the fence.

While I was at that meeting, Papa-Bug opened up a discussion about Scouts on his Facebook wall. It was interesting, and I was able to connect with some adult Scouts from the area who know our family well enough to know what kind of a group we need. They put me in touch with other leaders who are open minded and accepting of the quirky people. I spent a lot of time on the phone, talking with many pack leaders. I was moved by the number of good and kind people who reached out to my family to help us and to make sure we felt supported. The larger group politics may be out of sync with my reality, but the local groups I talked to are very open, and many of them are working hard to change those politics.

Finally we found a pack. We bought the shirt and the patches (and let me tell you – with two kids in scouts it is so good I am handy with a needle). It’s not a perfect pack. Boy Scouts still has a long way to go and a lot of challenges to face. But I am confident that my child will be safe and treated with respect. And the look on Brother-Bug’s face when he called my dad to tell him he had found a Cub Scout Pack made it all worth it. He felt so good, so proud of himself.


Of all the “moms” on the list, I never thought I would find myself a “scout mom”. It’s been an interesting journey to start, and I’m sure it will keep on challenging me in ways that I don’t expect. But here we are with two kids in scouts, and I’d better stop writing and go finish sewing on their patches.


6 responses »

  1. I love them, and you two, so much – so proud of you for making such a nuanced decision! Investiture!

  2. I am very happy that you found a unit that matches your needs. Scouting is evolving, but change takes time.

  3. As a Boy Scout leader who proudly wears a rainbow ribbon on his uniform, I’m always happy to hear parents and boys choosing the path of changing Scouts from within. There are many great benefits to Scouting and I firmly believe it is only a matter of time (and not a long time) before BSA is truly inclusive.

  4. you do not have to love everything about a group to participate. my kids were scouts, both eagled, and they are post-college grad now – they had great experiences in scouting and still do outdoorsy things – oldest did a 70 mile hike in wales with his gf, youngest taught sailing to kids past 2 summers in mad, wi. competent, independent, environmentalists. you look at what the org has to offer, take what is good, leave or even try to change what is bad, and if you can’t, you work that issue in some other venue. our whole fam promoted gay rights and religious separation in other ways, in spite of, or maybe extra energetically because it was in scouting. never an issue in our local patrol, tho, so it really does depend on specific groups, so do’t be afraid to keep interviewing!

  5. Saw a link to your post through Scouts for Equality on Facebook. Good for you for joining! I’m a scout mom of three boys. We are lucky, in Minneapolis, to have a council that has accepted everyone for over a decade now. That made it easier for me to sign up my boys. But we need many, many more parents like you to get involved, because when the national scout organization made its decision to allow gay scouts but not leaders, it had polled leaders already within the organization. Next step, become a leader. Make your voice heard.

    • How exciting that it made it to a Scouts for Equality Page!! I’ll have to look that up, for sure. Right now we have a really nice leader, but she’s not really an activist…and I like to do things like lead groups…so I’m sure I’ll get to do some leading one day.


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