Yesterday (October 11, 2009), here in San Diego, we had our annual Scouting For All Rally at Balboa Park. This was the tenth annual rally, and this was the first time I was asked to speak at the rally.
The rally has two purposes. The first is to advocate for changing the antidiscrimination policies of the Boy Scouts of America — those at policies which discriminate against non-theist, atheist, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The second purpose is to advocate for the removal of the Boy Scout Camp from Balboa Park in San Diego. This is because the Boy Scouts’ violate federal, state, and local antidiscrimination laws.
So, below is my speech for the event, and below the fold is the text of the speech as I wrote it. It’s interesting that the speech coincided with the annual Coming Out Day, as my speech addresses why I stayed in the closet to my son’s Boy Scout Troop.
Scouting For All’s Mick Rabin introduced me.
Text of my Scouting For All Rally speech:
My son is a 23-year old, and he’s an Eagle Scout. He became an Eagle Scout in 2004 with much dedication and much hard work.
There are many reasons why my son may face discrimination in his life, and could have faced discrimination as a child. My son is a child that my ex-spouse and I adopted at birth. Ethnically, he’s beautifully mixed within Hispanic and Native American heritages, and so it probably goes without much saying that his skin tone is gorgeously olive. His skin tone doesn’t match my skin tone — I want his gorgeous olive skin tone, by the way, because when I spend time outdoors in the sun, my incredibly ivory skin is a liability.
The Boy Scouts wouldn’t by policy, and didn’t by action, discriminate against him because he was adopted, and didn’t discriminate against him by policy or action because of his ethnic heritages.
And too, my oldest son is very heterosexual, and he has a belief in God — he met those criteria to be a (*air quotes*) “morally straight” Boy Scout. My son’s sexual orientation was never an issue with the Boy Scouts under their current National Policy, and neither was my son’s gender identity. His gender identity matches the gender marker on his birth certificate, so the Boy Scouts requirement that it’s scouts be boys wasn’t a issue for him.
My son has grown to be a wonderful young man. He’s recently told me about his intent to marry his girlfriend, and of his intent to join the Marines. Not exactly outcomes that the Boy Scouts would frown upon.
But here’s the problem. While my son doesn’t have any personal determinant for which the Boy Scouts would have discriminated against him, the Boy Scouts could have discriminated against him because of me. For my son to become an Eagle Scout, I needed to be closeted to his Boy Scout troop.
And, that’s not because I’m gay — Since separating from my ex-spouse in the mid-nineties I’ve been celibate. And my relationship with my ex-spouse was recognized by church and state as an opposite sex relationship. And, it’s not because I’m a non-theist or atheist — I publicly identify as a small “c” Christian.
And too, I’m a disabled, U.S. Navy Persian Gulf War Veteran; I’m a 20-year military retiree. My disability rating from the Veterans Administration is 100%, and all of my disabilities are acknowledged by the VA as being service connected. The Boy Scouts look at people who are active duty servicemembers, as well as those who are military retirees, with a generally positive perspective. And, my having service connected disabilities isn’t exactly seen as a negative either. The Boy Scouts would not have discriminated against my son because of my personal history with the U.S. Navy, nor would they have discriminated against him because of my service connected disabilities.
No. No, the reason I needed to stay closeted to my son’s troop — closeted so he could have that opportunity to become an Eagle Scout — is because my gender identity doesn’t match the gender marker on my original birth certificate. I am a male-to-female transsexual. My sociopolitical identification within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community is as a transgender woman — as a trans woman.
I came out as a trans woman in early 2003; my son became an Eagle Scout in mid-2004. If my son were to have publicly recognized me as his transgender parent to his troop, in accordance with the Boy Scouts’ national policy I would have been considered someone who wasn’t a (*air quotes*) “morally straight” person. And since the national policies on people who aren’t considered “morally straight” apply to parents and guardians as well as to the scouts themselves, if I were out to my son’s troop, then my son could have been dismissed from the Boy Scouts not because of who he is, but because of who I am.
The Boy Scouts don’t have a national policy that discriminates against the sons of convicted felons — they don’t tell those children that they can’t join the Boy Scouts because their parent is not considered “morally straight.” Yet, the Boy Scouts do have a national policy that discriminates against the sons of non-theist, atheist, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents for not being judged “morally straight.”
Frankly, there is just something wrong and un-American about judging any boy’s qualification to join the Boy Scouts based on that child’s parents’ or legal guardians’ religious creed, or community identity.
So, here I am today with those of you here protesting the Boy Scouts’ national policy on non-theist, atheist, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who want to be involved on some level with Scouting. We are here today because we, for the various reasons we each have, find the national antidiscrimination policies of the Boy Scouts to be severely wanting. We would prefer that the Boy Scouts change their national policy, and stop engaging in discrimination against non-theist, atheist, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
However, if the Boy Scouts insist that they are a private organization that should be allowed to continue to discriminate against non-theist, atheist, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, then federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws should come to bear when these apply.
Here in San Diego — here at Balboa Park — citizens should not be subsidizing unlawful discrimination on publicly owned parkland with their tax dollars. We do that via the Boy Scouts paying much lower than market rates for renting the parkland. Citizens also should not be tacitly supporting unlawful discrimination by giving exclusive access to areas of public parkland to organizations that discriminate — organizations such as the Boy Scouts that discriminate against people belonging to recognized protected classes found in federal, state, and local law.
It’s wrong; it needs to stop; it needs to stop as close to now as possible.
So, thank you. Thank you, my peer protestors, for being here today; thank you so much for openly standing for social justice; thank you for being here and for making your public stand against unlawful discrimination here in Balboa Park. Thank you too, for standing for children who, through accident of birth, foster care, or adoption, have parents or guardians who are non-theist, atheist, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Thank you.