Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pedophiles, Gays, and Boy Scouts of America

My scoutmaster was a pedophile. We didn't know for a long time. He wasn't married and spent every penny he had on the troop. We went camping once a month year round, and twice a month in summer. We had the best equipment you could get and ate like kings. We camped in beautiful state parks all over Kentucky in summer and at nearby Camp McKee the rest of the year.

The troop was brand new and met less than a mile from my home in a new church. I already had my Tenderfoot from another troop, but had difficulty making it across town to monthly meetings. I jumped at the chance to join a troop closer to home. Since I already had my Tenderfoot and everyone else was a beginner, I was elected Senior Patrol Leader.

Everything was normal at first. Things changed very slowly as he gained our trust and got to know us better. He'd play a dirty tape (hot nuts) in his car for the "select" group that got to ride with him. We laughed whether we got the jokes or not. He smoked, and had no problems with us smoking. Later he'd bring beer along, though only a select few knew about it. You know, boy stuff--and boys will be boys. As far as I know drugs were never involved.

He invited me and the rest of the troop leaders to spend the night at his house the day before a big event so we could get an early start. Somehow I was the only one that came. He made a move, I cried, he stopped immediately, acted like nothing had happened, and neither of us ever mentioned it again. That night marked the end of my time in the select group.

After that he took the select group to cabins for fishing and hunting trips. Then it was hotel rooms, and the invitation list grew ever shorter. Eventually some of us older guys (we were like 14) talked with each other about encounters with him. We agreed not to say anything to anyone else because we didn't want to see the camping trips come to an abrupt end. Besides, it wasn't really hurting anyone, was it?

One of our younger boys hung himself. We went to the funeral home. I saw him laid out in the coffin and lost it. I was so upset that his mother had to comfort me. The guys I came with walked me back to the car. We sat in the parking lot of the funeral home and cried for a long time. I have often wondered if our scoutmaster had anything to do with it.

After my Eagle I got a job and became too busy for scouts. One of the parents called years later, when I was 20. A boy told his Mom about an incident, she called other Moms, more stories came out...the camping trips came to an abrupt end. I have no idea what happened to him but am pretty sure they told him to leave town or they'd call the cops. That was the last I ever heard about our scoutmaster.

The parents wanted me to take the troop to Camp McKee for a week. The boys had been looking forward to and preparing for it for months. That was the first and only time I ever participated in a real scout camp. The first morning the campsite inspectors arrived to find me and most of the 12 boys under my supervision sound asleep in sleeping bags in the midst of a camp site easily mistaken for a disaster area. By the end of the week, we won awards for earning the most merit badges and for the most improved camp site. I ended up staying on as a counselor for several weeks.

I have not burned my Eagle. Participation in boy scouts was good for me. Until very late in my scouting career I was blissfully unaware that our scoutmaster was anything less than an ideal role model. I was not molested, and for those of you who might be curious, had no sexual experiences of any kind with anyone on any of those camping trips. I was too naive to pick up on and/or too fearful to follow through with any opportunities I may have had.

I'm disappointed that BSA sees banning gays as the solution to the problem. Our scoutmaster wasn't gay. He was a pedophile. I can forgive you for thinking they are one in the same, because I once thought the same thing. That's a big part of the reason it took me so long to figure out and accept that I was gay.

My mother came to my defense for the first time when a friend told her to tell me to keep my hands out of her toddler sons pants. Had she called me a dirty fag Mom probably would have agreed. But that someone could think I would ever molest a child infuriated her. It was a break through moment for both of us.

The boy scouts are right to be concerned about sexual predators, but wrong in the assumption that gay men are pedophiles. The gay men I know want a REAL man, thank you very much, not a child. An out gay man doesn't have to sneak around. The ones you need to worry about hide behind marriages of convenience and otherwise pretend to be something they are not. It's just another one of those things that makes me....

The Crotchety Old Man

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