FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Homophobia, American-Style

by HILLARY GIBSON

It’s been one year since Congress officially repealed the archaic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. A new wave of LGBT cadets is entering training academies without the burden of silence — well, almost. While the military has made progress toward freeing men and women in uniform from the closet, members of the armed forces who identify as transgender were left entirely out of the equation.

Take the case of a friend of mine from high school who enrolled in the Coast Guard Academy in 2008. Unbeknownst to all but a few students back then, he’s gay. As DADT’s days seemed numbered, my friend and his few cautiously out classmates petitioned to form a gay-straight alliance student club.

The academy was slow to move forward until the government officially repealed its homophobic policy, and their charter was sent back numerous times for revision. The order? Remove transgender from the widely used LGBT catch-all acronym. The cadets were forced to change that last letter from a T to a Q — for “questioning.” Service members who identify as transgender and want to participate as a distinct sect of the support group essentially have to pretend that they just aren’t sure what to call themselves yet.

While the military is making slow and incomplete progress on LGBT — er, Q — issues, America’s problems with institutionalized homophobia don’t stop — or start — there. Homophobia takes root, like all forms of prejudice, in the impressionable minds of children.

The Boy Scouts of America is one of the last organizations of its kind to systematically exclude homosexuals from participating as members or troop leaders. Because it’s a private organization, excluding gays is technically their prerogative. Unlike the military, they’re not using our tax dollars to fund their discriminatory agenda, so why should we care?

We should care because the Boy Scouts of America instructed 2,723,869 of our nation’s youth in 2011 to make “ethical and moral choices” tainted by homophobic intolerance. This national organization wields influence on a scale comparable to that of many public institutions.

The Boy Scout oath makes kids promise to keep themselves “morally straight,” yet the organization seems more concerned about keeping everyone sexually straight. The Boy Scouts send a dangerous message to youth: It’s not OK to be gay, and if you are you should pretend that you’re not.

Engraving this message in the minds of young scouts perpetuates bullying. According to the National Youth Association, nine out of 10 LGBT students experience bullying at school. One-third of them have attempted suicide.

If we practiced tolerance in our national institutions and organizations, our nation could make headway toward ending homophobic bullying. According to a statement released this summer, the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy “reflects the beliefs and perspectives” of its members. Overall, the group asserts, openly gay scouts and leaders “would be a distraction to the mission.”

A distraction from what? Given the recent reports on the Scouts’ longtime practice of engaging in elaborate cover-ups when its leaders allegedly molested young boys, the integrity of their purported “mission” is already compromised.

As the Los Angeles Times revealed, the Boy Scouts quietly nudged men it believed were sexually abusing children to resign for many decades. It would internally probe the charges without, in most cases, reporting these offenses to authorities. As a result, suspected offenders wound up slipping back into the program in other areas.

For my friend’s club, transgender inclusion is the next battle. For young people like me, it’s about awakening the older generations to the irrationality of their prejudice.

By the time I have children, these civil rights abuses will likely be resolved. If they persist, I won’t enroll my child in the Boy Scouts.

Hillary Gibson is an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley and an OtherWords intern at the Institute for Policy Studies. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail