The decision by an unnamed panel of leaders of Boy Scouts of America to affirm B.S.A. policy of banning gays from membership and leadership is absolutely indefensible for a number of reasons. But what disturbs me the most, as an advocate for families suffering from depression in a family member, is the effect this decision will have on young gay men who tend toward depression.
Depression in young people leads to suicide all too often. Statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention state that suicide is the sixth leading cause of death among those 5-14 years old and the third leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old. For many young people, the fact of being gay leads to bullying and discrimination, which leads to depression, despair, and thoughts of suicide. National Public Radio reported in 2008 that LGBT teens and young adults have one of the highest rates of suicide attempts.
And now a revered institution, one that purports to support and affirm young men, states that gay people are to be excluded from participation. An excerpt from their policy: “…we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the B.S.A.”
This policy, in a very real sense, tells gay young men that they, by simply existing, are contrary to the upright moral standards of Boy Scouts.
We, the authors of “Dancing in the Dark,” support all gay young people who have families and loved ones trying to help them through a difficult life that may well include depression. We censure the institutionalized ignorance and bigotry of the B.S.A., and call on the organization to reconsider this backwards and hurtful policy.