Merit badge for thinking
I was a Boy Scout. Not a good Boy Scout—I think I had enough merit badges for Eagle, but I fell short in meeting attendance. So I made Life. A trifle ironic, because I remember hiding in the woods with a couple of like-minded rebel Scouts, wearing the yellow neckerchief and khaki summer uniform, striking up cigarettes with barnburner matches, so I must have started smoking around then.
Bad scout. But good with fires. And I made stew with dumplings in a big Dutch oven, buried in coals, for my cooking merit badge…and all around the campfire agreed that it was quite delicious.
I grew to become a more or less good citizen—someone who paid taxes, voted regularly, and believed that a person’s sexual orientation was nobody’s business but his or her own. So I’ve instinctively—that is, with no great thought—come down on the side of LGBT rights as long as I can remember. And I’ve always known that families come in a wonderfully interesting variety of configurations within and without whatever it is we mean by American society.
It’s important to note that I never experienced one moment of anything I thought was sexually uncomfortable or untoward during my years in Scouts (you start out as a Cub Scout, you know, with the blue uniforms). And I remember W.E. Toner “Tony” Hollick, the unflappable scoutmaster of Troop 31, as a little nerdy, but caring and smart—a man who taught me how to identify poison ivy, tie a bowline and half-hitch, follow a map, and at least 20 other things I can think of that have been more useful over the years than college calculus.
But I stopped short the other day when I came upon an article about the California state assembly, honoring a gay Eagle scout.
I had to stop and think. How do I feel about that? How do I feel in general about gays in the Boy Scouts? About gay Scout leaders? Where, suddenly, did my reflexive support for LGBT rights go?
I confess—my reflexive support immediately gave way to this question: What is the relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia?
God damn it. I know. I’m sorry. But I’ve forgiven myself. Get over it.
At least I thought about it, didn’t succumb to any reflexive conclusion. At least I did some research and found:
• Pedophilia is defined as an adult having “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (DSMIV, reference below).”
• Pedophilia is almost exclusively found in men, and the great majority of these men identify as heterosexual.
• Even among people who sexually abuse children of their same gender, most are attracted to adults of the opposite gender.
• Sexual orientation, whether heterosexual or homosexual, describes attractions to and sexual behavior with consenting adults. Sexual behavior directed at children is a disorder or a crime, and does not constitute a sexual orientation.
So I’m giving myself a merit badge for thinking. And I’m thinking I don’t have a problem with it. Quitting smoking should be as easy.