The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) reconsiders ban on gay youths
2013-SEP: "Trail Life USA" a pro-Christian/
anti-gay/anti-transgender replacement for the BSA
Background about youth organizations, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) members:
On 2013-MAY-23, the main U.S. youth organization for boys -- the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) -- decided to relax their long-standing discrimination against gay and bisexual youth, They changed their policy to allow gays and bisexuals to join the BSA, to openly reveal their sexual orientation, and remain in the organization as members until their 18th birthday, when they would then be expelled or expected to quit. Many conservative Christians disagreed with the BSA decision which they believed was "politically correct" and too soft on gays and bisexuals. They saw the need for a parallel organization that was anti-gay, anti-transgender, anti-Atheist and pro-conservative Christian where gay and bisexual youths could join and stay as long as they remained deeply in the "closet" -- by keeping their sexual orientation totally secret.
Unfortunately, this "closet" can be a death trap. Maintaining secrecy concerning their sexual orientation, continually worrying that their families, and people at school, in church, and in youth organizations may find out about their sexual orientation places great stress on gay and bisexual youth who remain in the "closet." This is a rational fear because approximately 40% of the youth homeless in the U.S. are LGBT and have either been "kicked to the curb" by their parents or found it impossible to remain at home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
A meta-study by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimated that between 30% and 40% of LGBT youth attempt suicide. 8 A study by the Family Acceptance Project showed that that "parental acceptance, and even neutrality, with regard to a child's sexual orientation" can reduce the attempted suicide rate. 9 It would seem reasonable that acceptance by a youth group like the BSA would also reduce suicide attempts, while a youth group that forces gay and lesbian youth to remain deeply in the closet would be likely to contribute to maintaining the high suicide attempt rate, or to even increasing it. Thus, youth group's policies concerning LGBT members probably have significant life and death consequences to gay and bisexual youth.
About Trail Life USA:
John Stemberger is an attorney in Orlando, FL, and the president of the Florida Family Policy Council -- a largely conservative Christian pro-life, anti-same-sex marriage group. He founded the OnMyHonor.net movement, which subsequently became "Trail Life USA" (TLU). Supporters of TLU hopes that it will eventually become the leading character-building organization for youth in America. Stemberger has became the Chair of TLU's board.
A You Tube video describing the history of Trail Life USA (13.4 minutes):
A You Tube video introducing Trail Life USA (1.0 minute):
Their web site describes TLU as a
"... Christian adventure, character, and leadership movement for young men. ... Living the Trail Life is a journey established on timeless values derived from the Bible." 1
Their vision is to be:
"... the premier national character development organization for young men which produces Godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens.
The current main group for young men in the U.S. is the Boy Scouts. Apparently, they hope that the TLU will exceed the Boy Scouts in membership.
Their mission is:
"... to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure.
The TLU office is located in Orlando, FL. Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. They expect the TLU to be in full operation by 2014-JAN-01.
Restrictions on membership:
- GENDER: The web site of Trail Life USA contains a provisional membership page 2 which states that youth members must be "biologically male." This was apparently specified to exclude transgender youths. Their statement appears to reflect a widespread belief that every person fits neatly into into one of two classifications: they are either male or female.
Unfortunately, this is not an accurate reflection of reality. That is because individuals have been defined as either male or female according to one of three criteria -- or some combination of these criteria:
- The design of their genitalia: Some children are born with ambiguous genitalia which do not resemble either the typical male or female design. They are referred to as intersexuals.
- Their sex chromosomes: In most cases, the DNA of males have XY sexual chromosomes while females have XX chromosomes. But, again there are some exceptions. According to the 8wayrun web site:
"... most Y chromosomes have a specific gene which triggers the development of testes. However, mutations in these chromosomes mean that sometimes, the Y chromosome might contain no such gene (leading to an XY female), or an X chromosome might contain said gene (resulting in an XX male). In effect, most people can’t be 100% sure what their chromosomes are, because they’re usually only tested if a chromosome related disorder is suspected." 3
- Their gender identity: The hypothalamus is a tiny structure just above each person's brain stem; it is roughly the size of an almond. 4 It contains neuron circuitry which performs a variety of functions. One function determines a person's gender identity.
According to Wikipedia:
Gender identity is a person's private sense, and subjective experience, of their own gender. This is generally described as one's private sense of being a man or a woman. 5
I Savic et al.. of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. wrote:
"... since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently." 6
In essence, some individuals can be said to have a female body and a male brain, or vice-versa. They are transgender. No amount of
therapy, counseling can alter the gender that they perceive themselves to be. Many transgender persons choose to take hormones and undergo sexual reassignment therapy in order to make their body agree more closely with their gender identity.
Many of the parents who will send their children to Trail Live USA will be religious conservatives who will prefer the group because of its anti-gay and pro-Christian beliefs and policies. Among religious conservatives, men and women are often restricted to specific roles in the family, and within the faith group. They often reject the concept of gender ambiguity and will thus welcome a youth organization that excludes "biologically female" youth who identify as male.
- SEXUAL ORIENTATION: They affirm that:
"... any sexual activity outside the context of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful before God and therefore inconsistent with the values and principles of the program.
Within these limits, we grant membership to adults and youth who do not engage in or promote sexual immorality of any kind, or engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the program."
- RELIGION: Their proposed membership standards for youth state that:
"While the program is undergirded by Biblical values and unapologetically reflects a Christian worldview, there is also a clearly defined inclusion policy for youth. Accordingly, all boys are welcome irrespective of religion, race, national origin or socio-economic status.
At first glance, their inclusion of youth of all religions would seem to imply that they will admit boys who are Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Unitarian-Universalist, Wiccan, Zoroastrian, etc. who generally do not believe in the existence of one male deity.
However, their provisional statement of faith and values for adults 7 require leaders to sign a statement of faith acknowledging that they believe:
- In the Christian Trinity.
- That God created the universe.
- That the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. Old and New Testaments are the inspired and authoritative Word of God.
- That sexual activity is to be restricted to within a marriage that involves precisely one woman and one man.
We will attempt to contact Trail Life USA to clear up some of the ambiguities in their proposed membership standards and determine exactly which adult and youth members they will accept, and whom they will exclude.
Does Trail Life USA pose a threat to the Boy Scouts of America?
Deron Smith, a BSA spokesperson, minimizes the threat. He noted that 99% of the BSA's 116,000 units which include 2.6 million youth members "remain committed" to the BSA. He notes that in the "very rare instance" when a chartered organization -- typically a church -- has decided to close down a BSA troop, other organizations have stepped in to charter them, so that the troops continue without interruption.
However, these observations were made at a time before Trail Life USA was founded. As TLU becomes established, they may well pose a growing threat to the BSA's membership numbers.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Ready for adventure?...," Trail Life USA, at: http://www.traillifeusa.com/
- "Proposed Membership Standards for Trail Life USA," Trail Life USA, at: http://www.traillifeusa.com/
- "MntT777," " 'Biologically male/female- - an outdated (and harmful) notion," 8Wayrun, 2012-SEP-04, at: http://8wayrun.com/
- "Hypothalamus," Wikipedia, as on 2013-SEP-03, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "Gender Identity," Wikipedia, as on 2013-SEP-10, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- I Savic, et al., "Sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation," PubMed, 2010, at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
- "A provisional statement of Faith and Values, Trail Life USA, at: http://www.traillifeusa.com/
- "Suicide risk and prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth," Suicide Prevention Resource Center, 2008, at: http://www.sprc.org/library/SPRC_LGBT_Youth.pdf This is a PDF file.
- Joseph Shapiro, "Study: Tolerance Can Lower Gay Kids' Suicide Risk," National Public Radio, 2008-DEC-29, at: http://www.npr.org/
- "The History of Trail Life USA," You Tube, at: http://youtu.be/
- "Introducing Trail Life USA," You Tube, at: http://youtu.be/
Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Original posting: 2013-SEP-13
Latest updated: 2013-SEP-15
Author: B.A. Robinson