Youth Protection Director
Boy Scouts of America
As the Boy Scouts of America hosts the National Symposium on Youth Protection, I’d like to bring up a serious issue affecting the lives and hearts of countless boys which thus far, the Scouts have refused to address.
I grew up in Tallahassee. In the 60’s, when I was a scout, my dad was president of the Suwanee River Area Council. So I knew the leadership and the scout executives, and the scoutmasters and philanthropists in the community, and I saw how the tradition was passed from father to son. Indeed many of my friends became scoutmasters.
I did not follow the tradition. Once I became an adult I had little to do with Scouting. I felt as if I shouldn’t be involved. Despite the facts that I had become the youngest Eagle Scout in my council’s history, that I had earned the God & Country award, that I was an Arrowman, that I loved the outdoors and had skills and talents I could’ve passed on to others, I stayed away.
I stayed away because I knew that I had problems I could not tell anyone about. I was gay, but that wasn’t the nightmare I couldn’t talk about. The unspeakable secret was that throughout my childhood my father had molested me, and my friends. He did these things at home, on scouting trips, at our beach cabin, and at sea on fishing trips, in the fallout shelter he’d built to protect our family from nuclear war.
But because my father was “important” and so beloved in Tallahassee every adult I knew would defer to him over me. I knew that if I went for help the “issue” would be my homosexuality, and not the trauma of sexual abuse. Indeed, when my parents first discovered that I was gay, the psychologist they sent me to was not interested in hearing what I had to say about my father’s behaviors. He informed me that my “memories” were simply fantasies, further proof that indeed my sexual orientation was precariously at risk and needed aggressive treatment.
And that was the case in my life multiplied many times over. My family doctor sent me to a psychiatrist who told me all I needed to do was have intercourse with a woman. Any woman. And I’d be cured. Even after I had become an adult and a successful young businessman in my town, my banker hinted that I should get married, and my accountant urged me to be discrete.No one wanted to hear about my homosexuality, much less the abuse.
So I can imagine if I were an eleven year-old scout today, working toward my Eagle. I’m a good boy. I obey the Scout Law. But just after my Order of the Arrow initiation, my counselor takes me into the first-aid hut and says he’s been watching me. “You like other boys, don’t you? That’s alright.” He says he’ll show me what it’s like. I know the Scout Law backwards and forwards. “A scout is obedient.” The counselor takes off his pants and touches himself. He wants me to touch him.
Afterward, he can sense that I’m upset. He avoids me. There’s no one I can talk to. I’m a Life Scout now and I know that the most important things in Scouting are character, being trustworthy and loyal, doing my duty to God and Country.
Now I’m preparing for the Board of Review. Though I know the policies I read them again: There’s no place for homosexuality in Scouting. Outside my room, my family and friends, my minister, my church and school, all expect me to receive this honor and nothing less.
What is my way out? Suicide?
The fact is that a percentage of all boys are gay. And we know from national organizations such as the gay Eagle Scouts that a percentage of Scouts are gay.
These facts should not be disturbing. What’s disturbing are the facts that the Boy Scouts of America have certified a culture which not only eases the way for sexual offenders to molest children… but blinds its sight of victims.
The Boy Scouts of America engraves its laws into the heart of its members. Every Scouter knows to do his duty to others, to be helpful at all times, to be trustworthy, kind, brave. And obedient. I’m challenging your organization to understand that the Scouts will always have members who identify as gay. I’m challenging you to accept the fact that by pretending this isn’t the case, the Boy Scouts has caused and will continue to wreak irreparable damage to millions of boys.
I challenge the BSA to acknowledge the difference between sexual offenders and homosexuals. The distinction is one which law enforcement, psychologists, and educated people quite easily make. You also know that the great majority of offenders are heterosexual. But thus far, you’ve failed to accept the fact that gay people are not criminals, that we are as human as love itself.
You cannot protect children from sexual offenders if you refuse to respect the most vulnerable among them. I know that changing your policies will not be easy. But unless you want to be taken seriously as an organization which looks after the welfare of children, you must you must do your duty to help others at all times. Be a good Scout. Be brave.
Sincerely,Walter A. de Milly, III
Eagle Scout, 1966
Troop 109Suwanee River Area Coucil (revised 11/2/12)