I grew up in San Francisco, California and was definitely raised a city boy. As a child, I could make my way around the Tenderloin at night as surely as Grizzly Adams navigated the Sierras. I grew up on food from around the world and could use chopsticks as deftly as a country boy could handle a whittlin’ knife. Buses and streetcars were my horses, alleys my hiking trails, skyscrapers my hills and mountains. Guns, even the aquatic variety, were verboten (hunting was something done at antique stores or garage sales) and I think the only reason my mother allowed me fishing gear was because there weren’t any fish anywhere near us to be caught, other than at the grocery store; neither one of us would have known what to do if I actually did catch one. In our family, “roughing it” meant going to “Opera in the Park”.
And yet, somehow, I acquired a love of the outdoors and camping and all that goes with it. There were, of course, Boy Scout troops in San Francisco that I could have joined, but my family didn’t have the money for such luxuries. Later, in high school, I was part of an explorer post which was loosely affiliated with the scouts, but not in such a way that we would have ever noticed. I admit that I didn’t really miss being a boy scout, what with all their officialness and rules and uniforms and such — I was never one for conformity. And then there was the whole god-and-gays problem — by the time my sons came along, I was well entrenched in the fight for equality and rights for the LGBT community so becoming involved with the boy scouts simply wasn’t an option. The fact that I was an outspoken atheist didn’t help either.
Instead, we made our own way into the outdoors, joining up with other Land Rover owners and with other families from the kids’ schools to go camping and have our adventures. But then, a troop of Girl Scouts formed at the kids’ school and my daughter was most interested in being a part of it. She missed out the first year — we weren’t sure we wanted her involved in something that seemed so similar to the Boy Scouts — but by the time the end of the year rolled around, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had opened an “official inquiry” into the girl scouts for being accepting of the LGBT community, including transgendered kids, working with groups like Doctors Without Borders and The Sierra Club, and supporting the notion that women and girls have “an environment where they can freely and openly discuss issues of sex and sexuality.”
That was good enough for me and not only did I buy way more cookies than we could possibly eat, we secured a place for Sara as part of the troop. When a girl joins the girl scouts, however, one of her parents or guardians has to join as well — something I was glad to do. I like the idea of supporting a group whose mission is to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place” and which “helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect; develop values to guide their actions and provide the foundation for sound decision-making; and contribute to the improvement of society through their abilities, leadership skills, and cooperation with others.” And to do so without the hatred and bigotry that the Boy Scouts is known for? Bonus.
So now my daughter is happily learning to care for animals, enjoying the company of her peers, and becoming a more responsible and valuable member of society. And the Catholic bishops? I’d suggest that they leave the Girl Scouts alone and open some “official inquiries” into their own organization.