After it was handed a petition with more than 120,000 signatures, National Geographic Channel agreed to let gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver post an original essay on its site on Monday, in conjunction with the premiere of the reality-competition series, Are You Tougher than a Boy Scout.
Writes National Geographic Channel:
It is against our network’s policy to air any disclaimer other than those warning that “Viewer Discretion is Advised” due to content (and we have denied similar, less public requests in the past).
However, we were so impressed with Will and his passion, we invited him to share his thoughts here on the Nat Geo Channel blog in advance of tonight’s premiere.
Representatives from the network met with Oliver and GLAAD and agreed to run his piece, but said they wouldn’t address the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay members. “It took 120,000 voices speaking out to get this meeting,” said Oliver. “How many more will it take for National Geographic to speak out against this dangerous policy?”
If you think GLAAD is making a mountain out of a molehill—it’s just a TV show, right?—consider that the Boy Scouts see the program as a recruiting tool for new members, pushing the message that “Scouting is ‘cool’ with youth.”
In his post, “A #ToughScout is Brave Enough to Support Gay Youth,” Oliver, a student at Northwestern, wrote:
In my 12 years of Scouting, I was fortunate to have the support of my Scouting community. I’m one of four brothers – all Eagle Scouts – and both my parents were involved in the troop throughout our participation. Regardless of whether I felt “different” from my fellow Scouts, I was welcomed, and I was strongly encouraged in my path toward Eagle Scout. I was voted into the Order of the Arrow, an honor society recognizing Scouts who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law.
When I earned Eagle, it never occurred to me that I should be treated differently. I had the assurance that it is the content of my character, and not my sexual orientation, that defines who I am.My experience in Scouting was overwhelmingly positive – but none of this is guaranteed for a Scout who is gay. In the weeks since launching the petition, I’ve heard from hundreds Scouts and leaders like Ryan [Andresen] and Jennifer [Tyrrell], who have been humiliated or insulted by the policy, sometimes to the point of bullying or harassment.
As an organization, we can do better. There are further measures we can take to ensure support for our country’s youth, and to create diverse Scouting communities that welcome children of all backgrounds. We can start now by eradicating this policy, which singles out scores of families (my own included) as unworthy of Scout membership.
The stakes are high, but there’s still time to make a difference. This week marks the premiere of Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout? and National Geographic Channel has a chance to do the right thing, and join scores of Scouts and Scout leaders, celebrities, politicians and corporations who have publicly condemned the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy. We can’t afford to be silent about things that matter—and surely, few things matter more than providing equal support for all our country’s youth.
Originally NatGeo had encouraged fans to tweet about the show via the hashtag #ToughScout, but after a deluge of tweets about the Scout’s homophobic ban, the network switched to hashtag #AreYouTougher. GLAAD is urging allies to tweet their support for an end to the ban using both hashtags.
“Inviting Will to write about the dangers of this policy on the National Geographic Channel website is a step in the right direction, but National Geographic Channel fell short of doing the right thing and calling for the BSA to adopt a national non-discrimination policy,” said GLAAD communications vice-president Rich Ferraro. “So many current and former scouts are speaking out online and following tonight’s premiere, the pressure will only continue to grow.”