As an outdoorsman and an Eagle Scout, I'm urging National Geographic to speak out against the Boy Scouts of America's anti-gay policy and issue a disclaimer before airing the new TV series "Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout?"
By airing "Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?", National Geographic has stepped into a uniquely influential role as a strategic business partner of the BSA. The show is being used to market the Boy Scouts of America to young people, but fails to inform viewers about the organization's dangerous anti-gay policy. I urge the network to speak out now to protect gay youth and leaders like me.
My life as an outdoorsman began at the tender age of two years old. Not long after I learned to walk, I started hiking in the mountains of the Northeast alongside my parents. Since then, I have spent many months out of doors in the great wildernesses of this country, trekking, canyoneering, white-water rafting, and skiing. In fact, I wrote this petition from the summit of Mt. Washington in White Mountain National Forest, where I worked for a New England conservation group.
Like several of my early Den mates, I attained the rank of Eagle after a decade of participation in Scouting. I attribute many of my own values today from the lessons taught by the Scouting program: trustworthiness, kindness, bravery. I also happen to be gay.
But the BSA's exclusionary membership policy fails to reflect those values. I was fortunate to be welcomed and valued by my troop regardless of the BSA's official stance on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, there are countless stories of others who haven't been so lucky. Just recently, an 18-year-old Boy Scout named Ryan Andresen was denied the rank of Eagle Scout -- because he's gay.
On its website, National Geographic Channel "invites viewers to live curious through its smart, innovative programming that questions what we know, how we view the world and what drives us forward." I ask now that National Geographic live up to its words, and denounce this harmful and discriminatory policy.
To be entirely clear, the aim of this petition is not the cancellation of the series, but rather to make a strong statement to the BSA's leadership about the grave injustice of their policy. I understand that the intent of "Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout?" is to generate public appeal for the organization and to make it more "cool" and relevant to a young target audience. Something they desperately need, because national recruitment is down thanks to this controversial policy.
I personally believe that Scouting is cool. Discrimination, on the other hand, is not.