The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

Pride or Honor


It was late in the day when Boy Scout Troop 468 got back from the trail and settled in for the evening, bodies covered in dust and sweat.

Everyone was tired. And everyone needed a shower.

Usually the Scouts showered separately during summer camp, but their only available facility at the time was a l

arge collective shower room. The boys filed in, some with bathing suits, some without.

It wasn’t long before one Scout bent over, pulled down the waistline of his suit, tucked his genitalia behind the crease of his legs, and began to make suggestive maneuvers towards the other Scouts. He was “being their girl,” they said. The room exploded in laughter.

Current UC Riverside freshman Kevin Chan, then a junior at Irvington High School, stood off to the side, silent. He left the showers early, walked back to his tent, and sat down alone to think.

Scared straight 

Less than a year later, Chan came out, first to his school friends, and later to his fellow troop members in the Boy Scouts. Homophobic jokes had always existed between them — but now he was the target. Harrassment was sharp, and frequent. Jokes turned into insults, then to ostracization.

“I always reassured myself by thinking that later in life, if I kept working, I’d wind up someone better than them,”

Chan said.

Under the traditional BSA guidelines, members must be “morally straight.” Atheists, agnostics, and homosexuals are banned from membership — a ban that has generated several lawsuits against BSA over the course of 30 years.

The conflicts ultimately came to a close with the ruling of the 2000 Supreme Court case Boy Scouts of America v. Dale: as an allegedly private organization, BSA fully reserves the right to discriminate members based on the values they hold. Local governments and troops have put that decision under fire as BSA continues to receive federal funding against the conventional definition of private institutions. San Jose’s own Troop 260 was one of the first to declare a blind eye to matters of sexuality when accepting members in 1992.

A community of their own

Senior Wells Lucas Santo, an openly bisexual Eagle Scout and current member of Chan’s former troop, took Chan’s case into consideration during his realization of his sexuality.

“I thought Boy Scouts was all about equal opportunities and free moral grounds,” Santo said. “As I started realizing my sexuality I started thinking about how it fit in with me being a Scout. Would I be breaking rules just by going to meetings because they didn’t support who I was? If I was [more open about my sexuality] would I be ostracized by the group, or would they still accept me as an individual?”

Santo eventually did come out to his troop, irrevocably changing his dynamic with his peers.

“That’s when it’s hard to tell them,” Santo said. “When you know that people might not look at you the same.”

Chan, on the other hand, found that his situation drastically improved at UC Riverside, where he began to feel fortunate for his experience relative to others.

At his on-campus  LGBT center, he learned about other gay Scouts’ experiences, where heterosexual Scouts kissed one another and snuck into homosexual members’ sleeping bags for the sole purpose of fostering discomfort. Some of the troop members stayed, and kept quiet. Others quit.

Another Scout Chan talked to did not come out until college for fear that his Eagle Scout position would be revoked. Chan never faced this possibility when coming out, not because of lax adherence to Boy Scout Law, but due to a troop culture that focused far more on academics than beliefs.

James Kung, who has been the Scoutmaster of Troop 468 for four years, says that he does not know of any openly gay Scout.

“The way I look at it, my function as a Scoutmaster is to encourage and train them to be good leaders,” Kung said. “Sexual orientation has no bearing on my function … I’m not here to judge them.”

A hidden layer

Kung believes that early exposure to many different types of people is beneficial to all scouts so that they can learn how to deal with it — though it doesn’t always have the intended effect.

“In our troop, we have clearly stated there’s a zero tolerance for bullying,” Kung said. “Now, that’s only on paper.”

Kung says he has heard phrases like “That’s so gay” in conversation among Scouts, but nothing extremely homophobic.

“It’s possible [that there is ignorance],” Kung said. “It’s a subject that parents [and the troop] aren’t comfortable approaching.”

Caught in the crossfire

In an environment meant to facilitate the path from youth to maturity, for many Scouts the conflict can be an identity crisis. In 1991, BSA’s official position on homosexuality was that homosexuals did not provide role models consistent with the expectations of Scouting families. In 1993, the position was that “avowed homosexuals” would not be allowed to register as members or leaders in BSA. And in 2004, it was that “homosexual conduct [was] inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed.” The wording has changed over the years, but its effect on gay Scouts hasn’t.

“You come to this line, where you start to think, ‘What’s acceptable?’ You have to take a step back,” Santo said. “I was raised with the Boy Scouts, and I grew up learning all those values. Now, those values contradicted who I had become.”

More to Discover