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Stand up with Scouts for Equality

D.C. fundraiser to benefit group’s important work

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Zach Wahls, gay news, Washington Blade
Zach Wahls, gay news, Washington Blade

Executive Director of Scouts for Equality Zach Wahls (Photo courtesy of Change.org)

As a boy growing up in New York City, Scouting was important to me. My parents started me in Scouting as a Cub Scout and I went through the ranks as a Boy Scout, Explorer, and Explorer Advisor. I became involved with Scouting’s National Committee on Scouting for the Handicapped when I moved to D.C. to direct the follow-up to the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals/Implementation Unit for the Carter administration.  I was never “out” during those years of my involvement with the Scouts. That was in a time when it was much harder to come out as gay or lesbian.

I went to summer camp at Ten Mile River, a Scouting camp originally endowed to the Boy Scouts by then-Gov. Franklin Roosevelt, and my first major trip out of New York was a bus ride across country to attend the 25th Boy Scout Jamboree in Colorado Springs. On the way we stopped at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. It was an amazing experience for a 13-year- old growing up on the streets of Manhattan. Those were experiences you could only get as a Scout.

Today much has changed and adults and even boys and girls are much more comfortable being out about who they are. For the Girl Scouts it has never been a big issue, but until Jan. 1, 2014 you couldn’t become a Boy Scout if you were gay. Now we all know during those years of prohibiting membership in the Scouts to gay boys and men, thousands of Scouts and their leaders were gay. But until 2014 young men had to hide that fact and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) chose to keep their heads buried in the sand and pretend these Scouts didn’t exist.

Then along came a group called Scouts for Equality. They are a 501(c) (3) organization founded in 2012 composed largely of Boy Scouts of America alumni dedicated to ending the BSA’s ban on gay members and leaders. They believe since Scouting provides youth with an opportunity to try new things, provide service to others, build self-confidence, and reinforce ethical standards it should be open to all young men. Scouts for Equality believes these opportunities reward Scouts throughout their lives by improving their relationships, their work lives, their family lives, and the values by which they live. The core leadership of Scouts for Equality all earned Scouting’s highest award — Eagle Scout.

The first goal of Scouts for Equality was met when in May of 2013 it won a vote that changed the policy and admitted gay Scouts. But that vote only went half-way and there is still blatant discrimination by the Boy Scouts, which will kick out a gay Scout at age 18 and not allow them to become a leader in the organization. Changing this incoherent policy is now the mission of Scouts for Equality and everyone who believes in fairness and equality should support them in this mission.

I had the good fortune to sit down and talk with Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality. He has moved its offices to D.C. Many know Zach from his incredible speech as a 19-year-old University of Iowa student when he spoke about the strength of his family during a public forum on House Joint Resolution 6 in the Iowa House of Representatives. Wahls, who has two moms, spoke out to oppose House Joint Resolution 6, which would have ended marriage equality in Iowa.

Zach shared the work he is now doing with Scouts for Equality and the need the organization has to raise money to continue their efforts. Like all small non-profits getting the message out is a huge step toward success and that costs money. There is no question about the commitment and value of the organization. What Zach explained to me, and I admit surprised me, is the relationship between the Mormon Church and Scouting. Fully 38,000 Scout units in the United States are sponsored (or ‘chartered’ in BSA parlance) by the Mormon Church. While Equality Utah negotiated with the legislature in Utah to move forward on legislation to ban discrimination against the LGBT community one of the biggest exemptions in the bill is that it doesn’t apply to the BSA. The larger LGBT community and our allies can’t accept the ban on gay leaders in the Boy Scouts and we have to aggressively speak out on this and fight it.

One way we can help is to join Zach and Scouts for Equality at their fundraiser on Tuesday, April 14 at the Longview Gallery, 1234 9th St., N.W., from 6–8 p.m. Tickets are available starting from $50 at the door or online at scoutsforequality.org/events. I hope you will join me and others that evening as we stand up for full civil and human rights for the LGBT community.

 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Fathers should speak to kids about drugs, alcohol

Highlight dangers of illicit substances, how to manage peer pressure

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What does it take to be a good father? While there are many answers, it generally involves showing up daily, playing an essential role in their life, being there for them, and loving them unconditionally. 

Fathers are there to provide abundant love and support. Most fathers know the sacrifice it takes to ensure their children are loved and cared for. A father is always there for their kids, offering guidance, support, and education. The greatest joy for any father is seeing their children thrive, do well in life, and be healthy. 

However, things can get derailed in life, and teens and young adults take risks, such as experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Fathers have a responsibility to speak to their kids about drugs and alcohol and help them understand the risks and consequences. 

Data has shown that more than half of LGBTQ youth used alcohol in the last year, and more than one in three LGBTQ youth used marijuana in the previous year. Approximately 11% of LGBTQ youth reported regular use (defined as daily or weekly use) of both alcohol and marijuana.

Illegal drugs today are more readily available than ever before. According to the DEA, drug traffickers have turned smartphones into a one-stop shop to market, sell, buy, and deliver deadly fake prescription pills and other drugs. Amid this ever-changing age of social media influence, kids, teens, and young adults are easily influenced.  

Drug traffickers advertise on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. The posts are promptly posted and removed with code words and emojis used to market and sell illicit drugs. Unfortunately, digital media provides an increased opportunity for both marketing and social transmission of risk products and behaviors. 

Fathers are responsible for protecting and preparing our children for the world. Drug education is essential. Take the time to speak to your kids about the dangers of illicit substances, how to avoid and manage peer pressure, and what to look for. Be prepared to share personal experiences and help them understand that some choices have consequences. 

However, it can be challenging to see our kids struggle with things in life, and as fathers, we can also face our own difficulties, making it more difficult to help our children. The responsibility of raising children can be a lot; there are many challenges along the way, and the pressure of being a good influence can get the best of us. 

All of this makes it vital not to ignore our mental health; children, especially younger kids, mimic what they see. How we cope with frustration, anger, sadness, or isolation impacts our children in several ways. 

Our actions have consequences. Children see how we handle every situation, and while no father is perfect, we must be conscious of the fact they are impressionable when they are young. They look up to us, mimic our actions, and see when we are doing well in life mentally.   

The key for fathers caring for children is to take the time to care for themselves. However, if you are struggling, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Taking care of your mental health is the same as taking care of your physical health; it is an integral part of your well-being and contributes to you being the best father you can be.

Nickolaus Hayes is a healthcare professional in the field of substance use and addiction recovery and is part of the editorial team at DRS. His primary focus is spreading awareness by educating individuals on the topics surrounding substance use.

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In debate, Biden must stay on offense

President needs more lines like ‘I am running against a 6-year-old’

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President Joe Biden (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

On June 27, President Joe Biden will debate the man he has called a six-year-old. A great line, and he needs a few more like that. Unless there is a clear stumble by either candidate, we know what they will say. Trump will call Biden ‘sleepy Joe,’ among other names. But the reality is, people are used to it. They are not as used to Biden returning the favor. And Biden, aside from referring to Trump as a convicted felon, needs some lines that will make headlines the next day. Something with a little humor in it, but still making a strong point. 

Trump is scary. The recent column in the Washington Post on how Russ Vought, the former president’s budget director, is laying the groundwork for a broad expansion of presidential powers, is truly frightening. Now if it were me, I would be able to use my usual litany of words when referring to Trump: racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic pig, found liable for sexual assault, and convicted felon. I may even go as far as suggesting society replace the word felon with “Trump.” People at trials could be convicted of 34 “Trumps.” But Biden can’t really use that. Maybe Biden can do something like look him in the eye and say, “You can’t really believe all the BS you keep spouting!” Then add, “The world is a complicated place, and even most six-year-olds seem to have a better understanding and grasp of it than you do.” 

Then there is the focus on the very serious part of the debate. The discussion of issues including the economy, abortion, contraception, and foreign policy. Reminding people, it was Trump who killed the immigration bill in Congress, telling energy billionaires if they raise him a billion dollars, in essence bribe him, they can “drill baby drill.” The president needs to speak to African Americans, Latinos, women, and the young. He needs to tell each of those groups what will happen if the six-year-old he is running against, were to become president again. 

Then he needs to look directly into the camera and say to the audience at home, “It isn’t only Trump you need to fear, it is the people he will surround himself with. His sycophants and cult, who will let him get revenge on anyone who says a word against him.” You can count on the fact it will be much worse than the last time around when he tried to stage a coup, because no decent person will work for him.

The first debate will take place 18 weeks before the Nov. 5 election. So much can change between then and the election. Remember when we talked about an October surprise? In today’s world there could be July, August, and September surprises as well. Between now and election day we will be treated to an overload of polling, most of it wrong. We will read hundreds of headlines, many of them clickbait. If you watch TV you will get to listen to hundreds of talking heads, many knowing no more than you. The difference being, they are being paid to spout off on the election, giving not facts, but their opinions. 

It seems every four years we hear this could be the most important, the most crucial, election of our lifetime. Well, this time those who say it just may be telling the truth. One candidate, convicted of 34 “Trumps,” is telling you he will be a dictator, and using Hitler’s words. He has the likes of Russ Voight advising him, and openly says he will seek revenge. Nothing could be more frightening. He is telling the young he doesn’t care about climate change, and telling the poor their programs will be cut because he will cut taxes for the rich.  

He calls our soldiers, those who sacrificed their lives and died in wars, “suckers and losers.” He called John McCain “a war hero because he was captured,” saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.” This frightening, sick man, with the world view of a warped six-year-old, will lead the United States if we aren’t willing to stand up to him, and his MAGA cult. Yes, I am afraid! And you should be too! If you are a woman, a minority, a member of the LGBTQ community, or just poor, be scared, be very afraid! If Trump and his cult win, you will lose what little you think you now have.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Why you should celebrate pride with a musical about GenderCannibalism?

Rose: You Are What You Eat, through June 23 at Woolly Mammoth.

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Photo courtesy of Woolly Mammoth.

Because when I came out as trans my aunt told me it was because I ate my twin in the womb…and that’s what the show is about

Because…remember that time when you decided to dress like exactly like your older sister; or you stole your mothers’ makeup or your brother’s tie; or you decided to dress up like Katherine Hepburn for halloween when you were (i dunno) 10; or you started to look eerily like your lover…..that’s all gender cannibalism

Because because because because because….” because if you know that song this was made for you…and if you don’t…it’s okay, we’ll work on it

Because you can probably find a cute date at the show irl instead of just swiping in your phone…think of theater as an in person dating app without as much drunkenness as the bar

Because maybe that cute date is me

Because you can sing along to music written by a bunch of queers from Philly and D.C. 

Because we are all so hungry and so so thirsty 

Because I guarantee you will leave feeling fed

Because cannibalism puns are tasty

Because it’s a comedy

Because there are pay-what-you-can tickets

Because it plays all of June

Because we are consuming gender all the time but rarely watching what and how we eat it 

Because it’s an anti-assimilationist endeavor: the corporations can’t co-opt “gender cannibalism” for pride month (but there is merchandise available at the show…)

Because it’s only 75 minutes

Because I dance around in tighty whities with socks on my hands

Because there is a free clothing swap and treats in the gallery next to the show

Because why not?

Because you will be cast as my Mother, and that’s the role of a lifetime (or at least my lifetime)

Because you won’t know what will happen; you can’t pause or rewind the show; you will be taking a risk; you will find it’s more than just entertainment; you will feel me talking right to you

Because I’ve been writing this show for 34 years and am finally ready to share it with you

Because I’ll be in the lobby afterwards to say hi, and receive hugs, stories, and phone numbers 

Because I made this piece for you, my dear deviants, trans folx, genderful ones and for the people that care for us. It is a good laugh and a good cry and meant as a gift, a way to end your day feeling loved, nourished and worthy

Because don’t you want to be nourished and reminded that you are loved and worthy? 

And frankly because art needs you to survive and you need art to thrive

Because I took the time to write this letter to you and you took the time to read it, and neither you nor I want to waste that investment

Because you won’t want to miss it

Get tickets to Rose: You Are What You Eat, playing through June 23rd.

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