Anger. It’s just sadness, really, attempting to cloak itself with something that seems more sure of itself, less vulnerable, more in charge. And in the roots of sadness, lies love. Ah, there is it. Peel away anything in the world to its bare bones and you’ll find love, especially when it comes to emotions. Love is the catalyst of every emotion, the framework. Love is the stuff we’re made of. Sure, call me a hippie yoga teacher but you know it’s the truth.
This morning I’m angry about Boy Scouts. This isn’t the first morning I’ve been angry about them. It started when I was younger, when I watched as the token Scout at a climbing crag pulled out hundreds of pounds and dollars worth of unnecessary gear. Please tell me why you need a trad rack at Castle Rock, I would think. It always seemed to me that they were trying to teach someone how to tie a knot or swim out of a rip tide or what to do if you’ve been bit by a rattler. The adorably laid back conversations that a climbing crag so effortlessly creates gets smothered with a spewing of knowledge and experience and ego.
I judge them and they judge me as I walk up to the rock they’ve spent the last 20 minutes setting up an anchor on top of, throwing a top rope to the ground, wearing helmets and rented harnesses and brand new climbing shoes. I feel like their troop leader says, Now look boys, that’s called highball bouldering, and it’s very irresponsible and stupid, as I climb up the 30 foot jug ladder they’re planning to climb, except without a rope or harness. I don’t tie the fraying laces of my Sportivas, they whip in the wind as I swing a leg over the top of the rock.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a mess of ego and judgement around them. I always get that way around people who try to make climbing and the outdoors a civilized, organized thing, with spread sheets and permission slips and the buddy system. Climbing is wild, and I see more and more people trying to tame it. I want them to get scared of its power and go back home.
But really, I’m probably just jealous, as they pull a marinated steak out of their cooler and I’m chomping on a carrot dipped in peanut butter after a day of getting my ass kicked in the Buttermilks.
So yeah, the Scouts and I don’t have the best of relationships. I’m workin’ on it. I know a lot of it is dumb ego stuff that has to do with me. But this morning, I am mad for a real reason, one that is way more important than when they climb on sandstone the day after it rains.
Ryan, a senior in high school from my hometown, has been involved in Boy Scouts since he was six years old. Recently completing the requirements to earn rank as an Eagle Scout, Ryan sees the award as “by far the biggest goal of my life.” However, the Boy Scouts of America are denying Ryan this honor because he is gay.
What. the. hell.
Yeah, I can understand being afraid of climbing up the side of a cliff, or backpacking, or white water rafting, or mountain biking. I can understand how people feel so uncomfortable by those things that they attempt to control them–Mama nature is powerful and always bats last.
But to be so fearful of someone’s sexual preference that they try to control that, too? Nope. Not okay. This isn’t the all-powerful, relentless, doesn’t give a damn force of nature you’re disrespecting here–this is a human being. This is a young boy, who somehow didn’t buy into the fear-breeding morals of Boy Scouts and chose to show this world who he really is. That makes me happy.
I can even understand, if I close my eyes and really let go of who I am, why the Boy Scouts would be so fearful of a gay boy. I get that it challenges their belief system and what they’re comfortable with. Acting on these fears by denying him what he rightfully earned, however, is not something I understand or wish to understand.
As climbers, we make a contract with the rock–we are going to fight to the top of this, but not without the realization that the rock is what’s in charge here. We respectfully give up certain amounts of control, we search for where our control ends and where the rock’s control begins.
Climbing is the confession that we don’t fully understand ourselves and this life.
That goes for any activity done in the outdoors. You’d think that over 100 years of outdoor education that Boy Scouts of America would have learned that it’s okay to not understand. That not understanding should spark a curiosity, to move towards that question mark and see it as a chance to learn. Instead they choose to be fearful of this uncertainty, fearful of a boy who loves other boys. So they resort to control, they resort to policies and handbooks and denial of what’s been rightfully earned.
Boy Scouts of America–no matter how much fear your lack of understanding creates within you, you can’t control who someone loves.
You really don’t wanna mess with something that.
To sign the petition and help Ryan get his Eagle Award, go to: