Teen Uses Eagle Scout Project To Help Gay Community.

by Eric Snyder

I’m Eric Snyder, I’m from Averill Park, NY. I started out in the Cub Scouts program when I was five years old. Like, day 1 in Kindergarten I signed up. Then we went to the boy scout program when I was about 11 and that’s when I started, and it was about that time I started figuring out, am I gay, am I not gay, what am I? And then eventually in high school I figured out, Okay, I am gay, but I was still in the closet. This was around the time when people started making a big deal about the Boy Scouts, they have this discriminatory policy, like you can’t be gay or bisexual in the Boy Scouts. And I had never actually heard about it before then, I didn’t think it was a big deal but then, I was a Sophomore or whatever and was like, now I can’t come out, because I wanted to finish up with the program, I wanted to be done, I wanted to have it and not feel like I was forced out, I wanted to feel like I had completed it. As I grew older and I advanced through the ranks it got to the point where I had to complete my Eagle Scout project which is like the capstone of what you do there. But I decided, okay, I’m going to do something really, really gay. If they’re not going to allow me to do anything queer at all, I’m going to make it really loud in my project.

I had a teacher who taught Trig and he was the best teacher I ever had. He was gay and he used to run the GSA at our school before it was dismantled. I said, “Hey, I have this project, I want to do something really gay with it, what can I do?” And so he referred me to the Pride Center in Albany near where I lived that I didn’t really know about, I didn’t know it existed before. So they were like, “Hey, we have this basement where we have a Youth Group” and I was like, “Okay, show me.” And it was the dingiest little basement. It was so disturbing to walk down there, it had this one dingy little light in the center, and I was like, “Okay, we can’t be here.” “This is where all the youth meet, and where the anonymous groups meet, literally every group in the Center meets down here, this is not right, they deserve better than this because they’re coming out here, they’re working, they’re trying to make the world better. So I said, okay, that’s going to be my project. I still wasn’t out yet–but I had to come out to my Boy Scout troop in saying, Hey, I’m working on this project, I’m going to be renovating the basement of the Pride Center, you can help me or you can’t, I don’t really care. I think they made their intentions clear when none of them showed up. We have a massive troop, like 60 plus kids and all their parents. So when none of them showed up, when usually it’s an obligation to help other people, I said, okay, I get what you mean. But I can deal with that, I can keep going forward. I kind of schmoozed around, I had to force my friends, I was like hey, I know you need volunteer hours, you can help me out, right? They were like, yeah, yeah, and I told them there would be food so a lot of my friends ended up helping.

Going down to the basement, taking up tile floors, installing wood, painting the walls, ceilings, everything, putting in new shades, building shelves, and making it look a lot better, they brought in a contractor to put in new cupboards around the room so it’s more like a homey environment, so it looked a lot better. And we have new lights! I think that was the most important thing so that you can see the entire room when you walk into it. It got approved, as far as everything else as far as the requirements go besides the project, I should be an Eagle Scout in a couple of months.

The Boy Scouting policy has been struck down but the way it used to be is that gay or bisexual Scouts were just not allowed in the organization.

I’ve always wanted to hear about someone who was like me. And I think that if there were more stories who were like that it would have been a lot more helpful when I was trying to get through the coming out process and just coming out to myself really.

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