Will Oliver
National Geographic Airs Boy Scouts Special, Agrees to Share Worry About Antigay Policy

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com March 06 2013 5:00 PM ET

A petition and social media campaign aimed at National Geographic over its "Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?" earned a win, though not the one activists first had in mind.

The channel didn't acquiesce to Eagle Scout Will Oliver's request that it air a disclaimer before the show denouncing the Boy Scouts' policy of banning gay scouts and leaders.  More than 120,000 people agreed with Oliver, who was backed by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Instead, National Geographic invited Oliver to post an essay on its website.

"It is against our network’s policy to air any disclaimer other than those warning that 'Viewer Discretion is Advised' due to content (and we have denied similar, less public requests in the past)," the channel said in a statement. "However, we were so impressed with Will and his passion, we invited him to share his thoughts here on the Nat Geo Channel blog."

Oliver used the opportunity to share individual's stories about being discriminated against by the Scouts. Ryan Andresen was refused the rank of Eagle Scout because he's gay. Jennifer Tyrrell was banned as den mother because she's a lesbian.

"In my 12 years of Scouting, I was fortunate to have the support of my Scouting community," he wrote. "I’m one of four brothers — all Eagle Scouts — and both my parents were involved in the troop throughout our participation. Regardless of whether I felt 'different' from my fellow Scouts, I was welcomed, and I was strongly encouraged in my path toward Eagle Scout. I was voted into the Order of the Arrow, an honor society recognizing Scouts who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law. When I earned Eagle, it never occurred to me that I should be treated differently. I had the assurance that it is the content of my character, and not my sexual orientation, that defines who I am.

"My experience in Scouting was overwhelmingly positive – but none of this is guaranteed for a Scout who is gay. In the weeks since launching the petition, I’ve heard from hundreds Scouts and leaders like Ryan and Jennifer, who have been humiliated or insulted by the policy, sometimes to the point of bullying or harassment."

Read the complete essay.