Bulpitt speaks 'OUT'
28th June 2014
It might not be the image which automatically comes to mind at the suggestion of Scouts on parade.
But for the first time, teenage members of the organisation will take their place alongside Brazilian carnival dancers, gay bikers and a ladies’ roller-skating troupe today at the annual Pride festival in London.
Scouts dressed as tents and giant orienteering compasses are to man a float as part of a 100-strong contingent in the procession through the capital, as part of a deliberate recruitment drive among gay and lesbian young people as the organisation seeks to reach beyond its traditional membership base.
Wayne Bulpitt, the chief commissioner of the Scout Association, said he wanted Scout groups to be seen a safe place for young people coming to terms with their sexuality to consider coming out.
The association’s stance is in marked contrast to that of other branches of the worldwide Scouting movement. In the US, gay people are still banned from becoming Scout leaders while a ban on "openly homosexual" teenagers joining the Boy Scouts of America was only lifted last year. Mr Bulpitt described the US stance as “plainly wrong”.
The Scouts have had a presence at the parade in London in previous years, with adult leaders dressed in their distinctive necktie taking part, but it is the first time that the organisation has allowed members as young as 16 to take part.
“It is about encouraging young people that may not have realised Scouting is for them to come and join us,” said Mr Bulpitt.
“We are very passionate that Scouting changes lives, it is good for young people and good for their communities.
“What we are doing isn’t about being politically correct, it is not because we are jumping on a bandwagon … our work with Pride is one of a number of pieces of work with particular communities which may not see Scouting as for them.”
The organisation issued a guidance booklet a decade ago with advice for members on coming out as gay or lesbian. Mr Bulpitt said some young people might find it easier to come out to a Scout leader than to teachers or parents.
“Some young people will feel more comfortable in the more formal school environment, others will be more comfortable in the less formal Scouting social environment,” he said.
“Each one will explore it in a slightly different way and it’s about us ensuring that that is an option.”