By Lake Miller, Scouts for Equality
Over the weekend of October 12, Scouts for Equality volunteers joined over 4,000 Scouts and Scouters gathered at the Pathway to Adventure Council (PTAC) camporee near Schaumburg, Illinois. This camporee, many noted, was different than past events. This camporee would end up marking the first-ever BSA council-approved Scouts for Equality Rainbow Cafe!
Our volunteers, well-supplied with rainbow flags, buttons, paracord bracelets, and lots of food, showed up to spread messages of kindness and to create a space that is open and accepting to all. An estimated 500+ Scouts and Scouters visited our space to join in discussion, to make a button and proudly wear it, or to simply hang out. Many attendees approached us stating “I never thought I would see a day that a Rainbow Cafe would be at this event. This is a historic moment. Thank you for creating change.”
To all of those who joined us at the event, and especially to the council leadership, thank you for welcoming us. By working together and sharing in conversations, we were able to create a space in Scouting where everyone felt safe and comfortable.
While planning an event such as this, we always prepare for having conversations with those who disagree with us on topics of LGBTQ+ inclusion, gender equality, and religious freedom. As we entered the camp site on Friday night, we prepared ourselves mentally for this possibility. Quickly we discovered that this would not be the case at the PTAC camporee. The amount of love and gratitude we were met with was unmatched.
Throughout the event, individuals of every walk of life came through our tent. Some knew who we were and why we were there. Others did not know, and were excited to learn. Scouts ranged in age from Cub Scouts attending their first event to Eagle Scouts weeks away from their 18th birthday. Adult members and Scouting professionals alike visited the tent to learn, share in the excitement, and grab a sticker or button to wear. Near the end of the event, there were people in all areas of the camporee who were proudly displaying their status as an ally and a safe person to talk to.
One of my favorite moments from the weekend involved a mother, father, and young son taking a photo in front of our giant rainbow inflatable. They all proudly wore rainbow buttons on their shirts and looked so happy to be there. After taking the photo, a realization came upon me. This young Scout is growing up in a Scouting community that does not see this as an issue. He will forever recall the Rainbow Cafe at his first Scouting event. Before our very eyes we could see the culture of the BSA begin to change.
Together we can normalize this conversation. We can work to provide the next generation of Scouts a Scouting community that works to create spaces of welcome for all individuals. A culture that embraces differences. Thank you for sharing in this historic moment with us, and thank you so much to everyone who donated to make this happen. It is our hope that this historic Rainbow Cafe may serve as a gateway to many more events in councils throughout the country, as we continue to work towards a culture of inclusion, belonging, equity, and mutual respect within the Boy Scouts of America.
Yours in Inclusive Scouting,
Scouts for Equality
P.S. – Special thanks to Cate Readling and Spencer Cordero for being there – without you, this wouldn’t have happened.