Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Boy Scouts feel a mother's wrath

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 11:53 AM EDT, Tue April 24, 2012
Jennifer Tyrrell, center, and Alicia Burns, left, with children speak onstage at the 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards.
Jennifer Tyrrell, center, and Alicia Burns, left, with children speak onstage at the 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An Ohio mother who is gay has been kicked out as a Cub Scout den mother
  • LZ Granderson says she was a model leader, admired by scouts and parents
  • He asks why her sexual orientation is an issue for the Boy Scouts

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- Jennifer Tyrrell dislikes public speaking so much that when she was in high school, she almost failed marketing because she didn't want to speak in front of the class.

But when the Boy Scouts of America made a decision that hurt her little boy Cruz, she did what any mother would do -- set aside her own fear, spoke up and, with the help of family and friends, is fighting back.

"I've never been involved with any kind of activism or anything like that before, so this is all new to me," the mother of four said. "All I know is this has got to stop."

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

And by "this," she is referring to the Boy Scouts' policy of banning gays and lesbians from being members or serving as leaders. Earlier this month Tyrrell was forced to resign as den leader of the Tiger Cubs for Pack 109 in Bridgeport, Ohio, because the national office learned she is a lesbian. So even though everyone in the local chapter loved her, she was forced out by the discrimination that is woven into the organization's bylaws.

The cubs of Pack 109 are upset.

But none more than Cruz, who is being forced to be away from his friends and is too young to fully understand why.

He's only 7.

He wasn't brought up to dislike people because they are different.

He's too young to understand bigotry.

Which is why Tyrrell is not taking any of this lying down. She started a change.org petition, in protest of the Boy Scout policy, that has amassed more than 120,000 signatures in a matter of days.

I met Tyrrell and her beautiful family at the 23rd annual GLAAD Awards this past weekend. Numerous celebrities took the stage that night, but only Tyrrell managed to hush the crowd, save for a few sobs.

I can remember sitting there wondering: What in the hell is wrong with them? The Girl Scouts of America, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, as well as the 4-H Club all welcome gay kids and adult leaders, and none of those organizations bursts into flames.

Needing answers, I reached out to the Boy Scouts and Deron Smith, the organization's director of public relations, sent me an official statement that in part read:

"Our focus is on delivering the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Our mission does not include teaching young people about sex or sexual orientation, and we do not believe it is Scouting's role to introduce this topic in our youth development program."

Fair enough. So I asked Smith via e-mail if the group had received complaints that Tyrrell was attempting to turn the Scouts into an unofficial sex ed camp.

He didn't answer that question.

When I asked if heterosexuals were banned for being heterosexuals, Smith said, "Heterosexuality does not conflict with Scouting's policy and is not a reason for removal from the program. However, if a leader chose to make it a focus of his or her time with youth they could be removed from the program."

Now I've never sat in one of Tyrrell's meetings, and so I can't speak as to what she did or did not do. So I asked some folks who would know, the parents of Pack 109.

"I'm not a city person," said Robert Dunn. "I'm just a backwoods hick, and I don't think anybody around here have an issue with homosexuals. She did a wonderful job, and what they did to her was just horrible.

"When I told my son Jen was kicked out because she is gay, he didn't know what was wrong because he thought gay meant happy. He's just devastated."

Don Thomas, who has a grandson in Pack 109, e-mailed me, saying either he or his wife has been to "every cub scout meeting my grandson has attended, also to every function, community event, Salvation Army ringing bells, collection of food for the needy....etc. I do not know where you are getting your information, but never ever has sex been brought up, not in any way shape or form. In fact, I was not aware of Jen even being gay for quite some time.....wasn't an issue or concern."

My favorite response came from Crystal Sabinsky, who said, "the boys knew her as Tiger Leader Jen, not Gay Tiger Leader Jen. They are only first graders. Most don't even understand what 'gay' or 'lesbian' mean."

So again, I sit and wonder: What in the hell is wrong with them?

While it's commendable that Tyrrell is fighting, I'm ticked off that she has to. It's 2012, for heaven's sake. Who, after the zoo-like Casey Anthony trial, still believes being straight automatically makes you a good influence to have around children? Tyrrell is clearly just a good mother, trying to invest in her son. She didn't ask to be den leader a little over a year ago -- she was selected because the pack loves her. She was chosen to be treasurer because everyone trusts her.

Maybe being loved and trusted conflicts with the values of the Boy Scouts, because according to the folks who were actually around Tyrrell, sexual orientation was never added to the handbook. It just doesn't make sense. Then again, bigotry never does.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNNOpinion.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT