First things first
How I'm setting priorities for this newsletter for the year to come.
I do not envy Joe Biden. The crises that we as a country are facing right now are too many to count. Biden finds himself dealing with a pandemic, economic catastrophe and global climate emergency, not to mention myriad issues that only exacerbate and complicate those challenges.
So as Biden moved swiftly to address those and other urgent matters these past few weeks, I was surprised to see him also put LGBTQ justice at the top of his agenda. Hours after he was inaugurated, Biden signed an executive order that strengthened nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, and on the same day updated the White House website to allow users to select their pronouns. Plus, last week Biden reversed the Trump-era transgender military ban.
Let’s also not forget Biden has nominated Dr. Rachel Levine for the position of assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services, which would make her the “highest-ranking openly transgender government official in US history.” And Biden has made Pete Buttigieg the first openly gay cabinet secretary.
Now, I don’t say any of this for the sake of heaping praise on Biden. There is much more work to be done, and I remain skeptical about what this administration can accomplish. But I do think these actions matter, because they put LGBTQ issues front and center, right alongside the most urgent challenges of our time.
I say of all this because, just as the Biden administration is setting its priorities, I too have been reflecting on the mission and purpose of this newsletter. I’ve had a few months to try things out and build an audience, which I am very, very grateful for. And I now have a clearer vision of what I want this newsletter to be.
First things first: The mission of this newsletter is to share the stories of the LGBTQ folks and allies who are fighting for justice, primarily in the Scouting program, but also in American culture more generally.
I believe I’ve done a good job of focusing on that so far, but it’s worth re-committing to this mission. I’ve also done some thinking about my approach to these stories, and I’ve clarified a couple things for myself:
I will do my best to get it right. As a journalist, I’m treating these stories much the same way I treat stories I do for any other publication. That means I trust my sources, but also do my best to verify the information I am sharing whenever possible.
Many of the stories I’m dealing with here are thorny, complicated and highly emotional for the people in them, who’ve often been marginalized or harmed. I believe them and give them the benefit of the doubt, but also bring the healthy dose of skepticism I have with any subject.
When I (inevitably) do get things wrong, I’ll be transparent, correct what I can and learn to do better next time.
I welcome feedback when it comes in good faith. I want to engage with the readers of this newsletter (many of you send me replies each week that I really cherish!) and wrangle with these sometimes complicated topics.
But as the audience grows, I will not tolerate outright homophobia and transphobia that may come my way. (That includes deadnaming, hostility or outright lies). There hasn’t been much of that so far, but enough that I know it will probably continue.
I will recognize that I don’t know what I don’t know. Each time I speak to someone about Scouting, I’m amazed at the sheer range of experiences people have in this program. Scouting varies so much from troop to troop, region to region.
So I want to always keep that in the back of my mind when I am writing, and realize I won’t ever have a full or complete view of this. There will aways be nuances or contradictions that I miss, and I’ll do my best to favor specific stories over broad generalizations.
That’s it for today, dear readers. I hope you all have a great weekend, and I’ll be back with more stories next week.
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