Philmont is working to support the LGBTQ+ community

August 21, 2021 – For much of Philmont’s history, the culture of the Boy Scouts America did not allow for the full expression of all individual identities. The focus on the development of traditionally masculine attributes in young men and the lack of acceptance of non-traditional identities in society at large for most of the Boy Scouts’ history led to a lesser focus on creating acceptance of those identities at Philmont. As a result, those who identified as nontraditional sexualities and/or genders working at Philmont throughout its history have largely had to remain silent. However, in recent years, tides have been changing, both at Philmont and in society at large.

This year, many staff members at Philmont feel comfortable and safe enough with Philmont’s culture to express themselves openly. Beaubien Program Counselor Dawn Violet Todd said this change has been primarily due to members of the LGBTQ+ community taking it upon themselves to move that shift towards more acceptance that we see in other areas of society into Philmont.

“I am not here to break down barriers, but I am happy to smash some along the way,” Todd said.

Todd identifies as non-binary, “somewhere on the gender spectrum,” and is, “very comfortable using they/them pronouns.” They are bisexual and, “incredibly proud of the fact that [they] are here working how everyone else has done.”

However, when arriving for their job at Philmont, Todd said they were nervous. They said they did not know what Philmont’s culture would be. But, as they began working here, they said, they were glad to find a culture of open expression.

“I am glad that I have a place to be me,” Todd said.

Aster Gousie, a Ranger who identifies as nonbinary, “somewhere along the spectrum of bisexual to poly,” and is intersex, set out this summer with the goal to represent trans people at a place like Philmont.

“So [that scouts can see] someone like them, who’s a they/them,” Gousie said.

Gousie introduces themselves as they/them to crews.

“Some of the crews have thoughts and feelings about that,” Gousie said.

Gousie has had varying reactions from their interactions with crews.

“Generally, people assume I am one of two things: either what they are or what they dislike,” Gousie said.

Gousie said they realized they were trans on their Philmont trek in 2017. Sitting on Shaefer’s Pass thinking about life and what it means, Gousie said many questions were answered that day about who they truly were.

Gousie said that they have never felt safer, both in their living conditions and socially. They said that, from their perspective, most of Philmont provides a wonderful space for trans people.

An alien hangs in front of a non-binary flag flying in the wind outside of Max Miller’s tent in Female Tent City. Numerous pride flags fly across both tent cities and even in the backcountry. Photo by Monica Dunn.

Tori Parsons, a Ranger Trainer, identifies as “he, she, they, it’s all okay” and as “basic queer.” Parsons, who said that part of the reason that he is so visible is to help first-year rangers feel comfortable, said there was a “big learning curve” this summer.

Parsons said the department shouldn’t always believe Advisors nor Rangers but that, at the very least, the department needs “to have our Rangers’ backs.” One way of doing that, she said, is by having open and honest conversations because as you get to know someone “it pulls away the layers of society and just leaves a person, not societal expectations.”

“I think the doors of openness are a little rusty, and we just need to drop kick them open,” Parsons said.
Phillip Ferrier, Associate Director of Camping, said his goal “is that anyone can feel welcome to come to Philmont and feel a sense of belonging here.”

“Right now, our primary focuses are on providing mental health support for our staff and taking a hard look at our documentation and training to ensure it is inclusive and provide resources for inclusivity,” Ferrier said.

As Gousie said, those who are open in other areas of Philmont have very different experiences. Max Miller, who works at the Mail Room, identifies as they/them, pansexual and generally, “queer all around” was also nervous when arriving to work at Philmont. Miller said they already look different, with a green mohawk and makeup most days. However, they were, similar to Todd, glad to find a healthy and open culture.

“There are so many kids passing through that need to know you can be like me and work here,” Miller said.

Miller, who wears they/them pins and stickers and LGBTQ+ pride stickers, said they don’t wear them for attention. They wear them to remind those kids you can be open and be at Philmont.

“I feel much more allowed to exist here,” Miller said.

Miller said they are visible to give hope and safety to the kids who pass through the Ranch that they can be open, too.

“We have always been here [at Philmont] but the fact that we can come out of the shadows is so nice,” Miller said.

Written by Jarod Contreras – Writer.