By Andrew Edmonson
In February 2014, Maryland teenager Pascal Tessier became the first openly gay scout in the United States to receive the highest honor of Eagle Scout.
In 2016, as the tide of progress swept across the country, an 18-year-old Lamar High School student, Daniel Sharpe, became one of the first openly gay Texas scouts to ascend to the rank of Eagle Scout. “I’ve been working for this since I was 12,” he observes. “There were times when I just wanted to give up, especially during the months of getting the project into gear. Making my father and mother proud of me was a big motivation. Every time I didn’t want to go to a meeting, I knew that it would make my father immensely happy that I did something this great.”
Born in Paris, France, in 1997, he spent his boyhood in Michigan. “I started scouting at six years old in Cub Scouts when I was in Michigan. My father wanted me to have a good, moral background,” Sharpe remembers. “I did that for five years, and then I moved to Texas in 2008, where I continued my scouting through Troop 1190, which was affiliated with a synagogue near us.
“I came out to my fellow scouts in eighth grade, and I was afraid that they would treat me differently. I was really worried about the response.
“At first, some of them didn’t want to sleep in a tent with me. But that lasted for about a day,” he recalls. “They realized that when I reached the tent, I’d fall asleep almost immediately. They realized that I hadn’t done anything to them in the past, and that I wasn’t going to do anything to them in the future.”
His father, a Brit named Martyn Sharpe, credits his son’s success to the commitment of the adult volunteers of Troop 1190 and to Daniel’s own courage. “On one hand, his success is due to the effort of the adults and older scouts in Patrol 1190 over the last six years. The leaders concentrated on helping develop boys into being the best adults they could be,” comments his dad.
“On the other hand, Daniel came out because he thought his sexuality was not in any way against the scouting ethos, and he outed himself prior to the lifting of the long-standing ban on homosexual Boy Scouts on January 1, 2014.
“As a scout, he regularly recited the Boy Scout Law: ‘A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.’ But ‘trustworthy’ comes first. He realized that to follow the Scout Law and be trustworthy, he needed to be brave and be himself, regardless of the consequences.”
Voted “Most Likely to Be a Celebrity” by his peers, he is also active in his high school drama club, Loading Dock Productions, where he has given memorable performances in leading roles such as Argan in The Imaginary Invalid and Eric Harris in columbinus, a two-act drama about the shootings at Columbine High School.
“Daniel is absolutely a leader,” says Shelby Broaddus, a 17-year-old gay senior at Lamar. “I’ve known him since seventh grade, and he has always continued to be an incredibly kind person who always strives to do the right thing. He is an inspiration to everyone around him, myself included. And he continues to be incredibly humble about everything wonderful he has done.
“He and I have stuck by each other through so much hardship, including being called gay slurs at our eighth grade dance. He is so much stronger than anyone else I know.”
Upon graduating, he will pursue pre-nursing at Texas State University. “My top choice would be to go to A&M for their nursing program,” he says. “I love helping people, and making sure that everyone is okay and happy. I’m also fascinated by the medical field.”
Thanks to the committed advocacy of organizations like Scouts for Equality and GLAAD, in July 2015 the Boy Scouts of America moved closer to allowing adult LGBT volunteers and leaders to serve openly. Currently, an individual troop and their chartering partners may elect to prohibit gay adult leaders and volunteers.
Asked if he would be interested in serving as a volunteer or a troop leader in the future, Daniel responds enthusiastically, “Absolutely. My hope is to get trans kids and nonbinary kids involved in scouting. I want them to know that they are loved, and they don’t need to be more confused than they already are.”
“It’s wonderful when anyone earns the rank of Eagle Scout,” observes Charles Spain, an attorney and activist who is an Eagle Scout and who has worked for years to convince the Boy Scouts of America to drop its ban on gay scouts, leaders, and volunteers.
“[Having an openly gay Eagle Scout in Texas] means that we can come out of the shadows. I think of all the people who hid their sexuality throughout the ages. The Boy Scouts of America has officially changed, and it will take time for that to trickle down to every Boy Scout group in the country. The fact that we can now be open about these things says a tremendous thing about [our progress toward] LGBT equality in this country.”
Andrew Edmonson chaired the Houston Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and has served on the boards of the AIDS service organizations Body Positive and Halloween Magic, and the Houston chapter of the American Marketing Association.