In advocacy for gay rights, Reno man gets pop singer Jepsen to cancel concert for Boy Scouts
“I just met you, and this is crazy,
But here’s my number, call me maybe?”
– Carly Rae Jepsen
Hey, not so fast, Boy Scouts of America. She doesn’t mean you.
Carly Rae Jepsen, singer of one of the biggest pop hits of this or any other decade – the ubiquitous “Call Me Maybe” – made a rather big announcement on Tuesday: she will not be performing at the Boy Scouts National Jamboree. Jepsen and the band Train were scheduled to be the entertainment at the Scouts’ big shindig, which is held every four years in the Virginia area and is attended by more than 40,000 people.
But not anymore. Citing the organization’s controversial ban on gay Scouts and gay Scout leaders, Jepsen on Tuesday canceled her appearance at the National Jamboree – just as Train had done on Saturday.
“As an artist who believes in equality for all people, I will not be participating in the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree this summer,” Jepsen said on her Twitter page on Tuesday morning. “I always have and will continue to support the LGBT community on a global level … and stay informed on the ever changing landscape in the ongoing battle for gay rights in this country and across the globe.”
Why the sudden change of heart? It’s almost certainly due to Derek Nance, a gay Eagle Scout from Reno who started a petition on Change.org to try and convince Jepsen and Train to withdraw from the Jamboree.
“I didn’t start out to be this big crusader for gay rights,” Nance told Lake Tahoe Action. A former Boy Scout leader and organizer who this past June graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, he said he was “kind of pushed into this advocacy.
“I didn’t start out to undo the organization of the Boy Scouts,” Nance said. “I’m still very much involved in scouting, and I love it. But sometimes you have to stand up for what you think is right.”
In fact, on his YouTube page Nance calls himself a “bell ringer and reluctant advocate for gay rights.” But, over the past four months, he has made a huge impact.
Nance was born in Las Vegas and grew up in Reno. His family and close friends have known he is gay for some time, but back in January he decided to let others know – specifically all of his friends in Scouting. I suppose it’s a sign of the times that he did this through social media, on YouTube.
Shot in what appears to be his dorm room with his Eagle Scout uniform hanging in the background, Nance made an honest and heartfelt admission of his own sexuality, while at the same time saying that he wouldn’t return his Eagle Award in protest of the Scouts’ policy on gays, as so many other Scouts have done. “I am damn proud of the work I did to earn it,” he explained in the video, “And hope to once again wear this badge with honor without having to hide who I actually am.”
But as sometimes happens on YouTube, things blew up. Nance’s video went viral, and soon was getting national media attention.
“In one 24-hour period it was shown on “Good Morning America” and the New York Times website,” Nance told Lake Tahoe Action. “It was kind of unbelievable.”
That led to some gay advocacy groups contacting Nance to try and get him to speak out against the ban on gays in scouting. His response was to begin the Change.org petition, asking that Jepsen and Train cancel their scheduled performances at the Jamboree.
“Both (Jepsen and Train) had a history of speaking out for gay rights,” Nance said. “So I suspected that they weren’t aware of the Boy Scouts’ policy on gays.”
And he appears to be right, although the performers have not contacted him personally to confirm that. What is known is that Nance’s petition has received more than 63,000 signatures. Train canceled their Jamboree appearance this past Saturday.
“It blew my mind,” Nance said. “It’s the first time I’ve done something like this, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was watching it yesterday, and the number doubled in one day. It was insane.”
The Boy Scouts haven’t contacted him either, but issued a statement to ABC News on Tuesday:
“We appreciate everyone’s right to express an opinion and remain focused on delivering a great Jamboree program for our Scouts,” Deron Smith, the director of public relations for Boy Scouts of America, said. He did not say whether or not they will replace Jepsen and Train.
“I’m by no means the first member of the Boy Scouts who has spoken out on this,” said Nance, who majored in Business Management and Educational Leadership at UNR. “Many (regional Boy Scout) councils have said that they wish the organization would change its views. But it’s like the federal government. That has to come from the top.”
The Boy Scouts have not said that they are expecting to reverse their ban on gays.
“I suppose what surprises me most about the whole thing is discovering that you can be true to yourself and still do what’s right,” Nance said. “Hopefully this makes a difference.”
– Lake Tahoe Action columnist Rick Chandler is author of the NBC Sports blog “Off the Bench.” Contact him at RickChand@gmail.com.