By A.N. Kini '13
David Knapp '49 is an icon among LGBT activists for his efforts to reform the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policies following his own expulsion. David, who joined the Scouts in 1938 as a 12-year-old, built a lifelong relationship with the Scouts as a leader until he was kicked out in 1993 after being outed to the organization. In this interview with the New Haven Register, David recalls the four most traumatic experiences of his life - his divorce, discovering and announcing that he was gay, being kicked out of the Scouts and being forced out of his church - and marks his own path to fulfillment: “It dawned on me that the four most traumatic things in my life have been the best.”
I had the opportunity to meet David when he was on campus for Reunion & Commencement this year, where he was being honored for his activism with a Distinguished Alumni Award. After his first career as a sales executive, David started his second career as an activist: “I think I’ve achieved a lot more in my retirement than I did in my professional career.” Last May, the Scouts voted to allow gay teenagers, but not gay adult leaders to serve in the movement. “We’ll keep fighting until we get the adult policy changed," vows David.
After all, as David says to the NH Register - “how many people are doing all these things at the age of 87?”
“I had an epiphany,” remarked Knapp, 87, as he sat contentedly in his handsome colonial house near the Guilford Green. Over the past year, he said, “It dawned on me that the four most traumatic things in my life have been the best.”
This affirmation was stimulated by receiving a distinguished alumnus award from Wesleyan University, a service award from the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies and an honorary inclusion in OUT magazine’s “OUT 100” list.
Knapp proudly showed me the Wesleyan award, given to him three months ago. Its citation noted: “You compelled even the most imposing of organizations, the Boy Scouts of America, to listen. You have carried your important message of equality far and wide, truly helping to change the world for the better.”
It’s been a long road he’s traveled, and the path hasn’t been easy.
Headshot image: Arnold Gold/New Haven Register
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