Jennifer Tyrrell takes on Boys Scouts of America for its anti-gay policies
Jennifer Tyrrell had never before been on an airplane.
But she flew from Bridgeport, Ohio, to Los Angeles on Friday to appear at the GLAAD Media Awards on Saturday (21 April) where she nearly stole the show from the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Betty White and Cher with her heartfelt speech about being ousted as a den mother by the Boy Scouts of America because she is a lesbian.
'I got on [a plane] because we all agreed that it was time to stand up,' Tyrrell told the crowd at the Westin Bonaventure hotel that gave her a rousing standing ovation.
As she talked about becoming a den mom for her son's Cub Scout troop and embarked on 'a life of merit badges and knots' and called it 'one of the most memorable experiences a mom could ever imagine.'
She then burst into tears before regaining her composure and saying: 'I was forcibly removed as den leader because I'm gay.'
Although she shed some tears, Tyrrell was also defiant and talked about her rapid transformation from scout mom to activist, launching a petition on Change.org calling the scouts to end its pattern of discrimination against both gay youth and LGBT families.
'This has really made me think about who I am and what I stand for,' she said. 'Everyone here knows that love, is love.'
She shared with the audience a text she got last week from a a parent who wrote that she was 'ashamed of the way I used to feel about gay people.'
Said Tyrrell: 'I thought to myself, if that's the only person that I've changed then that's huge.'
Before the show began, Tyrrell talked to Gay Star News about the controversy that has thrust her and her family into the spotlight.
'It's absolutely a teachable moment not only at my level for my scouts, but for America,' she said. 'This has gone on too long. We need to stop treating people differently and start accepting people for exactly who they are.'
Although the action by the Boy Scouts of America has stung, Tyrrell says she has been buoyed by the support of the parents of the scouts in her former troop.
'They are devastated right along with me,' she said. 'They stood behind me and asked the council to change their minds and were told, point-blank, the Boy Scouts doesn't accept it. They support me wholeheartedly. I feel like they are in this fight right along with me.'
It wasn't as if Tyrrell ever tried to hide her sexuality.
'I actually addressed it the first day and I was told, at the local level, it wouldn't be a problem, that nobody would question it and it would be fine,' she said. 'It had always been fine, never been an issue.'
Would she go back to being a den mom?
'Only if we could get the [anti-gay policy] changed,' she said. 'We won't go back the way it is.'
Tyrrell reflected on all that has happened in the past two weeks: 'I've never done anything like this. When we did the local protest and were covered by the local news, we were really excited that we had like 25 signatures. It's over 100,000 now.'