A Place For All
Here are some thoughts and ideas on how to approach the process of finding the best camp for LGBTQ+ child….
Philosophy & Policies
Does the camp actively welcome LGBTQ+ campers and have they done so in the past? Do they state this in their video or website and in conversations with staff, particularly the camp director? Are they planning to provide staff with LGBTQ+ training or have they already done so? Camps that have taken no steps to prepare but say they’re “happy to start” may not be the right choice. Both you and your camper have to be happy with what you’ve learned. After all, this decision impacts on your child’s health and well being.
Camp operators are careful to train staff to react to every kind of situation that might occur during camp. What are their rules and procedures when working with campers with diverse genders? How is personal information processed and shared with staff? Is there privacy when changing clothes and bathroom facilities? How are bunks organized? Are camp activities gender inclusive or do they tend to rely on outdated assumptions on who likes which activity.
Preparing for Camp
Fitting in and making friends are two of the most rewarding aspects of camp, but can be challenging to some. When interacting with other campers and staff, there will likely be comments and questions. Those associated with your child’s gender or orientation should only be responded to in a way your camper feels comfortable with. Talk to them and and learn what they want others to know and how they might express themselves. Achieving a feeling of acceptance and belonging will ensure their experience at camp will be what positive. Nonetheless, there could be some who don’t understand or accept others on a selective basis. Unfortunately, bullies seem to spring up now and then in all walks of life and when they appear at camp, it’s very important that their actions are reported to staff immediately.
Here are some terrific resources:
American Camp Association
The American Camp Association is the only nationwide organization that works to improve and promote all aspects of the summer camp experience. It assembles and shares a range of in-depth information with camp professionals and camper families alike. At its core, acceptance and inclusion permeates every aspect of the ACA and this philosophy is maintained throughout its membership base of over 2,400 accredited camps.
Brave Trails is a non-profit organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ youth. They operate summer camps for kids and families in addition to mentorship programs and leadership programming. All of their activities are designed to help LGBTQ+ kids thrive and apply their newly acquired skills to form meaningful change in their communities.
Here’s how they describe their approach to summer camp, “All of the elements of a typical summer camp with a LGBTQ+ twist! Camp Brave Trails is designed to be a haven for LGBTQ+ youth, where they can build community, meet supportive adult mentors, and gain leadership skills.”
As the saying goes, “Rely more on what people do than what they say.” Learn what camp operators have done to ensure that every camper feels welcomed, accepted and part of the camp community. If they have taken steps in the past to educate, guide and direct their staff to be informed and supportive of all campers, that’s a very good start. Of course, there are a number of things that need to be considered when searching for a camp. For more help, take a look at our article on Choosing the Right Camp for your child.
Illustrations by Julia Frost.