Supporting LGBTQIA2S+ youth at camp
Any camp experience can be scary and anxiety producing for youth but for LGBTQIA2S+ youth camp can be especially difficult. Historical practice of gendering cabins, activities, and outings can make nonbinary and trans youth feel on the outside and uncomfortable. Fear of sharing sleeping space, bathrooms, showers and other accommodations with other campers who might not understand or accept LGBTQIA2S+ identities can create such a barrier that many youth chose to never attend camp. At Camp Namanu we believe every camper is an individual and has the right and opportunity to be authentically themselves at Namanu. We recognize that to create an inclusive, safe and welcoming space for all youth requires ongoing reflection and work. Namanu is committed to the ongoing work of equity, diversity and inclusion. More importantly, we let all families know up front that Camp Namanu is a safe space for youth and bullying, harassment, or anything less than exuberant acceptance is not tolerated. Here are some of the things we are doing right now to help foster an inclusive and welcoming culture at camp:
- In 2020 we expanded our cabin options to include male-only, female-only, and all-gender. Cabin placements are self-selected by campers with their families during registration to ensure they are in a cabin environment that best suits their needs and identity. At Camp Namanu we believe trans and nonbinary kids exist. We believe trans boys are boys, trans girls are girls, and nonbinary or agender campers deserve welcoming and affirming spaces. As such gendered cabins are based on the gender identity of the camper and nothing else.
- Thanks to a generous alumni endowment over the last 3 years Camp Namanu has begun remodeling and updating our bathroom facilities around camp. The remodel has reflected some of our highest priorities at camp – creating safe, private, all-gender spaces at camp.
- Our commitment to equity extends into our interview and training process for staff. We infuse questions about equity, inclusion and identity in our interviews to better understand where our applicants are in their equity journey and commitment. We continue to build on training modules for staff about microaggressions, privilege, intent versus impact, and how to create a welcoming space for kids of many identities. We value our staff looking like and sharing identity with our campers and as such prioritize the hiring of BIPOC staff and trans, nonbinary, and LGBTQ staff.
- Additionally, we value the important visual symbols including offering pronoun identifiers for staff and campers to wear-as they choose, flying our Progress Pride flag in the meadow, and other ways to show we value LGBTQIA2S+ lives and they are welcome here!