About eleven years ago, a counselor named Erik, who is gay, called me into the middle at one of our community meetings. He told me I needed to do more to support the LGBTQ community at camp.
I remember feeling a little defensive, and thinking “what does he want me to do?” Looking back, I think that Erik recognized there was a lot more myself and our camp could do. We want to make sure everyone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community feels safe, welcomed and honored to be exactly who they are at Odyssey.
I think if Erik came back to camp today, he would see that we’ve come a long way in supporting the LGBTQ community.
One thing I have done is hire several great counselors who happen to be Gay, Transgender, or identify as gender non-binary. Hiring these counselors has been a great thing for our camp. They’re important work as role models, teachers and leaders each summer has made them a valuable part of our community.
At camp, we also offer many LGBTQ discussion groups led by our qualified staff. In these groups, everyone has the opportunity to openly discuss issues around gender and sexuality in a way they may never have before. We’ve heard from many of our teens that these discussion groups made them feel less isolated or alone. We’ve even had a gay pride parade at camp. We decorated our golf carts, made signs, and drove around our field. It’s a little silly, but a lot of fun, and an important demonstration of the respect and friendship we have at camp.
We’ve had quite a few transgender campers and campers navigating their gender identity. We understand that it can all feel confusing, and difficult for teenagers who are establishing their identities. We accept that not everyone feels on the inside like the gender they may look like on the outside.
We recognize the importance of using preferred gender pronouns and make sure those preferred pronouns are respected at camp. And we also want to put every teenager in the cabin they will feel most comfortable in. If gender is a spectrum, we want our camp to be as open and expansive as possible. We are very clear that we do not want to put anyone in a box, or in a group where they do not feel like they belong.
I’m glad Erik had the courage many years ago to share his opinion. And I hope people will continue to give honest feedback to help us improve our community and the lives of the campers who come to Odyssey Teen Camp.
Find out about Odyssey Teen Camp
A great place for teens to be exactly who they are in a community that celebrates diversity.