Being a teenager and coming to a summer camp for the first time can feel like a daunting challenge. This can be particularly true for teenagers who identify as LGBTQ and who have faced all sorts of negative judgements, comments and emotional abuse.
“There is nothing more important than a safe space when it comes to being an LGBTQIA+ teenager. I know this because I was one.”
“I was an angsty lesbian teenager with the most wonderful, supportive, and accepting family you could ever imagine. My family was, and still is, the house that all my friends ran away to. But even with the most supportive environment imaginable, my angst and feelings of being an ‘outcast’ did not simply go away. The adults in my life kept trying to relate to experiences that weren’t theirs and this led to me feeling like I was more alone than ever. I had to find places where people my age could actually relate with my experiences. I joined multiple groups for LGBTQIA+ teens and found a way to build my own confidence in my identity and slowly lose the angst that separated me from those I loved.”
Last year I lucked out and found Odyssey Teen Camp. I had already received a job offer from a very prestigious arts based overnight camp that I was about ready to accept when I got the interview with Adam from OTC. In the interview I asked him pretty quickly about LGBTQIA+ life at camp and he told me it was very active and that he was always looking for counselors who could be a genuine part of it. This was the first camp I interviewed at where I was not told that I needed to hide my sexuality, instead he made it clear that he thought my life experiences would be important for the campers. He listened to my reasons for wanting to work with teens, my desire to create the type of safe spaces that helped me grow in my own youth, and told me something along the lines of “Our life experiences are very different but our goals seem to be the same. If you want the job it’s yours. Let me know.” He didn’t try to relate to my life but instead made me feel valued for where I am now. I took the job.
Taking the job at OTC was the best decision of my life. Here I get to watch LGBTQIA+ thrive and be free. I get to teach without having to hide here. I did not have Odyssey Teen Camp as a teen, but having it now makes the part of my brain that still clings to my lesbian teenage angst get continually assuaged every time I genuinely tell a LGBTQIA+ teen “I am here for you.”
what campers say
is OTC right for you?
some words from the camp director, Adam Simon
Over the year I’ve heard many teens say that the best thing about their experience at OTC was that they never felt like they were being judged. I believe that without the fear of being judged, bullied, or emotionally abused, we all feel empowered to explore our talents, share our gifts, and connect with the people around us.
The number of campers and staff who identify as LGBTQ at Odyssey Teen Camp seems to be growing every year. I’m not an expert on LGBTQ issues or concerns, but I am trying to listen and learn as much as I can.
I want everyone at camp to feel seen, heard, respected and loved and not feel like they are being put in a “box” that does not represent who they are. We respect everyone’s preferred pronouns at camp.
We are a place where it is safe to explore, express, and question gender identity and gender stereotypes. We try to put everyone in a cabin where they will feel most comfortable. We’re not perfect, but we are learning all the time and trying to support every LGBTQ teenagers who comes to camp.
Recently I asked my friend Amy Frisch, a great therapist who works with teenagers about gender and she said “we are who we are and we love who we love and we have bigger things to worry about then the gender someone prefers to identify with.” That feels important to remember as we try to help every teenager who comes to camp to have a great experience.
what campers say
give your LGTBQ teen the opportunity to
be Seen, respected and have a great summer.
for questions, call the director, Adam Simon any time.
adam simon, camp director