Creating a Welcoming Camp for Transgender and Non-binary People

The following post is a statement by the Camp Quest NorthWest Board of Directors.

Well, 2017’s camp season has come to an end. This summer, the “CQNW Department of Skepticism” trained up over 115 new Special Agents with an emphasis on critical thinking, skepticism, and friendship. This was the second year where the theme of camp was woven into daily activities, and was the first year where we had a week long “story arc” with clues, double-crosses, and mysterious characters galore. The campers were engaged in figuring out what was fact, what was fiction, and what was the true motive behind mysterious sightings of our beloved arboreal cephalopod.

There was another first this past season, and that was the introduction of gender neutral cabins and bathrooms. This was borne from the board’s decision to better serve campers and staff who identify as transgender and non-binary. This issue is particularly important to us at a time where states are considering enacting legislation regarding the use of public restrooms, and the rights of transgender people in general have become a leading topic of national conversation.

We started this practice because we felt it was the right thing to do. This is not a change that affected every cabin or camper. Parents were able to opt their children in, declare no preference, or opt their children out.

After a lot of preparation and discussion we were happy to find that implementing this practice went incredibly smoothly. There were no major issues. From watching our campers interact with each other it was pretty clear that they are exceptionally mature and compassionate. Campers were involved in setting the ground rules for each individual cabin. They respected each other’s boundaries, and modeled a level of grace and maturity that was very inspiring to witness.

As far as bathrooms go, our host camp is set up such that there are two bathroom buildings. One had very poor gender separation to begin with, so it became the gender neutral bathroom. Anyone was free to use it. The remaining building had very good separation, and campers were free to use it according to their gender identity. Nobody was pressured regarding their choice of which bathroom to use.

We also made efforts to acknowledge campers’ choices with regard to their preferred names and pronouns. Our staff does their best to do this because it is important to us that campers are allowed the dignity of being identified in the manner they are most comfortable with.

We’re very happy with the implementation of this practice, and we’re looking forward to continuing it in the future. We expect this will be expanded and formalized in the future, and we’ll continue to look for new ways that we can be inclusive and welcoming to all campers.

The Camp Quest NorthWest Board of Directors

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2 Responses to Creating a Welcoming Camp for Transgender and Non-binary People

  1. Audrey Moreland says:

    this is beautiful

  2. Cam says:

    I’ve been attending Camp Quest NW since it started and this statement really touched me. I’ve always felt that CQNW is one of the places I can rely on to be accepted as myself- not just my gender. Over the years, I came to realize I have gender issues myself, but my experience at CQNW never changed because of that. Even though I didn’t participate in the gender-neutral cabin, it had an impact on me and I plan to participate next year- even though the all-girl cabin I was in didn’t focus on gender at all. Your statement is so important especially in times like these where nonbinary and transgender identities are so oppressed.
    From a queer camper who will never stop loving CQNW, thank you.

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