Junior high and high school are tough years for us all: learning how to be a student, trying to claim some independence, and watching our bodies change can make the best of us feel two inches tall.
For LGBTQ youth, though, these years are uniquely challenging. Like an ever-looming rain cloud, insecurities and questions about identity and value hang over their heads and make getting up for school every morning and facing bullying, isolation, and fear profoundly difficult. The biggest lie that LGBTQ youth wrestle with is that they are alone, that no one else like them exists, and that their hopes and dreams for their futures place them squarely outside what it means to be normal, safe, and healthy.
That's where camp comes in.
Across the US and Canada, LGBTQ-specific summer camps have been cropping up over the last decade, helping LGBTQ youth process their identities and learn to celebrate who they are. The Naming Project is the oldest and, after a full-length film and episode on Our America with Lisa Ling, most recognized LGBTQ Christian camp in the United States. Located in Minnesota, The Naming Project focuses specifically on the difficulty many LGBTQ youth face reconciling their spiritualties with the sexual orientations and gender identities. Others, like Camp Osiris, which works with LGBTQ persons and allies over the age of 18, the Spiritual Pride Project, a retreat located in Texas, and Wonderfully Made, a Lutheran organization servicing the Philadelphia area, seek to accomplish the same goal.
Camp fYrefly is Canada's only national leadership retreat for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirited, intersexed, queer, questioning, and allied youth. This year, they were able to open a third campground (Calgary) as they celebrate their 10th anniversary. Camp Aranu'tiq—with locations in Southern California and Southern New England—is for transgender and gender-variant youth between the ages of 8 and 15. Camp Ten Trees, in the Pacific Northwestern US, and Camp Lightbulb, a month-long camp in Provincetown, Massachusetts, have both been crucial for hundreds of LGBTQ youth.
For many people, camps are formative experiences that can shape the rest of one's life. These LGBTQ-specific camps provide a safe and affirming environment to allow campers just to be youth, explore who they are, and enjoy canoeing and bonfires free of social anxiety.
As spring stretches into summer, we offer these as resources for LGBTQ youth who are looking for a good way to spend some of their break.
Which camps did we miss? Let us know in the comments below.