On Sunday, The Minneapolis Star Tribune highlighted the campers who attended The Naming Project Summer Camp, a groundbreaking summer camp that is a safe haven for Christian youth of all sexual and gender identities. The camp just celebrated its ten-year anniversary when gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teenagers from across the country came together to explore their sexual orientations and gender identities in the context of their spirituality on a small island off Minnesota from July 20th to 25th. Many of you visited and helped The Naming Project make its Indiegogo fundraiser goal earlier this summer.
The Naming Project is run by GLAAD's very own Director of News, Ross Murray, who spends the week immersed in the program's activities, connecting with campers through discussions, prayer, and song. At this camp, the teens learn that being Christian and being LGBT is not a contradiction.
This summer marked the first camp session since Minnesota began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, there is still a long way to go in the fight toward full equality. Murray spoke to the Star Tribune about the challenges these campers still face. "What is the case for transgender people in terms of employment discrimination?" he said. "What is the case with bullying in high school?" Certainly, there remain barriers to equality in the real world, but at this camp the teens can be themselves.
In the Star Tribune article, many campers expressed what the camp means to them. Farley, a transgender 16 year old, said "It's such a feeling of coming home." Before transitioning, the teen had attended a YMCA camp, where he had to room with girls. He said, "It made me feel badly because I didn't view myself as female, but I was being treated as one." At the Naming Project, campers can choose to stay with whatever gender they feel closest to. For Farley, being surrounded with so much love and support and in such a beautiful wooded environment, "it can be an emotional time." This sentiment was echoed by 18 year old Liv, who was moved to tears during a bonfire. She said, "You are just so loved. And you're never judged."
Even though the summer camp is just one week long, the days are filled with so many activities, from campfires and arts and crafts, to the more serious group discussions and self-reflections that make this camp so unique. The camp was the subject of the 2006 award-winning documentary "Camp Out," which followed ten campers as they attended the "first summer camp for gay Christian youth."