The 7th annual Camp Pride will take place on the campus of Vanderbilt University from July 16th to July 21st.
Camp Pride, a program of the organization Campus Pride, was started in 2007 as a leadership conference for university students interested in helping the LGBT community on their campus. Shane Windmeyer, Campus Pride Executive Director, says that when they started developing Camp Pride, they really wanted to have a program that would create "holistic leader." They work in what Shane calls the social change model, meaning they want to create leaders who have, not only an experience with "LGBT justice, but a broader experience with social justice." Not only do students get to learn about and work with other members of the LGBT and allied community, they also leave camp with action plans to take back and apply to their campuses.
The camp begins with a core curriculum and then campers break out into various caucuses. Each caucus focuses on one topic, such as being an ally or being LGBT and of faith or being part of Greek life. They try to stick to the core curriculum as much as possible but it is also important for volunteers and staff to "listen to the voices of the students." They trust that whatever a student brings up will eventually lead back to the various topics the staff feels it's important to discuss.
Faith, for Shane, has always been an important topic of conversation. "As a direct result of camp, we created our Campus Pride In Faith coalition of at least a dozen religious conservative campuses around the country."
Shane is also very aware that the community he serves is a very diverse one. They have had many transgender people, people of color and gender and sexuality fluid people as speakers and campers. It's all about resonating with the students that attend.
"I don't want to go around saying 'LGBT, LGBT' and then be excluding people."
Shane has noticed, however, that the camp has had a lot more trans men than trans women and he's not really sure why that is. It's also been important to recognize that LGBT people care about more than the LGBT community. They brought in an African American transgender professor to talk about civil rights, not necessarily her experience being trans and African American.
Straight allies have played an interesting role in the development of camp as well. The Campus Pride team have made sure that they had allies on staff and as volunteers so that straight campers have role models too.
"Being an ally," Shane says, "is not really about identity. It's an action."
Allies are given the tools they need for actively supporting the LGBT community on their campus. Some allies come because they have family members who are LGBT, some come for friends and some simply come to help their fellow students. Last year, GLAAD friend Zach Wahls spoke to the campers. According to Shane, the most important thing for allies is realizing, "as a straight ally you have a certain privilege in the world, which may be different at camp." Being part of a sexuality and gender identity based minority is new thing for many allies and it’s a good experience for those who wish to help the LGBT community.
Along with learning other people's stories and creating an action plan, students get the chance to make friends. "The most valuable thing about camp," Shane says, "is not only do they learn, the students make life-long friends." Many of campers have gone on to be leaders in the LGBT movement. Students who go on to work in organizations in one state have camp connections to students in other states around the country. This is exactly what Shane says he envisioned. He goes to conferences all the time and sees the merit in them but, "there's something special about camp. The magic happens over the five days and nights." Campers don't just leave with each other's contact information, they leave with friends in the movement they can call upon whenever they need support.
Registration for Camp Pride is now open, and applications for scholarships are now being accepted. Students are also encouraged to bring their faculty advisors for LGBT Professional Academy for Advisors (a.k.a Advisor Bootcamp).