An Overview of Gender Inclusive Practices
Our practices at camp that are geared to creating an equitable and safe environment for all campers include:
● Gender-neutral public bathrooms
● Gender-inclusive cabin options (see below)
● Campers may change cabins once at camp if they are not “out” to the person who registered them - the person who registered them will not be informed of these changes
● Names & pronouns are part of our introductions
● No activities or classes are grouped on the basis of gender.
● Private changing areas in all cabins
● We respect all special care requirements for identity affirming undergarments, prosthetics etc., and will make arrangements for these.
● Staff are trained on creating safe(r) spaces for queer, trans* and non-binary campers and staff
Contact Lesley Levy or Chris Murrah to work on a support plan for the camper(s) in your family. We welcome all families to get in touch with us to discuss ideas or concerns regarding your camper and their acceptance at Ghostlight.
While we understand that for some families, topics of gender or sexuality may be uncomfortable or difficult, we believe that through learning from each other’s experiences and stories, we ultimately create a more empathetic and welcoming culture for all. We understand you may have questions regarding our policies. We seek to answer your questions and grow within our culture of inclusivity. We will, however, not compromise on being a camp for every camper. Our mission is to create a community that is welcoming and inclusive for all.
Campers choose which type of housing they would like to live in prior to their arrival at camp. They may choose more than one option, and let us know if there is a strong preference for one over the other if more than one is chosen.
Campers can elect to live in a cabin that affirms their gender identity and can choose from the following cabin types:
- Gender-inclusive cabins for any and all who feel comfortable in this space, including allies of Trans* campers.
- Cabins for girls, regardless of sex assigned at birth, non-binary campers who feel safe in this space, and Trans* boys who feel safer in this space.
- Cabins for boys, regardless of sex assigned at birth, non-binary campers who feel safe in this space, and Trans* girls who feel safer in this space.
Camper cabins will be assigned according to these selections. Other factors that influence cabin assignments are: age/grade of campers, cabin mate requests, staffing capacity, and accommodation of medical needs. Campers will not be initially assigned to a gendered cabin that they did not select during the registration process (See “Will campers be allowed to switch bunks once they arrive at camp?” for information about switching cabins).
In short, no. A camper’s decision to share their name and pronouns is theirs alone and we respect that right. The unique experience of Camp is that campers are able to explore who they are away from their families. They may try things out temporarily at camp like” taking a dance class, wearing make-up, not eating any dessert, using a power tool (under supervision), a new name, different pronouns. All of this is part of healthy development and does not need to be shared with families.
In our experience, campers will want to tell you EVERY SINGLE DETAIL about what happened at camp down to what their favorite evening activity was. If they feel that it is time to share these things with you we trust that they will.
The decision to switch cabins is not one that is ever made lightly, by Ghostlight or a camper. When it does happen, it may be for a variety of reasons, including because the cabin that they were assigned to does not fit their gender.
All of our cabins are staffed with excellent staff who are trained in creating a community atmosphere and who are excited to create a warm and welcoming experience for a camper that may just be discovering who they are for the first time. We are happy to listen to campers and respect what they know about their own experiences even if they have not yet felt ready to share that experience with the people they live with.
No. Campers may choose to share that information with you themselves. We do not have a policy of sharing with guardians/parents if campers change cabins for other reasons and the same applies here. Campers changing cabins are not in danger of harm and therefore we are happy to accommodate this request confidentially.
As with campers who use a different name or pronouns at Camp than in their home life we will:
- Encourage your camper to share this new development in their life with their family and/or an adult they trust outside of camp.
- Make a plan with them for how they might share their news safely and who they know they could go to if something went wrong.
- Contact the proper authorities (such as a mental or physical health care provider, social worker, police, or children’s aid organization), if we are concerned that they are in danger of harm at home.
- Alert you that your camper may benefit from talking with a mental or physical health care provider.
Cabin Life FAQ
At Ghostlight, every camper’s bed is a one-person space and all cabins have designated private changing areas.
For campers who require gender-affirming undergarments or prosthetics, we recommend that they come with a bag that can be kept in their bunk and easily brought to the laundry room or the health center for care and cleaning throughout the week as needed.
Counselors are trained on privacy measures including:
- explaining that privacy measures are for all campers, not just some campers with “exceptional requirements”,
- establishing important privacy expectations in the cabin such as staying off each other’s beds and out of others’ belongings,
- setting rules about respecting privacy including obtaining consent prior to giving hugs, high-fives, or other forms of touch,
- speaking to campers who may need extra support away from the larger group.
Cabins are considered semi-private spaces that are for the campers and staff who reside there.Campers are not permitted inside cabins that are not their own. Furthermore, each cabin works together to set their own agreements around behavior and boundaries.
In the cabin, we maintain a staff to camper ratio of 1:5 for our youngest campers, and a ratio of 1:10 for our oldest campers (CITs).
Our counselors have been trained how to answer basic questions about gender so campers of gender minorities do not have to (unless they want to) and how to escalate these questions to a more senior staff member if necessary. Counselors have also been trained to prioritize the safety of campers over the curiosity or discomfort of other campers. To be a little uncomfortable is a good way to grow, feeling unsafe is traumatizing. If there is a chronic issue of bullying in a cabin, steps will be taken to attempt to resolve the issue at camp but if that is not possible the camper doing the bullying will be sent home.
Romantic relationships do occur at summer camp, regardless of gender inclusive practices. That said, there are many ways that we can ensure that if romantic relationships develop they are safe, healthy and minimally physical while at camp:
- Campers are not allowed in each other's beds.
- Campers are closely supervised. Campers can return to their cabins without direct supervision (i.e. to grab a sweatshirt or use the bathroom), however they must inform staff that they are doing so.
- Staff talk about consent with campers as part of everyday activities including: dance class, stage combat, rehearsals, evening activities
- Most often campers who choose the all gender cabin do so because they are in a gender minority or because they are going to camp with a sibling, family member, or friend.
We love questions - as long as they come from genuine curiosity and are asked in a respectful way to the right people! If your camper has a question about our gender-inclusive practices prior to Camp we are happy to speak to them or you in whichever way they feel most comfortable.
If they have a question during camp they can ask their counselor, a teacher or show director, a leadership team member, a nurse, or one of the Directors. Any staff member will happily answer their question to the best of their ability. We are happy to answer questions about how we make these practices work, clarify misunderstandings, and even share why this is important to us. In all our conversations we operate with the understanding that trans*, non-binary and queer campers are loved and valuable and that we will do our best to ensure that they know this to be true through our gender-inclusive actions and not just our words.
Other Questions and Resources
No. They will, however, provide a space for campers to express their gender authentically and without harm.
Most campers will not even notice gender inclusive practices as being specifically “gender inclusive.” Many campers (regardless of gender) want a private place to change and all campers deserve safety, privacy, respect for their body and belongings, and deserve a place to sleep at night where they feel safe and respected.
Why are gender inclusive policies so important - a video by Chris Rehs-Dupin from Transplaining. Warning this video includes hard statistics and may be tough for younger campers or campers who are trans*, non-binary, or queer to hear.
The Trevor Project has great resources, specifically for youth, about what gender identity is, exploring your own gender identity, and how to be an ally to trans* and non-binary people all designed. The Trevor Project also has counselors that youth can access if they want to talk to someone about their gender identity or sexual orientation
This Buzzfeed list has many books on gender for young children and your local library will likely have many of these and others so ask your librarian for their recommendations!