Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment is crucial when running a camp. It’s important to ensure that all participants – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity – feel safe, respected, and supported. 

In this article, we will review why inclusivity is important for kids and give you some tactics for making your camp a more accepting place.

Why LGBTQ+ inclusivity is important for kids

In today’s society, promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity is not only a matter of social justice but also plays a vital role in creating a safe and nurturing environment for all children. Here are just a few of the benefits for both the children and your camp. 

Combating bullying and discrimination

LGBTQ+ children are at a higher risk of experiencing bullying and discrimination. By actively promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity, you create a culture of respect and understanding, reducing the likelihood of such harmful behaviors. It sets the tone for fostering empathy, compassion, and kindness among campers.

Creating lifelong allies 

Camp experiences often form lasting friendships and connections. By promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity, you encourage the development of supportive relationships between LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ campers. These connections can help shape future generations of allies who actively advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and equality.

Meeting parent expectations

Modern parents expect camps to prioritize diversity and inclusivity. By highlighting your camp’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusivity, you demonstrate your understanding of parental concerns and aspirations for their child’s development.

By implementing these simple strategies, you can make your camp more LGBTQ+ friendly and foster a stronger sense of belonging for everyone involved.

1. Educate yourself and staff

Start by educating yourself and your staff about LGBTQ+ issues and terminology. This will help create a knowledgeable and respectful environment. Offer training sessions, workshops, or resources that focus on LGBTQ+ inclusion, including understanding gender identity, pronoun usage, and promoting diversity.

2. Develop inclusive policies

Establish clear and inclusive camp policies that explicitly state your commitment to diversity and non-discrimination. Include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories in your anti-discrimination policy. Communicate these policies to staff, campers, and parents, ensuring they understand the camp’s commitment to inclusivity.

3. Language and pronouns 

Promote the use of inclusive language and respect for pronouns. Encourage staff and participants to introduce themselves with their pronouns and use gender-neutral language when addressing groups. Display pronoun badges or stickers as a visual cue for inclusivity.

4. Inclusive facilities

Ensure that your camp facilities are gender-inclusive. Provide gender-neutral restrooms or make accommodations to ensure privacy and comfort for all campers. This small change can make a big difference in creating an inclusive environment.

5. Programming and activities

Review your camp’s programming and activities to ensure they are inclusive of all participants. Offer a diverse range of activities that cater to different interests, skills, and abilities. Avoid gender stereotypes and create opportunities for campers to express themselves authentically.

6. Support systems

Establish support systems within your camp. Train staff to be knowledgeable and supportive allies for LGBTQ+ campers. Provide resources, such as LGBTQ+-inclusive books, films, or websites, and make them easily accessible to campers and staff who may be seeking information or support.

7. Celebrate LGBTQ+ pride

Recognize and celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride during camp sessions. Organize special events or activities that highlight the importance of inclusivity and acceptance. Incorporate LGBTQ+ history and role models into educational programming to foster understanding and respect.

8. Communication and feedback

Encourage open communication with campers, staff, and parents. Create channels for feedback, questions, and concerns, ensuring that everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and discussing any issues that may arise. Actively address and resolve concerns promptly and transparently.

9. Staff recruitment

Implement inclusive practices during staff recruitment. Promote diversity and actively recruit LGBTQ+ staff members. This will not only provide role models for LGBTQ+ campers, but also contribute to a more inclusive and supportive camp culture.

10. Ongoing evaluation

Regularly evaluate and reassess your camp’s inclusivity efforts. Seek feedback from campers, staff, and parents to identify areas for improvement. Embrace a continuous learning approach, adapting your practices to better serve the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals.

By implementing these strategies, you can create a camp environment that embraces diversity, promotes inclusivity, and supports the LGBTQ+ community. A camp that values and respects every individual will provide a memorable and enriching experience for all participants.

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