How to Find Out if a Camp is LGBT Friendly
If your child wants to go to a camp other than those targeted to LGBT youth and children of LGBT parents, it is a good idea to find out beforehand if it is LGBT-friendly. To do so, speak with the camp director or staff trainer and ask the following questions:
What is the ratio of staff members to campers?
The lower the ratio, the more likely staff members will be able to stop homophobia and gender discrimination when it happens. Experts, for example, say that a ratio of one staff member for every four campers is a good guideline. A ratio of 1-to-6, on the other hand, may be too high.
If the camp counts counselors-in-training as staff members, ask how their training to date differs from seasoned staff members.
In the cabins themselves, there should be at least one senior counselor to every eight campers. It is often difficult to get a lower ratio than this at night because many programs rotate co-counselors to allow for time off.
Have staff members received diversity training on LGBT issues?
Most summer programs conduct staff training programs that cover child development, health and safety and other issues. The best programs for your child also include LGBT issues as part of their diversity segment.
What is the background of staff members?
Some summer camps hire staff members who have studied or are studying child development, education or other youth-related issues. Some also require that staff members have a minimum amount of experience working with youth. Many experts suggest that a good mix of life experience and experience working with young people is important. The older a staff member, the more responsible and mature he or she is likely to be. And the more experience counselors have had volunteering with young people, providing child care, or working as a camp counselor, the more they may understand the developmental levels of young people. They may also be more likely to be sensitive, learn from others and resolve conflicts.
How diverse are the staff members and campers?
Having a diverse body of staffers and campers generally creates an atmosphere where differences are celebrated, not discouraged.
Does the program have a team-building component?
Leading campers through cooperation courses, low ropes, high ropes and other community-building activities can create a safe atmosphere to discuss similarities and differences among campers.
What is your experience with LGBT people?
If the camp director does not have contact with lesbian and gay people in his or her personal or professional life, he or she may lack understanding of how staff members need to be prepared for possible homophobia and gender discrimination.
What is the policy for handling discipline and behavior problems?
A safe, inclusive camp community requires clear guidelines for young people and staff and should include a policy forbidding language that could be hurtful to others. There should also be consistent repercussions for repetitive behavior problems.
Does the camp have a statement that forbids discrimination among employees and campers?
Like a statement of equal opportunity in employment, some camps have an additional statement that is addressed to the campers themselves. Find out if sexual orientation and gender identity are included in these statements. Also, find out if the mission statement reflects a similar respect for differences.
Finally, after you speak with the director, ask to speak to parents or young people currently or recently involved in the camp. They will give you the best perspective on how the staff handles diversity, discrimination and homophobia.