We grow relationships with self, each other, and God.
Shrine Mont Camps has been diligent in crafting safe, thoughtful practices that bolster our commitment to inclusion, specifically in regards to Gender. This effort has been undertaken in earnest since 2015. This proposal states the steps needed in 2023 for camp to be a continually inclusive space, specifically for Transgender and Non-binary campers. This includes some of our highlights!
SAFE CAMP COMMITMENT: At Shrine Mont Camps, we strive to create a diverse and safe community that welcomes campers and staff from all backgrounds. We do not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, creed, color, national or ethnic origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation in the administration of any of our programs. All camp activities will promote and maintain the personal and emotional safety of all campers and staff. We do not tolerate harassment based on any of these characteristics nor on differences based on gender identity or expression.
Statements of Intent and Theological Groundings
Shrine Mont Camps is committed to creating a space where all campers can participate in authentic self-expression and be celebrated for exactly who they are. We are a community who believes that each person is a beloved child of God, and that each of us has work to do to create a more positive, loving and inclusive environment in this world. It is the mission of our camping program to promote the emotional and spiritual development of children, youth and young adults through the fostering of a safe and positive environment for all. In order to encourage the growth of relationships for all, it is essential that we are continually working to make our environment safe for all. This includes those individuals who are transgender. As Christians, we are constantly trying to follow Christ’s word and example to love each other through our words and actions. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew22:37-39), and out of that love is born a conviction to protect all those who are a part of our camps and ensure that all programs are free of violence, fear and discrimination. We believe that whatever is done “to the least” of members of society is done to Christ (Matthew 25:40), a belief that is particularly meaningful in this time when the LGBTQ community is at great risk for discrimination. As a faith community who strives to be the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), it is our responsibility to honestly and plainly consider how our actions, policies and decisions are helping to create the environment we want to see. Shrine Mont Camps has been deeply engaged in this work for nearly a decade, and have worked within the affirming statements of the Bishops put out in 2015.
Why is this work important
We know that for some children, youth and young adults this is harder than for others. Here are some statistics:
45% of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year (2022 Trevor Project)
53% of trans and non-binary youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year; 20% attempted suicide (2022 Trevor Project)
61% of heterosexual students feel connected and welcomed in their school systems, as opposed to 48.3% - less than half - of LGBTQ youth. (CDC 2021)
59.1% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, 42.5% because of their gender expression, and 37.4% because of their gender. (GLSEN 2019) Significantly:
LGBTQ youth who have access to spaces that affirm their identity are at a significantly lower risk of attempting suicide.
When asked to list what things bring them joy LGBTQ youth listed (among other things): Art & creative expression, chosen family, connection with other LGBTQ youth, faith & spirituality, having supportive & accepting friends, music, theater, physical activity, and seeing LGBTQ role models in their community. Gender inclusive practices allow children to be children and put their focus on: outdoor living skills, music & drama, arts & crafts, canoe, rock wall, archery, sports & games, pool, campfire, and faith & spirituality, without having to focus on if they can safely exist in the camp space.
The sections below outline the many different ways to view our work in this area. This is a space that is ever growing and developing, so this document both gives general guidelines as well as some highly specific recommendations or “rules.” It aims to encompass the spirit and overall goals of Shrine Mont Camps’ commitment to inclusion, and provides overarching principles to be used when making policy decisions.
Please note that this document specifically relates to gender identity, and will not touch on sexual orientation. For more information on why gender inclusive spaces are important check out this video from Chris Reys-Dupin of Transplaining an organization that we work with to ensure that our Camp can be the best it can be for trans, non-binary and queer campers.
*Data points taken from The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health
* Data points taken from CDC’s recurring Youth Risk Behavior Survey for 2021
* Data points take from GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey
*The below policy points were in use for the camp season 2022.
As with all campers and staff, Shrine Mont Camps will curate a safe space for cis, trans, gender-fluid, and non-binary campers. Campers are continually supervised, and camp operates with the ‘rule of 3’, meaning 3 or more individuals are present at all times - with at least one of these individuals being an adult. For more information about safety at camp, please refer to The Diocese of Virginia’s page - Safe Church, Safe Communities, or feel free to contact the Director.
When campers who are transgender or non-binary want to attend Shrine Mont Camps, we will work with both the camper and the parents to ensure in advance that as much has been considered as possible. This includes cabin assignments, locations for changing clothes, bathing locations, swimming protocol and other concerns. When at all possible, we will seek openly to find suitable accommodations for all campers who desire them.
Confidentiality: We consider maintaining confidentiality around gender identity as a priority. The gender identity and surrounding issues of our campers will be treated with the same respect as a camper’s medical issues. We will endeavor to protect those who are transgender and will not disclose information about any camper or staff member except to those who fall in a “need to know” category such as camp Directors, Nurses and Chaplains.
While we do not make housing decisions except in concert with camper families, if a camper discloses that they are transgender, we will protect that camper’s privacy. Cabin staff are required to report all disclosures to their camp leadership, who will report to the Camp Director and Camp Nurse. All efforts to protect a camper’s privacy will be made, and Shrine Mont Camps will never share sensitive medical or personal identifying information with camper parents. We do not engage in the practice of calling a camper family with information about their camper’s gender expression, nor will we contact other camper families, as this is confidential information. We will never disclose information about camper’s gender identity or questions which arise during camp except to the staff members who “need” the information – such as Camp Director, cabin counselor, nurse and chaplain. Campers are allowed to self-disclose personal information, and see our FAQ section for more.
General camp practices:
In addition to our understanding of confidentiality and a general camper-based approach, our other practices include:
Single Occupancy washrooms are located throughout our campsites and can be accessed by campers. Gender separate washrooms are as of now the primary space for campers to access their restroom needs, but accommodations are offered and in place for those who would benefit. The spaces used by each camper is a conversation between that camper, their family and camp.
We currently offer single gender housing based on stated gender expression upon registering for camp. We currently do not offer a housing option for Non-binary or gender fluid campers outside of our single gender housing model.
We affirm that trans boys are boys, that trans girls are girls, and so all of our housing options provide living space for cis and trans campers. Since information pertaining to gender is considered medical information, we cannot disclose this information to parents, and thus all parents should be aware of the possibility that their camper’s cabin can have non-binary, trans, gender-fluid and Cis gendered campers.
Campers will be invited (not compelled) to share their names and pronouns on introduction, and at differing times throughout a camp session.
We do not organize activities on the basis of gender, and use other methods to separate large groups into subgroups.
Changing is a time of vigilance, privacy, safety, and efficiency at camp. All campers are asked to change clothing in a way that offers themselves and others privacy, as well as is efficient so that we can go forward in our camp day. A changing space is offered within each cabin, and campers have the option to change in whichever way respects their individual needs within our safe practices. Living in community includes learning to navigate sensitive moments such as changing, and camp is committed to navigating these moments safely and well.
Camp accommodates special care requirements for identity affirming undergarments, prosthetics, and more.
Staff are trained in creating safe(r) spaces for queer, transgender and non-binary campers and staff. This includes building a staff body that reflects this diversity.
Family Systems and housing:
We know that sometimes a child comes to terms with their gender identity before their parents, which can cause confusion and conflict in family relations. When determining cabin assignments of campers who are minors, we defer to the gender assignment that parents/legal guardians specify and cannot deviate.
However, we will endeavor to be supportive and open with all campers, regardless of gender identity. If we have a camper who identifies as a different gender than indicated on official documents, we will seek ways to accommodate and respect the camper in other ways besides cabin assignments, such as using preferred pronouns and creating safe space for the camper to discuss their identity with the chaplain.
Practices in this area include:
When a camper or potential staff member is identified as transgender, genderqueer or nonbinary, the Director of Shrine Mont Camps should contact them (or – in the case of a minor – their parent/guardian) to initiate a conversation surrounding our culture and practices so that questions and concerns may be addressed prior to the start of camp.
Dress code should reflect our openness to LGBTQAI+ campers and we endeavor to ensure it is not unduly gendered or restrictive.
Considerations should be made to manifest our values visually so that they are clear to all who interact with our programs (such as, “safe space” images on the door of the Staff Office and on our website, etc.)
We acknowledge that some of our camps are better suited to transgender campers, such as St. Andrew’s, Explorers the Great, SHYC or Family Camp. This is due to the existing housing and bathing facilities at these programs. However, we will work with any family to find a right fit if they want to come to Shrine Mont Camps.
Knowing Our Limits
We know that there may be times when the answer to a question or request may be “no” or “not yet.” At this time, we cannot directly accommodate campers who wish to reside in an all-gender housing space, those who are in conflict with their families surrounding gender identity per their housing assignment, or honor the request made by campers to amend their accommodations mid-session. Other limits may be discovered over time. When we recognize that we are venturing into an unknown or “not yet” area, attempts will be made to suggest alternative programs that would be a better fit than Shrine Mont Camps at this time.
Shrine Mont Camps wants to acknowledge that it can be hard and vulnerable work to learn more about transgender, non-binary and queer identities. Many of us have been raised to believe that trans, non-binary and queer people are wrong and sinful. This is not true and it doesn’t make our world better to ignore these issues. Thank you for taking the time to learn, stretch and grow. It means the world to us, our campers and our staff. If you have any questions about these policies please reach out to our Director James Williams. email@example.com and I will be happy to clarify any of our policies. Please know that we will not debate the existence, presence or lives of transgender, non-binary or queer campers or staff.
Please do not ask our frontline staff (counselors) about our policies, they are focused on making camp fun, safe and wonderful for the campers and they will simply direct questions to James Williams so that they can go back to being awesome for the campers.