Resources and Communication FAQs for Gender Inclusion at camp
How will counselors be assigned to cabins?
Counselors are asked before the start of the camping season which cabins they are comfortable leading and sleeping in just like campers. A single gender cabin will be led by a counselor of that gender, or a non-binary counselor. All our staff aged 18 and older undergo background checks, Safe Church training, and provide us with multiple references.
How will campers be assigned to cabins?
During the sign-in process the registrant may choose to sleep a single gender cabin option (which includes trans and cis campers of a single gender - “i.e” trans girls and cis girls, and can include non-binary campers). Other factors that influence cabin assignments are: cabin mate requests, staffing capacity, accommodation of medical needs, age etc. Campers will not be assigned to a gendered cabin that they did not select during the registration process (check out “Will campers be allowed to switch bunks once they arrive at camp?” for information about switching cabins) .
Will you be asking campers and staff to share their pronouns during introductions?
Campers and staff are invited to share their names and pronouns during cabin and large group introductions. Campers and staff do not have to share their pronouns if they do not want to. Campers and staff may change their name and pronouns as often as they would like and staff are trained to offer the opportunity to share names and pronouns regularly throughout the week.
If my camper asks to use a different name or set of pronouns will that information be shared with me?
No. 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: playing forward during soccer rather than defense, wearing make-up, not eating any vegetables, singing on stage, 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 often will want to tell you EVERY SINGLE DETAIL about what happened at camp - down to what color their favorite pool noodle is. If they feel that it is time to share these things with you, we trust that they will.
What we will do:
Encourage your camper to share this new development in their life with 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 if there is a concern that they are in danger of harm who then contact you as they see necessary - a mental or physical health care provider, social worker, police, or children’s aid society as appropriate.
Alert you that your camper could benefit from a mental or physical health care provider without telling you the details at the discretion of your camper.
Will campers be allowed to switch bunks once they arrive at camp?
Yes, though we will not switch a camper outside of the gender they registered with upon arrival. 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.
How will counselors be trained in gender inclusive practices?
Prior to camp in our staff training, counselors and leadership will take part in a training session offered by a qualified trainer as well as learn from those with lived experience when possible. Staff will have the opportunity to engage in discussion and reflection on the specific gender inclusive practices and policies at Shrine Mont Camps as led by the Camp Director. All staff training continually focuses on creating a nurturing, dynamic, safe, and spiritual camp experience. For specifics on camp training practices, please contact the Director or see our policies listed.
How will my camper’s privacy be maintained in the cabin?
Shrine Mont Camps continually makes space to hold and have privacy within a community context. You can expect that each counselor will set norms in their cabin whenever your camper arrives, specifically surrounding privacy. These norms include (but arent limited to): ways that we treat others belongings; allowing each camper their personal space as well as the space to articulate boundaries; making it known that privacy measures are for all campers not just campers with “exceptional requirements”; speaking to campers who may need extra support away from the larger group; maintaining camper privacy in medical matters; specific privacy around changing, bathroom use and other sensitive times.
Changing is a time of vigilance, privacy, safety, and efficiency at camp. All campers are asked to change in a way that offers themselves and other 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. If there are specific privacy needs to be accommodated by camp, these conversations can be shared with the Director and accommodations made. 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 washing machines or the health center for care and cleaning throughout the week as needed.
How will you be ensuring the safety of all campers in their bunks?
As with all moments of camp, we ensure continuous supervision of campers. A staff/camper ratio of at least 1:6 for our youngest campers and 1:10 for our older campers is always maintained, and no adult or camper is ever alone or alone with another individual, as we operate with a rule of 3 persons at all times. Staff are in-cabin during vulnerable times like changing, as well as stationed outside bathrooms during heavy use times to ensure camper safety. In the evening when campers are in bed, a counselor lives in a open-layout cabin alongside campers with an Out Of Cabin Counselor (or OOCC) in the room adjacent. Counselors are continually looking to care for campers and provide a safe environment to play and grow. We are trained to provide appropriate conversations that bolster inward learning, faith, and care for others.
What about showers and bathrooms?
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. Changing and showering are times of vigilance, privacy, safety, and efficiency at camp, and so all will move through these spaces safely and quickly so as to re-engage the camp day. Campers using the washroom during the camp day bring a buddy, follow the rule of three, and notify a counselor where they are heading (when a counselor is not present). Counselors are specifically stationed outside restroom facilities to monitor during mornings, evenings, showering times, and heavily trafficked times of the day; it is a general safety practice at camp to count campers whenever leaving a space, and this includes checking restrooms to ensure nobody is left behind. At night campers use the washrooms on site. Counselors clearly state at the beginning of the week, and on the first night (and often again throughout the week) that campers may wake them if they want a buddy for the washroom at night. Showering is offered either during mornings, evenings, camper freetime, or other times specified explicitly by a counselor (aka after a mud fight!). All such times are monitored by counselors for efficiency, privacy and safety. Specific accommodations can be made for showering spaces for those that need. Our shower facilities are single stalled units.
Won’t gender-inclusive cabins encourage romantic relationships?
There is no way for us to say that romantic relationships cannot occur at camp. That was true before incorporating gender inclusive practices and will remain true. Camp does continually practice ways to 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 for any reason at any time.
Campers are always supervised and if they are not directly supervised staff have been told where the camper is going and will check-in if they have been gone for more time than whatever activity they are doing should require (ie. grabbing a sweater, going to the bathroom).
Staff talk about consent with campers as part of everyday activities, and we continually enforce that part of a healthy camp body is an ability to articulate boundaries, both physical and emotional.
While we do not outright prohibit romantic relationships staff are trained to talk to campers about why starting a romantic relationship at camp is not a good idea (ie. it is likely that you will not stay in touch, it is hard to really get to know someone at camp fully).
Forming romantic relationships is often not a priority for campers; most come to camp focused on the jam-packed day of activities keeping them busy rather than seriously pursuing a romantic relationship at Camp. This does not change because of the gender make-up of the cabin.
Won’t creating gender inclusive spaces encourage more kids to change their gender?
There are no medical or psychological studies that support this claim. Most campers will not even notice most gender inclusive practices as being specifically ‘gender inclusive’, and our camp is continually focused on offering powerful and purposeful programming. In addition, gender inclusive practice continue to build our community and make camp a safer space. Many campers regardless of gender want a private place to change, look for ways to have their identity affirmed by role models, hope for a camp body that reflects their specific self, and all campers deserve safety, privacy, respect for their body, and a place to sleep at night where they feel safe and respected.
What if my camper has questions or concerns about these practices before or during camp?
We love questions, especially those that come from places of genuine curiosity. Our counselors are trained in these conversations, and specifically are trained to allow conversations to be camper-led (this is true with all conversations!). 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, the Chaplain, a leadership team member or even one of the Directors who will happily answer their question to the best of their ability. All staff will be trained to accommodate various levels of comfort and understanding of the church’s values towards gender. We are happy to answer questions about how we make these practices work, to clarify misunderstandings, and even to share why this is important to use.
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.
Isn’t this a lot of work to accommodate a very small number of people?
There are two assumptions at play here that are both very understandable: one, that this is a lot of work and two, that it is for a very small number of people.
Shrine Mont Camp has been consistently taking steps to create a more inclusive environment, and has done so earnestly since 2016. We have established long-standing conversations surrounding privacy, consent and respect for others' bodies and belongings.We have done work to build in use of others pronouns, create programming that does not rely on gender distinctions, ensure camper safety in expressing their identities, curated a trained staff that is knowledgeable about gender identity and how to walk with kids on their personal journeys, and more. Campers of gender minorities already come to camp and we do our best to create spaces that are safe(r) for them. This additional step of articulating our policies and practices is the next step, and does not include a heavy lift for camp.
These changes will benefit everyone at Camp. Campers want privacy for changing. Campers want to feel safe at camp. Campers want to know that if they run out of things like clean underwear or menstrual products that these things can be dealt with in a discreet and timely manner. Gender inclusive practices make the lives of all of our campers better, because when you design with the most inclusion possible or for the most vulnerable people possible you benefit many more people than if you design for the narrow and assumed norm. Shrine Mont Camp has long upheld the understanding of welcoming all into the Body of Christ, and this vision has served camp well. Creating more practices that uphold our baptismal covenant of respecting all persons, and more fully welcoming more people into our camp body furthers a mission driven camp that benefits all.
Allowing my child to be housed with someone of the opposite gender is against my religious or cultural beliefs. Will this be taken into account when making cabin assignments?
Yes, there will still be a cabin option for single gender cabins - all boys or all girls cabins. Trans girls are girls and trans boys are boys so single gender cabins will include both trans and cis campers.
What resources do you have that we can share with our camper before the camp session?
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: https://youtu.be/bgK55DlLWTA
Find @Transplaining on Instagram for more information and resources!
The Trevor Project has great resources about what gender identity is, exploring your own gender identity and how to be an ally to trans and non-binary people all designed for youth specifically: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/. The Trevor Project also has counselors that youth can access if they want to talk to someone about their gender identity or sexual orientation. Survey information provided is information from the Trevor Projects 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health.
Is your camp now only for LGBTQ campers?
No, Shrine Mont is not only for LGBTQ+ campers and staff. Rather, we are working towards ensuring that our Camp truly is for EVERYONE and that requires a focused correction of our past behaviors. We cannot wait to have your camper at Camp, whatever their gender is.
Why is your camp taking a side on such a politically charged issue?
The Episcopal Church has affirmed the stance of holding and valuing specifically transgender and non-binary individuals, and so our living into this spiritual direction is not a political act. We are here to support and protect the safety, privacy, health and joy of our campers, and gender inclusive policies do that. Living into our calling as Christians and Episcopalians is something Shrine Mont Camps will continue to feel at home in.
We wanted to send our kid to camp to have fun, not to learn about these types of issues. Can you ensure this will not disrupt their childhood?
We are right there with you! We cannot wait to have all our campers focused on fun, taking well-supported and safe risks, learning about the outdoors, practicing their spirituality, swimming, making art, and singing campfire songs! Gender inclusive practices will allow all children to have this experience and that is exciting news! Camp is also a space of self education and personal growth so things like celebrating our authentic selves, having guided conversations about gender if campers have questions, learning about the lives of others and talking about justice are all part of our camp experience. This is great news because childhood is about learning and growing and becoming an awesome adult that will make a positive impact on the world. We promise that this will, as it has always been, be mixed in with all the silliness, play and friendship that you are thinking of!