Why does CQW need a policy about Gender Inclusion?
Our primary motivation at Camp Quest West is to provide an excellent summer camp experience for all kids, and especially those who may not feel welcome at other camps. We are openly Humanist and vocally tolerant of all but recognize we may be alienating some campers by reinforcing social norms related to the binary idea of genders- that all people are either males or females. Among biologists, social anthropologists, sociologists, and many people’s experience, there is a growing consensus that sex and gender identity exists along a spectrum and, sometimes, individuals may change. Alienation of trans youth and other non-binary campers can be overt, like bullying, which we already address as part of our rules. But it can also be unintentional with very uncontroversial things like cabin assignments, cabin names, pronoun use, bathroom designations, and the very common practice of splitting up campers into groups of boys and girls for activities for no reason other than expediency. We at CQW feel it is important for us to address this issue and set an example making sure that all campers are welcome and respected at our camp and in our community.
WHAT ABOUT BATHROOMS?!
Well, this is the easiest one. All single occupant bathrooms at the camp facility will be designated as Gender-Neutral and available for use by any person, regardless of gender. If the availability of single occupant bathrooms presents a problem in certain parts of the camp, or at certain times, multi-stall bathrooms may be re-designated as single occupant stalls temporarily. All conventional social norms about respect, modesty, and civility apply.
Will boys and girls sleep in the same cabin?
Most won’t, but for the small number who opt into a gender-inclusive cabin, yes. When a camper is registered, parents will have the option to choose a cabin that corresponds to their camper’s gender or a gender-inclusive cabin. Those campers who choose the gender-inclusive option will be assigned to a cabin that will have others who made the same choice, regardless of sex. This cabin will either have a single-occupant bathroom or else be as close to one as possible. Just like all other cabins at CQW, they will be fully supervised and have staff present and organizing their activities 24 hours a day.
What if my child presents as one gender, is passable as that gender and doesn’t consider themselves “trans?”
When you select “Other” as a gender in the registration form, you will be presented with all three cabin options: Boy, Girl, or Gender-Inclusive. We will reach out directly and discuss the best option for you if the gender-inclusive cabin is not a good fit for your camper.
If my camper identifies as gay, but otherwise considers themselves cis-gender, should they be in the gender-inclusive cabin?
Campers who identify as gay should feel right at home registering for the cabin that corresponds with their gender identity. Cabin assignments are not about validating anyone’s sexual preference, but about creating a safe and comfortable place to call home for a week. We assume gay campers have been participating in camp and have been assigned to the same gender cabins for years whether or not they have identified themselves and this policy isn’t intended to change that.
What does this new word “cis-gender” mean?
The Latin prefix “cis” means, “near,” or, “on the same side of. “ It is used as the opposite of “trans” which means, “moved,” “crossed over,” or “across from.” “Cis-gender” means that one’s gender identity, how they think of themselves and how they prefer others to think of them, matches their body.
Will campers change in front of each other?
What you may not know is that most kids are pretty modest and have been changing in private or under their covers already at camp for years. We don’t expect this to present problems at camp and we’ll rely on the respect, modesty, and civility of campers and examples set by staff to rule the day.
What will the gender of the staff in the gender-inclusive cabin be?
We will make every effort possible to staff the gender-neutral cabin with representatives of each gender that matches, as close as possible, the demographics of the cabin, however, logistics will dictate what is possible. Our existing policies about camper supervision and adult ratios will still be in place which strictly prohibits one-on-one monitoring of any camper in private and in bathrooms and encourages all campers to travel in groups of three or more campers.
I know my cis-gender camper would have no problem being in the gender-inclusive cabin, and I don’t have a problem with it, should I register them for it?
We’d prefer you let us know about your willingness to have your cis-gender camper assigned to the gender-inclusive cabin in the “Special Instructions” field and let us know if it is your strong preference or whether you just don’t mind. We want to reserve the gender-inclusive spots for campers who need it but will consider your strong preference if there are spots available. If we need to reassign cis-gender campers to the gender-inclusive cabin for logistical reasons, it will be nice to know your willingness and we will reach out to you directly.
What about pronouns?
Camp staff will respect the pronouns the campers choose for themselves. In the camp registration form, there will be a field to list the camper’s preferred pronoun. Our staff will do their best to use them and model to the others campers what it looks like to treat people with respect. Campers and staff who intentionally use the wrong pronouns to antagonize others will be considered bullies and that will be addressed by our leadership.
Will campers in the gender-inclusive cabin miss any part of the camp program?
No, there are certain activities that campers participate in by cabin and other activities where campers are regrouped into teams, but there will be no activity where any camper will be excluded or receiving anything less than the full experience because of their cabin assignment or their gender identity. The amount of time that campers spend in their cabin, that isn’t devoted to rest or getting ready is about one hour a day. At all times, campers in the gender-inclusive cabin will fully participate and be engaged in the CQW program.
Don’t you expect to lose registrations because some parents are not comfortable with your new policy?
Yes, but we feel it’s an important topic to address. People with concerns about this should know that for all campers assigned to their traditionally gendered cabins, this policy will affect them almost not at all. Being more inclusive and conscientious will make us a stronger and more compassionate community and we have faith that people will respond to our inclusiveness. Call us naive, but we think that because more people are welcome at CQW, more campers will be registered.
What about…everything else?
CQW already has well-tested policies and practices that deal with all sorts of behaviors and contingencies that might arise at a summer camp for children and teenagers. We have a well-trained staff, many of whom are educators and child development professionals the other 51 weeks of the year. We address things like bullying, inappropriate behaviors, camp romances, social awkwardness, special needs and anything else you can imagine might happen at summer camp as a matter of policy and practice and don’t expect that being inclusive of non-binary campers will affect any of our best practices. We’ve had gay, trans, and other non-binary campers before and accommodated them on an ad hoc basis; this step only allows us to streamline and standardize our practices.
Isn’t this a lot of work to accommodate a very small number of campers?
Nope. (And each camper is worth it)
If you have more questions, please send them to Brian Parra, President of the Board of CQW, and we will expand this FAQ with more information.