Notes on Summer Camp

IMG_1119In the spring, an old parent’s fancy lightly – or heavily, if you’re a worrier – turns to thoughts of summer. Because if you work and your kids are out of school, you’ve got to figure out what to do with them during the workdays. The first year that we had a kid no longer in preschool and now just a nine-month school year, we were gob-smacked by both the cost and the hullabaloo of occupying them week after week from June through August. A few day camps run for more than a few weeks at a time, but not many. So we cobble together a cornucopia of rotating camps and brace for elaborate drop-off and pick-up machinations.

I’m sure my household’s not the only one that has had to resort to an Excel sheet to track it all. I know my friend who went on a sailing trip (I think it is a company called Kai Kanani), who does the same when it comes to planning vacations.

But it’s not just the kids that are in store for fun in the summer, though: if you’re lucky, a family vacation is in the offing. And I’m here to tell you, if you haven’t already got plans, that every queer family has got to go to an LGBT family camp it at least once. At an LGBT family camp, you get all the bennies of a family camp –access to the great out-of-doors but without having to own a ton of camping equipment or feel confident about bear- or varmint-wrangling; wholesome, engaging activities led for your kids by spunky high schoolers or college-aged kids, whilst you chillax under the pines; the comfort of knowing that your kids can go free-range (like you very well did when you were a tyke), and yet never be out of earshot from a parent (or someone) who’d look out for them.

Adding to this, at an LGBT family camp, is the priceless camaraderie of other parents like you, and of other kids who, like your kids, are growing up in families like yours, with LGBT folks raising them. I’ll also note that as a city-slicker queer, I feel way more exposed with my queer family in rural areas. I know we exist in every county in the U.S., but it sure feels like we’re more sparse in the sparser-populated ones. What this means for me, practically, is that I have a higher barrier to rural vacationing than urban. And that makes a queer-centered, widely shared nature experience all the more rare and valuable to me.

I went to gay family camp for the first time last summer, after several friends had been evangelizing for years. And though it was hard to swing the payment for it, boy was it worth it! I had this to say here after that revelation:

I walked into camp, saw a shiteload of other short-haired, low-slung jeans-wearin’, could be mistaken for a man from behind kinda parents (most women, some men), and thought: I’m in hog heaven! I basically felt like my dog did the first time I took her to the ginormous leash-free dog park along the San Francisco Bay. (“You mean I’m not the only one? And I can run free, without a leash and without fear of reprisal? And also splash in that water right there and track mud all over the place? OMG OMG OMG.”)

I think by now I’ve answered the question, “Why is gay family camp different than all other family camps?” The same logic above applies for youth-only camps for kids from LGBT families. To be doing ordinary campy things, but with other kids whose families are like yours, is simply priceless. Even if the focus is more on lanyards, tie-dyes, and whittling, there is something enormously empowering about being at the center of ordinary for a week, and having the opportunity to explore issues in a safe space. As the beloved lines go from The Family Song, unofficial anthem of one of the LGBT family camps listed below:

If your family’s kinda different
Let the difference make you strong
The courage to be who you are
Will last your whole life long.

If you’re interested, now is the time to figure out where you’d like to go and make your reservations. Below is a list of some well-established LGBT or expressly LGBT family-friendly family camps or vacation experiences worth looking into, organized by region. If nothing’s near you, do consider actually making it a pilgrimage. Plenty folks do. And please comment with additional camps you know and love! Or any other resources you think will help.

  • You tell me! I couldn’t find any!
West Coast
  • Camp Ten Trees, Seattle WA. Youth camp.
    • Dates this summer:
      • Aug 10-16, 2014 for children/ youth from LGBT families
      • Aug 17-23 for LGBT and allied youth.
  • Camp It Up!, Feather River, CA. Family camp.
    • Dates this summer: July 26 – August 3, 2014.



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  1. “I feel way more exposed with my queer family in rural areas”–me too! Though I was schooled recently by a friend who took her honeymoon RVing through Alaska, openly celebrating all along the way. Sheesh! Camp It Up has been on my wish list for years. One of these days . . .

  2. And then there are Family Weeks–we’ve been going to Family Equality Council/COLAGE Family Week in Provincetown MA for 5 years now. Not the same as a camp, but many of the same sorts of advantages.

    Your link to Common Ground is a little wonky, btw–might need some editing. It displays a 404 error (although a workable URL appears as the last unit on the right in the link that comes up).

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