The need for camps to become more inclusive about gender is more important now than ever. Ensuring campers feel safe and accepted regardless of their gender is imperative, as kids and teenagers thrive when they are understood and free to be themselves without fear of repercussion.
How does a camp director go about providing an inclusive experience for participants? It’s all about having a deep understanding of gender, being aware of the language used in reference to gender, educating all staff on gender inclusivity and most of all, being inclusive to all.
The Power of Understanding
As the apperception of gender is constantly evolving, one must actively seek out a better understanding of the subject on a frequent basis. It is the younger generation that has a better grasp of gender and is currently defining and evolving what it is. However, the word “gender” is not to be confused with the term “sex.” While sex is assigned at birth, that does not mean that one’s gender is also the same.
On that note, gender is also different than sexual orientation. Gender is personal, as it’s how a person sees themselves, where sexual orientation is interpersonal—relating to relationships with others.
Understanding the difference between gender, sex and sexual orientation is only the beginning. Gender is a complex topic that requires constant mindfulness and an openness to the fluidity of gender diversity. It’s up to camp directors to gain a deep understanding of gender so participants can be well-cared for and feel safe.
To gain an even more in-depth understanding of gender, read “Understanding Gender” by Gender Spectrum.
The Power of Language
Language is incredibly powerful, especially when it comes to kids and teens. Being mindful of the multitude of terms within gender can make a positive difference in the lives of campers, which can lead to even greater positive impacts outside of camp and possibly for the rest of participants' lives.
Adopting the correct language helps participants feel seen, accepted and heard. While there might not be a consensus on some gender terms, as the language of gender is ever evolving, utilizing the terms correctly is incredibly impactful for everyone.
To learn about the vocabulary of gender, read “The Language of Gender” by Gender Spectrum.
The Power of Education
Educating oneself and camp staff on gender is imperative to creating an inclusive environment for all. Gender Spectrum has a Framework for Gender Inclusive Camps, and there are online programs for camp leaders, as well as a wealth of resources including a webinar on Creating Gender Inclusive Camps and a variety of blogs from the American Camp Association on supporting transgender campers and staff.
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If you are a current Camp & Class Manager user, we have included instructions on how your organization can be inclusive of all your participants. Below are different options your organization can consider when deciding how to ask registrants about gender on your registration forms:
- Use Camp & Class Manager’s pre-built registration form question for binary gender selection (M/F).
When your organization chooses to apply gender restrictions on programs, this question is used to ensure registrants are eligible based on the restrictions you have put in place.
- Choose to not collect Gender on your registration forms and simply remove the pre-built question from your form during Set-Up
- If your organization wishes to ask how a registrant identifies on your registration form but want to use an expanded list of options, simply remove the pre-built question from your registration form and create a new custom question with the question title and answer choices you want to provide families to select from.
Alternatively, your organization could offer an open-text field to give your participants the ability to specify how they identify in their own words.