LGBTQ+ Inclusion Policy
Waukeela is dedicated to the healthy development of young people. At the heart of this mission is providing a space in which each member of our community feels safe to explore and accept who they are. Therefore, we make it our duty to eradicate the discrimination, prejudice, and stereotyping of the LGBTQ+ community within our own. We understand that the world can be a tough place for LGBTQ+ youth and we strive to provide a safe haven for the healthy development of these identities; as well as to create allyship through solidarity and care.
Historically, Waukeela has been a welcoming place. However, little has been made explicit. Through the years, many members of our community have been LGBTQ+ and have discreetly served as role models of acceptance. Today, to create a more inclusive environment and to honor the efforts of those in the past, we must make this acceptance explicit.
This document seeks to state Waukeela’s position on LGBTQ+-related topics as well as establish guidelines and procedures for ensuring the wellbeing of all members of our community.
- Our Affinity Group: Waukeela has been a camp for girls. In more recent years, we have more consciously aspired to become a sort of affinity group for girls to experience the safe space they many times lack in the outside world. Every summer we become witnesses of how powerful it can be for girls to come together in a positive environment that teaches them to stand up for, embrace and lift each other. However, we recognize that not all members of our community identify as a girl. We recognize that this affinity group has never been just of girls and that trans boys and gender non-conforming people have been a part of our community for many years. At this moment, we do not wish to change the nature of our affinity group, we wish to continue to be a female-oriented community, however, we find it crucial to recognize those who are outside of femalehood as valued and important members of it.
- Current Waukeelites: When members of our community no longer identify as girls, we welcome them with open arms, and we honor and admire their path. Once a Waukeelite, always a Waukeelite.
- Prospective Waukeelites: We are always open and excited to have conversations with prospective campers and staff about whether Waukeela will be the right fit.
- During the summer: Due to the unique space campers find themselves in when they are at Waukeela it is not uncommon for them to feel safe enough to share things they have never shared before or come to realize things they have never realized before. During a camp session, if we are made aware that a camper is questioning their gender identity we assess the situation maintaining the camper’s wellbeing at the forefront of any decision we may take. All staff members are asked to notify their alley heads if a camper has confided in them, as with any other situation, the alley head, the counselor, the members of senior staff and the directors will work together to come up with a plan moving forward.
- Conversations: In the past, Waukeela has had a strict no-sexuality-talk policy between campers and counselors. While this policy protects the privacy of counselors, it has acted as a way to deter conversations about sexual orientation, forcing counselors and campers alike to hide an important part of their identity. Moving forward, we will train counselors on how to have these conversations. Making it clear that it is ok for counselors to share their sexual orientation if they feel comfortable doing so. We believe counselors are some of the most important role models in campers’ lives and we don’t want to continue a culture of secrecy that reinforces shame and rejection.
- Relationships: If campers decide to start a romantic relationship among themselves, their counselor will maintain an open conversation to offer some guidance and ensure their wellbeing. Counselors develop a relationship with campers which allows them to give them advice in a way few people in their life can. If campers decide to start a romantic relationship, their counselors will provide the support and insight which will hopefully help them back in their home lives as well. While romantic relationships are exclusionary by nature, at camp exclusion is not allowed. So if campers wish to maintain a romantic relationship, they must make sure they are not making others feel excluded and they must be mindful of conflicts that may arise around the relationship. Sexual interactions are forbidden.
During Staff Education Week, all of our staff goes through extensive training on the values we hold as a community. We establish an acceptance policy with our staff who are expected to maintain it throughout the summer. We also expect all our campers to maintain an open mind and we do not tolerate any acts of discrimination or disrespect.
Waukeela understands that we are in an ever-changing world and we commit to actively working towards inclusion and equity by constantly revising and creating policy, procedures, and plans that help us move in this direction.