Summer camp is a fun and memorable time for so many Canadian kids. Acquiring new skills, forging friendships and building confidence are among the many benefits. But for 2SLGBTQ+ adolescents, summer camp can be daunting.
Noah Gibson is a 21-year-old who identifies as a transgender fluid individual who prefers to use the pronouns they/them. Summer camp was a tradition for Noah and they see summer camp in general as a valuable experience. Noah was 14-years-old the first time they attended a typical gender-segregated overnight camp.
“I didn’t feel comfortable coming out to the camp and was made to sleep in one of the gendered cabins,” said Noah. “There was another camper, similar to me, that had a gender-expansive identity and we ended up connecting and being inseparable that week.”
Noah feels that if they didn’t have that one friend at that camp, they would have had a much different experience there. Noah said traditional camp was fine but Rainbow Camp®, a camp dedicated to 2SLGBTQ+ youth opened up a whole new world to them.
“At Rainbow Camp, everyone has that expansive view on gender and sexuality and everybody can be that one person to each other.”
It’s a place where youth can feel comfortable in their own skin.
Rainbow Camp® is a network of campers who feel connected and enjoy the experience together. Parents have shared stories about how the camp saved their child’s life.
Noah said, “Being a teenager can be isolating, being queer can be isolating, and being in the middle of a pandemic can be isolating.”
During the pandemic, Rainbow Camp® evolved into Rainbow Online Connection (ROC). ROC is a virtual camp for 2SLGBTQ+ youth and camp leaders. Noah, who is now the camp’s Program Director, said it’s less about camp and more about connection. ROC is about allowing participants into a space where they can see and be seen and talk to each other.
“It’s so important for queer youth to have adult queer role models,” added Noah. “A lot of queer youth and adolescents feel like a future isn’t possible for them. That’s why the depression and suicide rates are so high in queer youth.”
Rainbow Online Connection models a physical summer camp, with programs that include arts and crafts and physical fitness, mixed with workshops, educational sessions and activism with a focus on 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and issues. But it’s conducted on a virtual platform, with a weekly curriculum built around a different box of materials that are delivered to camper’s homes each week.
To ensure the program is financially accessible, Rainbow Online Connection is offered to youth ages 12 to 18 through a voluntary tier-based payment system.
Find out more and register here today.
Welcome Friend Association which governs Rainbow Camp® and Rainbow Online Connection is entirely not-for-profit. They rely on donations to run programs, hire staff and subsidize camp registration fees. Make a donation to help support 2SLGBTQ+ youth here.