'Rainbow Camp' encourages teens to be themselves
Organizers want to immerse campers in supportive environment
Northern Ontario is getting one of Canada's first camps for LGBTQ teens.
Organizers say the camp for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer youth will give campers the chance to be themselves among friends.
The week-long event, called Rainbow Camp, will be located at Camp McDougall near Thessalon.
Harry Stewart started the camp with his husband. He said a camp like this would have benefitted him growing up in a small town.
"When I was growing up it was a very closed community," he said.
"The closest queer community was in Sault Ste. Marie and [I was] somewhat shy to break the ice and try to meet people. The camp is designed so that everyone is aware of who people are and just to be supportive. It tugs at the old heartstrings pretty quick when you realize that there are kids … who have no support or nobody there."
Stewart said the camp has attracted teens from all over the province. They aim to have 20 campers for Rainbow Camp’s inaugural run.
In addition to incorporating all the traditional camping experiences, Stewart said there will also be an educational component.
Deborah Woodman, a professor at Algoma University, helped plan the camp curriculum.
"[There will be] exercises where you talk about the impact that gender does have on your life," she said.
"Most of the kids that we're going to be getting at camp have struggled with this idea of being constrained within a very small box of gender."
Woodman said that, in addition to questioning gender definitions, campers will have the chance to discuss sexual health, gay rights and how to create safe spaces.
The camp starts Aug. 5.