Amy Acker, Crow’s mother, grew up going to and working at summer camps, which she saw as a powerful place for kids. “After Crow began identifying as bisexual and transgender when he was 12 and 13 respectively,” she says, “I worried that the camps I knew of would not be able to provide a safe and inclusive space for him.”
She learned of Camp One Heartland, which has been providing camp experiences since 1993 for youth facing social isolation, intolerance, or serious health issues. One counselor is provided for every two campers.
Finding a welcoming and inclusive camp was a game- changer. “I have seen how complete acceptance and celebration boosted his self-esteem and his ability to share that with other kids.” They have brought three other people to the camp.
In Crow’s Words
I had no idea that a camp for queer kids existed, let alone in my home state. It was a very welcoming experience from the start. The first interaction I had was from another camper who complimented me as soon as I dropped my bags down. I was at ease quickly and was always busy with anything from rock climbing to board games.
I heard some campers say they feel safer at camp than they do at home. We are surrounded by others who understand a lot of what we are going through as LGBTQIA+ people — the joys and the struggles. We can be ourselves without fear of being made fun of, or bullied, which is something a lot of us deal with in our daily lives. We are accepted and loved, which some campers struggle with in our own families.
Some places that are LGBTQIA+ supportive don’t really have facilities and programs set up to support our unique needs. It is important to be able to go someplace without having to worry about being misgendered, not having a bathroom to use, or being harassed or stared at.
I developed much more confidence than I had at the start of camp. I had gotten there only a few days after a big haircut and a new hair dye, and I was very insecure about it. Everyone there made me happy to look at myself in the mirror.
Queer sex ed was one activity option. Even though it seemed silly at the time — watching a counselor put a condom on his hand — it taught me things that school didn’t. Things that will keep me safe when I am older.
On a craft day, we had a different approach than your normal friendship bracelet–making activity. “Destroy and repurpose” was a sort of therapy art activity, destroying art mediums such as crayons, paper, felt — using anger — then using those same materials to express feelings. It was a really meaningful experience to me. I still have the picture on my pinboard, two years later.
My cabin cohort was extremely close, all of us bonding almost instantaneously. We all felt a deep connection in our hearts within a few days. One day outside, campers started to cuddle. More and more piled next to each other until we were all snuggled together.
We all truly do make one heart together. We make a home for each other.