Feb 14, 2019

Posted by: Emily Reilly

Notes from Noah: A Home For Everyone

In January, we received an email from a parent asking us to consider adding an additional choice for gender on our application. I responded by saying that there should be an additional choice, and that, for three years now, I have been requesting this from the company that makes the program we use (CampMinder).

I took the opportunity to share with this family more about the approach we take towards gender inclusion at Ranch Camp, including several of the programmatic shifts we have implemented over the past three summers. As I was writing, it occurred to me that these are things I want everyone in the Ranch Camp Community to know.

I am proud of the efforts we have made towards non-binary gender inclusion. Until 2016, age units at Ranch Camp were divided into boys’ units and girls’ units. Campers of different genders rarely attended programs together, with the exception of all-camp events and evening programs.

Now, what was once “boys’ village” and “girls’ village” are now “North Village” and “South Village.” Units are grouped by grade. Except for cabin programs, activities are gender-inclusive.

Since 2016, our staff members have completed a training in gender inclusion, for which we brought in the best people we could find. Last Summer, that training was designed and implemented by our Program Director, a trans man who has delivered a similar program to a national audience of camp professionals.

Last summer, a camper came out to his bunk as transgender. It was an ongoing conversation with the child’s parents since he started attending Ranch Camp. After three summers in girls’ bunks, he will now be in a boys’ bunk for 2019. I’m so very proud that Ranch has become a place for people to find themselves in this way.

We have just received the go-ahead to move forward with a capital improvement project for which the first item on the agenda is to have bath and shower rooms in each village that are divided into boys, girls, and a third for family and gender nonconforming campers, staff, and guests. Villages will then be split by age.

Camp Tawonga in CA is offering a gender-neutral bunk option this summer. When they made the announcement, I was proud to be among a community of Jewish camps that are applauding their initiative.

This was a long way of saying that it is not OK that, among the first questions in our application, is one that immediately compromises our vision for an uncompromisingly inclusive community.

CampMinder is working on the issue, which is more complicated than it might seem, because the coding is based significantly on a binary gender system. In a discussion thread on this topic, one camp professional put it this way: it takes a longtime to undo all of the binary-ness in the system. Which is a pretty perfect metaphor for society at large, I suppose…

Shalom u’vracha,