Simply put, Unirondack proudly identifies as queer run organization. All three of our executive leaders are LGBTQ, our leadership team is predominantly LGBTQ, and the majority of our staff identify with queerness as well. While Unirondack has always claimed to be a welcoming place for all, we have taken concerted steps in the past decade to analyze our organization through a new lens from the perspective of queer leaders surrounded by incredible allies. We’re proud of our policies and norms that seek to actively raise voices of LGBTQ folks in our community and call into question norms created by gender norms and heteronormativity.

We have found the gender binary is a norm that many of our campers don’t feel fits their identity, and we seek to question and challenge these norms whenever possible and realistic. While understanding that our camp operates within the context of a greater world, we believe that camp can be a place where rules around gender, sexuality, orientation, and identity can be rewritten and self-discovery and love for one’s self can be truly embraced and celebrated. We also believe that these perspectives benefit all people, not just those who identify as LGBTQ+ and we welcome straight and cis folks to be a part of the learning with us. Through this solidarity, we believe a better world is possible! Strong allies to our cause are vital to a greater goal of gender equity for all!

So what does this look like?

Gender-Inclusive Cabins: We believe that we were the first summer camp in the nation to offer gender inclusive cabins in a general summer camp setting back in 2013. We now offer gender-inclusive cabins for all sessions and as a default. Single-gender cabins are still available by request.

Alphabet Soup: LGBTQ+ Affinity spaces are invaluable to our youth regardless of their identity. We offer discussions on a daily basis for campers to drop in to during free times. Often these discussions welcome allies and accomplices to the table, and occasionally we reserve these spaces for LGBTQ+ only folks. Alphabet Soup discussions are offered with staff but often guided by our campers and their ideas.

Gender-Inclusive Restrooms: Unirondack does not have any single gender restroom facilities. We do have many single-stall restrooms and showers, but our two main showerhouse rooms are open to folks of all genders.

Pronoun Usage: We strongly encourage our campers to offer up their gender pronouns whenever introductions happen. During all new program gatherings, on nametags, in emails, and during orientation activities we make sure that all our staff make mention of the pronouns they use, making it comfortable and normal to ask and be corrected when mistakes happen.

Norms and Expectations: We recognize that our campers are not all LGBTQ+, nor would we want them to be! We believe that having open arms to all campers provides a space for learning and creating a harmonious world of exploration and understanding. However, we do make a habit of calling out toxic masculinity, incorrect pronoun usage, and heteronormative assumptions. Our staff are trained and discuss regularly the ways this looks like and what the best methods are for compassionately calling our campers into the conversation.

Unirondack Trainings: Our Camp Director and Program Director (Kris Fiore and Caleb Seguin) have each presented on topics of LGBTQ Inclusivity and Toxic Masculinity at the ACA’s Tri-State Camp Conference both in 2019 and 2020. Tri-State is the largest gathering of summer camp professionals in the world and Unirondack is proud to be representing our beliefs as a guideline for other camps to follow.

If your camper identifies as LGBTQ+, we want you to know that they are safe at Unirondack. Of course, we are not perfect. We uphold policies we do not believe in because of greater social norms or business practices, we are also constantly facing the outside influences our campers come to camp with. But we promise we care. Not because we are allies to the cause, because we are a part of it.