Modern Family

The brave new world of gay and lesbian parenting

Camp it Up!

Summer camp for our kids pays big rewards.

Let’s face it: We’re outnumbered. Statistically speaking, there just aren’t that many of us gay men and lesbians raising children when compared to the larger population. As gay people, we’re a minority; factor in child-rearing and we’re a minority within a minority.

Most of us may remember from our earliest coming-out days the exhilaration of stepping into an environment where we experienced the lived reality that we were not alone. It may have been walking into our first gay bar, or attending our first gay pride parade, or checking out an LGBT organization. Whatever it was, there’s nothing quite like the moment when we see reflected back to us the faces of people like ourselves—and we felt less alone.

Our kids, too, know what it’s like to be part of a minority. They scan school and neighborhood and don’t see a lot of other children with gay or lesbian parents. Despite what they might say— despite their protestations of feeling comfortable with who they (and we) are, despite their affirmations of love for us, despite their stated contentment with the friends they have in their lives—they likely walk through their days with a sense of being, in this particular way, an outsider.

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Which is why the experience of gay-oriented summer camp can be transformational for them. At a gay-oriented summer camp, our kids will experience themselves as not the minority; for the first time, the reality of being raised by a lesbian or gay parent (or parents) will be the norm. For possibly the first time, they will be able to talk to other kids who will simply understand, who will offer a look of recognition that cuts through any separateness and aloneness they may at times experience. And for the first time, they can know that there is a tribe out there in which they hold membership, whether they want to embrace active membership or not.

It’s not too early to start thinking about one of the gay/lesbian camps that take place each summer, whether for your family as a group (“family camp”) or your child individually. Consider it a loving gift to your son or daughter that can echo positively through a lifetime.

Here are some of the camps that offer programs worth considering:

Northern California: http://www.campitup.org/

Northern California: http://www.tawonga.org/weekend-programs/keshet.php

Southern California: http://www.uucamp.org/camps/2013/Private/Rainbow%20Family%20Camp/...

Midwest: http://entecha.no-ip.org/dotnetnuke/rfgl

Pacific Northwest: http://www.camptentrees.org/

Ontario, Canada: http://www.camptenoaks.org/

Massachusetts: http://www.openviewfarm.org/

 

Aaron Cooper, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with The Family Institute at Northwestern University.

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