Camp Manitou is funded in part by Healthy Child Manitoba, the Winnipeg Foundation and the Rainbow Resources Center. It is a place for GLBT youth to be themselves without fear or being ostracized for who they are. It includes regular activities like biking, wall climbing, and even workshops like improv. For those that are uninterested in traditional camp activities, there is even an introduction to drag workshop.
Adolescense is a difficult time of life and for LGBT youth, it can be even more complex because we have socially decided to privilege heterosexual, cisgendered bodies. Camps like this are important because they help to assure these kids that no matter what their sexuality or gender identity is, that they are normal and should be included in our society as equals. I think this is a great contrast to those organizations that attempt to brainwash children into believing that they are not gay.
The camps attendance has gone from 30 in 2008 to 39, however; they do not gauge their success by the number of bodies in attendance. For the camp, it is all about the difference that it makes in the lives of TLBG youth. We continually speak about “the best interest of the child” and yet few activities or organizations like Camp Manitou exist, which means that BLGT youth often fall through the cracks. It would seem from Camp Manitou’s success, that it is a model, that should be repeated across North America.
I cannot imagine how difficult it is for LGBT youth to grow in small towns. This is not say that there is an open acceptance of gender variance or gays and lesbians in large cities but at least there are neighbourhoods that are decidedly more accepting. This is further problematized by the fact that schools rarely teach that families exist outside of the heterosexual norm. I have flipped through my childs textbooks and have yet to see a book with two mommies or two daddies, thus affirming that had it not been for the dedication of his father and I, he would not be aware of their existence.
I believe that Camp Manitou provides a wonderful respite from the heterosexism and cisgender normalization that occurs throughout society. It is my hope, that in the years to come, that there will be no need for such camps. It is my fervent wish, that we begin from the earliest age, to teach children that everyone matters, despite gender identity or sexuality. Tolerance should not mean special camps but an equal integration in our society.