Gender Inclusive Practices

Overview of Gender Inclusive Practices Ocean Park Camp is committed to creating a space where all campers can participate in authentic self-expression and be celebrated for exactly who they are. As a United Methodist camp and retreat center we uphold the belief that trans*, non-binary, and queer campers are part of God’s good creation.

We believe that camp is a place to learn about the outdoors, to take risks, to try new things, to have fun, and to build community. We believe that childhood is a time of great learning and discovery, and we want every child, youth, and young adult to have a safe(r) space to learn about themselves and those around them.

We know that for some children, youth, and young adults this is harder than for others. Some statistics:

  • 42% of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year (2021 Trevor Project)
  • 50% of trans and non-binary youth have considered attempting suicide in the last year; 20% attempted suicide (2021 Trevor Project)
  • 64% of LGB students feel unsafe at school due to harassment and bullying (Egale Canada 2018)
  • 78% of Trans* and non-binary students feel unsafe at school due to harassment and bullying (Egale Canada 2018)
  • 84% of trans* youth have never played a team sport (Egale Canada 2018) Significantly:

LGBTQ youth who have access to spaces that affirm their identity are significantly lower risk of attempting suicide.

When asked to list what things bring them joy LGBTQ youth listed (among other things): Art & creative expression, chosen family, connection with other LGBTQ youth, faith & spirituality, having supportive & accepting friends, music, theater, physical activity, and seeing LGBTQ role models in their community.

Gender inclusive practices allow children to be children and put their focus on: outdoor living skills, music & drama, arts & crafts, canoe, rock wall, archery, sports & games, pool, campfire, and faith & spirituality, without having to focus on if they can safely exist in the camp space.

Our inclusive practices in general: 

  • Gender neutral washrooms at camp
  • Gender segregated washrooms continue to exist at camp for campers who require a gender-segregated spaces (e.g. for religious reasons)
  • Two styles of cabin for our Middle School and High School age camps: single gender and mixed gender cabins. Mixed gender cabins will only be available if we have enough requests to create a full cabin group of four campers. We believe that a cabin group with fewer campers is not conducive to campers having a full camp experience that includes sharing and bonding with a community.
  • Campers may change cabins once at camp if they are not “out” to the person who registered them – the person who registered them will not be informed of these changes
  • Names & pronouns on introduction
  • No activities or teams are segregated on the basis of gender
  • Private change areas in all cabins
  • Special care requirements for identity affirming undergarments, prosthetics etc. are respected and provided for in a timely manner

For more information on why gender inclusive spaces are important check out this video from Chris Rehs-Dupin of Transplaining an organization that we work with to ensure that our Camp can be the best it can be for trans*, non-binary and queer campers.


Ocean Park Camp wants to acknowledge that it can be hard and vulnerable work to learn more about trans*, non-binary and queer identities. Many of us have been raised by our schools, churches, politicians, and families to believe that trans*, non-binary and queer people are wrong and sinful. This is not true, and it doesn’t make our world better to ignore these issues. Thank you for taking the time to learn, stretch and grow. It means the world to us, our campers, and our staff. If you have any questions about these policies please reach out to our director: Greg Clensy at [email protected], 360-665-4367 and we will be happy to clarify any of our policies.

Please know that we will not debate the existence, presence or lives of trans*, non-binary or queer campers or staff. Please do not ask our frontline staff (deans and counselors) about our policies, they are focused on making camp fun, safe and wonderful for the campers and they will simply direct questions to Greg so that they can go back to being awesome for the campers!


Trans* – a person whose gender does not match up with their sex assigned at birth. An asterisk denotes that there are many trans identities.

Non-binary – a person whose gender is something other than the binary genders of woman and man (girl or boy)

Queer – a person whose sexuality is not straight or heterosexual. E.g. lesbian, bisexual, gay, pansexual, asexual, demisexual.

Trans boy – A boy whose assigned sex at birth was female.

Trans girl – A girl whose assigned sex at birth was male.

Sex assigned at birth – When a baby is born doctors look at their genitals and from that decide that someone is male, female, or intersex (have male and female sex characteristics). Society then assumes that their sex characteristics determine how they will live in the world: a girl or a boy. Some people may learn over the course of their life that these things do not match up.

Cis – a person whose gender matches their sex assigned at birth. Example: someone is born with a penis, they are said to be a boy, they are happy with that gender, and it feels like an authentic expression of self.

LGBTQIA+ – an acronym to encompass as many people in the trans* and queer community as possible, acknowledging that there are many different identities that make up this group of gender and sexuality minorities. Stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Asexual.

Gender Minority – People who are marginalized or oppressed because of their gender and whose gender is considered important and valuable less often than other genders. For example: trans* people and non-binary people.



How will counselors be assigned to cabins? 

Counselors are asked before the start of the camping season which cabins they are comfortable leading and sleeping in just like campers. A single gender cabin will be led by a counselor of that gender. With single gender and gender minority cabins a counselor from these gender groups will be assigned. A mixed gender cabin could have counselors of any gender. All our staff aged 18 and older undergo police record checks and provide us with multiple references.

How will middle school and high school campers be assigned to cabins? 

During the registration process the registrant may choose to sleep in two different styles of cabin: single gender cabin (which includes trans* and cis campers of a single gender i.e. trans girls and cis girls) or a mixed gender cabin (anyone). If the camper chooses only one option that is the cabin, we will place the camper in. If the camper chooses more than one option, we will place the camper in any of those options. If the camper chooses more than one option but has a strong preference for one particular type, there is a comment space where you can add that preference.

When cabin assignments are done campers will be placed according to these selections. Other factors that influence cabin assignments are: cabin mate requests, staffing capacity, accommodation of medical needs, age etc. Campers will not be assigned to a gendered cabin that they did not select during the registration process (check out “Will campers be allowed to switch bunks once they arrive at camp? for information about switching cabins).

Will you be asking campers and staff to share their pronouns during introductions?

Campers and staff are invited to share their name and pronouns during cabin and large group introductions regardless of which style of cabin they are in. Campers and staff do not have to share their pronouns if they do not want to and with an absence of pronouns will simply be referred to by name. Campers and staff may change their name and pronouns as often as they would like, and staff are trained to offer the opportunity to share names and pronouns regularly throughout the week.

If my camper asks to use a different name or set of pronouns will that information be shared with me?

No. The unique experience of camp is that campers are able to explore who they are away from their families. They may try things out temporarily at camp like: playing forward during soccer rather than defense, wearing make-up, not eating any vegetables, singing on stage, a new name, different pronouns. All of this is part of healthy development and does not need to be shared with the camper’s adult. In our experience, campers will want to tell you EVERY SINGLE DETAIL about what happened at camp down to what color their favorite water noodle is. If they feel that it is time to share these things with you, we trust that they will.

What we will do:

  • Encourage your camper to share this new development in their life with an adult they trust outside of camp
  • Make a plan with them for how they might share their news safely and who they know they could go to if something went wrong
  • Contact the proper authorities if there is a concern that they are in danger of harm who then contact you as they see necessary – a mental or physical health care provider, social worker, police, or children’s aid society as appropriate
  • Alert you that your camper could benefit from a mental or physical health care provider without telling you the details at the discretion of your camper

Will campers be allowed to switch bunks once they arrive at camp? 

Yes. Campers switch cabins for a variety of reasons – accessibility, conflicts within the cabin that cannot be resolved, and because the cabin that they were assigned to does not fit their gender. All our cabins are staffed with excellent staff who are trained in creating a community atmosphere and who are excited to create a warm and welcoming experience for a camper that may just be discovering who they are for the first time. We are happy to listen to campers and respect what they know about their own experiences even if they have not yet felt ready to share that experience with the people they live with.

If my camper changes their cabin during their session will that information be shared with me? 

No. Campers may choose to share that information with you themselves. We do not have a policy of sharing with guardians/parents if campers change cabins for other reasons and the same applies here.

As with campers who use a different name or pronouns at Camp than in their home life we will:

  • Encourage your camper to share this new development in their life with an adult they trust outside of camp
  • Make a plan with them for how they might share their news safely and who they know they could go to if something went wrong
  • Contact the proper authorities if there is a concern that they are in danger of harm who then contact you as they see necessary – a mental or physical health care provider, social worker, police, or children’s aid society as appropriate
  • Alert you that your camper could benefit from a mental or physical health care provider without telling you the details at the discretion of your camper

How will my camper’s privacy be maintained in the cabin? 

At Ocean Park Camp we have several cabins that include a single washroom in the cabin. Our mixed gender cabin is among those cabins. Still, even campers in single gender cabins may want increased privacy for changing. A private changing area is in each cabin for those campers who want extra privacy during changing. For campers who require gender affirming undergarments or prosthetics we recommend that they come with a bag that can be kept in their bunk and easily brought to washing machines or the health center for care and cleaning throughout the week as needed. Counsellors are trained on privacy measures like: speaking to campers who may need extra support away from the larger group, sharing with all campers important privacy information and making it known that privacy measures are for all campers not just campers with “exceptional requirements”, and setting out rules on respecting privacy including a camper’s right to not be touched by others without permission (even in so-called benign ways like hugs or high fives), that campers stay out of each other’s bunks, and staying out of others’ belongings.

How will you be ensuring the safety of all campers in their bunks? 

A staff/camper ratio of 1:10 or less for our campers is always maintained. Staff are in-cabin or just outside the cabin during vulnerable times like changing. Counselors have been trained to prioritize the safety of campers over the curiosity or discomfort of another camper. To be a little uncomfortable is a good way to grow, feeling unsafe is traumatizing. If there is a chronic issue of bullying in a cabin, steps will be taken to attempt to resolve the issue at camp but if this is not possible the camper doing the bullying will be sent home.

What about showers and bathrooms? 

There are lots of bathroom options at Camp. This is what they are:

  • Seashore, Seacrest, Seafoam: one multi-occupancy washroom, one single-occupancy bathroom/changing room. These three cabins also use the Shower House for bathrooms and washrooms.
  • Shower House: Twelve single-occupancy shower/bathroom/changing rooms
  • Sandpiper: four completely private bathroom/changing room, four semi-private (curtain over doorway) shower rooms with one shower (with curtain) and one sink
  • Sand Dollar: four toilet stalls with open spaces at bottom and top (like typical toilet stall), 4 single-occupancy showers in two rooms
  • Dining Room (Sea Breeze): two multiple-occupancy bathrooms with 5 total toilet stalls with open spaces at bottom and top (like typical toilet stall) in Seabreeze.
  • Health Center (Beachcomber): one single-occupancy shower/bathroom/changing room for campers.

Campers using the bathroom during the camp day bring two buddies and let a staff person know (preferably their cabin counselor unless their cabin counselor is not available) which bathroom they are going to.

At night campers use the bathrooms in their cabin. In the evening when the most traffic is happening around the bathrooms there are many staff available near the bathrooms.

Campers may always opt-out of showering if they would like (unless hygiene dictates a shower in which case staff will figure out a way with the camper that they can shower in a way that is comfortable for them). Counselors are trained to make the choices very clear and to make that it is a choice very clear.

Won’t gender-inclusive cabins encourage romantic relationships? 

There is no way for us to say that romantic relationships cannot occur at camp. That was true before incorporating gender inclusive practices and will remain true. That said, there are many ways that we can ensure that if romantic relationships develop, they are safe, healthy, and minimally physical while at camp:

  • Campers are not allowed in each other’s beds – this is a cabin rule that already exists
  • Campers are always supervised and if they are not directly supervised, staff have been told where the camper is going and staff will check-in if camper(s) have been gone for more time than whatever activity they are doing should require (i.e. grabbing a sweater, going to the bathroom)
  • Staff talk about consent with campers as part of everyday activities including: climbing, low ropes, and swimming

Campers that choose the mixed gender cabin are most likely to choose it because they are in a gender minority or because they are going to camp with a sibling or other family member. Additionally, single gender cabins do not necessarily prevent romantic relationships from forming. Some Ocean Park campers are from the queer community and would form romantic relationships with the same gender. We have not encountered issues with this. Forming romantic relationships is not why campers come to camp and they are much more focused on the jam-packed day of activities keeping them busy than seriously pursuing a romantic relationship at camp. This does not change because of the gender make-up of the cabin.

Won’t creating gender inclusive spaces encourage more kids to change their gender? 

There are no medical or psychological studies that support this claim. Most campers will not even notice most gender inclusive practices as being specifically ‘gender inclusive.’ Many campers, regardless of gender, want a private place to change, all campers deserve safety, privacy, respect for their body and belongings and a place to sleep at night where they feel safe and respected. Campers are so focused on their own camp experience that they likely will not even notice the changes.

What if my camper has questions or concerns about these practices before or during camp? 

We love questions – as long as they come from genuine curiosity and are asked in a respectful way to the right people! If your camper has a question about our gender inclusive practices prior to camp, we are happy to speak to them or you in whichever way they feel most comfortable. If they have a question during camp they can ask their counselor, the Chaplain, the dean, or even the Director who will happily answer their question to the best of their ability. We are happy to answer questions about how we make these practices work, to clarify misunderstandings, and even to share why this is important to use. In all our conversations we operate with the understanding that trans*, non-binary and queer campers are loved and valuable and

that we will do our best at Ocean Park Camp to ensure that they know this to be true through our gender inclusive actions and not just our words.

Isn’t this a lot of work to accommodate a very small number of people? 

There are two assumptions at play here that are both very understandable: one, that this is a lot of work and two, that it is for a very small number of people.

Ocean Park Camp thankfully does not need to change too many policies to put these things into action. We already supervise our campers closely, privacy, consent and respect for other’s bodies and belongings are already part of our cabin rules. Campers of gender minorities already come to camp, and we do our best to create spaces that are safe(r) for them. We are added private changing spaces to our cabins for the sake of all of our guests, and we created the option in our computer for a mixed gender cabin. That is not really a lot of new work.

These changes will benefit everyone at camp. Campers want privacy for changing. Campers want to feel safe at camp. Campers want to know that if they run out of things like clean underwear or menstrual products that these things can be dealt with in a discreet and timely manner. Families of kids of all genders are looking for mixed gender spaces for their kids so that their children can feel safe and supported at camp. Gender inclusive practices make the lives of all our campers better, because when you design with the most inclusion possible or for the most vulnerable people possible you benefit many more people than if you design for the narrow and assumed norm.

Allowing my child to be housed with someone of the opposite gender is against my religious or cultural beliefs. Will this be considered when making cabin assignments? 

Yes, there will still be a cabin option for single gender cabins – all boys or all girls cabins. Trans girls are girls and trans boys are boys so single gender cabins will include both trans and cis campers.

What resources do you have that we can share with our camper before the camp session? 

Why are gender inclusive policies so important – a video by Chris Rehs-Dupin from Transplaining – warning this video includes hard statistics and may be tough for younger campers or campers who are trans*, non-binary or queer to hear:

Find Transplaining at for more information and resources!

The Trevor Project has great resources about what gender identity is, exploring your own gender identity and how to be an ally to trans* and non-binary people all designed for youth specifically: The Trevor Project also has counsellors that youth can access if they want to talk to someone about their gender identity or sexual orientation

This Buzzfeed list has many books on gender for young children: and your local library will likely have some (or many or all) of these and others so ask your librarian for their recommendations!

Why is your camp taking a side on such a politically charged issue? 

Our campers are not the ones making their existence political, adults are. We are here to support and protect the safety, privacy, health and joy of our campers, gender inclusive policies do that.

We wanted to send our kid to camp to have fun, not to learn about these types of issues. Can you ensure this will not disrupt their childhood? 

We are right there with you! We cannot wait to have all our campers focused on fun, taking well-supported and safe risks, learning about the outdoors, practicing their spirituality, doing cartwheels on the beach, making art, shooting archery and singing campfire songs! Gender inclusive practices will allow all children to have this experience and that is exciting!

We are also a space of education and growth so things like celebrating our authentic selves, having conversations about gender if campers have questions, learning about the lives of others and talking about justice are all part of our camp experience. This is great news because childhood is about learning and growing and becoming an awesome adult that will make a positive impact on the world. We promise that this will, as it has always been, be mixed in with all the silliness, play and friendship that you are thinking of!


Register For Camp

With many different programs to choose from, we know your child will have an amazing time at Ocean Park this summer.