Gender Inclusive Units
Beginning in 2023, Camp Big Canoe will begin offering campers an option for a Gender Inclusive Unit. This is to ensure that ALL campers feel included and welcome at Camp Big Canoe. We encourage guardians to have the discussion with their camper around which unit best fits their needs and comfort level. You can choose to opt into up to 2 unit options.
United Church Statement:
The United Church affirms that gender and sexuality are gifts of God, and that all persons are made in the image of God. We welcome into full membership and ministry people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. The United Church is opposed to discrimination against any person on any basis by which a person is devalued
The struggle for justice against sexism and gender-based violence, and towards justice for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations, are fundamental ways in which the United Church seeks to transform structures and systems and be faithful to God’s vision for humanity.
Even as we seek to eliminate sexism, misogyny, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, we know that we, too, are guilty of these forms of oppression. We acknowledge the roles that Christianity and religion in general play in such oppression. We hear the call to take action to end all forms of discrimination. We acknowledge that the work of justice is not just about how we treat people who enter the four walls of our church; what matters is how we treat people out in the world. We are committed to journeying to where all people live in justice and peace together.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING OUR GENDER INCLUSIVE UNITS AND GENDER INCLUSION POLICY
WHY HAVE GENDER INCLUSIVE UNITS?
Camp Big Canoe is an Incorporated Ministry of the United Church of Canada, Camp Big Canoe is a welcoming and affirming community. We believe every person has the right to identify, express themselves and live in accordance with their authentic identity. Traditionally our unit system has been structured according to an assumed binary division between male and female or boy and girl campers. Organizing our units solely according to a male/female division perpetuates heteronormative and cisnormative ideas of gender and sexuality that do not make space for equally valid forms of non-binary gender expression. For campers and staff who identify as non-binary, being asked to choose between two binary gendered spaces is harmful and exclusive. Moving forward, CBC is committed to creating a space in which people of all gender identities and sexualities feel welcome, safe and celebrated. The introduction of our gender inclusive unit option is an important step toward the creation of such a space and the welcoming of all campers.
HOW DO I ENSURE MY CAMPER IS PLACED IN THE UNIT BEST SUITED FOR THEM?
Before coming out to camp this summer, we will send out a form to be filled out for each camper for you to indicate whether or not your child would like to be placed in the gender inclusive unit. You can select up to two of the following three choices: Gender inclusive unit, Female spectrum unit or Male spectrum unit. Male and Female spectrum units will have campers who also identify or feel comfortable in these gendered spaces. There will also be the option to include a brief explanation of why your camper would like to be placed in a certain unit, although this explanation will not be mandatory. Any units may be staffed by staff members anywhere on the gender spectrum.
WHO CAN BE IN OUR GENDER INCLUSIVE UNITS? IS THIS UNIT ONLY FOR NON-BINARY OR TRANSGENDER CAMPERS?
This unit is open to campers of all gender identities! We encourage campers who would like to be in a unit with their siblings or friends who use different pronouns to opt into the gender inclusive unit. We also want to emphasize that if your camper identifies as non-binary, transgender, gender fluid or uses they/them pronouns, they are also free to choose which cabin is best suited for them. If a non-binary camper would prefer to be in a female or male spectrum cabin we fully support this decision and will always defer to their preference. Depending on the number of campers each session who choose to opt in to the gender inclusive unit, we may offer more than one such unit each week.
WHO WILL BE IN CHARGE OF THE GENDER INCLUSIVE UNIT? WHAT WILL THEIR GENDER BE?
Our policy of camper gender affirmation and inclusion also extends to our staff members. All staff and Leaders In Training (LIT’s) will be asked what units they feel comfortable overseeing and will be assigned accordingly. All of our staff have been trained in creating gender inclusive spaces and will be held accountable to a rigorous code of conduct and standard of professionalism. We are confident that any staff member or LIT charged with overseeing our gender inclusive unit will uphold our guidelines and policies regarding workplace conduct.
WHERE WILL CAMPERS GET CHANGED?
Over the next few years, CBC is working to build permanent structures for changing on each tentline. We have requested to be part of the GIFTS OF VISION funding from the UCC in order to make this a reality. In the meantime, all six of our tentlines are equipped with a private changing tent for campers to use. This ensures that campers in these units have access to privacy while getting dressed throughout the day.
WHAT ABOUT BATHROOMS?
At CBC we have two different bathroom facilities, The Elephants (our main bathrooms) and The Baby Elephants (our bathrooms by the beach). At the moment our Elephants have two sides (a boys side and a girls side), and campers are encouraged to use whatever bathroom they feel most comfortable in. All our showers are also single stall showers for campers to use on whatever side they feel most comfortable as well. Our Baby Elephants are gender inclusive bathrooms which are single stalls with a toilet and a sink.
Camp Big Canoe has a major renovation planned for our Elephants to create a number of individual washrooms (toilet/sink/shower), that will all be gender inclusive for anyone to use.
We would like to thank Alex Butler, Hannah Bawn and Maddie Stewart at Sherbrooke Lake Camp from whom we adapted this information.
Gender Identity: Every person has a gender identity. This identity is constituted by the way we choose to dress, the pronouns we use and the way we understand ourselves as individuals. Gender identity is different from sexuality which refers to a person’s sexual orientation. Gender identity is also different from a person’s sexual identity which is characterized by physical attributes of a person’s body, including their genitalia, reproductive organs and hormones.
Non-binary: Adjective. The term non-binary refers to a gender identity that does not directly reflect or represent the traits and qualities of male/female or traditionally masculine/feminine gender identities. People who identify as non-binary may feel more comfortable presenting as a blend of both male and female gender identities, they may identify with neither masculine nor feminine gender expressions or they may gravitate more towards one while still not feeling that they are a boy or a girl. Non-binary people often use they/them pronouns, although some also identify with she/they, he/they, etc. Non-binary gender identities are equally valid forms of gender expression as binary expressions of boy and girl. At camp we recognize that there is no one way to be non-binary and respect and welcome all forms of gender expression that may be considered non-binary.
Transgender: Adjective. Someone whose gender identity differs from the one that was assigned at birth. Many transgender people identify as either male or female, while others may see transgender an umbrella term and identify as gender non-conforming or queer. How transgender people choose to express their gender is individualistic, as is their transition.
For some people transitioning includes changing the way they dress, style, and present themselves. Others may not feel compelled to modify these aspects of their identity but are equally valid in their transgender identity. At camp we are committed to supporting and celebrating transgender campers and staff in every moment of their transition or in exploration of their gender identity.
Female Spectrum/Male Spectrum: Gender is often understood according to a binary division between male and female or boy and girl. This understanding of gender suggests that a person chooses one of two genders and shapes their identity both internally and externally to match. However, gender is better understood as a broad spectrum of unique identities within which an individual may feel drawn to one, multiple or no specific identities. By identifying some of our cabins as male and female spectrum cabins we recognize that some campers and staff, who may or may not use binary pronouns or identify as a binary gender, may still feel more comfortable in a cabin structured according to more overtly masculine or feminine gender expressions. Describing gender expression in terms of a spectrum allows for a space in which both cisgender and non-binary people can feel welcome and affirmed.
Cisgender: Adjective. A person whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth.
Heteronormative: This term describes ideas, practices and policies that promote and reinforce the generalized assumption that most people identify with a binary gender identity and are sexually or romantically attracted to people on the other side of that binary.
Further Reading and Resources
If you are interested in learning more about the United Church’s commitment to gender affirmation and inclusion, check out these links:
The United Church of Canada, Gender, Sexuality and Orientation,
Affirm United, Affirming Ministries: Frequently Asked Questions, https://affirmunited.ause.ca/frequently-asked-questions-about-affirm-united-saffirmer-ensemble/
The Youth Project, Resources and Information, https://youthproject.ns.ca/resources/resources-and-information/
For more definitions see: It Gets Better, LGBTQ+ Glossary,