Exploring the diversity of the LGBTQ community - Ten Oaks Project

Bridging Camp Ten Oaks and Project Acorn

Rae Woodhouse

Camper since 2006 and Youth Advisory Committee since 2013

One of the best decisions I ever made for myself was choosing to go to camp.  I was only 8 years old my first summer at Camp Ten Oaks.

While I knew that that this camp was for kids with LGBTQ parents, I mean, it’s kind of hard to miss the giant pride flag waving in centre camp, it wasn’t my primary motivator. What really made me want to go to camp is that I heard you got to make candles.

But it was the sense of community, and the family that was created during that one week in the wooded forests of the Gatineau Hills, that made me fall in love with the Ten Oaks Project.

I’ve learned so much over my summers at Camp Ten Oaks. I could tell you about how I can now to start a fire or to do the best make-up for the all camp drag show. But much of what I’ve learned has been about diversity and acceptance – how many other people get to meet a trans 8-year-old or a 12-year-old who has newly come out as gay? Being a camper has opened my eyes to the diversity within the LGBTQ community, to the diversity of the group I’m a part of.

I come from Ottawa which is generally a very accepting city where there’s a lot of queerness.  Staying up late at night talking with my cabin mates, hearing what they faced at school or at home, made me realize that I often wasn’t faced with the ostracization that others face. There are so many of my friends who only have Ten Oaks as a connection to the queer community and the queer aspect of their lives.

I’m now 16-years-old and after 7 years at Camp Ten Oaks I feel like I’ve graduated and need to go on to the next step – Project Acorn.  This will be my last summer at Camp Ten Oaks and my first at Project Acorn.

This year, I’m actually helping to organize Project Acorn and I’m the youngest person on the Youth Advisory Committee. I really want to help create a bridge between the two programs, and given that queer spawn are not yet hugely represented at Project Acorn, I’m striving to represent the needs of kids after they age out of Camp Ten Oaks. I know I’m not the only one who feels lost when their time at Camp Ten Oaks is coming to an end.

Us kids of queer families go through a lot of questioning about where we fit in the queer community. When you turn 15, 16 or 17 you’re less and less associated with your parents. I felt like I had to figure it out and justify my connection to the queer community because I’m not queer. As a teenager, you don’t necessarily make the effort to be a part of a queer program because you don’t feel there’s space for you.

People forget that I have to come out all of the time – about my parents!  I’ve been having to do this since I first started school.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had that awkward coming out conversation. You know which one I’m talking about, “No, I don’t have a dad (sigh). I have two moms.”

I have built a community of my own at Camp Ten Oaks and it’s one I want to carry through during my time at Project Acorn. It’s not just for me, it’s for all the other kids with LGBTQ parents who are like me, too.

I don’t know what we’d do without the Ten Oaks Project. The Ten Oaks Project has shaped the person I am today.