Notes from the field: Inclusivity at the Y
By Liz T., Camp Counselor at YMCA Camp Tockwogh (YMCA of Delaware)
Note: This is part off a blog series authored by leaders from the ten YMCAs participating in the Biden Foundation and YMCA of the USA’s LGBTQ Inclusion and Equity Initiative. Learn more about the initiative and get additional updates here.
Ever since I was a little kid learning how to swim at my local Y branch (YMCA of Delaware), the YMCA has been an important part of my life. I first attended YMCA Camp Tockwogh when I was 10 years old, and every summer for 15 years since I have looked forward to packing my trunk and heading down to the eastern shore to find my “happy place” at this amazing residential camp. The counselors and directors at Camp Tockwogh have served as fantastic mentors and role models for me, and growing up attending camp each summer has helped me to become the person I am today.
Not only have I met some of my best friends at Camp Tockwogh, but it continues to be a place where I can be part of a diverse community. The YMCA does a fantastic job of building and encouraging diverse communities to thrive. At camp every summer I met counselors and campers from all over the United States, as well as from different countries. All of the different stories and cultures that people bring to camp build an environment that fosters growth.
As a camper I was encouraged to try new things, and expand my heart and mind to accept and learn from the differences of others. As a staff member I have felt supported and loved as a member of the LGBTQ community, as well as motivated to share my coming out story. Sharing my story with other members of the YMCA community and Camp Tockwogh staff has increased my comfort level in sharing my story with others. Discussing topics such as race, gender, and sexuality can be intimidating, but one can without a doubt count on YMCA employees and community members to carry on these conversations with grace and respect.
After coming out to my friends and family a few years ago, I returned to camp as a staff member and have been treated with the same unwavering respect as ever. Camp Tockwogh and the YMCA are places that I, as a member of the LGBTQ community, can look to for comfort and solace in an otherwise not-so-friendly world. I am proud to represent LGBTQ individuals within the YMCA, and hope that my story can provide fellow LGBTQ individuals and families with reassurance that the YMCA truly does embody their four core values — caring, honesty, respect and responsibility — and remains a diverse and inclusive community.