Check out the press Tawonga received on this pilot program – and don’t miss the full-length feature in The New York Times from August 23, 2019! Our community has been very receptive to this initiative, and we are grateful for the encouragement and support to be able to center the margins for our camper community.
At Camp Tawonga, Near Yosemite, an All-Gender Cabin Offers Respite
August 23, 2019
In an All-Gender Cabin, Summer Campers ‘Don’t Have to Hide’
August 22, 2019
Why are you offering all-gender cabin options?
Providing more choices for housing allows us to accommodate more campers’ gender identities and housing preferences. This is aligned with Tawonga’s mission of allowing each camper to be their authentic selves. Our goal is to ensure that every child who attends Camp is welcomed, included and celebrated.
When did you begin offering all-gender cabins?
We piloted an all-gender cabin in 2019, and it was a fantastic success! During Session 4 in 2019, campers in our all-gender cabin, known as AG-6, bonded together, had an epic Tawonga experience and were supported by two dedicated counselors (a non-binary counselor and a male counselor). The New York Times featured the cabin and Tawonga’s gender inclusion efforts in a spotlight here.
Are you offering an all-gender cabin in any summer camp sessions and to which ages?
In 2024 we are pleased to offer all-gender cabins for rising 7th through 10th graders during Session 2 (June 16-July 5) and for rising 9th-10th graders during Session 3 (July 7-26). If there is sufficient interest in other sessions or amongst other age groups, we will consider adding additional all-gender cabins as well. ALL of our counselors are trained on how to create a safe and welcoming space for campers of all genders in EVERY cabin.
If my child is attending a session and is in the eligible grade spread for a predefined all-gender cabin, is there a chance that they could be housed in an all-gender cabin even if they don’t want to be?
No. The all-gender cabins are an opt-in program. Your child will only be assigned to a predefined all-gender cabin if you register for that program specifically. However, as a result of our bunking policy and our values as an organization, your child may be bunked with children with different gender identities than your child. For example, a “girls” cabin may include children who identify as girls, including trans girls, non-binary or somewhere else along the gender spectrum. Sometimes campers decide to rename their cabin; for example G-8 (girls 8) could become AG-8 (all-gender 8) to be more inclusive of a bunkmate who identifies as trans or non-binary. In a predefined girls bunk, you can expect that the majority of the children will identify as girls, whereas in a predefined all-gender cabin, there will be a more diverse array of gender identities.
How will you handle privacy and changing clothes in all-gender cabins?
Campers can change clothes in the bathroom, in their sleeping bags, behind a curtain which will be installed in the cabins like a fitting room at a clothing store, or in an open area of the bunk, depending on how much privacy they desire. This is a personal choice everyone gets to make for themselves.
Who should live in an all-gender cabin?
These cabins are open to anyone in the eligible grade spreads who opt in during registration. It is a great option for children with non-binary gender identity, children who prefer to bunk with children of other genders, children who want to bunk with a friend who is non-binary, and campers who feel this is the best fit for any reason. Fraternal twins who want to bunk together often enjoy living in an all-gender cabin as well. Trans campers are welcome in all bunks including the all-gender cabins.
How will you determine which cabin my child lives in?
Parents whose children are in the eligible grade spreads can register for their child to live in an all-gender cabin.
What is the bathroom situation?
There are bathhouses that have assigned areas based on gender, and campers and staff are welcome to use the bathhouse based on their gender identity. Each bathhouse also includes numerous private all-gender bathrooms (each with a toilet, sink and shower). These all-gender bathrooms are primarily for folks who don’t feel comfortable in the gendered bathhouses.
Who will be the counselors of all-gender cabins?
We will assign loving Tawonga counselors to the all-gender cabins and provide additional training and resources to them. Counselors will include staff with a range of gender identities. For example, there could be one counselor who identifies as non-binary and one who identifies as male.
Will the all-gender cabins take away from the boys and girls cabins’ bunk experience?
Not at all! Creating community within each cabin remains the cornerstone of the Tawonga experience. We know there is a lot of power in girls creating a diverse sisterhood and boys creating a diverse brotherhood within their cabins, and that isn’t going away. We will continue to train counselors that there are many ways to express gender, and all gender expressions will be accepted and celebrated in all cabins.
Will there still be diversity of gender expression within the boys and girls cabins?
Yes. Tawonga believes there is not one right way to be a girl or be a boy and encourages all campers to just be themselves regardless of what cabin they live in. Tawonga welcomes children all across the gender spectrum and assigns bunks based on a variety of factors. Our goal is to ensure that every child who attends Camp is welcomed, included and celebrated. Trans campers are welcome in all cabins.
As a result of our bunking policy and our values as an organization, your child may be bunked with children with different gender identities than your child. For example, a “girls” cabin may include children who identify as girls, including trans girls, non-binary or somewhere else along the gender spectrum.
Where can I find more information on gender diversity?
Here is a link to articles, books, and resources.