BY HEATHER MARLETTE
I know I promised to return to normal after my last more personal and kinda preachy (I can admit it…) blog. This is nowhere near that level, but I do need to take a moment to get out some personal joy I experienced this past weekend and there is no better way to do that than to write it down right? Trust me, there isn’t. Sometimes you can’t think of the words to express the great things you have seen or heard or learned, but personally I can’t always think of the words to SAY them to people, I can to write them. SO here it goes.
I am not a nature type person. I have always hated pretty much all things that have to do with nature, like sweating from the heat, being hot, being cold, and rocks in my shoes, insects, arachnoids, and animals of all types, mold, fungus, trees, and leaves. Well, not all things – there was a time when mud puddles were some of my favorite toys, but I am Heather and these things happen. I NOW hate mud puddles as they make my feet wet, and that could make me cold and that sucks. So needless to say, though I did enjoy playing outside when I was a kid, I liked to do it on pavement, in very populated areas. Other then my excursions to the county fair for 4-H things, I didn’t want to do wilderness or camping and I didn’t. This is important to bear in mind because the place that literally made me happier than happy can be was a camp. Like a real camp. For a woman whose catch phrase is “I don’t BELIEVE in nature” this is strange, right? It could be, and the decision to go was not one I made lightly.
I got an e-mail from the Pride Center of the Capital Region that if I was interested, they were looking for counselors for their first ever summer Leadership Day Camp for LGBTQA Youth. I love the work I do with my Youth Group kids, and I knew a few of them were going. Also, the Pride Center of the Capital Region is staffed by people who are very good at their jobs, but more than that by people who every day go out and try to make a difference through their professional and personal lives. These are people who astound me every day, who do what so few are willing to do and do it publically. They are honestly amazing people who I love to work with and learn from literally every time I see them or work with them. Then there are the kids. Going into this I only knew a quarter of the kids going to the camp, but the ones I did know, they are amazing. They are these kids who stand up and say no, we aren’t normal and we won’t bend to the pressure of society to try and make us normal. We aren’t going to lie down and date people of the opposite sex until we get to college to make you happy. These kids, anyone who meets them could never believe the things you hear about kids today. They aren’t the mean little cliques who exclude anyone outside of the bubble they have made for themselves. They are the kids who stand back, look around to see who is being excluded and then walks over and sits down with them. I could write blogs and blogs, and books full of the greatness of these kids, just the ones I knew going in. Now that I went and met the rest of them – well, neither my talent is good enough or my life long enough to write the praises of the kids I was privileged enough to meet this weekend.
Anyway – I got this e-mail and at first was like UM yeah, is that gonna be in a Hotel or Nature, because I think we are having a definition issue here – camping for me is where it’s not my sheets on the nice actual bed and it’s not my preferred brand of toilet paper. Then I realized it was a day camp, so there was a pause in my immediate NO. I have been behind this idea since the start. A camp where LGBTQ youth and their allied friends can come and relate to each other in a completely safe environment – that is an idea I can completely get behind! So, despite my loathing and chosen methodology of not believing in nature I said Yes – sign me up Scottie…more accurately sign me up James, but I digress. So I signed up. Now, I did this in typical Heather fashion, so the week before I was out until late each night leading up to and running around to get ready. We went, and I have never done anything like a leadership camp before, as a youth or adult and it was a little nerve wrecking. What happened in actual detail that is for the youth and adults that were there. I can say that at the end, looking at these kids sitting in a circle debriefing the first year, begging for it to go longer, I was very emotional. I don’t like to cry in front of people, and managed not to, but these kids and this staff, and my fellow volunteer AC’s, and the EMT/nurse/tech who also came as a volunteer…words cannot describe the bond I feel with them all. If any of you have seen a new saying on twitter #hotterthanhot, and if it is annoying you, e-mail me, I will do the whole cheer for you and you can blame my partner in crime, fellow crew AC and new platonic life partner/soul mate for it.
In all seriousness I saw that future LGBTQA youth isn’t waiting to take up the fight when we are gone, they are already joining in. The best feedback I heard from a camper was that he woke up for it on Saturday morning going oh yeah, going to gay camp – but left after the whirlwind two days just having gone to camp. There were specific workshops geared towards LGBTQ issues of course, and it was a constant conversation topic. However, many of the kids don’t see this as anything special, because they are members of the LGBTQA community, and they don’t see it as weird to talk about it or learn about it. So these kids signed up for a LGBTQA Leader Ship Day Camp, and really just got a Leader Ship Day Camp. There were some issues here and there, things we could do different, maybe even better. But every single kid learned, had fun, made a friend, and felt like they final had a place where they were free to be them, that it was okay to like who they like, identify however they identify and know that there is honestly no judgment and no fear. That my friends was a beautiful beautiful thing, and unless you have seen something like it, you may understand what I am saying, but it may seem cheesy to you, because you do not get it. Watching them, I kept having this quote from my all time writing mentor Superstar Joss Whedon (told you, will almost ALWAYS bring it back to him) in an introduction video in 2011, he said “…I want to make some noise. I want to make a joyful noise, I want to make too much noise. I want the neighbors to complain. I’m tired of being polite about something that matters.” Yes I do Mr. Whedon, and so I have been and what I learned this weekend is so do this amazing adults and youth, and so we have and so we will.
Now, I would say I promise next time will be a normal sarcastic/sassy blog, but apparently I was wrong last time so I make no promises. Thank you for indulging!