Today, I am going to tell you about a project I had the privilege of visiting two weeks ago. At Camp Brave Trails, youth are encouraged, supported, and challenged to be themselves. It was clear being at camp that there is a need for safe spaces for vulnerable youth; we are making a tremendous impact in the lives of these children.
Organization: Brave Trails
Location: Los Angeles, California
Context: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, or those perceived as LGBT, are often teased and bullied by their peers. They struggle internally to understand their sexuality and some may even feel out of place in their own body. Frequently, these youth are isolated and lack allies, friends, or a support system to love them for who they are and help them love and accept themselves.
Background: In 2015, Jessica Weissbuch and Kayla Ryan started Camp Brave Trails, a leadership camp for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth and their allies, after seeing a need for a space where LGBTQ youth can feel proud and empowered. It is the first of its kind in Southern California and one of only nine in the United States. Here, young people gather to develop the leadership skills that will empower them to change their communities. In just two years, the camp has doubled in size reaching 80 youth.
Current Status: In March 2016, GO Campaign approved a grant for $20,900 to Brave Trails. These funds sponsored all the activities for youth during their two weeks camp such as leadership workshops, outdoor activities, socials, and more. Camp was from July 3-16th and thanks to GO’s support each camper had an amazing experience and is now poised and ready to be leaders and advocates in their communities.
From a really young age, I was aware that I was unlike most other children around me. When I was nine, I realized I was not in the body I was supposed to be in. I was transgendered. My parents figured it was a childish “tomboy” phase and let it go, but I was struggling. I received numerous hate and death threats; people even told me to kill myself. The fear, loneliness, and depression enveloped me. In an attempt to please everyone, I started acting and dressing very feminine. Unfortunately, these actions caused me depression to worsen. Eventually, I gave up faking it and decided to just be me. When I was in the 7th grade, my parents became upset at my decision to be myself. They went as far as completely ignoring my existence for a solid month. To this day, they fail to make efforts to understand and accept me. I learned about camp in the 10th grade. Attending Camp Brave Trails was by far one of the best experiences of my life. Prior to camp, I had little to no self-esteem or confidence. Brave Trails give me the ability to not only love myself, but help others open their eyes and hearts to those around them. I am excited to be able to help other LGBT youth at my school feel safe so they can come out and be who they are as well.
*Name has been changed to protect identify of this child.