Coming Out at Camp

The goal of this lesson, designed for high school aged Counselors in Training, is to create a space for participants to think critically about how accessible camp is for those who are LGBT. At the end of this lesson, participants will be able to identify the difficulties of coming out in the camp environment, evaluate whether their camp is a safe and comfortable space for someone to come out at camp, and create a coming-out ceremony for camp.

September 9, 2013

By Rabbi Rachel Ackerman

LESSON 6: Coming Out at Camp

Goal:

  • To create a space for CITs (Counselors in Training) to think critically about how accessible camp is for those who are LGBT.

Objectives: At the end of this lesson, CITs will be able to…

  • identify the difficulties of coming out in the camp environment.
  • evaluate whether camp is a safe and comfortable space for someone to come out at camp.
  • create a coming-out ceremony for camp.

Materials:

  • Copies of “A Coming-Out Prayer for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender

People and Those Who Love Them” (Appendix 4H)

  • Pencils/Pens
  • Paper or Computers

Core Activities:

  • 25 minutes—Movie Discussion and Applicability to Camp
  • 35 minutes—Creating a Coming Out Ceremony

 

1) Movie Discussion and Applicability to Camp
25 minutes
The CITs should gather in a circle for this discussion. The facilitator should ask:

-What are your reactions to Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish Day School?
-What in the movie surprised you?
-With whom do you most identify in the movie? (Shulamit, Rabbi Lehmann, Shula’s parents, Shula’s friends, other gay students, students who took issue with Shula’s sexuality, etc.)
-What did you think about Rabbi Lehmann’s transformation throughout the movie?
-Were any parts of the movie particularly emotional for you? If so, why?
-What are your thoughts about the Open House?
-Does it matter that the Open House is not a Gay Straight Alliance?
-Do you think the work is done at New Jew? Why or why not?

NOTE TO FACILITATOR: Make sure that at least 15 minutes of the discussion are reserved for the following questions pertaining to camp:

-Without naming names, do you think that there are people at camp like Shula?
-Do you think that there are people at camp afraid to come out? Why or why not?
-Is camp a safe place to come out?
-If or when people come out at camp, how do you think the camp community will respond?
-Are you comfortable with your peers and/or counselors coming-out at camp, why or why not?
-What types of struggles does someone who is considering coming-out face at camp?
-What types of struggles does someone who is out at camp face?
-Do you feel that you have a responsibility in terms of fostering an environment where people feel safe being LGBT at camp? If so, what is your responsibility?
-What are ways that this camp community is not a safe place for someone who is LGBT?
-What can you do to foster a safe space for anyone at camp, regardless of sexual orientation?

2) Creating a Coming-Out  Ceremony
35 minutes
The facilitator explains: At one point in the documentary, a student came out to Miss Tanchel, and Miss Tanchel responds “Mazel Tov!” Miss Tanchel explains that you wish someone “Mazel Tov” on a happy occasion, and this was one.
Judaism marks many transitional moments with ceremonies, such as brit milah, brit bat, or a baby naming at birth, consecration upon beginning religious school, b’nei mitzvah, confirmation, marriage, etc. Coming-out is a huge transitional moment for an individual.

The facilitator should break the CITs into groups of no more than five or six. Each group will create a coming-out ceremony that could be used at camp. Each group should read over “A Coming-Out Prayer for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People and Those Who Love Them” (Appendix 4H) for inspiration. The CITs should consider the space that would be used, what songs and prayers might be included (you may need to write your own!), as well as what types of rituals would mark the occasion (is there challah, grape juice, special foods, an immersion of some kind, a piece of jewelry that is distributed, etc? Who is involved in the ceremony: rabbis, educators, fellow campers and/or counselors?

At the end, the facilitator should have each group briefly share their ceremony. These ceremonies will later be edited and finalized for Yom Lilmod Ul’lameid.

APPENDIX 4H

A Coming-Out  Prayer for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People and Those Who Love Them
Adapted from the siddur of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav (San Francisco, CA;  www.shaarzahav.org), “Prayers, Poems, and Songs.”

 

O God of truth and justice, the evasions and deceits we practice upon others and ourselves are many.

We long only to speak out and to hear the truth, yet time and again, from fear of loss or hope of gain, from dull habit or from cruel deliberation, we speak half-truths, we twist facts, we are silent when others lie, and we lie to ourselves.

Whether we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning, family or friends, we sometimes feel forced to pretend to be that which we are not, to present ourselves in ways which are not truthful, and sometimes with outright lies.

But as we stand before You, our words and our thoughts speed to One who knows them before we utter them. We do not have to tell untruths to You as we are often forced to do in the world. We know we cannot lie in Your presence.

May our worship help us to practice truth in speech and in thought before you, to ourselves, and before one another; and may we finally complete our liberation so that we no longer feel the need to practice evasions and deceits.

(From Kulanu: All of Us: A Program and Resource guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Inclusion)

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