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‘Queer Camp’ aims to provide camaraderie, safe space for LGBTQ youth

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Even though legislation barring transgender girls from playing on girls’ K-12 sports teams sits in limbo, advocates for LGBTQ youth say won’t stop their work.

The Indiana Youth Group says that LGBTQ youth need safe spaces right now — that’s why the group isn’t waiting on legislators. Instead, they are taking a step forward by creating Queer Camp, a summer camp for young LGBTQ people.

For nearly two months, state legislators and voters have debated a measure that would keep transgender girls from playing girls’ sports in school. The measure has made it to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk. Holcomb vetoed the bill on Monday, but Indiana House leaders say they will try to overturn the governor’s veto.

The proposed legislation got people thinking — people like Belinda Drake, director of youth services at Indiana Youth Group.

“We’re just at a place where we’re trying to create access and opportunities for LGBTQ youth ages 12 through 24,” Drake said.

Initial ideas included an LGBTQ basketball or kickball league. Unable to put a league together quickly, the group opted for another valuable experience: summer camp.

“It gives young people the opportunity to come together, learn some physical activities, also learn team building, discipline, hard work. What it means to get up and be at a certain place at a certain time. So again, that discipline piece,” Drake said.

According the the Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention among young LGBTQ people, roughly 40% of LGBTQ youth considered suicide in 2021. They reported feeling that way not because of their sexual orientation, but because of how they are treated and perceived in society.

“Our job is to create that safe space for LGBTQ youth [to] not only to learn from our staff, but from their peers, and to find that sense of belonging, which ultimately helps us reduce those suicide rates amongst LGBTQ youth,” Drake said.

The camp is open to LGBTQ youth between the ages of 12 and 17. Drake says response to the camp is already growing.

“We need spaces for LGBTQ youth to thrive, live their best life,” Drake said.