By Jackson Hare, Education & Enrichment Coordinator
Camp Queer is a weekend getaway exclusively for students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community to connect with similar students and learn more about themselves and their subsequent communities.
“Being a queer student at a Jesuit-Catholic campus can be very challenging at times,” Megan Shuey, Xavier LGBTQ+ Alliance secretary and sophomore sports management major said. “It’s important to have Camp Queer because it’s a chance for us to not only be an exclusive group of LGBTQ+ students, but also getting off campus — being in a different space and really getting to fully indulge and exist as our authentic selves, learn about each other and have fun,” she added.
During this four-day experience, students engaged in various activities focusing around a central theme of “embracing our true colors.” To interact with the theme, each LGBTQ+ Alliance board member individually planned an activity for the group, including presentations about self care, a plate breaking activity, several multicolored crafts, learning about the symbolism behind various identity flags, talking with ProudXU members and learning about queer coding and queer baiting in TV shows and movies.
First-year art major Ian McIlvain, who attended Camp Queer, emphasized that these activities were incredibly important to his experience.
“There were a lot of great events and sessions put on by the Alliance board members that were very informative and healing. They offered strategies for self care and recognizing your self worth which is very important, especially when you’re in a minority group that’s constantly oppressed,” McIlvain said.
Aside from providing a space for LGBTQ+ students to learn and engage with themes related to their identities, the LGBTQ+ Alliance aimed to make Camp Queer an opportunity for LGBTQ+ students to make connections with the other attendees in a welcoming, accepting space that welcomes authenticity.
“One of the big things about Camp Queer is not only creating a community and making people feel safe, but also helping people find friends, connect with other people and establish relationships that will last beyond the experience,” Shuey said.
For McIlvain, this goal was met with flying colors.
“Going into it, I didn’t know everyone very well, so just having that extended period allowed us to connect and have the time to get to know each other. Now, we have a group chat we still use. We’re still connected, so it really sets up that friendship. We know that if we need something that we have this group — we have these people,” McIlvain said.
Months later, this small group of students is still connected, often tossing around inside jokes that were created over the shared laughs and shared experiences they had at Camp Queer.
“We wanted people to have a chance to relax and be immersed in this environment where they are safe to be their authentic selves, to learn about identities different from theirs — maybe more about their identities — to have fun and to reinforce that their identity is valid. And, they are accepted and loved and have a space here on campus and in the world,” Shuey said.