NOTE: This letter was written by a participant in the Y’s Our Safe Place (OSP) program - a certified outpatient behavioral health program that provides a welcoming and supportive environment for LGBTQ youth ages 12-21, and their families. They chose to share their story to advocate for a youth camp for LGBTQ+ youth.
We’re proud to announce that YMCA Camp Raintree Ranch will host an inaugural camp specifically for OSP participants in August 2018! And we applaud Ren for sharing their story and advocating for all to have a memorable camp experience.
To Whom it May Concern:
My name is Ren* and I’m a 19-year-old, pansexual, polyamorous, nonbinary, white person who uses they/them pronouns. I have been a recipient of Our Safe Place (OSP) since the end of January 2018. OSP holds a special place in my heart as Dice, my case manager, came into my life during an extremely tumultuous time. I had just lost the support of someone who I thought was my best friend, and they kicked me out of their house where I was couch surfing. Instead, I had to resort to living in a vacant house, with a mattress on the floor and no other furniture whatsoever. I was depressed out of my mind. Not to mention, it was also during this time that I suffered a severe fall, which greatly exacerbated the symptoms of my underlying physical disability. When I felt that my life was too difficult to continue living, Dice was willing to meet with me. Their advice, their candor, and their kindness made me feel worlds better. I am so thankful my case manager is so thoughtful, and someone with whom I have a deep emotional connection to, especially because they have also dealt with grueling chronic pain. My case of homelessness is especially complicated as a disabled person because I do not fit the criteria of most housing programs, being that they want me to work full time. My case manager has been more than understanding of this factor, and they have helped me navigate this tricky system by applying to programs that don’t force me to physically hurt myself.
When my only source of drinking water ran white and gave me the runs, Dice was able to bring me a box full of gallon containers of clean water. When my numerous doctor appointments were all over North County and I couldn't afford to get to and from them, Dice was able to give me a prepaid gas card. Because of OSP, I received my very first (very expensive) packer so I could alleviate my bottom dysphoria. That was especially awesome. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am today if it weren’t for OSP and Dice.
I have always considered myself a leader. When I was too afraid speak up about being misgendered, I spoke up anyways. Not for myself, but because I wanted to let other trans people know that it was okay to demand the respect we deserve. Being able to attend a Queer Camp would mean the world to me. I long to revisit the summer camp experience that I had once during my childhood at Camp Marston. I believe it will inspire me to continue the work I’ve been doing in the community, such as giving talks on what it means to be nonbinary. (My first talk entitled “X-Ed: Beyond the Gender Binary” premiered at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in March 2018.) But more than that, I think that it will teach me to enjoy life, which is something I struggle with. Through Queer Camp, I believe I will learn wonderful new things about myself, and that it will teach me to garner the strength and bravery that I desperately need to continue working through my daily struggles. Most of all, I look forward to experiencing and connecting with the queer community in ways I never thought possible. Even if I am not selected for this camp, I would like to thank Our Safe Place and Dice for everything they’ve done for me. I’ve been blessed.
*Name has been changed to protect their privacy.
To learn more about the Y's Our Safe Place program and other programs, visit YFS Youth & Young Development.