Non-Binary Jubilee in the Camp Bathroom

“Teens make use of the showers,” Lewis Wickes Hine, Library of Congress, New York, New York, July 1910.

But maybe it’s non-binary Jubilee at church camp in the mountains.

Geez Out Loud · Non-Binary Jubilee in the Camp Bathroom by Jean Jeffress

The audio is a recording of the written piece by Jean Jeffress for Geez Out Loud.

Late summer – church camp!
Boy’s tent – boy’s bathroom,
Girl’s tent – girl’s bathroom,
But wait . . .
Non-binary teens! They/thems, transboys, others who won’t be forced into long-held ideas of manhood or lady-likeness – until they think about it, decide, discern.

A door opens in the gender binary wall; they flood through, exhaling a lifetime of patriarchy – “atta boy” – “that’s a good girl.”

We have an “All Gender/Single Use” bathroom. All gender. Single use.

Boys and girls brush teeth, shower at the same time; queer kids have to brush and shower by themselves or in a bathroom where they aren’t comfortable.

They break the rule – brush, shower together – of course they do.

We talk about strategies to change the rule.

The rule gets changed. I don’t have to give the Queer Theory speech I formulated in my head. The director doesn’t like the rule; it isn’t serving the ones for whom it was made.

The bathroom becomes a hangout. It’s not supposed to be. It is a salon, nightclub, and I hope that is all. They take advantage of the accommodation – of course they do.

But maybe it’s non-binary Jubilee at church camp in the mountains.

There is no location, in patriarchy and violent heteronormativity, for gender non-conforming people. No land to return.

Safety, belonging, acceptance, affirmation of personhood aren’t on a map.

They are reclaimed in a bathroom, where bodies do what bodies do – wash, release, beautify.

Non-binary Jubilee is a safe bathroom – queer space – behind the door that has opened – freedom.

The non-binary teens push the bathroom boundaries. Of course they do, because . . . teenagers. I’m not mad though. I’m proud. Those boundary-pushing kids queered camp. If we’re lucky, they will queer the world. If we’re luckier still, we will be queered and freed, even one bathroom at a time.

Jean Jeffress is a pastor and preacher working on loving the people of God. They live in Oakland, California.

Issue 63

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 63, Winter 2022, Sound the Trumpet.

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