Texas LGBTQ+ youth find comfort in ‘Color Splash Out’ summer camp amid adversity

Feb 27, 2024 | Press Release

by John-Carlos Estrada | Tue, February 27th 2024 at 10:07 AM

AUSTIN, Texas — The death of 16-year-old non-binary teen Nex Benedict has raised alarm among Texas parents with LGBTQ+ children, especially with the recent passage of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the state.

“We already have young people who are affected by the legislation. We already have young people who have come to our camp who are now affected by the SB 14. The so-called health initiative, but restricted youth from hormone therapy and things like that. We already have teens affected by this. And it breaks our heart,” shared Yadi Martínez-Reyna, the founder and executive director of Color Splash Out, addressing the impact of Senate Bill 14 on LGBTQ+ youth.

It prohibits physicians and other licensed medical professionals from providing gender-affirming medical care to minors that went into effect in September 2023. It’s currently held up at The Supreme Court of Texas.

Texas LGBTQ+ youth find comfort in ‘Color Splash Out’ summer camp amid adversity (Credit: Color Splash Out)

As a pastor and camp director of Texas’ only LGBTQ+ and ally summer camp, Yadi expressed holding the grief of parents affected by the legislation, stating, “I hold that grief from the parents who are reaching out saying, we’re in the middle of this. This is happening to us. We are looking at what does that mean for us?”

Despite the challenges posed by the legislation, Yadi emphasized their commitment to staying in Texas and standing up for their community.

“We’re doing due diligence in seeking legal support to protect us, to guide us. As of now, we know kids who are affected by our group came, and it just breaks our hearts. So as a pastor, this is something that I hold dear to my heart and that I cannot be moved from,” concluded Yadi Martínez-Reyna.

Isabel Moya, Board President of Color Splash Out, echoed this sentiment, saying, “Because our Texas kids need this, they need this, and we can do the background. We can figure out how we can still do this camp, but we cannot move it here from Texas.”

Simultaneously, in the wake of Nex Benedict’s tragic passing, Color Splash Out, the state’s only LGBTQ+ and ally summer camp, has become a vital haven for non-binary and LGBTQ+ youth.

Originally starting with 20 participants two years ago, the camp has now expanded its capacity to accommodate up to 50 attendees.

“Color Splash Out” revolves around three core themes: arts, music, and science. Organizers of the camp emphasize the immediate positive impact they observe on the campers.

Yadi Martínez-Reyna expressed, “It started just with a camp idea for LGBTQ youth to come and have fun and just be themselves.”

Isabel Moya noted the transformation in campers, stating, “You see them one way when you first get to the camp, real shut down, real quiet. They can’t trust people. And then at the end of the camp, they’re crying, they don’t want to leave, and they have best friends and they’re so open.”

Martínez-Reyna also highlighted the camp’s commitment to inclusivity, explaining, “Even from its initial creation, we wanted to include the ally. Some of these kids wanted to come to camp, but they were afraid because they’d had a bad experience for whatever reason. And so they wanted to bring a cousin, a brother, a sister, a friend who might not be queer but wants to come to camp. Those kids who are allies also need a space to be in the community.”

This year’s theme is steampunk, focusing on the past, the present, and the individual. It empowers participants to shape their future.

Martínez-Reyna also shared, “One different thing is that when they graduate when they reach their 18th birthday when we celebrate them, we make a big deal. They come in with their cap and gowns in the middle of the variety show, and we applaud and give ’em a cake because it’s hard to make it to that phase. They can then join the Fellowship of the Unicorns, a mentorship program we’re creating, allowing them to come back, be part of the camp, and contribute to the mentorship program, ensuring continued engagement and support beyond their initial participation in the camp.”

Applications are currently being accepted for this year’s summer camp, scheduled for June. Yadi and Isabel underscore the availability of financial assistance for those in need.

As families seek supportive environments for their non-binary and LGBTQ+ youth, Color Splash Out stands as a beacon of hope and acceptance during challenging times.

This article was originally posted on CBS Austin