Summer camps for gender-whatever kids: Expanding or shrinking horizons?

Summer camp was a formative experience for me as a child. I’ll never forget the counselors who taught me archery, how to steer a canoe, and the right way to build a campfire. Swimming, singing, and giggling with new buddies, away from the watchful eyes of parents—all of it was magical, and crucial to my girlhood.

Perhaps most important was the chance to get to know kids from outside my own little neighborhood and school. Sharing adventures with youngsters from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds and ways of seeing the world, expanded my view of what was possible.

In the past several years, summer camps have been established for young (5-12 year old) children who define themselves (or who are defined by others) as “transgender.” Most of these camps also make a point of welcoming kids labeled as one (or more) of the following in publicity materials:

  • gender nonconforming
  • gender expansive
  • gender creative
  • gender variant
  • gender independent
  • gender fluid

I’m going to collapse this unwieldy bundle of terms into just….gender-whatever.

I doubt I’m unique in my baby boomer nostalgia: running around in scruffy shorts and a T-shirt, getting dirty, and playing a variety of games with both boys and girls, without the need for anyone to define me as gender-whatever. I mean, just exactly what has happened the last few decades, while we slumbered through the gender-fication of childhood?  Evidently a bunch of entrepreneurs found a new way to make money and influence kids by defining girls and boys who don’t “conform” to stereotypes as “expansive” or “creative.”

What does this even mean? There must surely be only a tiny number of school-age kids who “conform” to what—only wearing dresses and hair ribbons, and playing with Barbie Dolls if you’re a girl? No tree houses, Capture the Flag, or cavorting in the mud for you, young lady! Or only playing with trucks and dinosaurs if you’re a boy? No long hair, pink, or dress up for you, young man!

Now, “transgender” kids—we know what that means. Kids who are called by “preferred pronouns,” who are “affirmed” (the latest buzzword in activist/gender lingo) that they really are the opposite sex; the ones on blockers, the socially transitioned.

But the fact that they market these camps to the gender-whatever kids, not just trans kids? What do these activists think happens in regular summer camps for (ugh) “cis” kids? You don’t see ads for Camp Cis Kid.  Gender Uncreative Campfire Kids? Camp Gender Invariant?

We are talking about summer camp here, not school, where maybe the rules of behavior might be a tad more rigid–although public schools are anything but “gender conforming” anymore. (Do any public schools require girls to wear dresses or skirts these days? How many force girls into home economics, cooking, or typing class, with only boys allowed to take auto mechanics or shop? Answer: NONE.)

What would a “gender conforming” girl do in summer camp? Sit in a corner and sew doll clothes? As I recall from my own long-ago camp escapades, kids pretty much wore whatever and behaved however they liked in camp. It was kind of the point of it —to try out different stuff, do different activities. Have fun, you know, with all kinds of kids?

In recent years, “inclusion” has become the norm in classrooms and other children’s activities. For instance, you don’t stick the kids with autism, or Down syndrome, or a physical difference in a separate classroom or group. You include them with all the other youngsters. In fact, ensuring the “least restrictive environment” for all children is a matter of law in many places, because we want kids who are somehow different to be included and accepted by their peers. The goal is to encourage everyone to know and make friends with diverse others.

These camps are going in exactly the opposite direction by segregating kids in a separate summer camp based on their “gender expression.” Having an exclusive camp for young gender-whatever and “trans” kids reinforces the idea that they are different—so different, that some are encouraged in the notion that there is something wrong with their bodies that will have to be medically changed in the future. What does it actually do for these kids, to get the message that they don’t “conform” (to WHAT?) and need to go to camps only for kids like them? Conversely, how does it serve kids who do “conform” (to WHAT?) to attend different camps than their gender-whatever peers?

Let’s take a look at a couple of camps I’ve found for young gender-whatever and “trans” kids.

A cursory look at the promotional material and website for Camp Aranu’tiq shows…kids. Kids roasting marshmallows, climbing walls, canoeing, swimming. Kids doing gender-whatever stuff with other kids.

aranu'tiq home

The camp has garnered quite a lot of media attention, including from Katie Couric and Caitlyn Jenner. It was founded and is currently managed by Nick Teich, who identifies as a trans man and also works for the National Center for Transgender Equality.

In a story last year in the Huffington Post, Teich offered some insight into the reason for establishing Camp Aranu’tiq. It seems to mainly come down to bathrooms and bunkmates:

 Well, I started the camp for transgender youth in 2009. I myself am trans and I didn’t fully realize it until my early 20s, about ten years ago. Now that that the climate has changed and the Internet exists, more trans people are finding their identities and issues affirmed online and they, and their families, are discovering resources earlier. I went to camp as a kid and I really found it a formative experience for me.

As I got older, I started to think about kids who know they are transgender or gender-variant and how they could possibly go to camp. I found out from talking to some parents of trans youth that most camps were not equipped to take their children. Many camp administrators didn’t feel comfortable because they didn’t know where they could place the kids in terms of bunking them or which bathrooms they could use. And so the parents were told, “We can’t possibly do this, the child will have to go elsewhere.” Around that same time I was volunteering at a weeklong charity camp and when I told them that I was transitioning, they said I couldn’t come back for the good of the kids. So that was unfortunate. It was learning about trans youth’s lack of access to camp coupled with this incident of discrimination that motivated me to start Camp Aranu’tiq.

I sympathize with Teich’s experience of being let go from working at the charity camp. Trans-identified people should not be discriminated against in employment or housing. But I wonder about the bathroom/bunkmate issue. Do the “gender-whatever” kids just choose whichever bathroom and bunkmates they want? Do they get to switch around while they’re at camp? After all, they’re “variant” and maybe even “fluid.”

While Camp Aranu’tiq has been in operation for several years, Teich and others have raised money to purchase 115 acres of land in New Hampshire for a new camp facility. The site lists four individuals as “trustees” for the fundraising campaign (which they say is 65% towards its $3.6 million target), a veritable Who’s Who of the trans illuminati: Activist-author Jenny Boylan, WPATH president and activist Jamison Green,  founder of the first US pediatric gender clinic at Boston Children’s hospital Norman Spack, and PFLAG activists Marsha and trans-son Aiden Aizumi. (Some readers may recall a post of mine from last year about Ms. Aizumi and her Advocate profile, wherein she discussed her difficulty with accepting her then-daughter’s lesbianism, but came to embrace her child as a trans man.)

trustees for fundraising

A second camp for young kids is Camp Born This Way, which was featured on PBS affiliate Arizona Public Media in a 2014 story. Like Camp Aranu’tiq, the camp welcomes “gender variant” and “gender creative” kids. Were these children also “born this way?” Are gender variance, gender creativity, gender independence and all the rest of the gender-whatevers mutable traits, or does the camp’s moniker only refer to kids who think they are the opposite sex?

BTW fashion show

The fashion show photo reminds me of my own times playing dress-up as a little kid. I well remember putting on shows for my family. My kindergarten haute couture comprised princess gowns, cowboy chic, and mixed-gender attire. Odd that in the 1960s and 1970s, there was no special camp for those of us who were “gender creative.”

Lest anyone insist that gender-whatever kids are about much more than toys and clothes, a “Born This Way” parent says this in the news article:

 Kerrie had a baby boy five years ago. But growing up, her child wanted pink underwear for potty training and liked wearing sparkling dresses and high heels at childcare.

“We really just thought, ‘Our child is a creative spirit and loves this stuff, it’s bright, it’s fun,’ and we didn’t really think that much about it,” said Kerrie, who asked her last name not be used.

She and her husband would buy their child boy and girl clothes, trucks and dolls. The parents didn’t want to interfere with their kid’s current likes.

“As parents we thought, this is something that our child is interested in and there is no reason to discourage it,” Kerrie said. “Around the time that our child was three and a half or four years old, he started asking for clothes, like dresses, that he could wear to school, wanted to wear them every day. He wanted to be called a girl, he’d always say, ‘I want to grow up and become a mama and have my own babies.‘”

The group has helped clear many of Kerrie and her husband’s doubts and concerns.

“Our biggest value as parents is to raise a child who is confident, who is intelligent, who is kind in the world,” Kerrie said. “We raise our child as a girl, she goes by a new new name, she likes to be called a girl, she likes to have long hair, to wear dresses. In talking to people and to our family, I always say, ‘Our child is the same child she’s always been,’ we just understand who she is.”

Born this way? Either way, the camp counselors will be there to set things straight:

At camp, adults speak about concerns and successes, kids participate in activities seen at any other summer camp. And volunteers, many of whom are transgender adults, are there to advise the parents, and to ensure families that they can overcome any challenge.

45 thoughts on “Summer camps for gender-whatever kids: Expanding or shrinking horizons?

    • I think it literally is sending your kids to a cult.

      Also, when I see these videos on You Tube of tween & teen girls shrieking “Not a Girl” I think of several of the more troubled girls i knew in junior high and high school, who were unhappy with the changes from puberty. Even girls who were not unhappy with growing up &/or being female went through a bumpy ride in the teen years.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Isn’t Nick Teich the woman who showed up for a volunteer gig at an Outward Bound type camp for kids with learning disabilities and demanded that all the children must remember to call her by “non-binary” pronouns? And when told that was going to be too challenging and distracting for the kids to remember she threatened to sue the all-volunteer organization? Didn’t she then threaten to sue a same-sex dating website owned by gay men for their policy against allowing males to contact the bisexual women who were using the site to meet same-sex partners? Didn’t she accuse them of discrimination against “men seeking women” and threaten to sue the gay men?

    What a piece of work.

    “At the beginning of camp, kids get a name tag and lanyard to wear around their neck. It has their name and preferred pronoun on it, but Teich said that they see a lot of changes in names and pronouns midweek, when kids get comfortable.”

    Gosh I wonder if those midweek changes tend to go in a particular direction?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yikes, what a piece of work. Bad enough that she pulls the special snowflake nonsense on regular kids, but suing a volunteer group for not making special needs kids (who already have a hard enough time as it is) call her by her make-believe pronouns is pretty low.

      And she says it’s “discrimination” against het men for bisexual women not to want to be contacted by said het men on a dating site? Hey, I think we just found the cotton ceiling for bisexuals.

      Seems like that site has good policies.


  2. Oh this is such a mess. Wow.

    I did not have a good time at summer camp. My brother was deeply in love with our church’s camp up in the mountains, and I was supposed to follow in his footsteps. The first year I went I was so miserable that when the flyers came out advertising the next year I collected any I saw come in the mail and hid them in my closet. Please don’t send me back. Pleeeaaaasse.

    But they did. Only one more time though before I was off the hook.

    I remember feeling as strange and alone there as I always had, multiplied exponentially by having to sleep in a cabin with 8 other girls who were complete strangers. I only have flashes of memories from those two weeks, but one vividly returns: this “more mature” blond girl (I think we were all around 11 or 12) showing off her new bra and encouraging everyone else to do the same – if they had one. I was the only one who didn’t, and was terrified afterwards of changing in front of them. They were all on the girl-train and I was way behind, lost at the station. I did have some good times, made some neat crafts, learned to swim a little better, but it really was a highly *gendered* experience for me – in that there were still boy/girl social roles cropping up all over (the boys and girls mostly had separate activities, as I recall – this is back in the late 80’s) that kept making me uncomfortable.

    But what I SURE didn’t need was a camp telling me I could be a girl or a boy or a whatever and screwing up my head about who and what I was. Gender-free-for-all is not the answer, especially not when they all seem to lead to a “transgender” identity in the end – and we know where that goes. Just more confusion and dissonance and difficulty. I don’t understand how people get so confused between the insanity of “You can be a boy or a girl or whatever!” versus the compassion and, yes, *inclusion* of “You’re a perfect girl (or boy) just as you ARE.”

    While typing this I just remembered, for the first time in ages, our cabin supervisor for one of those weeks at camp. She was sporty, had a short hair cut, big eyes and a big smile. What would have helped me most would have been her reaching out to me individually, giving me a role model, a young woman I could connect with and look up to, who could have brought me into the circle of the other girls as someone acceptable and not so strange. I don’t remember interacting with her at all, but I could have forgotten, or maybe I was so terrified I was unreachable there.

    Teaching people “some kids are gender-whatever” isn’t the answer. Teaching people to be compassionate and open-minded and yes, inclusive, very much is.

    Liked by 6 people

    • thissoftspace, Your story reminds me of a “Mission Trip” that i joined in Mexico. I signed up to help build a basketball court. I was pretty disappointed to find out that I had been re-assigned to kitchen duty and room clean-up instead. None of the boys were assigned these tasks. I talked to my friend’s Dad (who as a firefighter and one of the lead volunteers for the project) and he spoke out and advocated for me so that I could join the boys and help with the digging and other physical duties involved in building the court. I ended up being a major asset to the team as I was stronger than some of the teenage boys and I was determined to pull my own weight. My friend’s Dad took notable pride in my efforts and my friend, who was a feminine teenage girl and preferred to not work inside and out of the heat and dust , was also very supportive of me. This was a Baptist group and it felt great to be able to have the chance to participate as an equal in a way that I felt that i could best use my talents. I wish that you could have had someone like that firefighter to help you to get the chance to participate in doing the things that you wanted to.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, many people who could have serve as mentors to LGB youths, tend to avoid these roles and may even distance themselves completely to avoid interactions with a child perceived to be LGB. Homophobia and/or the fear that someone will accuse a mentor of influencing the youth’s sexual orientation causes many adults to feel uneasy with developing a bond with LGB kids.

      Maybe the youth counsellor that you mentioned felt the need to keep her distance for similar reasons. It is difficult to say. I know that there are plenty of LGB people in the churches, even very conservative churches. They tend to live lonely lives and remain in the closet and some never act on their feelings of same-sex attraction. They feel that they must do this for religious reasons but also in order to keep their community ties and to not be rejected by their families.

      My immediate family is very homophobic and although it has gotten better since my niece came out, I was always very careful to keep a certain distance. I never spoke of my sexual orientation and I never invited the kids to come to my house. When I was traveling, or when they came into town, we would occasionally meet up at a restaurant – but always with their Mom joining us. The family lived out of state and so, I was mostly the aunt who sent cards and cash and made phone calls to support special events. I figured that they could get to know me better when they became adults. We now speak openly about everything and I enjoy being supportive of them. My youngest niece is 13 and her Mom allowed me to be open with her from the time that she was 8 because she realized after her other daughter came out, that it is healthier for everyone. I am fairly certain that my youngest niece will be “straight” like my oldest niece but it is a relief to be able to not have to hide who I am anymore.

      LGB kids are often marginalized and LGB adults often feel a need to create distance when interacting with minors, if they interact at all. This was even more of an issue when it was common for LGB teachers and other professionals to be fired due to their sexual orientations.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I never went to summer camp as a kid–I was never interested in being away from home/family. I don’t think I would have been comfortable in a cabin full of girls. However, I was in Indian Princesses with my dad. My brother was in Indian Guides. (I know, the names are no longer PC.) We had 3 campouts a year that were so much fun. It was my time with just my dad. We canoed, rode horses, sledded, ice skated, did archery, did crafts, learned Native American songs and dances, etc. Do you know what the boys did on their campouts? The EXACT same things as the girls. I don’t recall ever seeing a girl wearing a dress or a skirt on one of the campouts. It was actually pretty unusual to see one of the girls wearing a dress or skirt at any of our monthly tribe meetings. I don’t think anyone thought much about it.
    As a parent, I would be extremely nervous about sending my child to a camp where there is a chance of bunking with kids of the opposite sex. I especially wouldn’t let my hormonal teenager do that. Never mind the indoctrination that probably goes on at this camp. What happens when the gender-fluid girl gets raped by the gender-fluid boy because they were allowed in the same cabin/shower? And why would we give hormonal teenagers more opportunities to be alone in inappropriate situations?

    Liked by 6 people

  4. I attended Girl Scout camp several times as a kid in the late 60s. Back then, the Girl Scouts were all about broadening a girl’s h orizons and doing things outside of typical stereotyped sex roles, especially when at camp. It was a wonderful place for a “tomboy” girl, with all the active outdoor activities but even the girls who were not tomboys did the same things, and we all did it together. There wasn’t any suggestion that some girls were any more or less of a girl, or might evenr eally be a boy, based on what activities They liked and/or participated in.

    These gender-whatever camps seem more like indoctrination camps emphasizing gender, gender, gender uber alles, and don’t let these kids forget about it for one minute and just enjoy themselves doing the things they like or learning to like new things. They don’t let them be just kids, without having to drag all these labels behind them. It seems to be a way to keep these kids with the trans program and not allow them to change their minds and desist as most kids would do if left alone.

    Liked by 8 people

    • I have similar, very warm memories of Girl Scout camp.

      One thing I heard recently about the Girl Scouts I find troubling is they now have a “relaxation” badge. I think by the time one is old enough to start working on badges, one knows how to relax. Badges were about learning skills – I can’t imagine being proud of a “relaxation” badge like I was for the ones I got learning skills.


  5. I was able to go to a week-long Yosemite running camp my Sophomore year (my best friend’s family sponsored me.) I was interested in running with my team in a higher altitude and training with both the boys and the girls.

    When I was young, I wanted INCLUSION not segregation. I think that is what people want.

    My Mom signed my twin brother and I up for a gym membership when we were 12. We went to the gym after school while my Mom was still at work. The gym had separate sides for men and women. The women’s side was clearly inferior for serious training – it was also an annoying pink and had all light-weight machines and no free weights. My happiest memories were the times that I snuck over to the men’s side of the gym with my brother. The guys’ side had free weights and we especially loved going into the “Power Lifting Room”. There were lots of big bodybuilders and powerlifters in these spaces. My brother and I were almost identical in strength from the ages of 12-14 and I could usually pass for a boy (but I did have breasts and sometimes, I was detected and asked to go back to the women’s side.) My brother was always very proud of my strength and I loved that I could be a part of everything and that I was treated as an equal in the “Power Room”. It would have been great to have had a female friend to lift weights with, who was also into heavy lifting. I was always inspired by female body builders like Bev Francis. I didn’t know anyone like personally – the gym that I went to did not attract that type of female athlete because it did not allow equal access to the right equipment.

    Still, if I had the option to train with only women at a special camp, I think that would have felt unsatisfying. I liked the energy of both sexes.

    The idea of segregation is what depressed me the most. I didn’t want to be treated differently and I wanted to be able to continue to train with my brother but the rules of separating men form women often meant that I could not participate equally in things that interested me.

    i don’t think I would have wanted to go to a special camp. I would have wanted to go to an athletic camp where I could participate equally. I looked up to and admired both women and men athletes.

    In track, I had a coach who mentored me. He was an old boxer. He was also a teacher at the school and I was friends with his daughter who was my same age. There had been a scandal at another school where a coach had sexually violated a female student. My coach was extremely respectful and would have never done anything like that. Still, we decided that it was better to not hang out because other teachers might think it was suspicious that we had formed a friendship.

    It is this kind of thing that made me feel isolated. I was always having to challenge social norms just to do the things that tinters me and to be with the people that I connected with.

    I think that a special camp would have made me feel even more like an outsider. I just wanted to be treated as an equal without my being female being an obstacle.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I never went to camp because I’m British and we don’t really have a tradition of that here. If there had been, I’m another one who wouldn’t have wanted to go due to hating being apart from family and home, but, I’m sure my parents couldn’t have afforded it anyway.

    However, in the 70s and early 80s, as a child, I remember there being a certain amount of tolerance about little girls romping and being physically active. It was normal to play outside for hours on end, in the neighbourhood gardens and the park, girls and boys together. Most of the girls had bikes, and we wore trousers to ride them. We would make home made swings and scooters, and all the girls would have a go on them. We also played with fashion dolls, and baby dolls and pretty tea sets, dolls houses, etc, but less so in fine weather, and it was just all considered normal girl behaviour. As it is. There was no great emphasis on dressing up, just a bit of that too and a lot for me and a girl cousin who were notoriously crazy about anything with a bit of lace or fancy trimming on, but that might have been down to the lesser materialism of the times and that place -kiddies weren’t indulged with tons of possessions in our neighbourhood and it wasn’t particularly prosperous.

    I also remember there being a fancy dress competition at school one year when I was 7 and my mother sent me as a male character – Wee Willie Winkie from the nursery rhyme – in cute pale yellow pjs with blue ducks on them, with a candlestick to hold – and it never occurred to me to think about my gender in any way because of this, (left to myself I would have chosen a female character with a frilly dress but it didn’t seem to matter, I never gave it a thought. My mother always followed the panto tradition of appearing as the opposite sex whenever she put on fancy dress. Admittedly she always said she was a Tom boy and not girlie in fashion tastes.

    Attitudes to gender have changed a lot in the last few decades, I agree.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Wow, very interesting video, bitternurse! I recommend others watch. Very strong statement against kids transitioning (thank you!), and humorous, to boot. (“should be left until you’re old enough to do stupid things legally.”) After 13 years, would you ever consider detransitioning?

      Liked by 2 people

      • bitternurse, thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable and for offering an honest conversation. I hope that society can be more accepting so that people can be free to express themselves openly without the fear of being ridiculed or harmed. This whole idea that we must conform to gender stereotypes to enjoy equality is as dysfunctional as the idea that be must change our bodies in order to be accepted.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I love this… gives me so much hope that we can all one day move past the drugs and surgery for kids and just accept gender as a social construct. @bitternurse, you seem like you’d be a great person to hang out with. Thanks for the video!

      Liked by 2 people

    • bitternurse, in your video, you repeatedly make it clear that trans women are not (and can never be) real women. It seems to me that the trans activist mantra that “Trans women ARE women. PERIOD” is the crux of the problem we’re having nowadays. There’s nothing wrong with a man dressing or behaving in non-stereotypically male ways, or even using the moniker “trans woman” without trying to gaslight everyone else into pretending he is the same as, and should be treatedas, an actual woman. A separate category of people who don’t pretend to be actual women, who aren’t obsessed with “passing” as actual women, could gather and talk about their experiences without a ton of pushback, it seems to me. It’s this insistence that everyone endorse and “affirm” and “validate” the idea that a trans woman is no different from a woman, and should be treated exactly the same as biological women, that has brought all this trouble on. You obviously get it. It’s astounding how many men who “identify” as women don’t.

      You’ve been at this for 13 years. Do you see any change in how guys like you are approaching all of this? Do you know other men/trans women like yourself who are starting to speak up and out as you did in this video?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much, bitternurse, for responding to my questions in your video. It’s such good stuff. Funny, sane, no BS–PERIOD! (Or in your case, I should say FULL STOP, eh?) Everyone, please watch the video for a much-needed dose of reality. bitternurse, please keep up the good work. We need you.


      • Great medically sound video bitternurse about the hormone blockers. Thank you for speaking out so boldly.

        It sounds like one of the risks involves aggravating pituitary adenomas. I actually have this type of tumor on my pituitary gland (mine is a classified as hormone producing prolactinoma). I have read that up to one in ten people have these tumors but don’t even know it. Mine was discovered during a brain MRI that was looking at another issue. These tumors may or may not produce hormones but if they grow over 10mm they are generally surgically removed. The surgery can be quite dangerous (but the tumors can also cause serious problems if they grow. They can cause blindness and they can rupture). Pretty serious stuff. Hormones can effect these tumors. It is kind of scary to think that an MRI is not being done on children to detect these tumors BEFORE the child is put on hormone blockers.

        Sounds like medical negligence to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bitternurse, I’d have never guessed I could be educated about such a serious topic and still laugh, but thanks to you I did. Very sane, refreshing, and funny too.

        Liked by 2 people

      • All these videos need more views – maybe a separate post from the summer camp topic? bitternurse you are funny and so right on with your information and perspective. Thank you so much for posting here.


  7. I have a few thoughts on this.

    First, camp, particularly overnight camps, are EXPENSIVE!!! I was raised by solidly middle class parents. I begged them to let me go to a popular girl’s overnight camp. They spent some time looking over the information, and ended up deciding it was too expensive. OTOH, my parents were overprotective to the extreme. In retrospect, I think it would have been very good for me to have the experience from being away from home-and them–for a few weeks at a younger age.

    My second thought is: since when are traditional “girls” camps “girly”? As I child, I went to day camps for both sexes, and I was also a member of the girl scouts from 1st through sixth grade. The girl scouts were anything BUT girl. They did camping, which included learning tons of camping skills, lots of outdoor activities, etc. From what I remember, there was a real emphasis on nature and learning practical skills. And the summer camps had general activities–crafts, sports, singing, drama, etc. Unless camp has changed pretty drastically since when I was a kid, activities really weren’t divided up.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I had horrible experiences at a few day camps back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, though I generally enjoyed working as a counselor at the local Orthodox day camp for three summers. Except for the nursery bunk, field trips, and a few camp-wide things, boys and girls are separated. The nursery campers change in and out of their bathing suits for sprinkling in the same room, though the campers from kindergarten up change separately. The idea of there being a “transgender child” in this camp would be absolutely ludicrous, and action would quickly be taken if we discovered a stealth member of the opposite sex in the wrong bunk. This is the kind of camp where some girls wear waterproof cover-ups over their bathing suits and refuse to swim around male lifeguards. For that matter, I would’ve been furious if a grown man had walked around naked in front of my little campers while we were in the JCC locker room!

    I believe Sophie LaBelle, the creator of the horrid Assigned Male web comic, has also worked at “transgender camps.” Given the kinds of things in his comics, I’m truly concerned this person has access to young, vulnerable children, no matter what sex they think they are.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This sounds like yet another way to keep these kids conditioned to believe they’re transgender. Surround them with other children and adults that are convinced they are the opposite sex too. The more normal it seems, the less likely they will question themselves.

    Unfortunately, as they grow up, if they fail to pass as the opposite sex, it is unrealistic to expect that everyone they interact with will keep affirming them. I understand that their parents want to protect them, but I fear for these kids when they eventually see the harshness of reality.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. I think when I was a child and teenager, to be considered feminine you did the femme interests stuff such as fashion and frilliness and needlework and domesticity and baby dolls, in addition to academics and/or sports. It was an *additional* thing – most of the time nobody noticed or cared if you also liked science or running or going to the gym, for example – to have a brain and to like to keep fit was considered neutral and non gender coded when you were a girl still growing up at school. By most people I knew. To be a girl only interested in fashion was something looked down upon. I’m not saying I agree with this because I don’t necessarily, although I’m not comfortable with non-chaste-looking fashions on young girls, but, in those days to be a girl only interested in fashion in was frowned upon; girls like that would be talked of as stupid, and if in their teens, “common” or a “bimbo”, and in the teens it was associated with being lower class, with lacking social class status.


  11. About gender and camp. Camp is one of the most un-gendered experiences a kid can have. I went to camp A LOT as a kid. Day camps, Y camps, Girl Scout camps, church camps–lots of mainline church camps. My mother was very motivated to get away from her children in the summer. They had scholarships and sliding fee scales, and the only problems I remember were class conflicts. I didn’t like the “rich girls” at the camps, although now I wonder whether they were really rich or just comfortable middle class. With the exception of the girls’ camps, these were all co-ed, and as far as gendered programming–there wasn’t any. Boys and girls slept separately and had different bathrooms, and of course girls wore swimsuits that covered their chests, but that was the extent of it. Everybody wore the same thing: shorts or pants and T-shirts and sweatshirts. There was no sparkliness of costume there–it wouldn’t make sense, even for art classes on rainy days. Everybody chose from the same list of workshops, which were not divided by gender. Athletic competitions were not gendered, and there weren’t a lot of them. This was the 70s, the “free to be you and me” era, so maybe things have changed but I doubt it. My point is that I don’t understand why a trans kids camp would be a desired thing. The whole concept is pretty non-gendered. The only people I can see this benefiting are adults trying to encourage transition. In that sense, these trans kids camps sound like fundamentalist church camps where they focus on bringing the kids to Jesus and promoting a political agenda.

    Oh, and by the way, I loved camp.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I have experienced similar issues in bathrooms. Women have called security and once, about five years ago, a woman started screaming at me and I thought that she might try to hit me as she insisted that I had no right tot use the bathroom because of how I looked (even after I explained that I was female). I look very much like this person in the TED talk.

    I feel that more unisex private bathrooms would be great but I think that it is more important to make bathrooms safer for everyone. I realize that when a woman feels threatened by me, it is probably because she first mistakes me to be a man. This seems true 99% of the time, as most women regain composure when I explain that I am female – in fact, they often apologize at that point and everything is fine. I understand that the initial fear is most likely NOT due to “homophobia” or “transphobia” but more likely due to PTSD. When 25-30% of women and girls have been raped and/or the targets of violent crime by male perpetrators, it makes sense that a percentage of women may feel threatened when they see someone like me in a public restroom.

    Does it kind of “sucK” for me to have to deal with the fall-out or violent crime? … Sure … but I can support the healing process.

    Today, with new legal protection, if someone ever hit me out of “hate” I could file a lawsuit. Interestingly, in all of my years of dealing with homophobia, I have never been assaulted by a woman. The hate crimes against me, were always perpetrated by young men in groups when I was walking on a public street during daylight hours. Fortunately, I have not been physically targeted for assault in over 20 years. Things have gotten so much better. The last time that I was even verbally harassed by young men, was about 3 years ago and even then, the men backed off and made no attempt to physically harm me.

    So, the bathrooms? Not such a big concern for me … just more of a nuisance. I want them to be safer for everyone. I am grateful that overall, my quality of life has improved dramatically. There are now laws to protect me against hate crimes and discrimination. It is a hate crime to attack me whether I am perceived to be homosexual or mistaken as transgender. And even if someone islets me saying they “were” shocked to discover my true sex – there are laws that block the “shock defense” as well.

    We can all keep working for a world that is safer and provides justice and equal opportunities to everyone. I personally, feel that issues of racism are more serious than my own and I try to remember that there are so many rights that I enjoy yet are denied to other underrepresented groups. I can be a part of the solution if I don’t focus on myself and if I realize that we are all deserving of justice. Our personal suffering may feel magnified but it is no greater than the suffering of others. I think of everyone involved when I ask for social change and my life is richer because of this perspective. I can give back to the strangers who helped make life better for me and I can “pay it forward” to the next generation.

    Liked by 4 people

    • BTW; the censorship issue is alive and well. Several other people mentioned the problem on TED as they also had their comments removed – (even the comments mentioning the removed comments were removed).


    • Juniper, thank you for your perspective on this. I’m sorry that you have been in these situations in bathrooms, but I am glad that you can put yourself in your accuser’s shoes and can understand where they are coming from. I think if more of us did this, the world would be a better place.

      I particularly like this:
      “Our personal suffering may feel magnified but it is no greater than the suffering of others. I think of everyone involved when I ask for social change and my life is richer because of this perspective.”



    TED talk Post by Eric McGill:

    I attended a weekend event in which one of the bathrooms was gender neutral. It was originally a men’s bathroom. So I was surprised when I opened the door and a woman walked out. When I entered there were several women at the sinks or waiting for a stall. I looked at the urinal because I had to do a No. 1. I looked at the women, back to the urinal, walked over, whipped Mr. Johnson out, relieved myself, afterwards, washed up and left. The earth had not stopped spinning, none of the women paid any attention to me and I felt enlightened. I shared a bathroom with my mother and female cousins growing up, and didn’t think much about it. That same, whatever feeling came back as I left the bathroom and a woman and a man walked past me into the bathroom.

    My response: (the original response was DELETED and it looks like this is happening to other people).

    Hi Eric McGill, my previous response was deleted. Perhaps someone “reported it” and censored me by having my comment deleted? It was very respectfully written. I will try to paraphrase my original response to you:

    You seem like a very reasonable person and you described how you conducted yourself appropriately and respectfully by using the urinal in co-ed restroom in your post.

    I have shared co-ed bathrooms when I lived with in a cooperative community during my college years and I had no problems and actually enjoyed living with thirty young adults.

    Unfortunately, not all co-ed places are safe for everyone. Every city has a list of registered sex offenders (in my city alone, there are over 1,700 male registered sex offenders, [no females are documented]).

    My seven year old nephew was sexually assaulted several years ago. The perpetrator confessed to the police and admitted to four felony counts. The perpetrator served only one year, as this was his first documented offense. After serving one year, he was caught again for sexually violating another child and is now serving fifteen years for the new criminal offenses.

    Clearly, public bathrooms are (unfortunately) not safe for everyone.

    Last month, I read of a rape against a child that occurred in a church bathroom. And not long ago, the news featured a video showing a man playing “hide-and-seek” at a Vegas casino before following the young girl into the bathroom where he raped and killed her in a bathroom stall.

    It seems that people would want to take sexual crimes against children seriously in a conversation about why we need more safety in public bathrooms (or private one stall bathrooms). It concerns me that TED talks would host such a conversation and not support a serious and respectful response. Yes, the details are grim but the topic public safety is one that should be discussed with the same vigor as transgender rights. I hope that TED will offer an explanation for deleting my post.

    (We will see if this second attempt to respond to Eric McGill’s post will also be deleted).

    Liked by 1 person

    • so far, this new post has not been deleted but I was not given an explanation as to why my first reponse had been removed. I have observed many posts disappear from other TED talk members. One person has had their post supporting entirely separate bathrooms for transgender people removed FIVE TIMES and I think they finally gave up. It is kind of amusing but it is also disturbing to see censorship in action. Where are the different perspective? Where is the healthy debate? This is so different than when I was on-line discussing Marriage Equality. Most comments that I has seen deleted comments seemed reasonable, in fact, they were usually thoughtful and sometimes quite insightful.

      I think it is very odd or TELLING that some truly ignorant and hateful posts of opposition often do not get deleted. It is if the moderators want to portray anyone who holds a differing views as “transphobic bigots”. Most rational, intelligent productive debate is not allowed. So, people are permitted to say “This TED Talk is GREAT – I LOVE It!!” or people can say something unsupportive as long as it makes them sound like a total “mouth breather” with the IQ of a turnip. But one is not permitted to speak intelligently about anything that might challenge the speakers’ perspective (unless you are willing to try a few drafts until you hit the “sweet spot” of being ambiguously supportive enough that you are no longer perceived to be a threat).

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I just stumbled across this post but it’s clear the author (and many commenters) have drawn conclusions with limited info & minimal research. I can say this because I attend one of the camps mentioned.

    First, the one I attend isn’t set up as a typical summer camp for kids. It’s only a weekend & all kids are accompanied by at least 1 adult family member. Often, the whole nuclear family attends.

    Second, nobody is *told* what gender/pronoun they should consider for themselves. They choose their own & simply ask other attendees to honor their preference. Just like choosing a favorite food or color, there is no “right” answer. It’s really nobody else’s business why an individual prefers one over the other, nor does one person’s choice directly impact the life of another. The bottom line is mutual respect.

    Third, nobody among this group is advocating segregation or excluding these kids within the greater society. On the contrary, creating a more accepting & inclusive society for gender non-conforming people is an important goal for most if not all attendees. That said, there are times when many groups in our society self-segregate temporarily in order to discuss feelings they share. This is the basis of group therapy for alcoholics, anorexics, convicts, war vets, battered women, etc. The goal here is to create safe spaces in which to explore thoughts/feelings that may be subject to ridicule & judgement in the broader society.

    Fourth, regarding bathrooms, when the door/stall is closed and a person has privacy (and agrees to respect the privacy of others) what’s wrong with unisex? Nearly every household restroom is unisex and functions just fine that way. The only time the system breaks down is when someone violates another’s privacy, at which point it’s intrusive regardless the gender of either party.


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