Summer Camps Embrace Gender Theory, ‘Trans Inclusion,’ Critical Race Theory

Group of young kids sitting on grass hillside of playground waiting for camp counselor at summer camp
Thomas Barwick via Getty Images

National summer camp organizations have adopted practices and policies based on gender identity theory, “trans inclusion,” and Critical Race Theory (CRT).

The American Camp Association (ACA), an organization of 10,000 summer camp professionals, is one of the groups that has embedded leftwing theories on race and gender into their operations. The organization is also responsible for accrediting summer camps across the country.

ACA’s 2023 National conference, which took place in February, included one session, titled “Trans Inclusion in Overnight Programs.” It focused on “best practices for overnight camps striving to be welcoming spaces for trans and gender non-conforming campers and staff.” The session was led by Chris Rehs-Dupin, the founder of a group that hosts trainings on “LGBTQIA+ inclusive practices” called Transplaining for Camps.

“Transplaining for Camps exists to help camps build inclusive practices that will create spaces of belonging for campers and staff of all gender identities and sexualities,” the organization’s website reads.

Another ACA conference session, which focused on the creation of racially exclusive “affinity groups,” was titled “Creating Belonging Through Affinity Spaces At Camp” and led by members of the Aloha Foundation, which runs camp programs in Vermont.

The Aloha Foundation’s “Equity and Inclusion” page defines affinity spaces as “identity-based groups that allow people who share an identity to connect, talk openly about issues related to that identity, and brainstorm positive action steps for promoting inclusion and equity,” before noting that they “center around historically marginalized identities.”

The Aloha Foundation also discusses their stance on gender identity issues, writing “We know that our camp communities include gender identities that do not fall into binary gender categories, and we strive to create inclusive spaces for all campers and staff. The Aloha Foundation takes a gender expansive view.”

Campers are given the opportunity to “disrupt societal constraints, stereotypes, and traditional perceptions of what it means to be a ‘girl” or “boy,’” it goes on to note, before also saying that their stance on gender is “inspired by Transplaining.”

Meanwhile, a different session at the ACA conference, titled “Centering Equity and Justice at Summer Camp: The Kids Are Ready” argues that there is an evident need “to tackle issues of social justice with our young people … and provide them not only with a safe(r) space to discuss these topics but the tools to become agents of change.”

Other ACA sessions included “Creating Safe and Affirming Spaces for LGBTQIA2S+ Folks at Camp” and “Lessons Learned in LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Practices.” The ACA also has a “checklist for gender inclusive practices at camp” and a “gender support plan for camp” created by Gender Spectrum, an organization that promotes child transgenderism.

But the ACA is just one of several summer camp organizations that has embraced leftist beliefs on sex and race. There’s also Outward Bound USA, which describes itself as “the leading provider of outdoor education programs that allow young people to explore their personal potential.”

An equity statement from Outward Bound USA claims that the “outdoor community was and is a part of the underlying structure of injustice that governs American society,” also going on to add “we are deeply committed to dismantling inequities and working to write a new chapter.”

The organization, which leads nature trips for middle and high school students, published a “common terms and language” list that decries microaggressions and exalts intersectionality. It also directs readers to a site that encourages white allies to be “accomplices” who “directly challenge institutionalized racism, colonization, and white supremacy” rather than just allies.

There’s also Camp Fire, an organization that runs teen leadership events and camps, and seeks to connect young people to the outdoors “through playful, inclusive, affordable, and powerful out-of-class experiences.” It boasts that it has over 1,300 program sites across the country.

One portion of Camp Fire’s site states “we want to honor the significant and largely unrecognized contributions of Two Spirit and Indigenous people,” adding that the term is “designated for Native, Indigenous, and Alaska Native LGBTQ+ individuals. It goes on to say “The word came from the Anishinabe language and means having both female and male spirits within one person.”

“Sharing our personal pronouns affirms our belief that every individual has the right to define their own identity,” the organization’s site also states. It lists sample pronouns, which includes “Ze/Hir/Hirs.”

A recent blog post from the organization states “2SLGBTQ+ youth in states across the country who are facing attacks by lawmakers, we see you and believe you.” It goes on to read “to Black, Brown, and Indigenous youth who see their histories and stories being silenced and erased, we hear you and will continue to stand with you” before alleging that the Supreme Court’s recent decision to end affirmative action “denies the value of your lived experiences and the historical exploitation, exclusion, and erasure of Black and Brown people.”

One strategic planning document from Camp Fire focuses on anti-racism work and the creation of a “race-equity culture,” where “programs are culturally responsive and explicit about race, racism, and race equity.”

Numerous individual camps have also embraced leftwing theories on gender and race. Colorado’s Camp Granite Lake addresses transgender identification and cabin placement in a memo that was removed from the site but archived here. “Our longstanding guideline has been to allow campers and staff to live and work in a cabin of the gender with which they most closely identify,” it reads.

Their site also explains that camp staff will refer to children based off their preferred name or pronouns regardless of the wishes of the parent. “At camp, we will acknowledge the name and/or pronoun change during the session,” Camp Granite Lake says before going on to state “While parents and caregivers may choose a different approach at home, as a youth serving organization, it’s not within our scope to tell campers what they are not.”

Cheley Colorado Camps, which is accredited by the ACA, contends that there is a difference between gender and sexuality, saying “A person’s sexuality is who they are attracted to and their gender is who they are” before providing examples like ‘non-binary or two-spirit (which is specific to Indigenous communities).”

A land acknowledgement from the camp reads “We are conscious of and saddened by the exclusions and erasures of Indigenous peoples that resulted in our being on stolen land.”

The Daily Wire recently revealed that a different Colorado summer camp allows adults of the opposite sex who identify as transgender to room in the same cabins as campers. The camp also refuses to tell parents if their child will be rooming with an adult of the opposite sex. The camp is also accredited by the ACA.

Maine’s Camp Chewonki, which is accredited by the ACA has a diversity statement which notes “We revised the overall Camp Chewonki program structure to be more explicitly inclusive of the gender spectrum by naming non-binary participants in the program description language.”

It also states that the camp has modified its farm and food systems curriculum to “spend more time discussing indigenous food systems,” and to “use honest language (ex. colonizers as opposed to settlers or explorers) with all ages.” The curriculum will also “center the stories of many types of farms and farmers in our lessons- all with a consistent awareness of White Supremacy Culture.”

Camp Reimagined, a New York-based summer camp program with both overnight and day camps, seeks to “build the inclusive camp environments that all youth deserve.” The organization’s site reads “We exist to reorient youth to what is possible while working towards socially and racially just, gender-inclusive camp environments.” Camp Reimagined also works directly with Transplaining.

A  report from The Daily Wire revealed that there are also several summer camps across the country that have not only adopted policies based on gender theory or Critical Race Theory, but are specifically intended for children who identify as transgender or LGBT.

The ACA, Outward Bound USA, and Camp Fire did not respond to requests for comment.

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