Camp Interlaken’s New ‘Gender Inclusive’ Policies Keep Parents in the Dark
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Gender ideology rejects the commonplace belief that sex has anything to do with whether someone is a “boy,” “man,” “girl,” or “woman,” asserting instead that these terms refer to one’s subjective “gender identity.” As a result, sex-based protections of women and girls, such as their right to female-only spaces, are becoming impossible to enforce.
While shocking manifestations of this ideology understandably garner most of our media’s attention, such as male swimmer Lia Thomas recently becoming the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Swimming Champion in the 500y freestyle, or male rapists being transferred to all-female prisons for simply “identifying” as women, the impact if this ideology can be felt and observed in our everyday lives as well.
Last month, Camp Interlaken, an overnight camp administered by the Milwaukee Jewish Community Center that claims to be “committed to building a vibrant community rooted in Jewish values,” announced on their blog that they were affirming their “commitment to gender inclusivity at Camp” by implementing new Gender Inclusion Practices & Policies. In the announcement, Camp Interlaken Director Toni Davison states:
We recognize that gender exists along a spectrum and may change at any point in an individual’s development. To support our transgender and gender expansive community, Camp Interlaken acknowledges that each participant’s needs are unique and should be treated individually, in consultation with the participant.
The new “inclusive” policies will allow campers to choose “the gender in which the camper most identifies with” during registration. The policy also states that “cabin assignments may be made by gender identity instead of sex assigned at birth” and that camp staff “will work with gender fluid and non-binary participants and their families before Camp to help them identify and agree to the appropriate housing assignment.” Additionally, campers will now be allowed “to use the washhouse of the gender they identify.”
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This means that all camp facilities previously separated by sex will become co-ed under the new policy. Any camper who claims to “identify” as the opposite sex before camp is in session will be allowed to access opposite-sex cabins and washhouses.
This will be alarming to many parents—especially those with daughters—sending their children away to a camp for 2-4 weeks with the expectation that cabins and washhouses are separated by sex. These are spaces where campers sleep and undress, and this heightened vulnerability is the reason such spaces are commonly separated by sex in the first place. While the camp indicates that it has built “4 private, centrally located, all-gender bathrooms” that “can be used by anyone who would like additional privacy,” these will likely be largely used by young female campers who feel uncomfortable sharing intimate spaces with males.
Parents will also not be able to determine whether their children are sharing cabins and washhouses with campers of the opposite sex. The new policy clearly states that it will ensure “the confidential status of a camper,” and that the camp “will not disclose any information that may reveal a camper or staff member’s gender status to others, including other campers, families, and staff, unless legally required to do so or the camper or staff has given permission.”
Furthermore, campers who choose to use a different name, different pronouns, or even transition at camp, will not have their parents notified. Instead, while camp staff participate in a camper’s transition—a type of medical intervention—all correspondence with parents or guardians will still “use the camper’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the camper’s sex assigned at birth unless the camper, parent, or guardian has specified otherwise.” But if the parent or guardian is unaware their child is transitioning or plans to transition at camp, they would have no reason to “specify otherwise” in advance, and would be left in the dark regarding the camp’s participation in their child’s transition.
In the announcement, Camp Director Toni Davison tells families not to be put off by the new language in the policy—“the words and policies might be new”—and to trust their “commitment to serving diverse communities.” While portraying the camp’s new policy as “inclusive” and concerned about the wellbeing of every individual camper, in reality it courts the feelings of a small minority of campers at the expense of the mental wellbeing and potential safety of the vast majority.
Parents who question or protest these policies will likely not be met with sympathy. At best they will be viewed as simply “not getting it” and in need of more education on these matters, and at worst they’ll be smeared as transphobic bigots creating a hostile environment for transgender campers. But it is up to parents to push back against this radical ideology that denies both the reality and importance of sex differences and asserts that “girls” and “boys” are defined by subjective feelings grounded in stereotypes. Failing to do so is putting children at risk.
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