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Assumptions about gender are often revealed by the presence of campers who are transgender (i.e., individuals who identify as a gender different from that of their biological sex, or see their gender identity as fluid and not conforming to the gender binary; [Holder, 2011]).
The topic of transgender campers and staff has received increasing attention in the American Camp Association (ACA) since about 2008.
While some camps may be OK with this worldview, many camps wish to be responsive to parents and caregivers who want their children to be equal.
Most parents and caregivers want to cultivate egalitarian values in their children, help them learn how to get along with everyone, and not devalue nor overvalue anyone based on their gender.
From an early age, children internalize beliefs about what boys or girls should do and like — from pink blankets for baby girls to sports equipment for little boys.
Campers come to camp having already received years of messages about what is “right” for girls or boys.
At a long-standing and well-regarded camp for youth with chronic illness a couple of years ago, I worked with a cabin of thirteen-year-old girls.
But by using positive interactions between girls and boys and positive discussions about gender to decrease stereotypes, camps can promote positive youth development for all.Can you believe that sexist practices and beliefs remain entrenched in camps, even in this day and age?Although we have made great strides over the last decade to eradicate overtly sexist behaviors (like sexual harassment), remnants of the beliefs that resulted in these past behaviors still emerge in various camps and camp practices. You work so hard to provide an inclusive environment and to promote positive youth development for your campers.Moreover, educational sessions on LGBT campers and staff have been a fixture of national and regional conferences for several years, in large part because of the impassioned advocacy of camps serving youth and staff known to be LGBT.In October 2011, the Girl Scouts of Colorado spoke out in response to news media coverage of a transgender girl who wanted to join Girl Scouts but was rejected by a troop leader because she “had boy parts.” Their statement in support of transgender children said, “Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in kindergarten through twelfth grade as members.