Summer camp, where teens rule (and so does their gender religion)
Ah, Summer Camp—that grand American tradition, where kids and teens go for anywhere from 1 week to 2 glorious months of escape from parents, school pressure, and star-crossed teen romance. Where they revel in newfound independence, canoe racing, hikes, stargazing, creepy campfire tales, and games of Mafia, and bond in shared disgust over communal bathrooms, spiders and mice, and unidentifiable food objects.
One of the great things about camp is that, at summer camp, the kids lead the kids. In fact, youth leadership is central to the whole experience and purpose. 16 year old counselors-in-training (CITs) and 17-23 year old counselors, loosely supervised by actual adults (and trained by them) hone their leadership, wilderness survival, and team-building skills, coach little kids through homesickness and unfortunate bed-wetting incidents, and come together as a team of nascent adults, while still being close enough in age as to be relatable to the campers.
Every summer, legions of parents, myself included, send their kids off to camp with that ever-present mixture of sadness at seeing their kids off, and excitement for the inevitably amazing experience their kids are about to enjoy—there’s even a hint of jealousy because summer camp just seems like it would be so fun. The energy is palpable—for the kids and the parents, and the counselors. This year, the feeling was even more electric, coming off of two years of covid. Camp would be a return to normalcy, teen summer back at last.
This year though, as it turned out, was different. And of course it was—I should have known. Because with the teens, comes their new state sponsored Gender Religion. And when the teens rule the roost, their religion reigns supreme as well, in the Lord of the Flies-like environ that is Summer Camp. Gender ideology, like a bad apple, spoils everything it comes into contact with, and now our camp was starting to rot.
In the past, teen fads and culture were held at bay by the camp administration, keenly aware that parents are the customer, and parents expect safety for their kids and professionalism from the staff. This year, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) activist trainers had been invited to the CIT and counselor training sessions, not only bestowing approval of the gender religion, but mandating it in the name of Inclusion. And so it was that the teens were given official permission to bring Gender to camp.
This being PITT, you have already guessed that I am a mother with a son who was, for a time, trans identified. Although he has been desisted for about a year, the experience left me with a finely tuned radar for Gender Ideology and all of its religious symbols and cultural rites. I spent the entire school year on red alert, scanning syllabi and curricula for intruding gender ideology principles portrayed as factual and, of course, I carefully read the tea leaves of camp registration and the parent guides of our beloved summer camp to see if it too had been captured by the gender cult. It seemed blissfully free of jargon and wokeness, and so I went ahead, feeling excited that my kids would get to be kids this summer, for what might be the last time before college loomed.
Then, two days before camp started, my son received an info form to complete requesting his preferred pronouns and my radar started pinging. Shortly thereafter, at a parent info zoom session I realized that, this year, my son would have a they/he female counselor for his all boys group. The camp director, in a subsequent private conversation, told me that, in fact, I was mistaken that there was a female in the mix—all campers and counselors identified as male! So, there was nothing to be concerned about (except, I guess, the denial of material reality, and the expectation that parents ignore the evidence of their own eyes and ears?!). My heart sank. After all I did to try to avoid this painful topic, here it was, rearing its ugly head at the 11th hour. I was about to send my son off for many weeks in the wilderness with a gender acolyte. And it was too late for me to pivot plans and change course—I would risk my relationship with my son to upend plans that he had looked forward to all year. So off he went.
At drop off, the scene was as bad as I could have envisioned. Camp was awash with they/them female counselors, with short hair and boxy clothing, sporting the requisite special pronoun placards. All I could hope for is that I successfully inoculated my son against the gender cult, and that, after his own personal brush with trans, he now viewed it as silly and faddish, rather than enticing.
It’s pretty much all I will have on my mind as these next weeks pass. Will my son come back re-indoctrinated from his time immersed in teen culture, with role models that I would never had chosen, had I been permitted to know? Or, maybe he will come back with a stronger sense of self, after living with gender nonsense closely for an extended time period. Time will tell I guess.
At least I had the chance to help my son through this in advance, to give him some context over the last couple years. I can’t help but wonder—what will it be like for the other parents, the ones for whom gender ideology was not on the mental front burner? Do they understand that, because at camp, the youth lead, they have just sent their children to gender indoctrination camp in the woods? Do they understand the extent to which teens rule at camp, and that the adults stand by and let the teens teach the younger kids to “be kind”, to submit to the compelled speech, sky-is-pink mentality that defines genderism, and to make the they/thems “happy” and validated by denying the evidence of their own eyes and ears?
Already at camp, kids love to develop alternate camp personas that usually fade away a couple weeks after they return to the real world. It’s part of the fun of it—you don’t know anyone at camp so you can reinvent yourself and try on new things. But gender ideology puts the idea in kids’ heads that they might be in the wrong body. That’s not an idea that can be easily pushed aside by parents. And gender, more often than not, includes radical and urgent demands for name changes and medicalization. Will parents at my camp be in for the surprise of their lives when their 9 year olds return home and “come out” as a different gender, looking to get on testosterone or asking for blockers?
I wonder too: What about the mother of my son’s he/they counselor, who the camp is gleefully affirming and training the counselors and kids to do as well? Is she cool with all this? Or is she currently penning an essay for PITT describing her horror at her daughter’s sudden identity shift, and her fears for her vulnerable daughter in the woods, pretending to be a boy, but in reality the lone female in a group of teenage boys? Is she hurting as much as I am? I bet she is. Because these counselors, are just kids too, with parents who worry and care about them.
Camps have forgotten who their customer is—parents. In accepting wholesale a harmful teen trend, they have abrogated their responsibility for acting in loco parentis. We should not give them our kids to train and mold when they have ceased being the adult supervision we expect and require. It may well be that the Grand Camp Tradition has come to a sorry end.