Washington state Jewish camp promises to keep campers' gender identity secret from parents

They also allow campers to have co-ed sleeping arrangements, permitting kids to bunk according to their gender identity, regardless of their biological sex. 

A Jewish summer camp in the Pacific Northwest, open to campers in first through twelfth grade, has promised to keep campers' gender identity secret from parents if they "come out" at camp. 

They also allow campers to have co-ed sleeping arrangements, permitting kids to bunk according to their gender identity, regardless of their biological sex

According to an inclusivity statement on Camp Solomon Schechter’s website, “For years we have welcomed LGBTQ+ identifying, gender-diverse, and non-binary individuals into camp. Our newly updated inclusion statement explicitly states our long-standing commitment to supporting every single person in our community, regardless of who they are.”

The camp in Olympia, Washington, which draws many campers from the Greater Seattle area, “…welcomes all members of the community, supporting and embracing people who identify as LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Questioning, Intersex or, Asexual), gender-diverse, and non-binary.” 

According to the statement, “We recognize that gender exists on a spectrum and may change at any point during a person’s life. We firmly believe in supporting every person at all points during their time in the CSS community, recognizing that their needs and identities may change during their years at camp.”

The camp claimed that “It is important to acknowledge that this statement uses language that is shared across most of the overnight summer camping industry. This policy has been vetted by extensive research and communication with other camps and camp professionals in the field.” 

According to the “Housing” section of the website, “At Camp Solomon Schechter, we bunk campers in cabins based on gender and grade. To support our campers’ development, cabin assignments can be made based on gender identity, rather than a camper’s sex assigned at birth. These specific housing arrangements based on gender identity must be made by both campers and parents in advance of arriving to camp. A member of Camp Solomon Schechter’s full-time team will liaise with these families to learn the best option for the camper to bunk in. Our team will also work with gender-fluid and non-binary campers and their families before camp to identify appropriate bunk assignments for these campers.”

The camp wrote, “We recognize that for transgender, gender-fluid, and non-binary campers, any shared gender-segregated space can be challenging. Camp Solomon Schechter encourages these campers to share their concerns with a member of the full-time team, and we will work with them and their families to provide safe spaces where they can be free from stigma. For example, providing a separate and private space for campers to change clothes privately. No camper will ever be forced to change clothes in a separate space, within a shared gender-segregated space, unless requested specifically by the camper.”
According to the” Confidentiality” section of the website, “Camp Solomon Schechter strives to ensure the confidential information of a camper, or staff person’s gender status in accordance with state, local, and federal privacy laws.”

“All individuals at Camp Solomon Schechter possess the right to discuss their gender identity openly, whenever the person desires and with whomever they desire. If a camper or staff chooses to identify differently from how they do at home, whether that be using a different name or pronouns, if they decide to transition at camp, or if they choose to disclose their identity to a member of staff, this does not authorize Camp Solomon Schechter to share this information with their parents or guardians. Should Camp Solomon Schechter need to speak with parents or guardians, we will use the camper’s legal name and the pronouns corresponding to the camper’s sex provided at registration, unless requested differently by the camper or parents/guardians. In addition, to protect the confidential information of a camper’s gender status, Camp Solomon Schechter does not publicly share the gender-identity of campers in each cabin.”

The camp noted that “Should there be a situation where Camp Solomon Schechter is legally required to share a camper or member of staff’s gender identity, Camp Solomon Schechter will always provide an opportunity for the camper or member of staff to make the disclosure themselves first. Camp’s Executive Team will provide this camper or staff member with any support services they would need to do this in a safe and supportive environment.”

The “Names and Pronouns” section of the website stated that “Camp Solomon Schechter believes and recognizes that every individual has the right to use a name and pronouns that reflect their gender identity. Even if a camper or member of staff has not legally changed their name or gender, or if they are yet to undergo HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or surgical transitions, we will support and allow campers and staff to use their preferred name and pronouns. Though not mandated, all campers and staff will be able to share their preferred pronouns and names on forms that need to be completed before the summer season commences. Though, to be sure we address our campers and staff appropriately, we ask to be provided with this information, should the campers and parents choose to do so.”

The camp noted “We also recognize that a camper may arrive at camp one year, identifying differently from how they identified at camp in previous years. In these cases, we will inform all of our staff of a person’s new name and/or pronouns to ensure these people are addressed appropriately. Deadnaming is the act of referring to a person’s birth name after they have changed to a new name during their transition. We recognize that deadnaming can be a traumatic experience for those who transition, and we are committed to ensuring that deadnaming does not happen in our community. Additionally, some campers and staff may feel comfortable using gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘they, them, and theirs’, or would prefer to be addressed with just their name. For these people, we will work with our staff to ensure that our community is aware of how these people wish to be addressed and do so accordingly.”

In Washington state, the age of medical consent is 13, meaning that minors aged 13-17 can seek medical treatment including for reproductive health, sexually transmitted diseases, substance use, gender dysphoria, and gender-affirming care, without the consent or knowledge of parents/guardians.

This is not the first time the camp has been under the microscope. In 2017, the camp, which claims to be Zionist and Pro-Israel, issued an apology after flying a Palestinian flag alongside the Israeli and American flags, drawing ire from many community members including Israelis at the camp.

The camp called its actions “a lapse in judgment.” However, according to The Times of Israel, after the apology letter on the camp's Facebook page received many negative comments, the letter was removed, though still available elsewhere.
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