Concern was expressed to The Iowa Standard about a camper at Camp Hantesa (pronounced Han-Teh-Sha) in Boone being moved from the girls’ cabin to the boys’ cabin due to gender identity. The camp confirmed the incident has taken place.
Owen Ballard, the development and camping programs director, told The Iowa Standard that a camper who identifies as male was asked to move to the boy cabin because they would feel more comfortable. The camp contacted that girl’s parents and received permission to move her to the boys’ cabin.
“Our policy for several years has been that we place children in the cabin in which they identify,” Ballard said. “We’re an inclusive organization and camp. So, all of our brochures have in our materials that we are gender-inclusive and affirming. And then that would also be available on our website.”
For what it is worth, we’ve scanned the website and have not seen anything about gender inclusivity or gender affirmation. However, the national website makes clear Camp Fire has a priority of advancing “diversity, equity, inclusion and access.”
Ballard said the camp is for children in grades 1-12. He could not say what ages the campers are in the cabin with a biological female staying with boys. He said campers could be as young as five years old. Cabins vary at Camp Hantesa. The smallest cabins have 10 beds while the largest cabin has 40 beds.
He reiterated that the camp has been gender-inclusive and gender-affirming for several years, both locally and nationally.
The Iowa Standard asked Ballard if a parent sent their daughter to the camp and a biological male who “identifies” as female would be staying in the same cabin whether that parent would be notified a biological male would be sharing the cabin with their daughter.
“Probably not,” he said. “I mean, there are people that register and don’t tell us and, you know, we don’t do inspections of children when they arrive for summer camp. And so, I mean, I would suspect, I don’t know how common it is, but there regularly are campers who their parents just register them as they identify. And so we are not always even aware. And yeah, like I said, we’re not obviously doing physicals on every child that attends camp.”
Ironically, Camp Fire started in 1910 because it “believed girls deserved the outdoor learning experiences that boys had and wanted to help.” The group started as Camp Fire Girls. It became co-ed in 1975 — 65 years later. In 1993, sexual orientation was added to its inclusion policy.
On June 17, Camp Hantesa posted a photo on Facebook noting that on the first day of its 2021 season, it started a new tradition by raising “another flag” to fly alongside the others not just in June but every day hereafter “because every day is a day to celebrate our LGBTQ+ campers, staff and alumni.”
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