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California Summer Camp Unveils Cabins for Growing Number of ‘Nonbinary Teens’

California Summer Camp Unveils Cabins for Growing Number of ‘Nonbinary Teens’

“We’re doubling down on our commitment to social justice and inclusion.”

A sleepaway camp in Northern California will open its first “all-gender” cabins this summer in response to an increasing number of campers who identify as “nonbinary.”

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Camp Tawonga, a Jewish summer camp located near Yosemite National Park that attracts some 600 children, recently announced the move, according to J. The Jewish News of Northern California. Camp director Becca Meyer explained that the goal was to “create another option so that all kids can live in a cabin that reflects their gender identity.”

“As we approach our 100th anniversary [in 2025], we’re doubling down on our commitment to social justice and inclusion, and offering all-gender cabins is one way we’re doing that,” she said.

Tawonga has said it plans to introduce two new 12-bunk cabins, one for kids going into fifth and sixth grades and another for those going into seventh and eighth grades. The cabins will only be offered during the final sessions of camp as a pilot program before management decides whether to make them permanent.

Unlike the boys’ and girls’ cabins, the nonbinary bunks will have a no-nudity rule. Campers will be able choose to change in the bathroom, in their sleeping bags, or behind a “privacy curtain.”

Meyer, the director, said that a lot of counselors have already expressed interest in staffing the cabins.

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“We haven’t decided yet, but they will be excellent counselors who get additional training in working with diverse campers,” she said.


Tawonga has increasingly sought to accommodate children with alternative gender identities. 

In the past few years, the camp has added all-gender restrooms and started a “beyond the binary” campfire to supplement separate girls’ and boys’ fires. Camp director Becca Meyer estimated that about 20 kids chose the non-binary campfire last year.

Tawonga has also offered five-day LGBTQ family weekends for young campers, which is how 1o-year-old Jonathan and his mom, Nancy Brunn got comfortable with the idea of him sleeping away at the camp, according to J. Jonathan bunked in a girls’ cabin during the retreat, but the youngsters decided on their own to dub it “all-gender” in the spirit of inclusivity.

Jonathan, who lives with his family in San Francisco and uses all gender pronouns interchangeably, told the liberal Jewish news outlet that he was excited that the nonbinary designation will now be official.

“Since my cabin will be all-gender, no one has to feel left out. Everyone will be included,” said the child, who has reportedly faced bullying at school.

Tawonga is not alone in its commitment to gender-bending. Habonim Dror’s Camp Moshava in Maryland has offered all-gender cabins since 2017, and the Foundation for Jewish Camp offered the same option to camp counselors attending its Cornerstone Seminar last year, J. reported.

Meyer said that Tawonga campers, parents, and alumni have reacted enthusiastically to news of the all-gender cabins.

The camp joins a broader cultural trend toward complicating, if not upending, traditional gender distinctions, though President Donald Trump has pushed back in the political realm with a ban on trans military personnel.

Progressives have generally celebrated the rise of gender-bending as a step toward creating a more tolerant and just society, even as activists have disagreed about where to redraw the lines. Some trans people for example have sought to participate in the existing gender binary, while others have rejected it. Meanwhile, a subset of feminists have sought to exclude trans women from their gender and their movement.

Conservatives, for their part, have tended to resist the imposition of evolving and often unclear gender norms by a progressive culture that they see as radical and self-righteous. Even those who do not insist that gender is equivalent to biological sex, and that only two categories properly exist, have warned that gender activism could destroy valued male- and female-specific institutions, from bathrooms to sports to summer camp.

Cover image: An illustrative photo of an LGBT teen. (Courtesy)



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