Metro Weekly

Gay RV park and campground bans transgender men to “build a like-minded atmosphere”

Outcry over co-owner's Facebook posts prompts larger discussion about transgender inclusion in gender-specific spaces

RV camper – Photo: Jake Stone, via Unsplash.

An RV park and campground that markets itself to gay men has come under fire for banning transgender men from entering their male-only campgrounds due to open this spring.

Bryan Quinn, co-owner of Camp Boomerang RV Park and Campground, in Orleans, Mich., posted a message explaining the ban in a post on the campground’s now-deleted Facebook page.

“Camp Boomerang is a private, membership-only RV park/campground that allows only ‘guys,'” Quinn wrote. “A ‘guy,’ in terms of this discussion, is defined as a person with a penis, [who] presents himself as male and has a state-issued ID that says ‘male.’

“We understand this statement, unfortunately, may not make everyone happy, but feel it needs to be clarified,” he continued. “It is our hope that everyone who visits Camp Boomerang enjoys a comfortable, safe, non-confrontational environment going forward. Being a ‘private membership only’ entity allows us the ability to build a like-minded atmosphere.

“We don’t mean for this to come off as a ‘like it or leave it’ attitude, but we feel it’s necessary for everyone to know exactly what our vision is for Camp Boomerang.”

The announcement caused a backlash on social media, with people posting follow-up questions about the policy and LGBTQ outlets seeking comment from the owners. One of the posters questioned whether the owners would be inspecting the genitals of people staying at the campground.

In response, Quinn wrote: “Listen guys, we NEVER said anything about ‘penis checks,’ but let’s be real here. If we let women that act like men in, and they go naked at the pool, that’s when it’s obvious that there’s no penis. Sorry to put it bluntly. But if you don’t like the rules, quietly leave.”

The camp then began deleting all posts, questions and comments about its transgender ban and blocking individuals who had posed the questions from commenting further, before ultimately deleting its Facebook page altogether.

Several commenters noted that transgender individuals often have a difficult time obtaining government IDs that reflect their gender identity, or undergoing gender confirmation surgery, making it nearly impossible to meet Camp Boomerang’s stringent criteria. Additionally, people who identify as genderqueer or nonbinary often don’t wish to have a binary gender marker on their state IDs, even if there is no gender-neutral option available to them.

See also: Athletes, women’s, and civil rights groups support Idaho transgender runner’s lawsuit

When it opened this spring, Camp Boomerang was slated to be the fourth LGBTQ campground in Michigan, along with Stockbridge-based CreekRidge Campground, Campit Resort Saugatuck, and the Owendale-based Windover Women’s Resort. But questions have arisen about whether the other campgrounds marketed to members of the LGBTQ community also discriminate against transgender individuals.

CreekRidge co-owner Ron Jamison told Between the Lines that the camp has welcomed campers who identify as transgender. But Jamison noted in a statement that campers are required to provide identification stating that their gender is male. 

“Any type of policy that would require someone to prove their gender identity is counterproductive to advancing LGBTQ rights and divides our community,” Brayden Misiolek, the co-founder and executive director of Transcend The Binary, told BTL. “As someone who lives with dysphoria, this news is very dehumanizing. Any kind of discriminatory policies like this erase us as a community. It invalidates our lived experiences and perpetuates narratives of illegitimacy, which can and does lead to harm for trans and non-binary people.”

See also: Arizona Republican compares nonbinary individuals to someone identifying “as a chicken”

Campit Resort Saugatuck does not have any ID requirement, and opens itself up to men and women, both cisgender and transgender, posting the following message on its Facebook page:

“Trans men are men. Trans women are women. All gender expressions are valid. What genitalia you have is none of our business. All who believe love is love and all humans are valid and deserving of love no matter where they fall on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum are welcome at Campit. Love you and can’t wait to see you there in 2021.”

“Our policies and our cultures are 180 degrees from Camp Boomerang,” Michael O’Connor, the owner of Campit and the webmaster for the Gay Camp Association, told BTL in a follow-up interview. “They can do what they want to do. But we don’t support policies like that at all at Campit. We are very trans-welcoming.”

O’Connor added that the Gay Camp Association doesn’t have any policies or bylaws for its members, and primarily serves as a cross-marketing organization for LGBTQ-geared campgrounds.

“We welcome other gay campgrounds to Michigan and, I think, we’re now in a position where Michigan may be the center of gay campgrounds,” O’Connor said. “But we hope that the gay community, in general, will stop discriminating against other members of our community. I’d really like to see that everyone is welcome.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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