Metro Weekly

Summer Camp Demands Transgender Teen Leave Due to “Life Choice”

Camp counselor says decision was prompted by concern for 14-year-old volunteer's "safety," and not her gender identity.

Trans Pride flag – Photo: Ted Eytan – Flickr

A transgender teen in Georgia says she was kicked out of a faith-based summer camp due to her gender identity.

Elizabeth Clark, a 14-year-old camp leader at Connect Camps in Cordele, Georgia, says she’s identified as transgender since the eighth grade. She decided to volunteer at the camp, but was kicked out after two days following a decision by camp counselors.

Clark’s mother, LeeAnn Daabes, received a text from the camp’s director indicating that Clark would no longer be welcome at the camp. 

“Our team was advised that Elizabeth had made a life choice that unfortunately is causing some distraction at camp,” the text reads. “We have agreed it would be best that Elizabeth not return, allowing us the opportunity to meet our promise of a remarkable for the campers.”

“I was surprised that people who were just preaching about love and accepting everybody to come out and tell me it was best that I not return,” Clark told Albany, Georgia-based NBC affiliate WALB. 

She also objected to the camp’s framing of her gender identity as a “life choice.”

“If it was a choice, I wouldn’t choose to be a part of the LGBTQ community or be trans because I wouldn’t want to put myself through the struggles that other people don’t have to go through,” Clark said.

Connie Bivens, the counselor at Connect Camps who sent the message, noted that the organization is a faith-based camp that travels around the world and holds week-long camp sessions for elementary school children ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade. But she denied that Clark’s gender identity had any influence on the decision.

Rather, Bivens said, she had overheard other girls at the camp talking about Clark in a negative way, prompting the counselors to hold a meeting to discuss the situation. She said the counselors decided it was best that Clark not return, for her own safety.

“Our choice, our decision was based on ‘can we keep her safe and can she have a wonderful time at camp,'” said Bivens. “We felt we couldn’t do that, and it had nothing to do with Lizzie being transgender.”

She noted that the girls who were talking about Clark were also asked to leave the camp, and that Clark could come back as a camper, but not as a volunteer leader.

Daabes says it was difficult to hear the reasoning behind the camp’s decision to ask her daughter to leave.

“It was hard…it was really hard. I just wanted to know why, why you singled out my child home why not address the bad behavior,” she said.

“I know that we’re seen as outcasts and different. I hope that people will open their eyes and realize we’re just the same as everybody else,” Clark said. “We bleed red and we’re all human. We deserve the same treatment as anybody else.”

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