It isn’t even open yet and already it’s causing controversy. The owners of Camp Boomerang RV Park and Campground in Orleans, which is about 50 miles northwest of Lansing, have announced they will ban trans men from their male-only park when they officially open this spring.
“Camp Boomerang is a private, membership-only RV park/campground that allows only ‘guys,’” said Boomerang’s Bryan Quinn in a Facebook posting to the camp’s page. “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,” Quinn went on. “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.”
Backlash to the statement online was swift and severe as Quinn continued commenting and, some say, making the situation worse.
“Let’s be real here,” Quinn said in one comment. “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.”
Some are leaving already and they’re not doing it so quietly. Michael Champagne and his boyfriend had previously visited CreekRidge Campground in Stockbridge, and the couple was planning on purchasing a seasonal membership this year at Boomerang to support the fledgling site.
“[At CreekRidge] we had brought friends who were trans with us before and we had met trans men there so we didn’t think it would be an issue at all,” Champagne said. “So, naturally, when [Boomerang] posted yesterday in their seasonal group and the Camp Boomerang group, this was brought up. Me and a lot of other people in the Detroit community stood up and spoke our piece about it needing to be a place that allowed trans men. That wasn’t up for discussion for us. Either that would be the case or we wouldn’t visit or be seasonal members there.”
The decision, said Champagne, was not made lightly. His boyfriend had already put down a deposit for their space and purchased a new RV.
“We just got it insured and were supposed to drop it off next weekend. My boyfriend has not made any decision to cancel that seasonal membership or not but he knows how I feel and that I won’t be setting foot in that place. He shares the sentiment but there is a lot invested now. He took out a loan to buy a trailer and we put down money for a deposit, so we are financially invested.”
Champagne said he has some friends who were also going to be seasonal members who are pulling out. Others have stated they want to make change from within and “believe that shying away from Boomerang or blasting them on Facebook is not the answer. From within you can create change and educate them.”
“These are both viable options,” Champagne continued. “But I feel like when you publicly come out through discriminating against a specific group of people they don’t want to be educated, they don’t want to come to the table. They’ve made it clear how they feel and they’re the owners of their business so they’re going to do what they want.”
Quinn referring to trans men as “women who act like men” was the final straw for Champagne.
“After that comment, that was really the nail in the coffin for me. They are blatantly uneducated and arrogant and assuming of what it means to be a trans person,” he said. “It is hate speech period. It is discrimination period. It’s all of those things that I don’t want to associate with.”
When it opens, Camp Boomerang will be the fourth LGBTQ+ campgrounds in Michigan along with CreekRidge and Campit Resort Saugatuck. The Windover Women’s Resort in Owendale is, as the name implies, for women only. But what kind of women are welcome at Windover? Are trans women invited? Unfortunately, representatives from the camp did not respond to multiple inquiries from Between The Lines. For its part, CreekRidge’s policies are not all that different from Boomerang’s.
“We pride ourselves in a warm and welcome atmosphere for all men to enjoy, which includes those who identify as a transgender man,” CreekRidge Co-Owner Ron Jamison told BTL. “The only requirement is that their identification is that of a male due to being an all-male campground. We have had several campers throughout our four years of operation who have identified as transgender, and, in fact, had no issues and truly enjoyed themselves.”
Still, for many, having the gender marker on their state-issued IDs checked is seen as discriminatory and anti-trans. Although changing one’s gender marker has been made simpler in recent years by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, it is still a personal decision to make the change that sometimes comes with mitigating circumstances. It is also often not desired by those who identify as non-binary or genderqueer.
“Any type of policy that would require someone to prove their gender identity is counterproductive to advancing LGBTQ rights and divides our community,” Transcend The Binary Co-Founder and Executive Director Brayden Misiolek told BTL when asked to comment on the ID policies. “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.”
At Campit, there is no such ID requirement and the campground is open to men and woman cisgender and trans alike. Michael O’Connor is Campit’s owner and the webmaster for the Gay Camp Association.
“Our policies and our cultures [at Campit] are 180 degrees from Camp Boomerang,” O’Connor said. “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. As for the Gay Camp Association, we don’t have any policies or bylaws for members. It’s essentially a cross-marketing organization. Boomerang is a member, but we don’t have policies [related to membership].”
Still, O’Connor is not happy with Boomerang’s stance.
“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.”
To respond to the controversy, O’Connor sent out the following tweet:
“Trans men are men. Trans women are women. Enbies, intersex, genderqueer and everything else under the sun are valid. What genitalia you have is none of our damn business. And all who embrace that love is love and all members of our community are valid are welcome at Campit.”
Santiago Moreno is a trans man from Redford. He has been to both Campit and CreekRidge without incident. His thoughts on Boomerang’s policy are clear.
“I think it’s garbage,” he said. “There’s a huge reason many trans individuals feel they don’t belong within the LGBTQ movement. It’s because sexuality and gender identity are completely different. And still, in 2021, many gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals are transphobic and would never fight for our rights like we have theirs. It’s insane to me to know that even within our own circles we are still ostracized.
“It goes back to the toxic gay culture ways, of them thinking their sexuality is solely based off of a penis. Then they wonder why there is so much shame and toxicity within their own circles,” Moreno said. “I’ve dealt with it the entire eight years of my transition so far. It was a huge culture shock to me coming from the lesbian culture side of things. They are trying to regulate their space based off of genitals. That’s crazy.”
Bryan Quinn from Camp Boomerang was approached for comment for this story and declined to speak on the record.