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Camp or Cult?: The Rise of Groomer Youth Retreats and Adolescent Radicalization



Sending a child to a summer camp or retreat with their peers is a long-honored tradition within the United States. The choices in camps and retreats are astronomical and all depend on your child’s interests. Do a quick search online and you’ll find camps ranging from glass-blowing and ceramics to veterinary training to musical theater to religious camps. Whatever your style, whatever your pre-teen or teen’s needs and interests, there’s a camp or retreat they can attend. There are even sites offering expertise on helping you find the right camp.  Not only does camp give children a break from tedious homework assignments and the everyday mundane schedules of a busy life, but it also gives the parents a break. It’s like having a 24-hour baby-sitter so you can relax, clean your child’s room, or go on that much needed date with your spouse or significant other. What if, though, the baby-sitter you’re relying on is doing your child more harm than good? If you found out that your weekend baby-sitter is harming your child, you would fire the baby-sitter immediately and inform the police, depending on the seriousness of the harm. That’s precisely what’s happening at the queer theory infused LGBTQ+ camps that claim to be a safe space for your child.


Queer theory emphasizes the agency and sexual autonomy of individuals, questioning the assumption that young people lack the capacity to make informed decisions about their own bodies and desires. It challenges the notion that age alone determines an individual's ability to consent, advocating for a more nuanced approach that considers factors such as maturity, self-awareness, and the ability to communicate boundaries and desires. Queer theory literature suggests that focusing solely on age can undermine the agency and sexual autonomy of young people. Children are taught from an early age to say “No!” to bad touching. It is impossible to have boundaries when dealing with an ideology that seeks to erode all safeguarding. 


Camp Lilac is a queer or LGBTQ+ camp for children ages 13 to 17. Their mission statement from their website is grim, using scare tactics to convince you to willingly give up your children and leave them in their claws:


“Camp Lilac is an overnight summer camp in Ohio for transgender and gender diverse youth. Trans youth often face stressful, unwelcoming, and even hostile environments in their day to day lives, and depression, anxiety, and suicide are much higher among them. Since 2017, we’ve been creating a safe, welcoming, and confidential space in which gender diversity is the norm. Our program is designed so that campers emerge with an increased sense of confidence in their identities and a strong community of peers and supporters. We believe our camp fills a crucial gap in the lives of trans and gender diverse youth, setting them on a path to success.”


Camp Lilac’s activities look like the typical summer camp until one takes a closer look at the “trans-centered activities” and services they offer. This camp is also willing to break the laws in Ohio, for your child’s own good, of course.




Not all LGBTQ+ camps are secular. Some queer theory indoctrination camps are designed to cater to various religious communities. One would think that these camps would offer something more wholesome, right? In actuality, the religious LGBTQ+ camps are just as bad, if not worse. For Jewish queer youth ages 13 to 18, there is a Shabbaton retreat, offering an exclusive safe space. However, their goal for your child isn’t much better:


Keshet works for the full equality of all LGBTQ Jews and our families in Jewish life. We strengthen Jewish communities. We equip Jewish organizations with the skills and knowledge to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, create spaces in which all queer Jewish youth feel seen and valued, and advance LGBTQ rights nationwide.”




When asked about a child's ability to opt out of one of these programs due to discomfort or feeling too young to attend, Sawyer, one of the individuals overseeing your child's political and sexual awakening, mentioned that the child is encouraged to maintain an open mind and "just try it.” JUST TRY IT? We're not talking about teaching children to eat their vegetables so they can grow healthy and strong – we’re talking about sex. Peer pressure was once widely-discussed with great concern among parents and teachers. However, it seems to have been thrown by the wayside in the name of “LGBTQ+ inclusion” and “queer safe spaces.” Camp Lilac and the Shabbaton retreat do not have direct online applications. Instead, your child is sent a secure link in order to complete the registration process. In both circumstances, your child is asked what name he or she wants to go by while attending the camp.


While registering for the Shabbaton retreat, you and your child receive two completely different forms with different questions. You, as the parent, are not allowed to see how your child answers these questions. After filling out their legal name and the name they like to go by, the form then asks, “Which name should we use when emailing you and your parent/guardian?” It specifically asks for the child's email address and NOT the parent/guardian’s email. The child is asked “In your own words, what is your gender identity?” and given an array of nonsensical options, including “No Pronoun” and “Ze/Hir/Hirs.”



The camp has mixed-sex sleeping arrangements and gives children the option to room with those of the opposite sex, if they prefer.



These questions (and your child’s responses to them) are conveniently left out of the parent/guardian form, including the name your child chooses to go by during the retreat. Another thing to note is that when you, as the adult, fill out your form (sent via a completely separate link to YOUR email address), you also agree to relinquish all parental rights concerning your child’s medical "needs," which can include transgender hormones or surgeries. Since this is a non-binary, trans-inclusive, LGBTQ+ camp, one can only imagine what types of surgeries these groomers will deem necessary for your child.


It is neither phobic nor hateful to want what’s best for your child, regardless of how they identify. Summer camps that are not labeled "trans-affirming" sound like your typical summer camps for families who just want their children to have fun, make a few friends, and learn skills they can use in real life. Take Camp Green Cove or Camp Mondamin for example:


“Our goal is to build self-esteem while teaching community living skills, respect for the environment, and a love for the outdoors. We work hard on cooperation, and don’t spend much time on competition, so there aren’t any cups or ribbons or medals. We believe effort and reward are related, and the reward is sweeter when it’s earned.”


Their philosophy is: “We believe that young people need roots as well as wings, and that neither is much good without the other.”


Just in case you’ve forgotten what a typical day at camp should look like, these camps offer activities such as swimming, kayaking, sailing, hiking, tennis, arts and crafts, mountain biking, mountaineering, nature programs, movie nights, campfire nights, games, and skits. The same applies to religious summer camps, like High Rock Bible Camp:


“High Rock Bible Camp exists to assist families in fulfilling their responsibility to bring up children ‘in the training and admonition of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:4). High Rock Bible Camp is operated by faithful members of the Lord’s church. However, the camp does not seek to replace the church, dictate to the church or claim to be the church. As such, High Rock Bible Camp is an effort to win and strengthen souls, working in cooperation with the church and the home.” For pre-teens and teens, High Rock Bible Camp offers several opportunities to "learn about God and His Word, making friendships that may last a lifetime." The programs include “a central theme where each day focuses on one main Biblical idea. Each day there are at least five opportunities to study the Bible together between two classes, two chapel services, and a group devotional.” Daily activities include “dress up days each morning to see who has the most spirit, including Dress Your Counselor Day on Friday, arts, recreation, cabin discussions, crafts, free time, entertainment, evening hikes (for teens), sports, and sometimes fireworks."


Their website states: “We want to provide the kids with a safe and fun place to learn about God and begin to build a foundation to lead them to God for eternity.  We also work hard to help these young people develop and nurture life-long spiritual relationships with both their peers and counselors.”


The Non-LGBTQ+ camps seek to allow your child to grow in a healthy, nurturing environment with children their own age. The LGBTQ+ camps, on the other hand, clearly have other plans for your child. If the mission statements from the LGBTQ+ camps and retreats sound more like political campaigns than actual camps…that’s because they are. By the very definition of queer ideology, these camps exist as a way to politically and sexually radicalize your child (Keenan & Mess, 2020). They are systematically designed to churn out activists, creating Marxist footsoldiers that fuel an ideological takeover. Not only are these camps popping up left and right, but parents are sending their children to them with enough enthusiasm to fill an entire football stadium. Either these parents are sadists or they truly believe they are doing the right thing for their child. I would like to think it’s the latter. 


If you are a parent who believes that putting their child into a “queer camp” is the right thing to do, I implore you to press pause on your enthusiasm and look deeper into these camps and retreats. Why would you send your 12- to 18- year-old to a camp where the only thing the leaders think about is sex? The programs aim to groom your child to constantly think about sex and not to bat an eye when one of the queer adult counselors solicits or encourages your child to engage in sexual activities they are neither ready for nor should be subjected to in a "safe place.” The queer camps assure parents that their children will be protected from harm. But that begs the question: Who are your children being protected from? If anything, it seems like these camps are framing concerned parents as the enemy. 


This bears striking resemblance to Komsomol, the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, the youth wing of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It operated as a political and social organization for young people in the Soviet Union, promoting communist ideology and fostering youth engagement in societal development. In many Western countries, the socialization of young individuals is entrusted to non-political entities like the family, church, and community (Gist, 1977). In Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution significantly disrupted the operation of traditional institutions. The political "upbringing" of future Soviet generations couldn't rely on the family and other conventional structures. It became the primary responsibility of a comprehensive party-directed program implemented through All-Union youth organizations, schools, and the cultivation of dedicated Soviet patriots.


With the belief that youths couldn't assimilate desired values without extensive, long-term indoctrination by adults directed by the party elite, this concerted effort aimed to achieve lasting mobilization, be it for explicit military purposes or other national priorities. According to historian Simon Rabinovitch's Russian history seminar at Boston University, "In order for the international Marxist Revolution to succeed, the youth had to be treated well and educated politically...Rather than attach themselves most strongly to their families, Soviet children were taught to prioritize Communism above all, and these youth organizations provided the very first encounters with socialism. This had the significant effect of diminishing the role of the family structure, and these groups became the primary outlet for self-expression among Soviet children.”


“Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for our Happy Childhood” (1936) Source: Diane P. Koenker: The Soviet Union since 1917 (Knight, 2009).

Before you enthusiastically fill out those forms, fork over the money, and pack those bags, gleefully sending your child off to an LGBTQ+ camp or retreat, think about what is at risk. You want what’s best for your child to grow into a healthy adult. If you willingly send your child off to a queer-affirming or LGBTQ+ camp or retreat, you are, in effect, throwing them to the wolves. Whether it’s packing your children away to a Soviet youth program or carting them off to an LGBTQ+ camp, the result is the same: your child will come back groomed and radicalized. Not only will your child be exposed to sexualization and gender ideology, but, much like Komsomol, your child will also have been indoctrinated to think of you, their parent, as the enemy they need to be protected from. As you receive emails and solicitations to enroll your child in camps and retreats for the coming year, we highly recommend that you do your research first! You may be the only thing standing in the way of their radicalization into the queer cult.



REFERENCES

Camp Green Cove. 79 Summers of Adventure. Summer Camp for Girls in North Carolina, www.greencove.com. Accessed 19 Jan. 2024. 

Camp Lilac. (2023, August 1). Enroll for Summer. https://www.camplilac.org/enroll

Camp Lilac. Welcome to Camp Lilac. www.camplilac.org. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024. 

Camp Mondamin. Camp Mondamin for Boys. Summer Camp for Boys in North Carolina, www.mondamin.com. Accessed 19 Jan. 2024. 

Gist, D. M. (1977). THE MILITARIZATION OF SOVIET YOUTH. Naval War College Review, 30(1), 115–133. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44641793

High Rock Bible Camp. Our Mission. http://highrockbiblecamp.org/mission.Accessed 19 Jan. 2024. 

Keenan, Harper, and “Lil Miss Hot Mess.” (2020) “Drag Pedagogy: The playful practice of queer imagination in early childhood.” Curriculum Inquiry 50(5): 440–461.

Keshet. (2023, August 1). Shabbaton FAQ. https://www.keshetonline.org/shabbaton/shabbaton-faq/

Keshet. (2023, August 1). Shabbaton Sample Schedule. https://www.keshetonline.org/shabbaton/shabbaton-faq/sample-schedule/

Knight, Rebecca. (2009). “Representations of Soviet Childhood in Post-Soviet Texts by Liudmila Ulitskaia and Nina Gabrielian” Modern Language Review, Vol.104(3): 790-808.

Rabinovitch, S. (HI273 - Boston University). Russia and Its Empires: The Soviet Cult of Childhood. Guided History. https://blogs.bu.edu/guidedhistory/russia-and-its-empires/elise-alexander/ 







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