UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Camp Dragonfly, a two-day retreat in Edmonton, aimed to be a safe, fun space for trans kids. (Photo credit: Katie Cutting)

New Edmonton camp allows transgender kids to just be themselves

Camp Dragonfly is a break from public life from trans children, says the organizer, where their 'existence is constantly under question.'

By Alison Brooks-Starks

At Edmonton’s Camp Dragonfly this summer, participants had their choice of activities: some played at the playground while others did their nails; later, they could dance or do a quiet guided meditation. Campers also chose whether they wanted to go by a different name, or switch their pronouns, for example from “he” to “she” or “they.”

For transgender kids, this is part of what makes the camp a safer place. To have the freedom to choose, says camp organizer Zoe Chaytors, and for the adults in the room to support that choice, is a break from public life, where their “existence is constantly under question.”

Noticing a lack of programming for trans children, LGBTQ group Rainbow Connection and Southminster-Steinhauer United Church started the camp this summer. The program received funding from Embracing the Spirit through the United Church’s Mission & Service Fund. 

The camp was not about being trans, it was simply about being a kid, says Chaytors. Kickboxing, campfire songs and playing by the creek were all part of the two-day retreat for kids ages six to 13.

The 25 campers were supported by four trans, genderfluid and non-binary counsellors. While the kids were nervous when they arrived, Chaytors says that on day two, they walked in with “swagger and confidence.” By camp’s end, they were “coming back to give fourth and fifth and sixth hugs,” she says.

Older campers also opened up to each other in a sharing circle. Camper Rigby Mugridge, 13, says they explored “very sensitive topics.” When asked how this was possible at such a short camp, he says, “everyone knew they weren’t going to get hurt or they weren’t going to get judged.”

In its first year, Dragonfly already felt like family. At the end, caregivers and local trans role models attended a community dinner where Mugridge summed up the camp’s ethos in his graduating camper speech. “Everyone deserves to be loved,” he said. “And even if you don’t think anybody is there for you, there’s always going to be someone.” 

Alison Brooks-Starks helped organize Camp Dragonfly and was a camp "heart monitor," or chaplain.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


Rev. Don Collett had a hand in writing the document that paved the way for the open ordination of LGBT folks in the United Church of Canada. (Credit: Bayne Stanley)

For me, the landmark United Church vote on sexual orientation came at a high personal cost

by Don Collett

"Justice was served at General Council. Yes. And harm was also done," says Rev. Don Collett.

Promotional Image


Editor/publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Should we apologize for the hurt surrounding the 1988 decision?

by Jocelyn Bell

The groundbreaking United Church vote on gay and lesbian ministers has transformed the denomination in the years since, but there's still work left to do.

Promotional Image


Meet beloved church cats Mable and Mouse

by Observer Staff

They're a fixture of Kirk United Church Centre in Edmonton.

Promotional Image


September 2018

11 Ontarians share their opioid stories in this powerful project

by Mugoli Samba

The Opioid Chapters hopes to add nuance to the public discussion on opioids.


September 2018

Do we face a future without Down syndrome?

by Kevin Spurgaitis

Advances in prenatal testing mean parents can detect the chromosomal difference earlier. What does this mean for the future of Down Syndrome?


September 2018

I send my kids to Catholic school, but I'm not Catholic

by Pieta Woolley

A lifelong United Church member explains why she's embracing lessons in reading, writing and rosaries.

Promotional Image