3 min

Gay man accuses BC campground of homophobia

Staff only objected to two tents after they saw two men holding hands, says Wood

Paul Wood had an unpleasant camping experience in Penticton and doesn’t buy the campground’s explanation. Credit: Courtesy Paul Wood

A gay man who claims he and his three gay friends were singled out and humiliated by the staff of a Penticton, BC campground tells Daily Xtra that he is unimpressed with the campground’s response to date.

“It was completely inappropriate and yet again inflammatory and disrespectful,” says Paul Wood, who says he plans to file a human rights complaint against South Beach Gardens campground.

Wood alleges that he and his friends were asked to alter their campsite on Aug 26, 2016, after two of the men were seen holding hands during an evening walk at a nearby beach.

“As we left, the four of us were walking along and Justin and Jordan were holding hands and we were getting a lot stares and glares from campers and employees,” Wood says. “It was remarkable. We were like, ‘Wow, they’ve obviously never seen two guys holding hands before.’”

He alleges two campground employees then confronted them and said they were not allowed to set up two tents in one campsite. Wood says he and his friends were given three options: pay for a second campsite; take down the second tent on the first campsite; or leave.

He says he and his friends decided to pay for two campsites for the night.

“It was dark and we didn’t want to break down our camps and get into the cars and then go off and find a hotel,” he says. “So we then tried to reason with the staff person and said, ‘Fine, we will take the campsite next door. And we’ll pay for it right now so you have the extra $14. But would it be possible to move our smaller camp in the morning so we don’t disturb our fellow guests who are sleeping?’”

Wood alleges a staff person insisted they take down their tent that evening, even if it disturbed other guests.

Wood believes the staff person’s decision to enforce the rules at any cost was a direct result of two men holding hands. He says he told the staff person that as a gay man, he could not give her campground a positive recommendation.

“That’s the point where she literally laughed in our faces and said that was completely fine with them because they were a family-oriented campground,” he alleges. “We were stunned into silence by her outrageous remark.”

Contacted for a response, South Beach’s president, who identified herself as Kim, declined Daily Xtra’s request for further comment.

Wood shared his experiences in a Facebook post on Aug 27, 2016, that has since received over 600 shares.

The campground responded with its own post, stating that it was simply following its policy.

“Our campsites are designed to accommodate one sleeping unit. The customers were told if they had more than one tent they would have to take two sites,” reads the campground’s post. “The customer assured us they only had one tent so therefore only needed one campsite.”

Wood denies this and says that his friends told the campground that they planned to set up two tents.

“They did not object to two tents,” he says. “When it came to be a problem, I pointed out the campsite next door with two tents but were told that was special circumstances for families.”

Wood maintains staff had seen the two tents and said nothing until his friends were holding hands.

“They knew about it when we set up our tents because they had been in place all day long. And employees had driven by in golf cars and waved at us. If they couldn’t count two tents at that point perhaps their arithmetic skills need brushing up.”

In its Facebook post, the campground points out that the men decided to leave of their on accord.

“We find it unfortunate that the situation has been taken out of context and the customer appears to be using their personal lifestyle preferences as a result of not wanting to accept our policies,” reads their statement. “No further statements will be made regarding this matter.”

Wood says the phrase ‘personal lifestyle preference’ reveals the campground’s lack of respect for the LGBT community.