Camp for Transgender Kids Builds Trust
On the volleyball court, a boy spiked a shot and his teammates cheered. Nearby, some campers lay on mats, doing yoga stretches. A girl executed a series of cartwheels. Over in drama, the kids performed a âcranky old ladyâ talk show; everyone cracked up.
Before the week was over, there were campfires, Capture the Flag, a skit night, and a talent show. Camp Aranuâtiq seemed like a traditional New England camp, complete with requisite lake, rustic cabins, and 65 shrieking campers.
Only when you see tags around campersâ necks, with the words â(HE)â or â(SHE)â under their names, do you realize somethingâs different here. It is the only camp of its kind in the country, a camp for transgender kids, where idle chatter on sports, music, school, and teenage crushes blends right in with talk about âcoming out,â âtransitioning,â puberty blockers â and bullying.
For privacy and safety reasons, Camp Aranuâtiq has never allowed media inside, but recently let a Globe reporter and photographer spend a day at its wooded Connecticut grounds during its weeklong session in late August. Campers, parents, and staff are required to sign a confidentiality contract, and the exact location is not revealed until the child is enrolled. âThey know itâs a safety issue,â said founder and director Nick Teich.
Aranuâtiq, he said, strives to remove the fear and isolation that transgender children experience back home. According to a 2007 study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, 90 percent of transgender youth report being verbally harassed and more than half physically harassed. Two-thirds of them say they felt unsafe in school. Many have changed schools. Some just upped and moved, to a new city or new state.