For the past three years, photographer Lindsay Morris has been following a group of special kids who attend an annual four-day camp for “gender-nonconforming boys and their parents.” In order to protect the boys and their families, Morris simply refers to the camp as Camp You Are You, and explains it as a place where these boys “don’t have to look over their shoulders, and they can let down their guard. Those are four days when none of that matters, and they are surrounded by family members who support them.”
Looking at the photos from Morris’s collection, it would be easy to mistake these kids as a bunch of adorable young girls––running, playing and having fun like kids everywhere do at camp. But for many of them, Camp You Are You, is one of the few places they feel comfortable enough to experiment and express unconventional gender presentations. The focus at You Are You isn’t on resolving whether or not a kid is transgender, or gay, or both — or neither. It’s simply a safe space where these boys can dress and act in ways that might (sadly) otherwise ostracize them in their regular lives.
At camp, boys dress up, play, perform and interact in whatever stage of gender identity they most feel comfortable in. For some, that means wearing wigs and dresses. For others, it includes putting on makeup or heels. Whatever it is, says Morris, it’s a positive step for these kids. “They get enough questioning in their daily lives, so it’s a great place for them to express themselves as they feel. … I feel we hear so many of the sad stories and how LGBT kids are disproportionately affected by bullying, depression, and suicide, and it hangs a heavy cloud over them and kind of dooms them from the beginning. I’m saying this is a new story. This is not a tragedy.”
Excuse me, I have a case of the happy cries. [Slate]