At a camp for gender nonconforming children, photographer Lindsay Morris’s photos reveal the rare experience of children simply being themselves in a world that often won’t accept them.

Camp “You are You”was started nine years ago by parents who organized on an online listserv run by the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC.

The camp--now held once every year in different locations around the country--is intended as an opportunity to give kids under 13 the chance to express their genders alongside others like them, culminating in a fashion show at the end of the weekend.

She says for many, being there is a life-changing experience. Many families come back year after year.

“It’s almost like a reunion. It feels like a bunch of friends who have this one common thread: Their boys enjoy dressing like girls,” says Morris, who has taken photos at the camp over the last four years.

“It’s a chance to get them face-to-face and give them an opportunity to see that they are not alone,” says Morris. \

“These kids often feel really isolated. No matter how much support you have at home, you still have to go to school...It’s the first time they are being celebrated, rather than questioned. They don’t need to explain themselves.”

2014-06-13

Co.Exist

Inspiring Photos Of Children Expressing Their True Genders

At Camp You Are You, boys don't have to be boys. They can be whomever they want to be, even if that includes wearing a dress.

At Camp “You Are You,” a four-day getaway held every year for gender nonconforming children, all adults on hand worked to pitch in for the weekend. Long Island photographer Lindsay Morris’s job was to document the fun. Her inspiring photos reveal the rare experience of children simply being themselves in a world that often won’t accept them.

Camp “You are You” (this is not the real name, to protect the attendees’ privacy) was started nine years ago by parents who organized on an online listserv run by the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Morris explains that the camp--now held once every year in different locations around the country--is intended as an opportunity to give kids under 13 the chance to express their identities alongside others like them, culminating in a fashion show at the end of the weekend.

Credit: Lindsay Morris

“It’s a chance to get them face-to-face and give them an opportunity to see that they are not alone,” says Morris. “These kids often feel really isolated. No matter how much support you have at home, you still have to go to school. ... It’s the first time they are being celebrated, rather than questioned. They don’t need to explain themselves.”

She says for many of the kids, being there is a life-changing experience. Many families come back year after year. “It’s almost like a reunion. It feels like a bunch of friends who have this one common thread: Their boys enjoy dressing like girls,” says Morris, who has taken photos at the camp over the last four years.

Since she began her work, Morris’s photos, made public with families’ permission, have taken on a life of their own. One was featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, which generated more media coverage in Europe and some in the U.S.

Credit: Lindsay Morris

The publicity comes at a time when the conversation about transgender and LGBT rights and life experiences is changing. Many consider her photos controversial, but even in the year or so her work has been getting attention, reactions have become more positive and accepting, she says. “A lot of people feel this is the civil rights issue of our time,” she notes.

Her photos are already helping to contribute to awareness. She recently raised more than $40,000 on Kickstarter to publish a book in the next year, and they will also be on displayed at shown exhibitions in Brooklyn and Atlanta this year. Everyday, her email box is now flooded with notes from parents, activists, and older transgender adults. She’s talking with parents at the camp about creating a handbook so similar places can be easily set up elsewhere. “These camps can really exist in every city and every state in the country. Statistically, these kids are out there.”

[Photos by Lindsay Morris]

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17 Comments

  • Nathanial Poling

    I think this article got posted on the wrong website, change.org would have been a better fit.

  • No, it's not. It's just an educated understanding of human behavior, gender identity and development.

    It's about not being so backwards that one immediately shows hostility to that which is unfamiliar.

    Just because other humans have different identities or experiences than you do doesn't necessarily give you the right to judge them. Especially if you do not have the ability to understand or to empathize.

    Before we judge or ridicule, we should try to understand people. Then, even if we still didn't understand, then at the very least, an appropriate and civilized response would be to tolerate those who are different from ourselves.

    'Weird' and 'normal' are subjective and have changed throughout time. Before this century, boys wearing dresses actually was the norm. So again, don't assume your own limited knowledge and experience can determine 'normality.'

  • kenn7727

    I think it is merely allowing a child, a young human being, a few moments to feel free, to play without being harassed, and to experience life as it is...in a body that can be confusing - especially to others who can react negatively.

  • Kelly Vinson

    Transvestite. : a person and especially a male who adopts the dress and often the behavior typical of the opposite sex especially for purposes of emotional or sexual gratification

    A perfectly good and accurate word, unlike 'gender-nonconforming' or 'differently-gendered' , neither of which exist. Words can only be masculine, feminine, or neutral, and only words have gender. The word people seem to be struggling with is SEX, people have a sex, not a gender.

  • kenn7727

    The history of the English language, like all languages, is marked by change, by fluidity, and by ongoing shifts in usage. It's kinda why 'gray' was invented - because some things aren't just 'black' or 'white.'

  • Mara Gottlieb

    Show me where research says that feeling like we belong does any harm to anyone. Or dressing in what is considered "opposite gender" clothing, for that matter. The boys who arrive at this camp do so after a lot of pain, alienation, and incredible courage for admitting they see themselves as different, and I applaud their families for allowing them to find a place where they can belong and feel normal.

  • kenn7727

    Huh?? Giving a child a chance to be free and playful for a few moments in a life otherwise filled with harassment?

  • Bun Thomas

    You people are all sick. I would certainly choose different acronyms to describe these kids. And some children with big noses have to go to school and take the abuse. It's part of growing up and helps them become stronger in life. Why can't parents (these days) just let their children grow up?

  • matterofstrength

    Feel free to be as thoroughly ashamed of yourself as you possible can be, "Bun". You're an idiot, you apparently condone abusing children and allowing others to abuse children, and I'd venture to say that you have so much hatred in that pitiful thing you call a heart, even hell is not going to want you. Unfortunately, that's the only place you'll ever belong. In the meantime, keep your hate speech where it belongs-- the nowhere that is your used up, white trash mouth.

  • Kat ThebigGun Super-Honcho

    I agree with you. this country is CONDONING and now PROMOTING this crap. They are raising future gays and lesbians and nourishing this garbage. And then WE, the NORMAL people are supposed to "tolerate it".??? yeah ok!! NEVER!

  • Ellen Barnard

    First, I'd encourage you to consider writing the sentence "They can be whomever they want to be, even if that includes wearing a dress." and drop the "even if that includes wearing a dress". First, because it focuses on natal boys only, and leave out natal girls who choose to express their gender differently than their biological makeup, and second because it implies that somehow wearing a dress is tremendously odd. The point is made very well by just saying "they can be whomever they want to be" alone.

    Second, is the camp only welcoming natal boys who feel differently-gendered than their biological bodies, or is it for all children who feel their inner identity does not conform to their biological bodies?