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Meet the Jewish trans man who founded transgender summer camp

Nick Teich is the founder and director of Camp Aranu’tiq, the first summer camp in the United States that caters to transgender and gender-variant youth (that is, children whose gender expression does not conform to conventional ideas of masculinity and femininity). The camp takes its name from an indigenous Alaskan term for a person who embodies both the male and female spirit. At Aranu’tiq, transgender campers — many of whom have been bullied, beaten up or threatened outside camp — have the opportunity to express themselves freely. They get to choose which bunk they stay in, depending on how they identify: on the “masculine spectrum” or the “feminine spectrum.”

Aranu’tiq, which serves kids between the ages of 8 and 15, began in 2009 as a weeklong summer camp in New England. (Teich doesn’t reveal its exact location, to protect the campers.) It has since added a week in Southern California; next year it plans to add a leadership camp for kids ages 16 to 18, and a family retreat in New England. “We’re outgrowing our space,” Teich said. “It’s a nice problem to have.”

Teich, a transgender Jewish man who is working on a doctorate in social policy at Brandeis University, spoke with the Forward’s Sarah Seltzer about his own camp experience, his religious background and what a typical session is like at his atypical summer camp.

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