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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