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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 26, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 30
Camping it up - Photographer shows us that not all boys' camps are the same
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Camping it up - Photographer shows us that not all boys' camps are the same

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The summer months, for many American boys, are filled with adventure - climbing trees, building forts, and playing sports. It is a time when boys start to discover themselves and what makes them tick, and this is an education that cannot be taught within the confines of a traditional classroom. However, just as everything changes, so too has the idea of what a summer boys' camp is supposed to look like.

Over the past three years, photographer Lindsay Morris has been documenting a four-day camp for gender-nonconforming boys and their parents.

The camp, 'You Are You' (the name has been changed to protect the privacy of the participants) is for 'parents who don't have a gender-confirming three-year-old who wants to wear high heels and prefers to go down the pink aisle in K mart and not that nasty dark boys' aisle,' Morris jokingly told Slate.com's David Rosenberg.

SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT
It is also a place for both parents and children to feel protected in an environment that encourages free expression.

'[The kids] 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,' Morris said.

Morris says her photographic goal for the project is 'to represent the spirit of these boys as they shine.' Some of the ways in which the kids shine is through the talent and fashion shows at camp, which are highly popular and for which the campers come well-prepared.

'Some practice for the talent show all year, and others create their own gowns with their mothers or friends of the family,' Morris said. 'The focus and enthusiasm is really pretty incredible. Also, it can be very emotional for the parents, especially the families who are new to camp and are experiencing this kind of group acceptance for the very first time.'

It is important to note that it is unknown if the kids at the camp will eventually identify as Transgender - or even if the way gender and sexuality are defined throughout society will evolve. Still, the camp allows the kids to look at themselves in a completely different way.

'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.'

FUTURE POSSIBILITIES
Morris hopes she can eventually publish a book of her work and also launch a large multimedia show that travels the country and the world to show a new face of LGBT youth. All of the children featured in Morris's project were photographed with the permission of the their parents. Her ultimate goal is to start a foundation that raises money to help underwrite the cost of camp for kids unable to attend. She also hopes to add even more dimension to the project, concentrating on producing more portraiture and documenting the transition the kids experience upon arrival to the camp.

'I would really love to follow the kids into adulthood and see what kind of relationships they develop,' Morris said. 'I want to witness the evolution, knowing from where they started and see how life is going to play out for them - hopefully happily - and I think they're going to have a better transition into adulthood than the generation proceeding them.'

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