You Are You - An Open Childhood
This project documents the experience of gender non-conforming and transgender boys at an annual weekend family camp.
A 2009 GLSEN survey found that nine out of ten LGBT students experience harassment at school and nearly two thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Statistically LGBT youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual young people.
In a society where 20 percent of LGBT youth will run away from home because of conflicts with their families over their sexual identities, this essay describes something different. Camp You Are You (whose name has been changed to protect the privacy of the participants) offers a temporary safe haven where gender variant boys can freely express their interpretations of femininity alongside their parents and siblings. My photographic goal is to represent the spirit of these boys as they shine. When together, they are supported to be true to their inner nature. They may don wigs, high heels and gem-encrusted tiaras without feeling the need to look over their shoulders. My intention is to produce a body of work that speaks out against intolerance while sharing with the viewer the beautiful spark of these boys. In portraying these children with an abundance of acceptance, I hope that this work can assist parents and the general public who struggle with their own uncertainties and prejudices with regard to the gender-unique population.
The task of documenting these boys with a voice that is at once accepting and protective, celebratory and cautious is daunting, though I believe one which
would make an important and timely contribution to the conversation currently taking place in the media, our schools and around the world. This photo essay is an opportunity for the viewer to experience the tolerance and affirmation that vitalizes these kids in a setting of acceptance. As this rare group of parents stands united in embracing these boys, most schools are only in the initial stages of developing the comprehensive anti-bullying/harassment polices that will be instrumental in protecting them.