By JALEN BERKELEY, age 10, and IndyKids Staff

At Camp Aranu'tiq, kids who identify as transgender are allowed to feel comfortable being who they are. PHOTO: Camp Aranu'tiq
At Camp Aranu’tiq, kids who identify as transgender are allowed to feel comfortable being who they are. PHOTO: Camp Aranu’tiq

This summer a lot of kids will be going to a camp where they will split off into separate groups of girls and boys. For transgender kids, however, camp can be an uncomfortable and alienating experience. According to a study from the National Center for Transgender Equality, 82 percent of transgender youth say they feel unsafe at school. Forty-four percent have been physically abused. Transgender youth are often shunned socially, sometimes even by their own families. This type of social isolation has profound effects on them and has been linked to higher rates of depression.

Studies have shown, however, that when transgender youth are recognized and supported by family and peers, rates of depression decrease.

In 2009, Nick Teich founded Camp Aranu’tiq, a summer camp for kids who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming to be around others like themselves. At Camp Aranu’tiq, kids who identify as transgender are allowed to feel comfortable being who they are.

Aranu’tiq is a word in the language of the native Alaskan Chugachs that means a person who has both the male and female spirit. Aranu’tiq people were respected and looked up to among the Chugachs.

Camp Aranu’tiq is in many ways a lot like other summer camps. Kids play capture the flag, go swimming and canoeing and sit around campfires. “Before camp, I was really shy and not confident,” said Damien, a 15-year-old camper who was interviewed by the Boston Globe in 2012. “Now, I feel less alone and way more confident. I realized there isn’t anything wrong with me and there were people like me.”

Transgender: describes a person whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a person designated male at birth who identifies as a woman.

Gender non-conforming: describes behaviors and ways of being that are different from those usually associated with a person’s gender. For example, a boy who likes to wear dresses.