MAKANDA, Ill. — The middle schoolers at Camp Indigo Point were hanging out by their cabins after swimming in the lake, practicing the ukulele and stuffing foil packets with ground beef and vegetables, which were now roasting on the fire, seven minutes on each side.
Arin Webber, a real estate agent turned camp counselor, was competing against heat and hunger for the campers’ attention. Still, while they waited for dinner, she nudged the campers to open up a bit.
What were they proud of? she asked the group, nearly all of whom identified as transgender, gender nonconforming or queer and had come from across the country for a week sequestered in the woods.
report released this year. Experts say that young people increasingly have the language to explore their gender identities and that even the notion of what it means to live as a transgender person is shifting. Some teenagers seek out hormones or surgeries to transition to another gender, and others do not. Some treatments used in gender-related care carry medical risks.
At Indigo Point, even some of the youngest campers were acutely aware of the political currents.
“Sharing the parts of me that are queer could be illegal,” said Eloise, an 11-year-old from Michigan. “That just feels like a really scary possibility.”
Organizers hoped to give campers a chance to spend time with other young people like themselves — and also let them simply experience summer camp, with all the fun and frustration that comes with piling into cabins with virtual strangers. They played tag, tie-dyed T-shirts, made s’mores, summoned spirits with a Ouija board and sang along to a Backstreet Boys song they somehow knew the words to, though it was released long before any of them were born.
And sometimes, in conversations around the campfire, they talked about family members who refused to use their preferred names, about friendships that had frayed.