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LGBT

This Summer Camp Is Providing A Place For Trans Kids To Simply Be Themselves

A documentary special airing Wednesday on TLC provides a glimpse into Camp You Are You, a safe haven for many transgender children and their families.

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One unique summer camp in the U.S. is bringing transgender children and their families together for a week of activities, workshops, and, of course, a ton of summer fun.

Lindsay Morris / INSTITUTE / youareyouproject.com

Located at an undisclosed location in the midwest in order to protect the families' privacy, Camp You Are You gives transgender kids ages 5-12, who may not be out at school or to their friends yet, a place where they can express themselves freely without judgement. Parents are just as involved at the annual summer event, connecting with other parents to discuss important decisions — like whether or not their child should should start hormone treatments.

For the very first time, a film crew was permitted to join several families on their journey through the summer camp experience. The documentary special Transgender Kids Camp will air on TLC Wednesday evening.

Lindsay Morris / INSTITUTE / youareyouproject.com

Documentary director Nicholas Sweeney discovered the camp after coming across a photo series by Photographer Lindsay Morris.

"She had been documenting camp for some time, and many of the families she had shot with were at a point where they were very keen to share their stories with the intention of helping others," Sweeney told BuzzFeed News.

The filmmaker attended the camp from start to finish, interviewing families before, during, and after their camp experience. "To me the most important thing was to let them tell their own stories in their own words."

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Sabrina, a mother of four who has acted as the driving force behind the event for the past eight years, actually thought of the idea for a trans summer camp after attending a similar event for trans kids and their parents. The weekend was so impactful for her 13-year-old trans daughter, Ryan, she decided to take it on herself.

"Ryan was certain that there was no one like her on the planet — she was shocked," Sabrina told BuzzFeed News of her daughter's reaction to meeting other trans kids for the very first time. Ryan has been identifying as female since she was three years old.

Under Sabrina's guidance the camp has become a week-long event filled with ice breakers, workshops for parents, and pool parties for the entire family. "They don't have to explain themselves, they don't have to protect themselves, they don't have to make excuses. There are no questions— just have fun!"

The camp experience is just as meaningful for parents, who often keep in contact with Sabrina all year long. They have a space to air anxieties without judgement, as well as seek guidance from other parents who can relate first-hand to their questions.

According to Ryan, the main event is a fashion show at the end of the week.

"I saw all of the makeup and the nail polish and dresses — the holy grail, basically," Ryan said, referring to the very first time she participated. "I was just like, 'I will use every single one of these. I'm going to look pretty! I'm going to look the best!' But I actually looked like a train wreck because I did all my makeup myself. It was fun though, and I indulged myself in all those amazing items that were there for me."

"There are so many kids who come here scared and they leave proud," Sabrina said of the camp's impact. "They start transitioning and presenting to the world because of camp. They get that courage and that connection from this place."

Sabrina hopes that the televised program will help educate the general public on trans issues, but more importantly normalize transgender children's experiences. "These kids are just kids. They're OK and there is nothing wrong."

Transgender Kids Camp airs Wednesday June 1st at 9pm ET / 8pm CT on TLC

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