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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Gender-Nonconforming Children Find a Safehouse in You Are You

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 2:00 PM

  • Lindsay Morris

When photographer Lindsay Morris was brought to a gender-nonconforming summer camp for children and their families by a loved one seven years ago, she had no idea how her work with the camp would take off. Documenting the children’s experiences led to a photography collection, entitled You Are You, a book by the same name, and a touring exhibition coming to San Francisco’s Rayko Photo Center on May 14.

click to enlarge LINDSAY MORRIS
  • Lindsay Morris
“There was a group in Washington, DC, at the Children’s National Medical Center that formed as a support group for the kids and the parents,” Morris says of the beginnings of the project. “They found that the kids were really benefiting from contact with other like-minded children.”

From these meetings spawned a web forum for the parents of gender-nonconforming children. Here, the adults could connect with each other and plan activities where the kids would feel supported. It was in these web forums that the idea for camp was born.

“Most of these kids won’t go to a traditional, American summer camp,” says Morris. “So the parents tried to create that kind of setting for them.”

The camp — which the artist only refers to as "You Are You" to protect the privacy of the families — offers something that most children can more or less take for granted: the chance to roast marshmallows, pitch tents, and canoe without feeling like an outsider.

“It creates this really affirming setting for the kids where they don’t have to look over their shoulders and they can totally express themselves. They can wear what they want, and be how they feel," Morris says.

  • Lindsay Morris
But how do the parents feel about Morris taking and sharing photographs of their children?

click to enlarge LINDSAY MORRIS
  • Lindsay Morris
“Initially, all of the adults were taking pictures,” she said. “Over time we just started to see this beautiful story evolving.” From there, it was the parents that pushed Morris to take the next steps. “A couple of them suggested to have the courage to make themselves visible — therefore adding momentum to the conversation about gender-unique children.”

The images are powerful. Sure, Morris has a great eye and is a hell of a technician — and the photographs can be appreciated in their own right. But it’s the context that will really get you. They’re just kids hanging out at summer camp, comfortable in their own skin — and it’s terribly refreshing to see.

You Are You, May 14 - June 19, at Rayko Photo Center Gallery, 428 Third St., 415-359-2728, free.

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Laura Jaye Cramer


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