Important new books add to the body of knowledge

When I first encountered Nick Teich and his brilliant Camp Aranu’tiq, the first-ever summer camp for transgender children, I was blown away. First, it’s a fantastic idea. Second, it’s one of those things people talk about doing but don’t get off the ground because it’s so much work. Nick, a social worker who lives in the Boston area, did. He established a non-profit organization and a group of volunteers for this all-volunteer run camp. (Please consider making a donation of any size.) The first camp was in 2010, in southern New England. This year, he added a California site. Only one one-week session is in each region each summer, but hopefully more sessions will be added down the line.

Camp organizer and author Nick Teich

OK, so there’s that, which is so important for transgender kids and their families. But now Nick (Nicholas, officially) has done even more – for all of us. He’s written a wonderful primer called “Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue.” This is the first overall resource book since “True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism–For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals,” which came out in 2003 – almost a decade ago. An updated guide was desperately needed, and Nick has filled the void.

Nick’s writing is clear and conversational, and the topics cover the spectrum of gender transition. Here are some chapter headings: Sexual Orientation Vs. Gender; Coming Out as Transgender; Transition: The Social, the Emotional, and the Medical; Discrimination. He also explores mental health issues, transgender history and evolution to current-day thinking, and he explains a host of gender-variant people/labels, from drag queens to cross-dressers to genderqueer people. The glossary, resources, and bibliography are yet another source of vital information. I really hope to see more about Nick, Camp Aranu’tiq and his book in the mainstream media (I’m working on it!).

I want to also take the opportunity here to recognize “The Lives of Transgender People” by Genny Beemyn and Susan Rankin. (Both this and “Transgender 101” are published by Columbia University Press.) This is a more scholarly, data-focused book and is the result of the authors’ groundbreaking study examining the transgender community. Nearly 3,500 people participated in the survey, making it one of the largest ever conducted in the US. While it’s grounded in science, personal testimonies bring it to life.

Both books are very welcome additions to the transgender library.

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