News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How a summer camp for transgender teens is planting roots in North Central Florida

Transcending Adolescence is the first sleepaway summer camp for transgender and nonbinary teens in the nation. The nonprofit is hosting its second summer camp program this year in Gainesville. CEO Christina Guiriba founded the 501c3 in response to anti-transgender legislationbeing pushed in her home state of Florida.

For campers like McKenna, Transcending Adolescence is a place where he can safely be himself in a traditional summer camp setting.

“It was the first time that I really had people like me (around me),” said McKenna, who asked that he and his mother be identified by their middles name due to fear for their personal safety. “ To be able to see people who have gone through the same stuff as me, and especially to see adults who made it in the world was really huge.”

McKenna’s mother, Ann, said she learned what the camp had to offer her son and took time to think about sending McKenna. She said she came to the decision to send McKenna after ongoing discussions with Guiriba.

“You need to find people who you can talk to about how this feels or that feels, experiences that I don’t have,” Ann said. “And that’s what I noticed when he came home, he was much more at ease knowing that he’s not the only one that experiences whatever it is.”

The camp is held over six days in August. During the day, campers engage in outdoor activities, crafts and personal defense lessons. At night, campers engage in conversation about what it means to be a young transgender person.

“The kids arrived at camp and you could see them getting off the bus with their trans flags, running to their cabin to go hang it up above their bunk,” Guiriba said. “I had never seen anything like that before.”

Public schools around the state have placed heavy guidelines on transgender students participating in their preferred gender group in sports since 2021. Transcending Adolescence focuses on providing a recreational space for gender-expressive teens.

“Eleven young people said they feel like they have the will to live now, which was both sad and beautiful at the same time,” Guiriba said. “Thinking that they came in not having the will to live, but knowing that they’re leaving with the will to live, that’s really beautiful.”

As the organization expands and continues to partner with sponsors, it will have the ability to host year-round camps across the country, Guiriba said. In 2022, Transcending Adolenscencse hosted 15 campers. This year they will have the capacity to host up to 100 campers.

“It felt nice to have a group that you’ve gotten to know over the weeks that you could really feel [safe] sharing stuff with,” McKenna said. “But, most of the other times throughout the day it was just, 'Let’s go have fun, let’s go to the water or do archery.'”

Guiriba began her nonprofit organization in 2021 when a statewide debate over anti-trans legislation ensued. As of May 2023, transgender teenagers’ access to gender-affirming care has been limited. The Transcending Adolescence summer camp is considered gender-affirming care for minors and requires parental consent to attend.

Transcending Adolenscencse has not been directly affected by anti-trans legislation or community pushback. In fact, community organizations and companies, including Target and the Unspoken Treasure Society, have supported the camp financially and in awareness raising.

“I wanted to really just provide kids with a space to learn all the things that I learned over 36 years about how to cope with transphobia and how to find peace where they really don’t let you find peace,” Guiriba said.

Abigail is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing