Finn Greig’s own experiences growing up in London inspired him to found a camping trip for trans young people – some of whom credit it with saving their lives…
‘Growing up trans in north London had its challenges. I knew I was a boy when I was really little, but everybody told me that I wasn’t. One of my earliest memories is my sister’s second birthday. I was four and I refused to wear a dress at first, but my grandma forced my mum to make me wear one. I ended up squelching birthday cake all over it in protest!
When I started secondary school in Dalston, I remember being very aware of my gender: of being a masculine young woman. A lot of girls bullied me for wearing trousers. My mum moved me to a girls’ school in Camden, which I loved as it was non-uniform. I made a lot of friends there, but even so, there wasn’t one person I could really talk to about trans issues. It just wasn’t well understood then, and I felt like I was doing everything on my own. My parents were great, but I didn’t feel like I could necessarily speak to them.
All of that was a big factor in why I became a youth worker. I didn’t want kids having to go through the same thing I did. Working with young people, I became more aware of the need for exclusive spaces for trans youth. I was part of co-founding Gendered Intelligence in 2008, to support trans young people aged eight to 25 across England, and in 2010 I started the Gendered Intelligence camping trip.
We had no funds, so we decided to go camping on a small budget. Eight young people and four volunteers, including me, spent two nights there. It wasn’t particularly planned: we mostly played games and chatted round a campfire.
Since then, with the help of funding from Children in Need and others, I’ve run camps during the summer holidays every year. This year, 80 young people attended over two weekends. All the places were booked up within three minutes – just like Glastonbury!
We do activities like kayaking and zipwire. We also hire out a pool, which means a lot to the young people: one told me they hadn’t been in a swimming pool for ten years. Every night at campfire, we discuss our hopes, reflections and pride in others and ourselves. I always try to savour the moment. When I see young people smiling and laughing, I know that getting the chance to relax is something they just don’t experience very often. It’s really special.
For some people, camp marks the first time they get to meet a fellow trans young person. I’m pretty sure its success stems from the fact that, for once, they don’t have to worry about proving themselves to others. On the last day, we sit around talking about what we’ll metaphorically take home with us. Six or seven young people said this year that it had given them a reason to live. I’ve had other messages like that too: “If I hadn’t been able to come to camp for the last three years, I would have ended my life by now.” Thinking about it almost reduces me to tears.
It might only be a few days of the year, but it’s so rewarding to give trans young people the chance to be away from the difficulties they face in the cis world. I don’t have my own child but I feel like camp is the closest thing to it. I’m proud I keep fighting for it to exist. I’m already excited for next year.’
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