Nicholas Teich returns home to Cobble Hill
By Trudy Whitman
Brooklyn Dailiy Eagle
Nicholas M. Teich grew up with a female name.
Raised on Henry Street in Carroll Gardens — "a proud fourth-generation Brooklynite" — Teich always identified as male and decided as an adult to transition. Next Wednesday, he will read from his new book, "Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue," at BookCourt in Cobble Hill.
Working to feel comfortable in his own skin was a long and painful process that was complicated by a “lack of understanding in the American public surrounding trans issues," Teich says.
The book focuses on “coming out,” transitioning through surgery, living between genders and facing daily discrimination.
Teich argues for a more comprehensive understanding of transgenderism. "I constantly hear people use ‘transgender’ and ‘straight (‘heterosexual’) as mutually exclusive terms, which they are not,” he wrote recently on The Huffington Post.
As a young adult, Teich derived great satisfaction from volunteering at a summer camp. But after revealing to camp personnel that he planned to transition, he was asked not to return the following summer. Parents, he was told, just wouldn’t understand.
After recovering from this slap in the face, Teich committed himself to the creation of the first summer camp for transgender and gender-variant youths ages 8-15, Camp Aranu'tiq, which opened in August 2010.
The week-long camp has two sites — one in New England and one in Southern California.
“Camp Aranu'tiq is a ‘regular’ camp in a lot of ways,” Teich explained. “[There are] daytime activities on land and water, campfires at night and staying in cabins for the week. It’s a place for these kids to feel normal in a world that treats them as anything but. The entire camp is completely volunteer-run, from the top down.”
Just as Camp Aranu'tiq grew from Teich’s own experiences, so did "Transgender 101."
As a result of running the camps, Teich interfaces with parents soon after they discover their children’s transgenderism. These parents are looking for resources for understanding their kids, not only for themselves but for other family members and for friends. Teich said that most earlier literature on the topic was geared to professionals who already had a baseline understanding of the issue.
Teich’s book deliberately avoids a heavy tone. “Yes, transgenderism is a serious issue to those who are trans, and to their family and friends,” he wrote on The Huffington Post, “but I know from my own experience that if there is a void of levity, one can end up feeling hopeless."
Teich said that many of his transgender friends “cringe at the thought” of returning home because of “close-mindedness and homogeneity." But he has found acceptance in Brooklyn, which he said was "a great place to grow up."
"There are very few places that live by an example of rich diversity," Teich said. "Brooklyn is one of them.”
He's looking forward to returning to his hometown to help launch "Transgender 101." The first fundraiser for Aranu'tiq was held at his parents’ home in Brooklyn, he said.
Teich now lives in the Boston area with his fiancée and two dogs.
Nicholas M. Teich will read from "Transgender 101: A Simple Giuide to a Complex Issue," at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6, at BookCourt, 163 Court St. in Cobble Hill.