A lot of summer camps had to close this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Camp Aranu’tiq in New Hampshire, a camp for transgender and nonbinary children. Julie Be is a music therapist who has helped run the camp since it was founded in 2009 and also one half of the children’s musical duo Ants on a Log, alongside Anya Rose. So the stuck-at-home campers would feel connected, Be and Rose put out an open call for songs that reflect the trans and nonbinary experience, use gender neutral pronouns or use humor to talk about gender. Together, they curated an album of children’s music called Trans & Nonbinary Kids Mix.
The album hopes to connect with kids across a spectrum of ages: from elementary school up through early high school. Be says that older kids will hear the music in a more nuanced way, but that we need to give kids in the lower age range more credit, too.
“I think people underestimate the ability for younger kids to know about gender,” they say. “There’s a lot of research that shows that kids know what their gender is, even around age 2.”
Songs like “Be Who You Are” and “Shine Bright” tackle finding love and support in affirming a kid’s identity from their perspective; others, like “Daughter” by Ryan Cassata, tell a story aimed more towards adults. Be says they wanted to show kids and adults what the other might be thinking, but also stressed the importance of parents being open to conversation, even at a young age.
“You can’t tell a kid to not think about something,” Be says. “I would say in general, if a parent is uncomfortable with talking about anything big like this, like how a kid identifies, you are missing a big opportunity to connect with your child, to love your child and support your child. That’s a big problem, gender aside.”
For Be, an album like Trans & Nonbinary Kids Mix would have meant a lot to them at a young age. “It definitely would have given me language that I did not have,” they say. Be hopes it can do the same for kids today.