A-Camp October 2013: It’s Campership Time!

Sometimes you wanna go to A-Camp but you just can’t afford it, and sometimes you don’t really want to go to A-Camp but totally could afford it, and if we mash both of those types of people together, we create a symbiotic relationship known as “the campership.” Although we have lots of good ideas around here, this particular idea just-so-happens to be yours.

This October, we’ll be heading up to the mountain with a gaggle of delightful humans, accompanied by first-rate talent like world-class comic Deanne Smith, Design*Sponge Founder Grace Bonney, rock star and Real L Word alum Somer Bingham and so many lovely Team Autostraddle members. You guys, THE CARNIVAL.

There will be workshops and panels and activities and lots of feelings, and to find out more about the experience you can read recaps from April 2012 and September 2012 and May 2013, and read the announcement post for October 2013 Camp here.

This time we’re gonna be giving away full Camperships and partial camperships. You can:

1. Donate a full campership ($465) which will go to one camper. You’ll have the option to donate anonymously or have your identity revealed to the camper, who then might, you know, send you a thank you card or something! To do this, just enter $465 as your donation amount via this link, and Daniela will be in touch about your identification prefernces.

2. Donate to The Campership Fund! Half of the campership fund will go towards full camperships and airport shuttles for those who need it. The other half will go towards half-camperships ($230 each). (Subject to change depending on how many donations we get)

If you want to apply for a Campership, you can do so here. The only requirements are that you be a new camper who’s never been to A-Camp before and that you have a way to get there.

If you need a little inspiration to open your pocketbooks for some fine human beings, we’ve got here some essays from the winners of May 2013 Camperships. You can also obtain further heartstring-tugging from the campershippers of September 2012 and April 2012.

If all this just makes you wanna go to A-Camp regular-style, you should!


Caitlyn, 19 – Boston, MA

Photo via Caitlyn

Photo via Caitlyn

I have been living as a survivor for three years — unable to get help when I asked for it, kicked out of my house by my parents a few weeks after graduating high school, unable to attend college as I’d hoped to do. I was learning to live on my own.

I wanted to get to A-Camp 3.0 so I could meet the community that accepted me during the worst years of my life right before setting out to leave where I came from and move somewhere new.

A-Camp is about community. It’s about hundreds of like-minded, inspiring, beautiful, open, queer people getting together to create this safe space I never imagined could exist. For me, the past few years have been spent mostly on surviving, and A-Camp was the first place to entirely embrace me in this unconditional kindness, safety, love and solidarity that I hadn’t known for years. That’s what makes A-Camp so profoundly important to me. That sense of safety and community that hasn’t been guaranteed for me was suddenly there, and for five full days I was able to operate openly and unapologetically as myself; without thinking twice, without question, without hesitation. And, once you have that, there’s really no limit to what you can make happen – that’s where the rest of A-Camp comes in!

There are panels about sex, race, relationships, queer history, and more sex. Then, there are the workshops where you could write things or make a thing or drink whiskey or learn how to do drag. Then, there’s the best part, where you don’t even have to go to any of it if you don’t want to! You could spend all day walking around the mountain, talking to attractive/queer/interesting people, and when night happens you could do any combination of drinking, partying, dancing, star gazing, running off into the woods to hook up with someone, and so much more.

As a person who has never really had a place they considered home, I like to find my home in other people, and A-Camp proved to be the perfect community to become just that.

I’m rambling, but that’s the point: A-Camp is this magical place full of opportunity, beautiful queer people, beautiful queer everything, and it’s all about what you make of it. For me it was this open safe space that allowed me to hit the ground running, meet more lovely, inspiring people with stories similar to mine than I ever have, attend panels that lit me up and gave me all the feelings and ideas, party, chase geckos and dance with all of the stunning queer people I just met.

What more can I say? As a person who has never really had a place they considered home, I like to find my home in other people, and A-Camp proved to be the perfect community to become just that. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget, and I feel privileged and humbled to have found home in it all. I’m endlessly grateful to everyone who makes this possible, for the campership that made it possible for me, and to all the ‘straddlers out there who continue to create the impossibly beautiful place that it is A-Camp – y’all are the best. I’m certainly planning to make my way back soon, until then: take care, stay sassy, and you do you!

Photo via Caitlyn

Photo via Caitlyn


Ana, 22 – Nogales Sonora, México

Photo via Ana

Photo via Ana

Living in México in a small border city and with a very Catholic family has been a hard process to find myself and be who I am.

I’ve been reading Autostraddle for a while now, and I love it, since the first time I read it I haven’t stopped. For me, it was this amazing community I found on the internet, and it was helping me get through a lot. So when I read about A-Camp I thought it was such an amazing idea, but something I’d never be able to afford because dollars are expensive — the minimum wage in the US is between 6 or 8 dollars per hour, which in Mexico is equivalent to 5.18 dollars per day. I’m a student, so there was no way I was gonna be able to come up with the money for camp. But when I saw the campership opportunity I was so happy because at least there was some hope for me to go to camp. So I applied and when I got the email saying “You’ve Won a Campership!” I did my happy dance and yelled at the top of my lungs, I was so happy and excited. Going to camp was a dream come true.

I don’t have enough words in English or Spanish to thank the people who donated and who are gonna donate camperships for this camp.

A-Camp gave me a sense of community (outside of the internet, which is like 10000 times better), a safe space, and a place where I could be completely myself and not just parts of me, where I didn’t have to check if “I looked too gay.” It was this awesome place where I learned so many interesting things in the panels and workshops, and met amazing people. At the beginning I was afraid because I didn’t knew anyone in my cabin and because my first language is Spanish (and my English isn’t so good) so I didn’t know how that would work with other people, but everyone in my cabin was so welcoming and by the end of camp we had really bonded and now we are friends. (Foxfire don’t stop!!).

Photo via Ana

Everyday I woke up at 7 AM to go drink coffee and then go to the Morning Stretch or Yoga, and every night I went to bed at 2.am or 3.am after dancing and having tons of fun at KLUB DEER. I just wanted to do and learn as much things as I could, so I could bring it back home with me and not feel so alone and hopefully someday put into use all the things I learned and start a queer community where I live.

One of my favorite things at camp was the staff reading and Lilith Flair. If you think the autostraddle team is great, you have to meet them in person. They really go out of their way to make A-Camp happen and be the amazing thing it is, Muchas gracias por todo. Shout out to Gabby and Katrina, my cabin counselors for making my camp experience complete, and to Alex Vega because she took the time to talk to me and she was really cool.

Camp was such a great and filled-with-feelings experience, all my walls came down at camp, I felt like I belonged there. I don’t have enough words in English or Spanish to thank the people who donated and who are gonna donate camperships for this camp. Even if you don’t think that you are making a difference, believe me you are, that experience might change someone’s life.

Photo via Ana


Nancy, 22 – Signal Mountain, TN

Getting my campership was the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me. It trumped college, that one time I went to London, and possibly sex (possibly). When I got the email telling me I was going to A-Camp in May I was in a work meeting for a job I’d get fired from shortly thereafter, and I had to go grocery shopping after that. None of that stopped me from jumping up and down excitedly in the middle of the meeting and then practically dancing through the grocery store, a grin a mile wide on my face. I think I scared the cashier.

Photo by Bree

See, I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going to get it. I knew that a lot of people had applied for it, and yeah, I’d had a really crappy year for a lot of reasons (including that my mother was diagnosed with Stage III A DCIS breast cancer) and A-Camp would be just this massive break and stress relief and there was a very real possibility that this one would be the only I’d be able to go to, but other people had it much worse off, I knew, so why would I be the one to get it? The only reason I wrote and sent that email asking for a campership was because a camper who wrote one of these things for the campership they got said pretty much the exact same thing I just said up there. They didn’t think they’d get it, and they did. I didn’t think I’d get it, and I did. So even if you don’t think you’ll get it for whatever reason, still try, because you just might and that just might is so, so worth it.

Actually going to A-Camp was terrifying and amazing and hard and also a lot easier than I’d thought. I went by myself, flying across the country from Tennessee to LA, going to this camp where I literally knew no one and where I’d meet people who’s writing I’d been reading and loving for years. “Nerve-wracking” doesn’t begin to describe it. I don’t think my nerves settled until I finally went to sleep at camp after being awake for around 23 hours (time zones are a bitch). Once I woke up though, I felt comfortable with the people around me almost immediately in a way that pretty much never happens.

Over the next few days in between workshops, rediscovering writing, Klub Deer, talking to lots of different people and exchanging stories about where we came from, Lilith Flair, the talent show, Deanne Smith, meeting people I’d previously only known through a computer screen, having feeling circles, taking moments just to breathe by myself (and also because altitude), and goofing off with my cabin (Runaways!), I found a community I’ve been sorely lacking in my hometown and it was as amazing and welcoming as I’d been led to believe. No matter what you needed, wanted, felt, thought, looked like, or said, all of it was met with non judgment and often cheers of encouragement.

It’s been a month since we left camp and our cabin still hasn’t stopped talking to each other, and hopefully never will. We’ve become a support system for each other, and no matter how shitty my day is there’s always going to be a conversation going about something, and that is worth whatever nervousness and worry and insecurity I had about sending that email to Autostraddle asking for that campership.

(photo by ariel)

(photo by ariel)


Hannah, 24 – San Francisco, CA

hannah-and-her-two-momsIt’s 4:30 pm on a Monday and I’ve just put down my deposit for A-Camp 4.0. I’ve also opened a bottle of red wine so I can write about feelings and A-Camp and life. Mostly feelings. The night I wrote my campership application essay I had been drinking wine, too, and that essay clearly worked out in my favor, so.

Here we go again.

I have a story. It has to do with my parents and my being gay and is somewhat sad, a little bit tragic and probably won’t end well. But that’s ok. I’ve embraced it.

You probably have a story, too. And if you want to share your story and/or listen to all the others’ stories, you should come to A-Camp. And if your story at the moment is along the lines of I HAVE NO MONEY, you should apply for the campership.

In my campership essay I wrote: “I want to let out all my feelings that I’ve kept inside for so long and just live, live, for the first time in my life.” And that’s exactly what I did at A-Camp.

Before quitting grad school, leaving home and coming to San Francisco, I had chosen a new name with my best friend so I’d have a layer of armor protecting me from whatever dire consequences there might be of my queerness. I could pretend like I was someone else and not the girl who would go quiet whenever someone was being homophobic, afraid that they’ll figure it out if I called them out or obsessively hide her laptop because it might open up a certain website that has news, entertainment, opinion and girl-on-girl culture.

My parents love me so, so much. To them, I have this illness and because they love me so much, they have to help me get better. Although being Koreans, a lot of it comes from trying to save their reputation. If anyone finds out about me, I’m pretty sure my mother will withdraw from society or [much worse]. No child should live with that kind of fear.

The real life is tiring and sometimes you don’t even realize how tired you really are because you just accept this world we live in and the best you can do as a queer Asian girl who sometimes feel like she has struck out is try to fit in. Then I went to camp and realized I didn’t have to try. I could just be. And that it was actually more like, now I can be myself, finally, after pretending to be someone else for the past 23 years. The best part was that I didn’t owe it to anyone to explain who I was or what I was or why I was. I just was. As I am. If coming to San Francisco was like breathing for the first time after living underwater, then going to A-Camp was like flying for the first time.

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Before I went to A-Camp 3.0, I thought it would be my one and only camp mostly because I knew I still wouldn’t be able to afford the next one. And honestly, I can’t really afford it right now. But like I said, I’ve just put down my deposit and I’ll be getting a second job so I can make it happen. Because A-Camp felt like that first love, exhilarating and nerve-wracking in a good way, and you think you can survive on that, just that and nothing else. But at the same time it also felt like the childhood home where you felt warm, safe, protected. I had travelled and moved around so much I didn’t exactly know where my home was anymore. Until I was at camp and I was right there and I found my home, along with all the other Runaways, who now hold a special place in my heart. And I realize that sounds amazingly corny and tacky.

For now I have to deal with money and patriarchy and the real world but that’s ok because come October, you and I will be home again.


Cait, 20 – Chicago, IL

foxfire don't stop

foxfire don’t stop

2012 was tough. My world was cracking. I was cracking. And I didn’t know how to fix it. So, I applied for a campership…  and a weird phenomenon of hope ensued.

Last year, life kept shitting on my face. I was a full-time student squeezing in a full time job to support myself and a family that was financially weakened by Superstorm Sandy.

I watched from Chicago as my family in Jersey fell apart.

As my dad had his hip replaced and a little machine placed in his heart.

As my brother became a convicted felon.

And as my mom broke down while she asked her youngest daughter to support her family.

There is nothing worse than hearing your mother cry. I heard her cry again though, but with a little laughter, when I explained I was going to California to sit on a mountain with queer folk to talk about feelings. She was excited, I was nervous.

The knowledge that a stranger had paid for me to have a weekend in queer bliss slowly helped me climb out of my little pit of sadness.

The knowledge that a stranger had paid for me to have a weekend in queer bliss slowly helped me climb out of my little pit of sadness. For the next few months, that was how I got through things. When I was drained, I remembered that I would soon be surrounded by the people I had been internet-stalking for years. And I got giggly.

A Camp was everything I needed. It marked a turning point in my life. The knowledge that a stranger had paid for me to have a weekend in queer bliss slowly helped me climb out of my little pit of sadness. It made me realize I didn’t really have anything to be sad about. Because somewhere in the universe a perfectly queer stranger thought it would be nice to give up their savings for me. I was in awe.

At A-Camp, I found a support system. I met people who were also having a tough time. And we processed our tough times together. I finally had some time for self-care. And for that, I’m pretty damn thankful.


Brooklyn, 21 – Houston, TX

I thought I knew what camp was. It’s just something I’ve always done. Every summer, my peers and I would face the Texas sun like a boxer in the ring. We’d slather our half-naked swim-suited up bodies in layers of sunscreen and explore the grounds of East Texas Baptist Encampment. After dark and after showering, several hundred sunburned kids would slip between rows of pews and listen to a pastor with a name like “John” or “Matt”, but never “Samantha” or “Becky”, tell us who we were supposed to be, why we were supposed to be like that, and how we were supposed to get there. In Jesus name, amen.

This was camp. It wasn’t a bad experience, until it was. It was something I looked forward to, until it wasn’t.

I thought I knew what camp was. It was a place I went every year to hide from my parents. It was a place where I pretended to fit in with all the other boys, when I really just wanted to be a girl. It was a place where I was made to feel bad for everything I wasn’t and everything God was. I knew immediately that A-Camp wasn’t like any other camp.

Fast forward like six, seven years. Came out, kicked out, down and out. I was tired and depressed. Everyone around me could feel it too. I had turned into Black Hole Brooklyn.

Then along came A-Camp. It had been the roughest year of my life and here was a chance to kick back and take a break. Not have to worry about things. No tears, no feelings, just fun.

Ha ha. The joke was on me. They call it Mt. Feelings for a reason.

Stepping off the bus, my first thought was how bad my butt hurt. Sitting for two days is as fun as it sounds. Immediately after though, I realized how familiar it all felt. The birds, the trees, the lesbians. Oh wait.

I thought I knew what camp was. It was a place I went every year to hide from my parents. It was a place where I pretended to fit in with all the other boys, when I really just wanted to be a girl. It was a place where I was made to feel bad for everything I wasn’t and everything God was. I knew immediately that A-Camp wasn’t like any other camp.

Brooklyn Jaye, Straddler on the  Mountain

Brooklyn Jaye, Straddler on the Mountain

It was the first safe place I’d ever found. I never once felt singled out or different. I never felt like I had to hide. I certainly never felt ashamed to be queer. It was pretty awesome.

I connected in such a real and honest way with my cabin mates, finding family there. I felt accepted and, for once, authentic.

I was forced to confront the world I came from and everything that was wrong with it. The fact that strangers could come together and create a truly safe place was simultaneously awe-inspiring and disheartening. There’s no reason safe places shouldn’t exist in “the real world” but they don’t. A-Camp, for me, was a picture for everything the rest of the planet could be.

(photo by rachel walker)

(photo by rachel walker)

If I had to describe A-camp in one word, I’d choose queertastifabeautiful. It’s really the only word for it. “Utopia” is another, I guess.

So I went to A-camp, enjoyed A-Camp, and then A-camp was over. I enjoyed two more butt-achingly long days on a bus and returned home to southeast Texas. It took me a week or so to realize that just as my definition of “camp” had changed so had my definition of “home”. My heart is not in the place where I regularly get called a “fag” by people driving by, with almost comIcal regularity. My heart is still up on that mountain.

I miss it and I can’t wait to go back.

 

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21 Comments

  1. Thumb up 27

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    WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS AT WORK. I AM SOBBING AT MY DESK. I’M NOT JOKING, THIS IS AWKWARD AND WEIRD MY CO-WORKER IS PRETENDING SHE DOESN’T SEE THAT I’M CRYING BUT I AM.

    you guys. you fucking guys. i’m so glad you all came to camp. thank you for existing and for being part of camp. i am so so so glad it was good for you. i’m so glad we got to have you there. i wish i had been able to connect with you all on an individual level but camp is too short and all our hearts are too full but i hope you’ll be back on the mountain soon and that you’ll have some tea with me and talk.

    and all of YOU! the ones who make the camperships possible. who donate your money even when you can’t go, or who donate your money on top of your own camp fees. you are keeping our community alive and you are changing lives and you are fucking magical humans.

    fuck, you guys. i just love you all so, so hard.

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    “I was forced to confront the world I came from and everything that was wrong with it. The fact that strangers could come together and create a truly safe place was simultaneously awe-inspiring and disheartening. There’s no reason safe places shouldn’t exist in “the real world” but they don’t. A-Camp, for me, was a picture for everything the rest of the planet could be.”

    THIS. This so hard. Awe-inspiring and disheartning because THERE IS NO REASON WHY SAFE SPACES SHOULDN’T EXIST IN THE “REAL WORLD”….

    Brooklyn – thank you for summarizing my deeply mixed feelings of joy and awe, but also confusion, anger, and sadness that this isn’t every place. Thank you for coming to camp and being you. We didn’t really talk, but I was touched by your performance at the talent show, and felt a brightness from your spirit. xo

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    And this is why I want to meet the people who go to A-camp and for once feel like a tangible part of an lgbtq community.

    But cue the unfortunate fact of not being able to even apply for a campership because I probably won’t be able to afford the $600 plane ticket to get me there so I can make use of it.

    But camp is (probably, HOPEFULLY) not going anywhere any time soon. So, one day! And maybe I’ll meet Vanessa and we can maybe hug and have people pretend we’re not crying and feel a lot of feelings. Together.

    One day.

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    This was the first thing I read when I woke up this morning.
    It was like a one two punch to the heart. In a good way.
    I’ve said this before, but A-Camp really was the sanctuary I didn’t know I needed and the wonderful people I met there have been a saving grace ever since.
    I LOVE MY RUNAWAYS FAMILY!
    And I can’t wait to be at home with them again in October.

  5. Thumb up 9

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    Look at all of your wonderful faces and words. This gave me all the feelings.

    Also, big thank you to the people who donate to camperships because you are all magical invisble unicorns who make my heart believe that the world is wonderful and magical and beautiful.

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    Oh, my runaways! My unstoppably brave and sexy runaways! I’m so glad each and every one of you was able to make it to camp, and especially glad that Hannah and Nancy were able to get camperships. Camp just wouldn’t have been the same without every single one of you. I’m overjoyed that I have you all in my life to share my Casual Gay Sunday Mornings with or to drink wine with over Gchat (even if sometimes Grandma Bree can’t get her sound to work). Basically, I love our little community and I can’t wait to get back to our bigger community on top of the mountain because

    COME WHAT MAY

    COME WHAT MAYYYY

    I WILL LOVE YOU

    UNTIL MY DYYYYIIIIING DAY

  7. Thumb up 4

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    thank you all so much for your stories. thank you so much for having the strength to ask for help and the courage to go to camp and then share your experiences with us! I’m really glad I got the chance to meet some of you at 3.0 and hopefully will get to see you again at another camp.

    i can’t go to 4.0, but your essays have inspired me to find a way to donate to the camperships.

  8. Thumb up 3

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    I can’t go to camp this time around and, as a 3-for-3 camper, this makes me incredibly sad.

    But what I can do is donate to The Campership Fund, which makes me absolutely ecstatic.

    CAMP IS SO POWERFUL

    EVERYONE PLEASE DONATE

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