Welcome to the third of five fantastic recaps of our entire experience at A-Camp 2.0, which took place 2.5 hours outside of Los Angeles at Alpine Meadows Camp atop a mountain in Angelus Oaks, California, from September 12th-16th, 2012.
A-Camp was the genesis of an idea Riese had at 3AM in July 2010: the concept was to take the spirit of the website into three glorious dimensions and create an affordable option for queers for whom other lesbian vacations aren't always a perfect fit. In April 2012, we did it for the first time — along with 160 campers and 35 staff members, we rented out a summer camp in its off-season and enjoyed a transformative weekend of fun, friendship, panels, workshops, classes, sports, entertainment, events and so forth. It was probably the most awesome experience of our life and we knew from there it would only get bigger and better.
So in September, 220 campers and 40 staff descended upon The Mountain for four days of much-better-organized fun, friendship, panels, workshops, classes, sports, entertainment, events and secret initiation rites.
These epically long monster-posts will do their best to explain and extrapolate upon the camp experience, from avoided-shitstorms to emotional revelations to glory/triumph. But we can't tell you everything. We must leave some things up to the imagination.
The next Camp Autostraddle will take place May 23rd-27th, 2013 in Angelus Oaks, California, Mark your Calendars!
Friday, September 14th
I. Here Comes The Sun
Carmen Rios, Misfits Counselor/Contributing Editor: I did not make it to breakfast this day because first my shower exploded and then I had to do some Official Cabin Mama business. But I got a coffee.
Stef Schwartz, Battlestars Counselor/OG Autostraddle: I have never seen so many hungover chicks groaning their way towards the coffee machine than that fateful morning. If you are one of the few proud souls who made it to breakfast that morning, I commend you ladies.
Riese Bernard, Runaways Counselor/Editor-in-Chief: I didn't drink very much on Thursday night and so I woke up on Friday feeling like a SUPERSTAR, ready to chop the day into little pieces and eat them! Just kidding, I woke up feeling like a SUPERSTAR ready to freak out all day about the Staff Reading.
Sewing Square w/Carolyn
T-Shirt Cutting & Stenciling w/Carmen, Sara Medd & Laura
Career Workshop with Meredydd
Photography For All Skill Levels w/Robin
Lesbian Jeopardy w/Riese, Haviland & Jill
Trans mini-panel/discussion w/Morgan & Annika
Gabby Rivera, Catch-22 Counselor/Writer: Friday morning, I was unjustly hungover. I will blame it on the altitude and not give a shit. I will not blame it on the Maker's.
Vikki, Avengers Counselor/Contributor: On Thursday night, I had a bit of bourbon with my cabin mates and then hung out at a campfire and then went to a party in Wolf Lodge and had some drinks and then I went to Deer Lodge and did some dirty dancing and then I went back to Wolf Lodge and had deep meaningful conversations and maybe danced on the stripper pole a little bit and then went to bed around 3 a.m. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to lead a hike on Friday morning. Sometimes you gotta pay to play so, on Friday morning, I got up and showered and dressed in my snazzy hiking shoes and showed up to do my duty. But then…a light shone upon the dining hall and an angel appeared and offered to lead the hike for me and I married her on the spot in a glorious lesbian wedding attended by all of A-Camp and officiated by a coyote. Okay, I didn’t marry her but did have a passionate love affair with her kindness.
Mary Tully, Little Rascals Counselor/Calendar Girl: Hiking on Friday did not have nearly as many people show up because I think everyone was hungover. I did not realize how hungover I was until I was ON the hike. Holy Altitude. Alex joined us this time!
Morgan McCormick, Battlestars Counselor/Contributor/Calendar Girl: Annika and I's meeting before the Trans Mini-Panel/Discussion went like so: "Feelings?" -A "Feelings." -M "Feelings!" -All of the above.
Annika Penelope, Unicorns Counselor/Writer: This was the only early (9:30am) activity that I was scheduled for during all of A-Camp. I’m lucky if my morning routine takes less than 90 minutes, which means that I had to wake up a 6:30 in order to be ready in time. The early time turned out to be a good thing though, because we ended up having a really intimate discussion of our experience of being trans* or having trans* friends/partners.
Morgan: It was really, I dunno, family-y. We all sat in a big circle and just said what we wanted to about our experiences, everyone listened, everyone waited their turn. So I guess it wasn't like a family at all! Teehee. For cereal, though, my favorite panels are audience-run, and it was a nice change of pace to talk transy things some place other than the internet. I wuv woo, Internet. I do. But there's a real power to hearing people's stories live and out loud, plus if it hadn't been for a trans panel I attended some years ago, who knows, I might not be the me I love so much right now. All hail Trans Panel!
Annika: It was really cool to see people open up and share their stories!
Camper Quote: My favorite part of camp was being a trans queer woman in a queer women's space and not being the only one and it being no big thing.
Stef: I wanted so badly to go to the Trans Mini Panel but made a quick detour back to my cabin for a jacket or something, which was a mistake. I was hit by a nap attack of such tremendous power that I couldn't even make it back into my own top bunk; I passed out in someone else's empty bunk, drooling on myself.
Gabby: I hung around Katrina's Queer Barbershop, pretended to take pictures and mostly napped/got it together on bags of linens. Katrina's barbershop was super mellow and I feel like when she's an old DQ, it will exist in real life.
Camper Quote: "My favorite activity was probably just hanging out at the barbershop listening to the banter and watching people get alternative lifestyle haircuts."
Laura Wooley, Bomb Girls Counselor/Associate Editor: Some girls can get away with having an entire game show devoted to getting girls to take their shirts off. Those of us who can't take other routes. At the T-shirt Cutting & Stenciling Workshop the next morning, I found myself in a room with 12 women in various states of toplessness thanks to the imprecise art of t-shirt cutting (and recutting). There's more than one way to skin a cat, y'all.
Carmen: Many an Autostraddle-deco item was made! We listened to "Watch the Throne" throughout. I went to my next panel with one sleeve cut off of my STAFF shirt.
Carolyn Yates, Valencia Counselor/Contributing Editor: I was worried that not that many people would show up to the Sewing Circle on Friday because I forgot to mention that it was happening again on Thursday, and I was right! Also a lot of people thought we were T-shirt cutting, and/or absconded with the scissors. But I actually did teach someone how to sew! She showed me her beanbag the next day and I felt irrationally accomplished. Also someone else came up to me and showed me her cross stitch, which was both about science and finished, and which was particularly awesome because she'd never done cross stitch before.
Robin Roemer, A-Camp Co-Director/Photographer: I always get really nervous before I have to do a Photo Workshop because I’m not comfortable talking about myself. So I chatted a bit about my experience and had everyone talk briefly about their experience/skill level before getting into some technical aspects of photography and a Q&A session with the help of camper Kamila who had a lot to share with us from her own studio lighting experience.
Meredydd, Golden Girls Counselor/Business Advisor: Even though The Career Workshop was sparsly attended I think it ended up going okay! The questions the campers were looking for help with really matched up neatly with the experience Cee and I have. This let us really connect with campers pretty much one-on-one which is always great.
Riese: I love trivia! I love Jeopardy! I love hosting things with Haviland and I love Jill! All of those things came together for a glorious game of Lesbian Jeopardy, featuring thrilling categories like "Ani Difranco Lyrics" and "Literature Featuring Hot Lesbians."
Jill, Wild Stallions Counselor/VIP Camper: I was in charge of determining who buzzed in first. “Yes! Easy job!” I thought. Riese even tried to intimidate everyone by telling them I was a cowboy and would kick their ass. But instead I ended up feeling like one of the replacement NFL refs with my cabin heckling me and trying to influence my calls. And then I forgot that I was going to exact my cowboy revenge on them so beware next time my campers! BEWARE.
Riese: Lizz was with us in spirit by having written questions for a category called "The Seven Sisters As Described By The Simpsons."
Hansen, Camper/Contributing Editor: Misfits didn't win Lesbian Jeopardy. Surprise!
Riese: I think Marika won. Marika of The Yellow Team. She's not allergic to winning, it turns out.
Crystal, Thundercats Counselor/Music Editor: Carly and I spent the morning writing anonymous notes to our campers and discussing how perfect they all are.
Carly Usdin, Thundercats Counselor/Contributor/OG Autostraddle: They were so weird. Like, the weirdest notes. For Rachel Walker, I [poorly] drew a robot wearing a bowtie. For Jen Freitag, I wrote the following—
Hey I just met you,
And this is crazy.
But here’s a cat in a denim vest,
Your spirit animal, maybe?
Crystal: For the rest of the day I was on “Rover” duty, which I interpreted to mean that I should walk around the camp site showing everyone photos of my kitten.
Stef: I spent the afternoon in Falcon Lodge, rehearsing for The Haviland Stillwell Show with Marni. Because I live in Brooklyn and Marni's in Oakland, we hadn't had a chance to actually sit together and practice together until the day of the show, which was a little nerve-wracking. We were putting together arrangements and sorting out the set list when suddenly Marni busted out this amazing Ani DiFranco-style rendition of Jessie J's "Do It Like A Dude," which made my heart stop and my eyes bug out of my head. Marni, you guys. Heartthrob.
Zine-Making w/Riese, Laneia & Rachel
The Truth About Cats and Dogs with Mary Tully and Jill
Design & Branding w/Alex, Geneva & Meredydd
Coming Out Panel w/Robin, Whitney, Morgan, Haviland, Carmen, Carrie, Annika & Mollie
Alex Vega, Avengers Counselor/Design Director: For the Design & Branding Workshop, we all sat in a circle and talked about marketing, designing websites and the importance of branding, which may sound boring but I promise you that our super casual discussion was far from boring, my friend. We talked a little about Autostraddle and our brand and process.
Meredydd: It was great hearing Alex talk about her creative process and so helpful to hear campers talking about what they want from the site redesign.
Alex: Meredydd is a branding genius and shared some fun anecdotes from when she worked on projects with fancy pants businesses like Coca-Cola. Everyone had feelings about their jobs and office environments and how different it is living and working as a creative person and what that means for us.
Meredydd: Sharing the concept of 'flawsome' with everyone has got to be one of the highlights of camp. Branding is a huge passion of mine and it was great to share that. Next time I hope we talk more about the design process too.
Jill: Mary and I had a wonderful time at The Truth About Cats And Dogs. Mary is an animal trainer/behaviorist and I’m a veterinarian so we’ve got this subject on lockdown. Also – Digger was there!!! She trains animals too and had a lot of great things to add!
Mary: We talked about training and animal healthcare. Everyone that came had such great questions! I was pretty much in heaven. Then my whole cabin showed up to participate. And I died. LONG LIVE THE LITTLE RASCALS!
Jill: Workshop attendees wowed us with insightful questions about their cute, silly, and crazy pets. Mary and Digger answered questions about how to train dogs (and cats!), and how to remedy some specific problems such as a dog that is scared of cars on the highway. I answered general questions about pet health such as why chocolate is toxic for pets and things to do for an arthritic dog. We were having such great discussions that I think we even went over our allotted time a little bit!
Carmen: Not gonna lie, the Coming Out Panel was emotional. But a lot of people were glad we had it.
Morgan: Can I come out as being in love with all of Coming Out panel? It was like Gender Panel but in a completely different array of rainbow flavors.
Whitney Pow, Neverland Counselor/Contributing Editor: Coming out is a really scary process, and having so many people be able to speak to their individual experiences — coming out to friends, siblings, parents — was really inspiring.
Carrie, Forever 21 Counselor/Community Managarette: I don't know what to say except that I felt like I learned as much from the audience as I did from fellow panelists. And I wanted to high-five Morgan every time she talked.
Morgan: Also it had Robin being totes adorably pumped. I know Robin's always pumped, but still!
Robin: I shared my experiences coming out to a very religious mother. Coming out is never easy and I really liked the focus on not feeling pressured about coming out and the importance of a support system. Everyone had so many amazing things to share.
Whitney: I spoke about coming out to my family and how, while the beginning was difficult and sad, my article for Autostraddle, "Estranged," ended up carving out a space in my family to talk about me being gay and about me getting married. My extended family read the article. My parents read the article. My brothers read the article. My aunts, uncles and cousins started reaching out to me — calling me, sending me emails, telling me they loved me. I never expected anything like this to ever, ever happen. I had no idea that an article, that words, could make such an impact.
Sarah Croce, Forever 21 Counselor/Calendar Girl/Contributor: Coming out is the great equalizer of our people. We have all been through it, or will have to go through it. No matter how hard or easy each person feels it was, it is something we have all had to confront and admit first to ourselves, and then out loud.
Riese: I entered 'zine-making and exclaimed "I didn't get drunk last night and I feel SPECTACULAR! Let's make some motherfucking 'zines!" I was so pumped.
Rachel Kincaid, Jetpack Counselor/Senior Editor: Zine-making REPRISE. This time there was at least one camper present who knew more about zines and zine-making than I did, which was awesome and made me feel even better than I already did about all the new people I was meeting at camp.
Riese: I love it when that happens, I just wanted to hear about all her things! Also, Shannon brought stacks of old comic books for us to use, which was especially awesome.
Laneia, Runaways Counselor/Executive Editor: I eavesdropped on Grace and Shannon while they conceptualized and titled their future zines. I hope they make them all because they sounded so cool.
Rachel: Also, sidenote, I really wish ReadyMade was still in circulation. Also that Grace attended everything I did in real life, so that she could fetch coffee and exacto knives.
Hansen: I was really inspired by all of the zines we got to look through, especially Laneia's because it's beautiful, you guys. We decided to make a zine about our cabin, but in true Misfit nature, we basically sat in a circle and put paper mustaches I found in Bitch magazine on our faces. We then wore them to lunch. I lost mine shortly thereafter and I'm still upset about it.
Laneia: Rachel played Fiona Apple for us this time and I felt a lot more focused and centered. I think this is when we realized that zine making, like High Tea, was actually just an elaborate way to hang out with people you hadn't met yet. In that sense, these activities are pretty important.
Camper Quote: Lesbian Jeopardy was very enjoyable and funny but it made me realize I mostly wanted to just talk to people at A-Camp-- which is why I went to zine making for the next block (I hadn't planned to go because I am not creative and have no zine feelings) which turned out to be the perfect art therapy and bonding experience.
Cee Webster, Golden Girls Counselor/Tech Director: A lunchtime PDX meetup was organized by the Portlanders, and so I joined that. Us Portlanders exchanged restaurant & bar recommendations and email addresses. I hope everyone comes to the Autostraddle Portland meetups!
NEXT: Get your Swag(ger) on!