A-Camp May 2014: It’s Time To Donate To Or Apply For Camperships!

ACamp_RobinRoemer_412 copySometimes 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 May, we’ll be scaling Mount Feelings for the longest bestest A-Camp of all time. Camp this year is only happening once so it’s more important than ever that we get as many bright eyes up that mountain as possible. Although we’re popular enough to be charging more than we do, we keep tuition as low as we possibly can because we think a more diverse group of campers makes for a much better camp, especially because camp is a crucial space for the website team to really get to know our readers and their needs. Unfortunately, as costs climb, many of the people who most need A-Camp — and who A-Camp needs the most  — aren’t able to afford the trip.

Last camp, with the help of your online donations (and even a Chicago Campership Fundraising party!), we were able to give out six full camperships and ten partial camperships. We also offered sponsored camperships through Kipper Clothiers and Kreuzbach 10 AND Hannah Hart generously donated a full campership with travel expenses. If you own a business and are interested in our sponsored campership program, email Alex [at] Autostraddle [dot] com. But if you’re a human who wants to donate, read on!

This is the post where we officially ask you, dear readers and lovers, to donate to The Campership Fund. If you want to donate a full campership ($545), we’ll be getting in touch with you about whether or not you would like your identity revealed to the camper so they can tell you thank you. But any size donation helps!

If you want to apply for a Campership, you can do so here. The only requirements for full camperships are that you be a new camper who’s never been to A-Camp before and that you are 100% certain you can get there. Tell us all about why you need A-Camp and why A-Camp needs you

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 October 2014 Camperships. You can also obtain further heartstring-tugging from the campershippers of September 2012April 2012 and May 2013.


 

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Louise – 39 – New York City, NY

I did not think I had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a campership, truly.

First of all, I’m ancient, right? Or at least at an age where we’re expected to have a stable job and some amount of expendable income. (Thankfully I think it’s well-known that if you live in NYC and do not make at least six figures, you have no expendable income at all. Also I’m a playwright, and have you ever seen a playwright’s bank account? It’s ugly.)

Second of all, I assumed that camperships would typically go (for good reason) to young people from small-minded communities who would finally feel comfortable in their own skin being in not only a queer-accepting space, but a queer-normative space. That’s not me. Again, I live in New York City. I’m in theater. And I’m more than plenty femme enough to “pass” on the rare occasions I encounter a less-than-welcoming person or environment. Those are not my battles, and those are important battles.

It’s scary to feel like you’re behind the curve, to feel like “your own people” will somehow find you not authentic enough. I am who I am and I’m good with that, but will I ever be loved?

So I applied for a campership by just writing the most truthful essay I could. Because the truth is that in queer-normative spaces, I wasn’t comfortable at all. I felt like an imposter. While I had a few brief relationships with women when I was younger, I did not fully come out (to myself and to everyone else) until last year. For years I’d dated men and thought that the reason it always felt wrong was just that I was too damaged. But I am not. And while saying the word “lesbian” about myself for the first time was liberating beyond measure, it also meant I essentially have to go through all the insecurities and growing pains of adolescence all over again. And that’s scary. It’s scary to feel like you’re behind the curve, to feel like “your own people” will somehow find you not authentic enough. I am who I am and I’m good with that, but will I ever be loved? Will I ever be included by people who are like me?

For some reason that is still beyond me, they decided to give this middle-aged fragile newcomer a campership. Had I been able to afford it and paid for a spot, I honestly think I might have punked out at the last second. Hell, when I walked through LAX and saw the gaggle of A-Campers waiting for the shuttle, I turned right back around and sat on a bench for 15 minutes trying to think of ways to get out of it. The good news is that I couldn’t get out of it because someone else —  some generous and wonderful stranger(s) — had paid for me to be there and face it. I might be a scaredy-cat but I am not an asshole!

Everything fell into place perfectly as my seatmate on the bus happened to be a New Yorker, over 30, and mercifully someone else who’d come out later in life. And then once I got to that mountain and was stumbling through the snow in the dark with my rolly suitcase, some of my cabinmates scooped me right up and took me in and I never once felt like I didn’t belong. I never once got a whiff of that “pretender syndrome” I’d been feeling. And sure, I was definitely on the older side of the community, but I had spectacular company.

Almost my entire cabin is returning to A-Camp this year (love you, Bangles!), which pretty much says it all. And I know I’ll get a few “amens” when I say the Tardy to the Party panel was downright life-affirming and proved to me once and for all that I’m far from alone. And camp offered the perfect balance for me – sometimes I’d get a little overloaded on all the feelings and just go to a fun jewelry-making or s’mores workshop to decompress. You really get to design your own experience there, and you can do it all spontaneously (or skip activities to just sit on the cabin floor bonding with your new friends).

I’m too inarticulate to find the words to properly express how grateful I am that a campership gave me that life-altering adventure. But suffice it to say, it was far beyond my expectations. In large part because of A-Camp, I get it now. I can and will be loved. I can and will be included and accepted. And I am definitely no imposter.


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Sam – 24 – Minneapolis, MN

In 2012, I woke up around 3am in the ER. There were many circumstances that brought me to that point, the point where I opened my eyes to the nurse with the eyes full of empathy and who held my hand and said, “It’s okay, you’re alive.” I don’t think I wanted to intentionally disappear forever, but I wanted to not exist momentarily. There is a certain amount of pain that comes with a mixture of being young, in a big city and feeling terribly alone and you have the heartbreak of watching someone who once held your hand leave and listen as your family rejects your queerness in the most devastating ways. But the nurse tells you, “It’s okay, you’re alive,” and you listen.

I decided that I wanted to live in 2013. That I was young, black, queer and unafraid and that I was alive. So I thought about the one place I had truly felt alive in my entire life-camp. I had worked as a camp counselor for several summers in Northwest New Jersey. I fell in love with the trees and the sky and myself and my fellow staff and our community wasn’t perfect but it was real. And I thought about the one site that had saved my life in little and big ways — Autostraddle. So naturally, I decided to apply for a campership for A-Camp 4.0. I am both a grad student and an AmeriCorps member, so while I really wanted to go to A-Camp, I knew that it wasn’t financially feasible. When I found out that I had been granted a campership, I started to cry.

I decided that I wanted to live in 2013. That I was young, black, queer and unafraid and that I was alive.

In one of my classes last semester, we talked about experiences that transcend words. That’s how I feel about A-Camp. I could talk about the incredible workshops, from one on queer people of color to another on non-monosexuality. Or how I felt lucky to wake up in a cabin with people who will stay in my heart forever. Or dancing the night away and walking outside breathing the cool air and feeling powerful. But none of those words can do A-Camp justice. What I know is this: it was the first time in my life where I could gather in a place with a group of dynamic and diverse queer folks and feel like I could be me. I could be this introverted black queer vegan Jersey girl and it was okay. And that all I could do was be me and loved intensely for it.

So I guess I just wanted to say, I’m here. And learning more and more of what it means to be alive. And I thank A-Camp every day for helping me to find that.

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Runaways + Blackhearts

 


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Dani – 19 – Pasadena, CA

When I applied for a campership I had left school four months prior due to a mental breakdown of sorts.

I was depressed and anxious, my usual outgoing self was pushed into introversion. I’d fallen out of love with life. I didn’t really have a support system besides my well-intentioned but not understanding family. I was barely out to some people as pansexual and not out at all as non-binary. I couldn’t find any organized queer community or resources where I lived. I had no job and barely any savings. Basically, I was convinced there was no way I could go to A-Camp, and that even if by some chance I was able to go, I wouldn’t actually be able to handle it.

I was so scared and felt so small. The idea of being totally out and queer with a bunch of strangers 24/7 on a mountain for a few days, talking about feelings and life, seemed impossible. But I applied anyway, and that was the best decision I’ve made.

It was the first time I used gender-neutral pronouns in public, the first time I became friends with people instantly and the first time, in my life, I have ever felt so normal and accepted.

I remember getting that email about my campership. Ironically, it was the day I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going to get one. I saw the little (1) in my inbox and upon opening it read that I had gotten a full campership. Once my body caught up with my brain I started doing that ridiculous, but genuine, half-crying, half-laughing thing while jumping up and down. I couldn’t believe it. Someone generously put their small fortune in the hands of these brilliant, funny, website-running queers and somehow those same people read my essay (which I almost didn’t send) and said “yeah, lets spend it on them and bring them to camp.”

I was chosen and I am so beyond grateful for that.

I had been asking for help from the universe, anything at all, to make me normal, and better, and cooler and braver. It started with that email. I had not only something to work towards now, but a sense of being worth something. I had been chosen. My progress in recovery improved. Everything turned from “scary rehabilitation back into regular person life” into “practice for A-Camp”.

I always said my first time seeing snow fall would be magic. As I stepped out of the car and headed towards Wolf for check in I realized I was actually experiencing snow falling from the sky, in real life. It was a sign and A-Camp was magic.

It was the first time I used gender-neutral pronouns in public, the first time I became friends with people instantly and the first time, in my life, I have ever felt so normal and accepted.

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This nurturing environment helped me reconnect with myself. These panels and discussions were reminding me that I deserved and had a right to exist. That I was smart, that I could survive my mental illness and my struggles, that I could unapologetically be myself, be vulnerable, and thrive. I listened. It was the turning point, where I started feeling whole, practiced accepting the parts of myself I usually rejected, started owning my body, and started building a space for myself in this world.

These were the best days of my life, amazingly gifted to me though a campership. They were days filled with crafts, feelings, inspiring queers, dancing, trees, and fresh air. It was the recharge I needed for my soul. I had forgotten how it felt to be that happy. It was the community and raw connection I had been craving and it changed me.

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In the time I’ve left the mountain I’ve had two jobs, gotten a septum piercing, have cultivated a support system, made new friends, went on a trip to Santa Cruz by myself, made plans to go back to school next fall, started dancing again, crafted and queerified a vest, upped my eyebrow game, and have been reminded that if I want to feel the rush, I have to take the risk.

A-Camp is everything you dream about, and an example of just how good the world can be. It will change your life if you let it. The risk is worth it, so be here with us.


 

PL – 19 – Jennings, LA

Growing up queer in swampy Southwest Louisiana wasn’t the easiest. In Junior High I realized the sentiments regarding homosexuality in my hometown weren’t positive. I basically proceeded to crawl into a little closet. I enabled hermit mode for most of my high school career. The problem was where I grew up: between two towns with an average population of 6,500. Addiction was very prevalent in both areas; my parents weren’t spared from the epidemic. They functioned well, but during the worst weeks I would stay at school as long as I could so I wouldn’t have to go home. I didn’t have much time to focus on myself or really explore my gender expression because watching my dad was a full time job. The good thing is that I recognized school as my way out and took a full-ride scholarship out of the backwoods and into a small, college town.

I devoured all of the queer books from our small library. I created a place for myself that I could escape to when that small population started to get stifling. A world filled with strong female characters, cats, and Kathleen Hanna. I began doing more and more research online to find a queer community to connect with, any semblance of one. That’s when I stumbled upon Autostraddle. My attention soon turned from *just* the library to greedily reading every article that was posted on Autostraddle. I started to build these relationships with the writers on AS. That may sound weird or creepy, but how can readers not fall in love with the amazinglyfabulouslycoolbeautiful staff?

Even though I was at a university, I was still one in a handful of out, queer women. The writers and other readers became the only queer community I knew, and I was completely head over heels for the amount of support that everyone offered. The problem is that messages back and forth or reading an article can’t always compete with a conversation in person. Then, I saw the banner for A-Camp. I knew I had to find some way to make it. I had to get out of this fucking swamp and meet some of the people that were actually accepting me and all my gayness.

I cried when I found out that I was accepted. I was finally going to have a deliciously queer experience with people that I felt comfortable with. Finally. The idea of being face to face with the group of humans that had kept me afloat through the really rough points in navigating the South made me have an indescribable amount of feelings. To have that solidarity in person was all I wanted. You bet your ass A-Camp gave me just that.

What happened on that mountain was nothing short of a personal metamorphosis. Yeah, I know… cliché as hell, but it’s true. I developed friendships that provide more motivation than I could have ever wished for. When I got home I felt validated in my decision to be a Women’s and Gender Studies major, to write, and to teach. I had been mulling over whether or not to drop out for quite a while but after I left Mt. Feelings I knew that I had to help create a safe place like that for other queer Southerners. We all deserve a place that we can be safe in, be ourselves. It made me realize that hating Louisiana wasn’t going to make it more welcoming. If I moved away that would be one less queer person that can vouch for the bigger and better things outside of Louisiana. There needs to be more individuals that can provide support for those who get pulled down by the general mindset of this area.

Even though I’m still a poor college student I’ll put all my chips in to come to 5.0 because I couldn’t imagine my life without 4.0. It saved me from drowning in this swamp.


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29 Comments

  1. Thumb up 6

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    So, I only found autostraddle a few weeks ago, or maybe less than that…and can’t seem to stop reading it. Why, I don’t even know. I read EVERY.SINGLE.WORD on the Oct 2013 camp re-caps. Why, I don’t even know. There is some part of me that finds the A-Camp very compelling, and can you guess…WHY, I DON’T EVEN KNOW.

    If I understood myself at all (and I should as I am 33), I might give in to the feeling of wanting to pour my heart out on that camp sponsorship form. Why, I don’t even know.

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    I count myself lucky because when I was ready to come out to myself, and go through the emotional rollercoaster/breakdown that came along with it (I didn’t cope with it very well) I almost magically had queer women appear in my life to help me through. I’d never had any queer friends before, but total dumb luck presented me with several fairy queer-parents right when I needed them most. These campership applications really hit home, and felt so familiar. It sound like you’re giving that same support system that I had fall into my lap to the people who need it.

    I will definitely be sending a donation. Time to pay it forward.

    (You helped me coming out too, Autostraddle. Thanks!)

  3. Thumb up 5

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    DANIIIIIIIIIIII- all the feelings, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. I am so so unbelievably happy that you got a campership for my own sake- because I’m selfish and think you are one of the most wonderful supportive people I have ever met and how you changed my life at A-camp and much beyond, and then I think of how much this did for you and I just dissolved into glitter.

    I’m so glad you wrote this, and I’m so glad that some wonderful people made it possible for you and all the other campership people to go to camp.

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    I just submitted my campership application and I’m filled with more intense feelings than I had when I applied for college. I want this so much worse than that! Line from my application: “I’m not applying for college. I’m applying for life.” You guys, I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted anything as badly as I want to go to A-camp. Hopefully, I will meet you all you wonderful, amazingly awesome autostraddlers on the mountain.

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    I’d love to go to camp so bloody much, but as money goes, I wouldn’t be able to get myself there anyway so campership seems out.

    The fact that there are others who donate so that slightly more mobile people like me could go is absolutely amazing. Blows my mind that there are people as cool as that in the world. So if you do donate, just know that I think you are awesome.

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