OPEN THREAD: A-Camp 5.0 Happened So Now Let’s Talk About How Much We Miss Each Other

The thing about camp is that time just flies! It just whizzes right by you — it seems like the first day of camp will never arrive, and then it’s right there in front of you, all the smiling faces and pranks and poems and feelings and costumes and then you’re exhausted and the altitude is so much but also you’re hungry and SO ALIVE. Today we had to leave the mountain and therefore there is a heart-shaped hole in our bodies where hugging each other all the time used to be.

pic-by-emily-gigler

photo by Emily Gigler via instagram

So: we made bow-ties, tie clips, flower garlands, metal jewelry, Chingona crafts and an entire ‘zine in a day. We did rock yoga, meditation, canoeing, archery, self-defense, Voguing, Beyonce’s Dance Grooves and Lit Challenges. We got better at songwriting, safer sex, makeup, traveling, cheerleading, sexting, rapping, kink, tantric sex and interior design. We talked about interracial relationships, gender, mental health, queer motherhood, coming out later in life and bisexuality. We did all that and so much more. You smiled until your heads fell off your faces and we laughed like kids and you pranked the shit out of each other and we played on teams that were all part of a family. WE HAD FUN.

This year at the Staff Reading I read an essay that I wasn’t sure would work, out of context, but it felt appropriate because it was about a lot of things, like trying to take myself seriously as a writer, mostly, but was also about the night I realized that if I wanted to live, I had to decide to live, and do life-like things such as “take care of myself” and “appreciate all the reasons to stay on this planet.” It was frightening to realize that all of it could disappear in an instant for no reason at all. A-Camp is a big one of those things I think about when I think about living consciously, you know? You always remind me why it’s important to wake up every day and decide to live and do this work. I mean, I’m exhausted and also I have acquired some kind of plague but all I can think about is YOU STRANGE GENIUSES AND HOW MUCH WE MISS YOU.

This thread will exist for us to process our post-camp feelings and try to extend those warm A-Camp feelings for another minute. What was your favorite part of A-Camp 5.0? Besides those amazing pancakes, of course. Also have you seen this hashtag or this hashtag. You people are so weird.

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Avatar of Riese

Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1731 articles for us.

212 Comments

  1. Thumb up 22

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    is it the worst thing in the world to say I am sad A-Camp is over, but I am so happy to regroup at home? As great as camp is [because such a queernormative space is a rare, rare gem that we should keep sacred] I feel totally ready to start creating a better life for myself.

    I got my hair all chopped off, I can navigate introversion and I feel better prepped to work through my sad, mad+rad stuff. Meditation practice is on lock and I got a handful of new friends (near+far) that got my back. I know life off the mountain isn’t the best, but I am still pretty psyched to carry all the love and understanding that I got there (thank you again for that you lovely humans) into every crevice of my normal “everyday” life. Til next year, queers :)

  2. Thumb up 10

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    A-camp was a lot better for me this year, although had less of that growing-as-a-human-being-adult-thing I had going on last time, but fun is fun. I think Liz should do sex Q&A’s ALL THE TIME during merch sales. It makes waiting in line fun and informative.

  3. Thumb up 13

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    A-camp went a lot better for me this year which was good. A lot of the time, I think folks expect a-camp to be this wild, crazy amazing party. And in many ways it is! But it’s different things for different people and there are lots of different experiences that happen. I’m happy for the good time I had this year, even if I was still hide-in-the-corner-all-the-time nervous and didn’t meet many people, but I had a lot of fun. But last time was really important for me too, even if in many ways it was a really hideous trip emotionally speaking. Thus making all of my friends super confused as to why I would ever go back. But what helps us grow is not often the sweet pill, and I think that’s part of what makes a-camp good is that it CAN be that bitter pill, but the bitter pill that can heal. So I’m glad to have seen both sides of camp (even if I still haven’t met anyone /sigh) and they’ve both been really good for me in really different ways.

    And the wedding was basically the cutest thing EVER!

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      Your post on the last post-A-Camp open thread is basically what made me decide to confront my insecurities and start saving up in earnest to go to the next one. I didn’t make this one, but I’ve got the money set aside now, and I will absolutely be there next year. Thanks for being so open about your experiences! It sounds like a bit of an overstatement, but you’ve inspired me.

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      But what helps us grow is not often the sweet pill, and I think that’s part of what makes a-camp good is that it CAN be that bitter pill, but the bitter pill that can heal.

      Holy shit, this. Like, nail on the head, hardcore.

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      Thanks for this comment, it reflects my experience as well. I had a really good time at camp, but I also had a lot of tough moments battling with the expectations of camp (my own and others) verses the reality of it. Say ‘I’m going to a queer camp’ and 90% of people say/ think ‘hook up camp’. I think I bought into that idea too, even though it’s not who I am at ALL, and then was surprised/ disappointed/ashamed when the hook ups didn’t happen for me. Argh. I don’t know. Still processing.

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      Your post is so very right on the mark. I remained fairly observant and quiet for much of camp, only speaking out when alcohol was in my system for the most part. Thus, an outsider would probably think I didn’t enjoy myself. On the contrary, I did, very much so. I dealt with major anxiety at first, but then everything became real. I looked back and realized I learned a lot and still had a few more days to make better use of my time. So while part of camp was a bitter pill, overall it was a lovely and sweet pill that I wouldn’t mind taking again.

  4. Thumb up 24

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    Gays remember when we met Clea Duvall in the Trader Joe’s parking lot and told her we were going to gay camp and how it was a safe and validating space and how she shook my hand and told me to drink water on the mountain and this was all within THE FIRST HALF HOUR OF OUR JOURNEY TO CAMP

    Those five days feel like 3 months, I swear to goddess

  5. Thumb up 9

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    As someone in the UK with neither the money or the confidence to travel across the world for A-Camp right now, I’mma keep lurking in the comments and live vicariously through all you beautiful people. ONE DAY THOUGH

  6. Thumb up 17

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    It’s hard to express how much camp and my cabinbabes have meant to me other than FEELINGS SO MANY FEELINGS, but seriously I came down the mountain a changed person for the better. The panels opened cracks in my armor and my new family filled in that space with love. I’m still trying to process everything (and am desperately refreshing facebook for pictures), but camp is love and beauty and amazingness, come hell or high water I will be there next year to do it all again. Thank you everyone for everything, my life is so much better having met you all!

  7. Thumb up 8

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    I miss having breakfast with you all. I loved getting to sleep in my own soft bed last night though. Now I am back at work and people keep asking me how my week went and what I did. I just smile and say it was amazing. I am so grateful that I was able to share this indescribable experience with you. My heart aches in missing you all already.

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      Being around so many cishets today is really hard.Thankfully one of my classes was cancelled so I can hide in my bed for an hour.I had thought that my life was pretty queer and even more so after my first camp in october. This camp made me realize that it needs to be a lot queerer, I need to make queer friends in my area.

  8. Thumb up 10

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    Y’all, I’m having a really hard time.

    This was my second camp, so I already knew to expect some pretty severe camp-drop after leaving the mountain. But this time around leaving camp meant entering into a world of Isla Vista chatter, and I am not the type of person who knows how to leave well enough alone even when I know engaging will only upset me, and as a result I just feel all kinds of shaken and traumatized and triggered and just like the normative world is nothing but one perpetual violence being perpetrated against women. I want to go back to the mountain, where I can cry and have feelings and know that I am safe doing both of those things. I love all of you, and if there’s anyone else having a hard time dealing with this Isla Vista stuff right now just know that you’re not alone. <3

  9. Thumb up 9

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    Oh my God guys, we’re already starting to talk about Camp stuff at our own houses. I say houses because the mountain is our real home. ♥ I woke up this morning with a sore throat which started the second I was exiting the camp gate. I can’t believe it’s already been a whole 24 hours since I’ve last seen all you guys faces. Also, I’m having fist bump withdrawals and my deer cuff links are in their little box waiting for next camp.

  10. Thumb up 25

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    A-Camp was so amazing and needed, and I miss everyone so much! I learned a lot at camp, and came home with a list of things I wanted to start doing to make my life better. One of those things was to finally start commenting on things I read on Autostraddle. I figure this is as good a pretty good place to start.

  11. Thumb up 13

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    So at Cara’s AMAZING Even More Than Words workshop (favorite panel of camp!) we invented the word anti-mountain-athon and decided it means something like, “the intolerably long stretch of time you’re in a place that is the opposite of camp”

    We can get through the antimountainathon you all and some day maybe we can make the world more like the mountain or at least make our lives more like the mountain and then there will be no more antimountainathons ever.

    Love you all and p.s. I LOVE YOU GHOST WORLD from the Jessica who isn’t Little J

  12. Thumb up 20

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    Observations, comments and other things:

    +if the Outsiders and the Foxes are on the same color team next time, game over we win.

    +a special thank you to two of my beloved Foxes (Erika and Katie) who bear hugged me and didn’t let me go when I got bad news from home.

    +thank you to everyone who left me birthday wishes in my pigeon hole. Camp birthdays are consistently the best birthdays, and I feel confident saying that even though I’ve only got two iterations of that pattern (so far).

    +I really wanted Sarah Evan to read my tarot cards. But alas, it was at the same time as my Hillcrest Brewing Co. craft beer tasting. Next time, I will try to persuade her to read my tarot cards while we’re drinking beer. Because that sounds like heaven.

    +I have the A-Plague. Who also has the A-Plague? I am making you a hot toddy in spirit, but not actually because I can’t get out of bed.

    +Whiskey tasters: how quickly did you go ask your liquor store to order Brenne?

    +Kip: my fiancée desperately wanted to be there to witness the lap dance. She is v. sad that she cannot properly appreciate my embarrassment/your skillz.

    +Horse-costume-people: who were you? I do not know who was in there, and you win.

  13. Thumb up 9

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    I went to BBQ in LA last night after driving down the mountain. It was full of cis dudes and really straight gals. They started talking about gendered marketing which is great. But all I could think was, ugh why are they only discussing binary genders?!

    Humaning is totes hard right now.

  14. Thumb up 17

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    I woke up this morning thinking that the past days have been a dream.. Coming back to the mountain for the second time was even better than the last, though admittedly I had a rough first day up there. The mountain purged all of the negative emotions and memories of the bad things that had happened to me recently.. But my friends were there for me, and everything got better. And then I met new amazing, talented, hilarious and all-around beautiful people.
    And I go back to sitting under the sun up there thinking how if there’s a heaven, it’s in this world in the present moment. It’s here for us.. Laughing so much that my face hurt. Dancing with my re-united Holograms. Hiking and sitting in silence with my friends, gazing at the open landscape. Standing under the glowing stars alone with a beautiful girl whom I just met..

    When I think that things can’t get any better, they actually sometimes do. And the surprise of more joy, more love; it’s inspiring- it consoles my anxieties and fears about life, it lets me know that there are much greater things to come. And I think that being welcomed into this community is one of the greatest things that has happened to me. I know now more than ever that we have the agency to create our own families and communities, to form powerful lasting friendships and live more openly and kindly.. that we can be there for each other during really ugly dark times; that maybe nothing is really ever a happy ending but we can relish happiness together as it comes..
    I think I’ll just end my preaching now because like, words tend to fall short on many fronts.

    Love you all

  15. Thumb up 11

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    I MISS CAMP SO MUCH. I actually cant even talk about how much I miss is but like safe to say that I’m hiding myself in my room today so that I can give myself a good transition back into the the world of cishets. I just want to say that I’m sooooooooo grateful and happy to have discussed, danced with, and crafted with everyone I did.

    camp is home.

  16. Thumb up 13

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    So right now i’m doing okay, because i’m staying with my friend i haven’t seen in four years– so i met her at LAX & when i saw her dropped all my shit & ran for her & we hugged & laughed & being able to talk to her about everything & hang out with her & everything has been helpful, because i still feel, luckily, like i get to continue something. I’m worried more about when i leave LA Friday morning; i will probably cry.

    ON THE SUBJECT OF CRYING. HA, HA, HA, HA, HAAAAAHHHH. IF YOU KNOW ME FROM CAMP. HAHAHAHAHA. You know that i cried a lot. I PROBABLY CRIED ON YOU, if your name is Shelby, Andy, or Gabby. Which is why i totally feel @Ashley ‘s comment about camp sometimes being the bitter pill, which i wasn’t expecting at all going in. So i definitely was feeling shitty for feeling shitty, because while some of it made sense, some of it didn’t. It’s like, you can tell people ahead of time, “You will feel shit here,” but it doesn’t communicate or convey what you mean. And if you really try to, they’ll think you’re being melodramatic or inflating things, when in reality it’s like, no, i was legitimately being That Person & crying on people & crying in bathrooms.

    But but but. I can now step back & look at the whole, which is something that’s rare for me to be able to do. I can see it, on the whole, as a good experience, that even the negative aspects led into good aspects & experiences. Now i can see that everything just kind of happened in its own way, that i don’t need to feel guilty about not attending more panels, or not drawing as much as i thought i “should”, or whatever. I now have people who i already feel like i can call them my friends, people i didn’t even know this time last week, people who even during camp i thought maybe hated me; people who, while sitting on the shuttle back to LAX yesterday, i watched & listened to a group of them talking & couldn’t stop grinning because i felt so happy to know them. And it bleeds over into everything with everyone, one of those times when life prods you & you realize just how lucky & blessed & privileged you are to know the people you know, to have met them in the first place, to be able to have made the connection with them that you did.

    And then that mOTHERFUCKING WEDDING I BASICALLY DIED, OKAY? OKAY? OKAY? HHGGGGGGGHGHGHHGHGHGHGHHHGHHGHHGGGG.

    I think the only thing no one will miss will be the chairs in Eagle. I swear up & down those things had an agenda against everyone ever.

  17. Thumb up 7

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    Wow. Where to begin!
    Camp was incredible and sometimes super uncomfortable (in a “I’m growing and this is a good thing” kinda way) and intense and hilarious and really really sweet.

    A few highlights:
    -The Foxes all laying on our backs on the basketball court in our fancy black & white dress clothes to look at the meteor shower. Hilarity ensued when the phrase “If you shake your head back and forth fast enough, it makes all the stars look like meteors!” was coined….Hahaha

    -Going for nightly walks in the dark with a super cute Aerospace Engineer who impressed me with her knowledge of the stars and determination in life… and those eyes! sigh.

    -When heading home, awkwardly blurting out to the (young male) Canadian Border Services guard that I was in California for an “all gay women’s retreat”, to which he wanted to know a lottttt more of what goes on at said types of retreats. I definitely gave him a Coles notes/G-rated version ;)

  18. Thumb up 12

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    I miss:

    The Runaway and Blackheart family. I always had someone to talk to or ask a question of.

    The lack of judgement on the mountain. Day drinking,drunk shenanigans,and crushing on all the out of my league humans. My cabin took me as I am :)

    Soph and Aja’s fashion choices. They made me so happy. So,so, happy.

    The Outsiders. I was nothing if not entertained.

    Katie,cuz she was the freaking best!

    The wedding. It was my first queer wedding,my first wedding wearing what I wanted and I cried. A lot. Seriously,waterworks. So much much love,such a sense of community.

    3 am conversations with strangers.

    Finding fire when I was losing it.

    The Mad,Sad,Rad panel. I really needed to hear those stories and advice. Really,I am so grateful for those who spoke and those who posed questions.

  19. Thumb up 6

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    Being back in reality sucks more than I was anticipating. I’m moving, grading, and oh, also, I’ve returned to the worst part of reality–heartbreak. I am losing the woman I love, and it just sucks. I hadn’t expected seeing her to be harder than not seeing her, but it was, and now I can’t even eat this chocolate in front of me.

    Can we just rewind and go back to A-Camp where none of this is happening yet? Or at least can we go back to the part of A-Camp where feels and hummus would happen spontaneously as needed? And hugs all the time?

  20. Thumb up 13

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    My first reality shock was hearing loud, MALE voices in LAX and being surprised and intimidated. I wasn’t expecting there to be so much culture shock reassimilating with straight-society. I miss my queermos…

    I got food in the airport and no one even asked me if I had a nightshade sensitivity. I don’t know where I am and I want to go home to my cabin.

    Camp was so much more than I thought it would be and I have a bad habit of setting unrealistic expectations. The one thing I took away that I wasn’t expecting was this insatiable desire to create more. I create every day for a living, already, but I feel reenergised and motivated to create even more on my personal time than I ever have before.

    – Thank you to Ali for helping me remember how much I love to write.

    – Thank you to Whitney for all of the incredible talks and being the one whose staff reading made me cry.

    – Thank you to Joy for being my partner in crime when The Foxes needed to get up to some tree climbing rainbow wars.

    – Thank you to Anna for being the best person to dance with, ever.

    – Thank you to all my Foxes for being so sweet and generous and kind. (Vanessa, I have yet to take off my bracelet!)

    And last but not least, thank you to all you queirdos for making camp a completely unforgettable experience.

  21. Thumb up 16

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    I came back from Trader Joes and realized that in real life you can’t just be smiling and saying ‘hello’ to random people you make eye contact with because it’s not camp. then i also questioned what kind of society we’re all living in.

    • Thumb up 14

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      From someone who bear-hugged a server much to Hansen’s dismay, here is my philosophy: make the world more like Camp while we’re off the mountain, if you can. The world could use it.

      • Thumb up 6

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        Let’s do it you guys. Cause I don’t think I can ever go back to not smiling at every human I see the moment I wake up and vice versa. It NEVER FELT WEIRD to say HI! to ANYONE at camp. At in n out burger I smiled at this cis man who gave me a weird look and I was like WTH and realized where I was: the bottom of the mountain. So I shook my head and muttered ‘excuse YOU’

        • Thumb up 4

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          ..Realizing that our society promotes so many unhealthy ways of living, even in the most small subliminal ways. I agree- we can make our own world by being an active representation of our vision..

  22. Thumb up 13

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    Today I went to Target to buy laundry detergent because beer spilled on my sleeping bag at A-Camp. I can’t think of anything else but my time on the mountain, so I got distracted and left with a tank top with cats on it and a denim vest but no laundry detergent. Typical.

    On my way home, Hello My Old Heart by the Oh Hello’s came on the radio and I just started crying because the lyrics were so on point to how I’ve been feeling since leaving the mountain.

    “Hello, my old heart
    How have you been?
    How is it, being locked away?
    Don’t you worry
    In there, you’re safe
    And it’s true you’ll never beat, but you’ll never break

    Because nothing lasts forever
    Some things aren’t meant to be
    But you’ll never find the answers
    Until you set your old heart free”

    I’ve locked away my heart for so long but I’m working on setting it free now. Something like a heart shouldn’t be locked away when there is just so much love to give. A-Camp gave me new hope. A lot of growth happened for me on the mountain- painful but full of joy at the same time.

    I just wanted to thank my cabin, the Firebrands, for becoming my instant friends and for generally being extremely attractive and talented and perfect.

    Thank you to whoever planned the Bisexuality Panel to be on the first full day. The discussions we had set the tone for an incredible week and I feel pretty inspired to be a voice for that community now in some way.

    Thank you Ali and Hansen for inspiring me to write and write and write and write when I’ve been avoiding writing about things I should for so long (because feelings).

    Thank you everyone on the Mad, Sad, and Rad panel for reaffirming my desire to go to grad school for Counseling so I can work with the queer population.

    Thank you to Riese for creating such an amazing community. I came later to the party than some others, but after this A-Camp, I feel like I’ve found a home of sorts. It’s incredible, this site we have here. I feel so grateful to be a part of it, even in some small way.

    I miss you all. <3

  23. Thumb up 14

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    Bren and Carrie’s wedding though, you guys. Somehow the only tears I shed on the mountain. But then I got into the car and started describing it to my mom and just lost it sobbing. In the best way.

    What a beautiful and special group of people in a spectacular and overwhelming place where I grew more than I expected to or had in the longest time. Dreambabes. Dreamspace. Only 52 weeks left till next camp!

  24. Thumb up 13

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    general list of things that made my camp times grand:

    - sad, mad, and rad panel, gender spectrum panel, and casual sext
    - getting all the runaways to call each other cabin babes, and to talk comfortably about poop by day 3
    - leaving pigeon hole notes for people I was too afraid to speak to
    - misunderstanding the purpose of the animal onesie hunt
    -hugging Riese for what felt like 20 minutes even though it probably wasn’t that long it still felt like it was SO
    - feelings circles
    - hella adorable mountain top wedding
    - food sensitivities brought to you by Katie
    - quietly admiring staff crushes with fellow campers

    but honestly I can’t even capture Camp by specific moments. Theres no real way to articulate how camp felt, really. I feel like I fell madly in love with everyone and that I’ve found a place i can call home. I know what it feels like to be a part of the community now and I don’t want to lose that ever. I feel extremely inspired by so many people that I would have never met if it weren’t for camp. I think if I were to have one camp regret, It would be that I didn’t talk to all the staff that I admired that I promised myself I would talk to, but I guess commenting is a good start.

  25. Thumb up 24

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    So random thoughts moment:

    -If you haven’t looked at the hashtags #outsidersplanking #jengaplank or #hottcabin then you’re missing out on some K-lassy sh*t.

    -I came into camp thinking that it might be a make-or-break point for my self-esteem. It was. Thankfully it was also in the opposite direction of where I had been assuming.

    -I still really wish someone would find and send my YDY flask back to me.

    -I really have no idea where else in the world I can wear my Outsiders vest without the world doing something to damage the perfection wrapped within its memory. This is upsetting to me.

    -I still can’t believe so many humans decided to climb on the roofs and trees.

    And most importantly of all:

    A-Camp is totally U-hauling, y’all. Think about it. Four days with strangers and by the end we’re weeping about everything and real life and leaving our very best friends in the whole world who we only met FOUR DAYS AGO and considering reunions and tattoo ideas. If ever there was the perfect example, A-Camp is it.

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      Kel, I’ll visit ya in Hawaii and we can go out in our vests together and add to the memory and if anyone tried to mess with how sacred they are, we always have our switch blade combs. Don’t mess with us.

      • Thumb up 3

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        omg, you guys. Laura gave me a switchblade comb because I love you guys, etc, and she had an extra and I WAS STOPPED BY TSA. I forgot to tell you. I just had to laugh. And the TSA agent thought it was pretty funny too. He was all, “this is kinda awesome this thing. But check it next time because it looks terrifying on the scanner.”

  26. Thumb up 13

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    reposting from the fb group by request :)
    while roadtripping back from mt feels, we entered a gas station. in this gas station there were maybe 4-6 old cis white guys standing around “shooting the shit.” I felt so out of place and scared. I looked outside and there was a giant billboard that read “lumberjacks” (not janes). this sort of culture re-entry shock made me realize that if it weren’t for this cussed up society, we wouldn’t have created this amazing space for each other. if it weren’t for all our oppressors etc, we would not be nearly as resilient, gentle, empathetic, or sensitive. so I guess what I’m trying to say is that society/the patriarchy/kyriarchy is the worst, but like, if not for it, we might not have each other. I’m really grateful for queer spaces like camp that bring us together from all over the world and for all the magical people we meet there. let’s keep loving each other, holding each other up, and don’t stop. <3

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    I really enjoyed the trans women’s coffee hour, I’ve never been in a space that was exclusively trans before. (I was going to say I’ve never been in a room with so many trans women before, but I’ve been in the A Camp cafeteria :-P)

    @meyrude: I floated this idea past Astrid and she seemed interested — a trans boardgame meetup, it would be nice to get together and just do something with a bunch of trans women, instead of just talking.

    (Maybe or maybe not exclusively trans people, maybe or maybe not exclusively DMAB people.)

    Anyway, what do you think?

  28. Thumb up 16

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    [Posting this again out of the facebook group because comments = important]

    -So I went mountain biking this evening and found I was cycling like a pro without getting winded as I normally do and it must be from the high altitude acclimation (combined with my atypical consumption of salads during every meal up there).

    And thus I have realized, A-CAMP LITERALLY STRENGTHENS YOUR HEART

  29. Thumb up 11

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    I am having just as many feels as everyone else, I believe, and the mess of hotness spreading all over my facebook and social media is beautiful.

    I wanted to share with you all one thing. After last camp, my first camp, I was very sad as I faced the prospect of returning to Ohio and all that not-queernormative space. But in February a friend of mine and I started a Straddler group in Cincinnati and it’s been amazing- we somehow have birthed a solid queerfamily unlike any I’ve seen outside A-camp, and we text each other all the time and do stuff once a week or even oftener. This camp I am going home full of hope, inspired for tons of new stuff to do, in love with all the mountain queers who are now sprawled across the world and also in love with the queers I found hiding in the nooks and crannies at home and in love with the idea of connecting all of you humans more tightly together.

    I’m going to keep writing about this and I hope that sometime in the near future I’ll have produced some sort of coherent piece about my experience building my local Straddler group up. Hopefully some of you will be interested in reading it. But in the meantime what I’m trying to say is: we can do this. We can build a world that feels good to us all the days of the year. It can’t always be the heaven that is camp. But don’t ever feel dejected and like there is no chance for a truly safe queer family or queernormativity outside of Angelus Oaks. If any of you are having a rough time of it, feel free to message me and we can virtual hug and dream together about what we wish the world looked like and how we can self-care and work-our-asses-off in the direction of that world.

    All the love that this heart can contain and more goes to you humans.

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    I had a hard time at camp. Most people who saw me probably didn’t realise, and i certainly didn’t really talk about it. I think I built it up in my head as a place where all my self-esteem/ self-loathing/ body shame issues would magically disappear because I would be away from the outside world. Surprise! My head came with me to camp, and for the first couple of days it totally took over. My self-hatred got in the way of experiencing camp and made me loathe myself even more. I was also really homesick, which I found frustrating cos I had been looking forward to this trip for SO LONG, and had so many expectations. Why was I missing home when camp was finally right here for me, when this community I feel so attached to online was finally a physical space?

    I think another big ‘thing’ for me was grappling with the fact that I am not a hook-up or casual sex kind of person. I’m too awkward, too scared, too oblivious to the idea that anyone might be flirting with me because I have set in stone the idea that nobody would ever find me attractive. But I had also absorbed/ bought into the idea of hook ups being important and desirable at camp, even thought I hated it. I felt on the outer for not participating. and convinced I was the only person that didn’t hook up. I probably wasn’t. I don’t know.

    Things shifted about halfway through. I forced myself to go to more workshops and try new things. I *didn’t* force myself to go to Klub Deer. The zine making workshop, and sitting in peace with others working together on a project, was soul soothing and one of my favourite parts of camp.

    So, will I be back next year? Yes, I hope so. And it will be with a stronger sense of what works for me, who I am at my most authentic self, and trying to be OK with what that is. I fell like camp provides that space, and it will be up to me to make the most of it.

    Wow. That was long. ALL THE FEELINGS. The processing continues. There will be blog posts.

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      Wow that took courage to admit.
      I would be wondering if I would feel the same way as you, honestly. I imagine coming to terms with the opportunity and reality of an ideal queer world in such a short and dense space of time would put huge potential expectations and ideals on any lesbian self (in a shaken bottle!) that because it is a safe space, enables greater likelihood of sharing your feelings maybe for the first time, of identification, community, hopes/expectations/camaraderie/intimacy/desire then parting!!!? is a hell of a rollercoaster to ride. Give yourself credit for turning up. You turned up to A-Camp from Melbourne, Australia. Go You!! What you have shared is a meeting of yourself with others, in a way you feel comfortable giving, which is authentic because it is your contribution that you are willing to give. You are authentic and intimate by being yourself, and wherever you go, your head goes with you. More power to you for seeing and managing that. I admire your courage.

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      Yes to all of this – and maybe you don’t think so, but I’ve noticed it’s a common struggle at camp. I know it was within my cabin. We were all fighting a battle for self-love, bravery, and community on our own terms every day. I think the parts of camp we remember, the stories & comments that show up here, are the exciting/weird/silly stories of hookups and klub deer. The stories about the struggle are harder to tell, but they’re still a HUGE part of camp experience for many people. One of the most important things about camp, I think, is this realization that you’re not alone – and you are most definitely not alone in this.

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      Not that I know what camp is like, or feels like, but I can see how it is easy to set up huge expectations and then also bring your daily struggles in your luggage. A-camp is probably tons of awesome, but it’s also real life (with a much nicer wrapping). And real life can be difficult, sometimes.

      Go again next year, so we can hopefully meet and be homesick-sorta together :)

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      Thank you for sharing this! I went to camp in October and it was really amazing. Being back I had some really high expectations that I think I knew I wouldn’t be able to meet because all my weird anxiety and shy awkwardness doesn’t get left in the airport. It was a really hard camp.

      This camp was still great, but in much smaller ways than last camp. And I think I’m still processing how to be okay with that and also about how going back would look like now that I’ve had a great and a not-as-great camp experience.

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    I’m from Québec, so attending camp would be a lot of money for me, but it’s totes worth saving up! Next year! Look at me, piling up all this hard earned cash I make by painting kids faces, and dressing up as a fairy for their 4th birthdays!

    If I’m going to attend a lesbian lifestyle camp, it HAS to be financed by my glittery, colorful, unicorn-magic, unusual daytime job.

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        I do! I have a bunch of costumes/characters I can play. I own a puppy mascott for outside events, and for private bday parties I can be either a fairy, or a pirate, or a clown. I also organise “jewellery crafting” birthday parties. I love my job and pray everyday I can live off of it!

        Your friends sounds awesome. ;)

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    On the final night of camp, the Outsiders cabin played “Rose, Thorn, Rosebud” to talk about the highs and lows of our experience, and I genuinely couldn’t think of a thorn. Everything about this camp (my third time on the mountain) was wonderful, and I’m so glad I pushed myself to do new things, from contributing to the camp zine and writing a song to not forcing myself to go to every single panel discussion. I can’t wait to stay in touch with all of the new people I met this time around and continue to grow with them even as we all go on with our lives outside of the Autostraddle bubble. I don’t know how Camp 6.0 will top this one, but we’ve got our work cut out for us!

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    First of all: #ballsportshashtag

    Second: I am so fucking lucky to have been a part of the Outsiders cabin. We are all so weird. Like REALLY FUCKING WEIRD. Like seriously, the weirdest people I know! We kept our inside jokes going from day one (hell, we had inside jokes still continuing from LAST may). We lunged a hell of a lot, we planked a lot of shit, we continuously hurt ourselves on our switchblade combs, everything became a stupid hashtag, scream-talking because we were just too excited to NOT be screaming.

    We became this strange and creative chosen family. We were tough and tender to each other. We took our family portraits wearing jean vests. Belly-laughs, check-ins, reassurance, fashion-advice and courage.

    Thank you A-Camp for putting my heart and head back together.

    Goddamnit Peanut.

    Also this:
    http://8tracks.com/babywrist/outsiders-cabin-theme-songs

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      Today was my first real day back after driving with my Portland crew for the past few days, and I am feeling all the feels. Mainly sad not to wake up with my amazingly strange and hilarious Outsider family singing about bagel bites this morning. Seriously. Y’all are so goddamn weird. But despite the huge hole in my heart where y’all are missing, I am feeling so right, realigned, loved, optimistic. Today my co-worker asked how camp was and the best thing I could think to say is that camp is the place I feel most alive. So thank you all for challenging me to be my best, most engaged self, and for making me cry-laugh like 50 times a day. This year, I’m feeling excited to take what I’ve learned and bring it into my life off-mountain, to seek out and make space to feel the kind of joy and belonging that led me to accidentally call my cabin home more than once last week. Love you.

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    So since this whole A-Camp has started happening I’ve been a student and un/underemployed and unable to go. But I just got a REAL GROWN UP JOB with benefits and VACATION time. So next spring I AM GOING TO A CAMP. for realz. And I can’t wait.

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    When I got back to Canada and my phone started working again my bestie here texted me to ask me what was my favourite part of camp. This was my answer:
    “I loved my cabin. I managed to make friends. I was scared a lot but that was OK. Riese. Laneia. The staff reading. Dancing drunk on a mountain with a fuck ton of queers with no fear. Scream singing all my favourite breakup songs while I danced with new friends and felt so present it tingled. Sharing parts of myself with strangers who now feel like friends and family. Checking out all of the hottest group of humans I’ve ever seen in one place”
    I think that’s the closest I can get to describing the magic of camp in words to someone who is yet to attend

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    Today was my first real day back after driving with my Portland crew for the past few days, and I am feeling all the feels. Mainly sad not to wake up with my amazingly strange and hilarious Outsider family singing about bagel bites this morning. Seriously. Y’all are so goddamn weird. But despite the huge hole in my heart where you wonderful humans are missing, I am feeling so right, realigned, loved, optimistic. Today my co-worker asked how camp was and the best thing I could think to say is that camp is the place I feel most alive. So thank you all for challenging me to be my best, most engaged self, and for making me cry-laugh like 50 times a day. This year, I’m feeling excited to take what I’ve learned and bring it into my life off-mountain, to seek out and make space to feel the kind of joy and belonging that led me to accidentally call my cabin home more than once last week. Love you.

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    I am so glad I got to be a part of A-Camp! I feel like I had been holding my breath for the longest time, and when I finally got to camp, I exhaled. It was like a weight was lifted. All the feelings I didn’t know I needed to feel were felt. I didn’t think I’d feel as introverted as I did, but I still managed to meet some pretty cool people. Hopefully next camp I’ll branch out more. Thank you camp moms Laneia and Riese for being there with us, guiding us, and opening up this safe space for all of us. I especially want to thank you for placing me with the runaways- they have become some of my favorite people, and I can’t wait until we reunite again on (and off) the mountain. :)

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    I miss all of you so much. I alternate between crying about camp and smiling so big my face hurts, just remembering this mountaintop dream that was actually real, and how it was so magical. I feel so much braver and stronger now. My heart is fuller.

    Here, I posted this in the A-Camp Unofficial Social Group this morning on the Bookface and felt like posting it here too:

    Leaving LA this morning more comfortable with my sexuality and so ready to go home and come out to my parents; more than ever before. I’m also leaving LA with new, wonderful friends who really get me, and who live all over the country. I’m also leaving LA with a lot of “what if’s” over a crush I’ll try my hardest to get over while listening to Jar of Hearts and sad musical theatre songs on the plane… Thanks for all of the overflowing feelings, A-Camp!!

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    Only a few days out and I find I’m having an even harder time coming back to my everyday life this time around. But in a way it’s driving home the concept that this doesn’t have to be an end. It’s all here within us. It grows. I’m growing. I’ve been valuing small moments more, learning to be more present and open. I have made a point out of increasingly spilling-my-guts with feelings and authentic pieces of myself to the people in my life who are worthy of them.

    I also tend to get an ego boost at camp that helps me believe in my abilities even more, and believe that I can be powerful and SEEN as a queer woman; that I really can find the happiness I’m looking for, that there is more out there in this world for me than I realize and I must have bigger roles to fill..

    I have trouble with saying goodbyes, even small day-to-day ones. I really loathe it more than anything sometimes. I tend to linger.
    But as I was driving home I asked, “why do the moments have to end?” And Allison said,
    “to make room for new ones.”

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    … I have been asked (a lot) by friends and family about how camp was.

    Up until now, my stories have been centered around the physical/easily explained moments:
    -Watching the meteor shower with my amazing cabinmates while lying on the cold concrete of the basketball court in our fancy clothes during the ball.
    -Dancing like the crazy fools that we were at Klub Deer, the black & white ball, and the wedding reception.
    -Nightly walks to chat and look at the stars.
    -Making a t-shirt and flower crown at the fair.
    -And reallyyyyy missing bacon.

    However, I just can’t quite seem to form words for the emotional impact on my psyche that A-Camp 5.0 had.

    My mind was expanded through panel discussions on polyamory, gender spectrum topics, and even the Songwriting 101 workshop that I shamelessly took JUST because Mal Blum was hosting it, only to realize that it was actually a really cool thing to learn about. I realized that the emotional trauma I experienced in my adolescence with my family combusting/parents splitting was likely what prevented me from realizing that who I thought I was was actually not who I lived as for all those/these years until coming out at the age of 28. I heard stories of weakness (and realized it’s okay to be weak). I heard stories of profound strength and resiliance.

    I met the most interesting people of different shapes, sizes, backgrounds and nationalities. On the mountain, though, we were all equal—deriving our strength from each other. Strength in numbers.

    Eating meals was one of my favorite times (minus the morning after too much gin was consumed at Klub Deer and I decided to skip breakfast and sleep it off/avoid climbing down from my top bunk!). I loved the people watching during meals. LOVED. There were so many beautiful people to behold as far as I could see.. And the amazing thing? If you smiled at someone, they’d smile back. Always!

    I remember walking into what I thought would be a panel on feelings called “Once More With The Feelings”in the Eagle Lodge, only to realize it was the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER MUSICAL EPISODE SING-A-LONG (which is soooo not my thing), to which I hightailed it out of there, giggling to myself, to sit outside and visit with some lovely humans in the sun.

    I so desperately wanted to come back from Camp with some unreal stories of really finding myself, or something wildly drastic.

    But you know what? I didn’t. And I want to tell you that if you also didn’t: That’s okay.

    For me, at camp, I actually realized something more important. Something invaluable to me—the girl who hasn’t been *out* for even a year yet, who came out at the age of 28 years old to her then-husband, only to get separated, sell her dream home, and basically start life over again:

    -I am okay.
    -I am on the right path.
    -I’m happy.
    -I’ve “done the work”. I know who I am and what I want.
    -I’m ready to embrace whatever blessings life has to offer me.

    Thank you, A-Camp 5.0, my beautiful cabinmates (THE FOXES!), and everyone else who I interacted with.
    I feel like I’ve got this. ❤

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    I want to say so many things! And I want to say nothing, want to refrain from fencing in the camp experience with words, want not to boil it down in any way. This probably sounds like I spent all day long scribbling in a word document so I could copy and paste when I was ready (that is exactly what I did).
    This was my first A-Camp. I wrote in my journal that camp made me feel POSSIBLE in a way I didn’t know I was lacking. I’ve been working hard for a few years to dig down past the people-pleasing, expectation-fulfilling, entertaining shells of me; to believe that the ‘undiscovered’, living, and powerful parts under all those masks are worth pulling out into the open air. I’ve been working to believe in myself, and trust myself. Somehow at camp it didn’t feel like such work anymore. How did that happen???? How did you magical people DO THAT?
    One of the best things I ever received from growing up in Christian communities was this good dream of “the kingdom of god” – a place/community/people/time where we would all be free from the burdens of isolation, fear, hatred, violence. I have clung to the notion that this “kingdom of god” is, indeed, “nigh” – possible in the here and now. A-Camp was that kind of community for me last week. Where the good dream of freedom, and kindness, and welcome is not just a dream but a reality, definitely imperfect and messy, and amazing, and fucking REAL. I don’t know how to say how much that means to me.
    I learned a lot up on the mountain, and I have so much more to learn – about myself, about my herstorical ancestors, my fellow queers, about feminism and racial reconciliation and grace and changing the fucking world. I am excited and grateful and inspired that I get to have access to such AMAZING teachers and fellow students in all of you.
    Big shout out & thank you & lots of love to Ali & Whitney and our entire little troop of Foxes [SIDE NOTE: Wikipedia tells me a group of foxes is also known as a skulk, a leash, or an earth…neato].
    Big thank you to the whole staff – I hope you all have had a chance to recuperate from what must have been an exhausting week. And to Riese, Alex, Laneia, and all of you who began and continue to sustain this Autostraddle community & enterprise – thank you. I am glad my first tentative googling of “how to be gay” sent me to Autostraddle.

    So, I got all maudlin and dramatic.
    I miss you humans. :)

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    I miss you all!
    This was my first A-Camp and I came not knowing a soul, driving up the mountain listening to Fleetwood Mac, shaking the whole time. I was so intimidated to meet other queers, because honestly, the scene in LA is a little too cool for school most of the time, so I usually just stay home with my cat. Meeting people organically, people who also don’t hit the bar scene, and like weird shit, and just pretty much want love (friend love, sexy love, family love, love love.) and make cool stuff and listen/ contribute to interesting conversations is pretty much THE BEST EVERRRRRR. So I also have always considered myself a leader-type extrovert. If you saw me at camp, I probably glommed onto you and was more of an active listener, rather than being outgoing. I attended the introvert seminar and made sure during my alone time walkabouts I wasn’t making resting bitch face. I was really happy the whole time. Even after journaling my feelings, where my cabin mate asked if I was okay and I replied, “I am on the verge, dude.” them proceeded to sob all over her hug. I had waaaaay more feelings about how my friendships and relationships, and other dynamics in my life affect my day-to-day life and how hard I work to rise above it all. I feel really good about life, my new friends, new possibilities. This camp, my focus was to make connections and fun crafts. I came, I conquered, and next year I hope to really delve into learning more about gender and more political things. Thank you to everyone who included me and let me stand by them awkwardly at any point in time. Huge shout out to The Panthers! Kai and Mary were awesome counselors :D Also, I have never been complimented so many times in a span of time, as I had at A-Camp….Mt. Compliments!
    You are all so brave and wonderful humans xoxo
    Emily

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