A-Camp 5.0 Recamps Part One: Started From The Bottom, Now We’re Queer

A-Camp 5.0, Day One: May 21st, 2014


Chelsea: Carmen and I got up at 7:30AM, probably running on four hours of sleep, and made our way down the mountain fueled by coffee and Drake. On this epic road trip, we discover that we are basically sisters from another mister, and it is glorious. #SherylCrow

Carmen: I made her listen to a lot of Sheryl Crow. We ended up spending a majority of the day there, because the Lesbian Gods actually refuse to let the A-Camp shuttles get to camp on time.

Riese: Honestly I think that’s the best evidence NOM has that gay people are disliked by G-d.

Stef: Wednesday morning, almost everybody in Cabin 16 woke up super early, but Cara was the first one dressed and ready to greet the day. She declared that she was going out for a run, and took off, only to return just a couple of seconds later, furrowing her brow with concern. “There’s like a million coyotes out there,” she announced, before pausing thoughtfully and announcing, “I’m going to learn their secrets.” Then she disappeared into the morning fog.

Cee: I spent the morning making a flag for Klub Deer. Carly and I projected the deer logo onto a sheet which Alice Motes had picked up for us on the way up the mountain. We then painted it with the help of Carolyn and Meredydd.

I would pay for this as a duvet cover

I would pay for this as a duvet cover

Gigler: Kaylah and I hung up the A-Camp bat by the entrance to greet campers, thanks to my friend AJ Sharkstar who also made lots of other cool critters for Rhythm Nation and the 90s Pool party! She’s a punk rock feminist street artist who donated her time and talents to make us custom critters. Let’s hear it for the Grrrl!

Stef: Before the campers arrived, several staff members were completely enchanted by the presence of several anole lizards just partying out in the sun on some rocks in front of Wolf. I was perhaps the most enthralled, probably because one of the lizards kept doing push-ups and smiling hopefully up at me. Apparently push-ups are the male lizards’ preferred method of impressing females. I was pretty impressed, but not enough to give him my phone number.

Stef gives the lizard directions

Stef gives the lizard directions

Chelsea: We got to LAX around 10:30, and we expected that maybe a handful of campers will be there. We walk in and like, 50 campers turn to stare at us. So many adorable excited faces! I get immediately terrified that we’ll fuck up and leave some adorable queer stranded at the airport. SPOILER ALERT: we didn’t.

Laura Mandanas,  Contributing Editor & Outsiders Counselor: Right before the campers arrived, Rory and Taylor decorated the windows in Wolf. I watched them in awe for a good five minutes.


Inspiration Point

Robin: The best part about the first day of A-Camp is watching everyone coming down that hill. Since this is our fifth camp, its fun to see that mix of familiar faces, friends greeting each other after not knowing each other for so long and the nervous faces of first time campers.

Crystal: My role during registration is usually to hang out in the car park and greet campers who drive in. It’s the best job. I really love being able to see things like first-time campers being dropped off by family, and returning campers arriving with a car full of friends that they’ve made at previous camps.

Riese: I love the first day of A-Camp — sitting at registration with Laneia, meeting all the new campers, hugging the new Runaways, hugging the old Runaways — it feels like a caffeine-and-Xanax fueled dream.

Laneia: Registration is my FAVORITE! You know, the only time anyone ever licks my face is at A-Camp.

A-Camp 514


Robin: I love watching new campers arrive because I know within a day they will be adjusted and feel part of our camp family and leave camp with so many more friends! The trick to the first day, especially for first timers, is to keep an open mind and embrace the awkwardness of meeting new people!

Mary Tully, Panthers Counselor: Meeting the new campers on the first day is always so much fun! Kai and I were so excited to finally meet everyone and it was obvious, very quickly, that The Panthers were the best campers at A-Camp.

Soph: There is no feeling like waiting for campers. the best folks you’ve haven’t met. And meeting them is even better! Incomparable camaraderie you know will last.

Crystal: I’d been waiting 5 years for Autostraddle to sell black t-shirts and this was the day that my dream came true. I purchased several, justifying that it was very on theme for The Con cabin.

(photo by Bree)

(photo by Bree)

Chelsea: We started loading campers onto shuttles, but the shuttle company fucked up and sent us the wrong sized bus.

Riese: It never ceases to amaze me that companies charging us $1,200 per bus manage to fuck up every time!

Chelsea: We ended up with five campers and Dani RDS, who bravely volunteered/was forced to wait with us until the final shuttle. Despite telling them to just send a van, they send a massive shuttle bus for five campers. I briefly consider tying the campers to roof of my car and driving them up the mountain. It wouldn’t be camp without a struggle bus scenario.

Carmen: When the final shuttle had finally departed the airport, Chelsea and I left with Daniela, the most wonderful addition of all to our staff vehicle, and went to In-N-Out.


Meredydd: Because I was at the merch table all day, I didn’t get to see my campers (The Outsiders) till later that afternoon/dinner time. I was so unbelievably excited that everyone fully committed to wearing denim vests. They all looked so good! #hotcabin But The Outsiders didn’t just look good – they were all amazing people. Fun, kind, caring, competitive and ready to be absolutely ridiculous about everything.

Laura: Rae climbed up between two bunk beds and started planking… and from that moment on there was near continuous planking by the Outsiders for the next four days. I hear they didn’t even stop when they went to bed.

Stef: Every camp, I feel like the campers are sort of desperate to unravel the mysteries of how Riese puts the cabins together and figure out what their commonalities are, why they’ve been brought here, what greater purpose they were put together to serve. The best the Firebrands could figure was that some of them were medical professionals and all of them were pretty good drinkers.

Riese: (it was the latter)

Brittani NicholsComedy/Sports Editor and Firebrands Counselor: Our first time in the dining hall, I noticed the hot chocolate machine was not available for our use. And by not available, I mean they unplugged it and put a sign up. I believe that hot chocolate is a year round beverage and so I found Katie and complained because I’ve learned that’s the only way to get things done in life. It didn’t actually work but at some point during the week, the temperature dipped and the hot chocolate machine got turned on and I showed my take on excitement which is completely internal and not obvious to the naked eye.


by Rory

Opening Ceremonies

Marni: I had a grandiose vision of presenting the flags to each house in the opening campfire/ceremony down at Firecircle 1 (which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the A-Camp site, is a big and picturesque campfire amphitheater lit up by strings of lights around its circumference at night), but the weather was so cold that we just couldn’t bear to subject the campers, on their first night, to huddling in frigid temperatures. We decided to run the opening campfire in Eagle Lodge, and presented each district with their flags in a manner that I hope was theatrical enough to befit the artistic effort that went into them.

Riese: It makes me SO SAD when we have to do the opening ceremonies inside instead of at the fire circle because IT’S SO MUCH BETTER AT THE FIRE CIRCLE.

Robin: Riese and Marni convinced me to do an opening night sketch which I’m pretty sure didn’t really land, but Marni thinks differently. Regardless, it was a good way of showing newcomers that trying things at camp, even if you don’t do them perfectly, is a great way of experiencing getting our of your comfort zone in a safe and supportive place.

Marni: She’s right, it didn’t really land.

Riese: Basically the idea was that the Owl and the Shark were seeing A-Camp for the first time, like walking through and seeing the different types of people and activities there, and I think one of them was actually gay but hadn’t like, come out to themselves yet? It was complicated. My part involved writing and drinking.

Crystal: Whitney and I were asked to represent the introvert meet-up activity during the opening ceremony skit. By standing on stage. In front of thousands of people. And doing a ‘bit’. I still can’t talk about it.

Bren: The skit was the best! I could listen to Robin “Hoo” at people for hours. And Marni makes the most wonderful shark.

Owl: Where you from?
Shark: The ocean.

Classic Shark.



Mary: The puns were just so good. I loved it.

Melinda: I had to wear an animal onesie. Kip was assigned the same part. We kind of ruefully looked at each other in our respective costumes. He said little, wisely handing me a full whiskey flask. I performed my part well enough.

Chelsey: I loved being a cheerleader with Kai, Hansen, Laura and Soph in the opening skit. Mostly because I realized that 2-4-6-8 rhymed with validate.



Stef: So before camp, Cara and I were geeking to each other about our respective goofy crushes while also worrying about how we would survive camp without the sweet dulcet tones of DeAnne Smith and her ukulele. Somehow, this evolved into us writing a romantic duet entitled, “Why Are We So Gay?” We presented it to the team as a potential new song for opening ceremonies, and we were thrilled when the powers that be allowed us to perform it in front of a room of very enthusiastic weirdos. I sort of black out every time I have to perform on that stage in Eagle, but I feel like it went well and people laughed in the right places and now everybody at A-Camp knows about how Cara and I are just a couple of bros in friendlove.

Riese: Honestly the best part of every opening ceremony is just being there in the same room as all the campers. Knowing that we had five whole days ahead of us to fall in love and that so much was in store. I was especially nervous this camp ’cause we were trying so many new things and didn’t have Hosts (a role previously occupied by Deanne Smith, and before her, Julie and Brandy), but everybody seemed to jazzed from Day One to HAVE A BUNCH OF FUCKING FUN. I feel like that was the vibe throughout — we’re here to let go. 

Cee: Mere and I unveiled our Klub Deer flag during the opening ceremony, sadly right before Carmen got back up the mountain to join us.

Carmen: As fast as we rushed up that mountain, it wasn’t fast enough. When I got a text from B about how awesome the Klub Deer flag unveiling had gone at the opening ceremony, my heart broke into various pieces. But eventually, I learned to love again.

(photo by bree)

(photo by bree)

The Initiation Ceremonies

Carmen: The Gladiator super-secret initiation (JK) quickly turned into a knighting ceremony. I obviously went with Lil C as my Gladiator name, but others got more creative.

Rory: It was like, “I hereby dub thee [Sir][Clarecles]” etc. … knights and gladiators are something different I guess but whatever, we had fun.

Carmen: Also, there may or may not have been a fraternity paddle involved.

Riese: Laneia and I are two of the busiest humans at camp, which’s why we didn’t assign ourselves a cabin at the first camp — but after our first camp as socially inept weirdos, we decided to start counseling a cabin together to make it easier to meet more campers! To help ease the pain of how packed our schedules were, however, we started putting all the Runaways alums into the same cabin (The Blackhearts) and assigning everybody “bigs” and “littles” to make everybody feel cared for and womb-like while the two of us ran around camp attending to catastrophes and running shit. (While making as much time for our campers as we possibly could outside of that.) The initiation ceremony involves the granting of littles to bigs, amongst other pagan secrets. It did NOT, however, involve an indoor fire cauldron, because those were too expensive. Eventually we’ll get to the blood-letting.

Kai: People made fun of me for dragging in a huge piñata that looked like it was barfing gay from all of its orifices, but HA the Panthers know what’s up. We started camp by banging in the cabin until the room exploded in rainbows and candy. Jealous?

Crystal: For our cabin initiation, Hansen had this genius idea of asking campers to sketch each other, because our cabin was called the Con and this activity would make them artists. Con Artists. Geddit? They did a really good job of humoring us.

Yvonne Marquez, Associate Editor & The Craft Counselor: Liz Castle and I were co-staff for The Craft Cabin and we had so much fun planning out our cabin initiation. In the spirit of the 1996 cult classic, we created our own “spell” initiation (…most solemnly swear that I will ever abide by the queerhood and friendship of The Craft Cabin…) and marked our campers with a triangle inside a triangle to represent our cabin within the larger Autostraddle community. Look how cool we are!


Liz Castle: We had little triangles within larger triangles which was symbolic of each of our individual little queer hearts being a small but integral part of our larger Autostraddle community on the mountain. Also black triangles are super gay which is just fabulous icing on the queer cake.

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  1. excuse me, chelsey, but your dresses for the “once more with feeling” sing-a-long were perfect and adorable. you CAN make that! also, I can’t wait for the recap of the “once more with feeling” sing-a-long! xoxo

    I was so anxious this first day, since I knew approximately NO ONE! I quickly learned that being a social inept weirdo at camp is the best. mockingjays forever!!

  2. Aaahhh, showing up so early from my crosscountry train trip to see that noone was at the buss meetup yet was a minor disapointment, but watching everyone show up and a large mob of queers emerge was truley amazing (not to mention the looks of the other people around us).

    Also, I have a feeling this comment section is about to get out of hand, the club deer of comment sections if you will.

  3. I got so many feelings from reading this! I am so homesick for camp right now. A Campers give the best hugs in the world and I need about 5 billion of those hugs at the moment. I am so so sad that the next camp is the week before finals and I can’t go. But remembering camp and all you lovely people made my week, and I coincidentally wore my a camp hoodie today. <3 <3 <3 so many feelings, so much crying

  4. Feelings explosion: commence.

    Wowowowowww I miss everyone so much! All of the sharing and crafting and love fests and getting high and going on exquisite nature walks. I need to start putting away money for next camp immediately. I actually like that this recamp was delayed. It is making me look forward to next camp a little bit more than I’m missing last camp. Though I’m definitely experiencing both emotions. Among others. Many others.

    By the way, major props to all of our camp counselors and our camp directors. I am always stunned to see the ending of work that goes into making a camp happen. You are our fairy godgays, and we are #blessed

    Also, i can’t help but geek out every time it happens, but OMG! look! It’s my face on Autostraddle dot com!!!!

  5. OMG I WANT IN. I can’t wait to meet you all and other first-timers. I know you’re lurking out there, fellow first-timers, thinking that you are not cool enough, but you are!

    Also, is everyone just ridiculously beautiful at A-Camp? Everyone is so perfect!!! How do you all survive it?!

    this was so worth waiting for. It’s the perfect reminder that camp REALLY HAPPENED and will really happen again; that in just a few months, I’ll have access to this magic and this beautiful cuddly kinky loving community of humans where I can just be me.
    also, the introvert meetup really was a big turning point in my campsperience. SO GOOD.

    • I loved the introverts meet up. Instant conversation starter for the rest of camp: “Hey, remember how we were both at that thing where we were talking about being afraid that we wouldn’t meet people?” Also, I loved that like 75% of the camp was there. :D

  7. ugh ugh I want to go to camp SOOOOOOOOO BAAAAAAAAAD but I can’t because 1. I’ll still be a couple months shy of 17 for this Year’s camp which seems rather outrageously young and 2. I have a different (also gay) camp I hope to attend this summer so I’ve been saving all my money for that and 3. “oh hey parents I want to fly halfway across the country to spend a weekend on a mountain with a bunch of adults I’ve never met before, I’ll be seeing you”

    Most of the time I’m like “I never wanna grow up ever I’ll just be Peter Pan pls kthx” and then there’s stuff like this and I’m like “all I want is a job and my independence”

    • No.3 is how i first felt when my friend told me about Acamp. I said ‘a gay camp in LA i dont know about??? Clearly ive been living under a rock’ then i was like what do i even tell my parents…’im off to go into the mountains for the weekend with queer people from tbe internet i dont know in real life yet bye’

      Yup. But I still think the words ‘we do what we have to do to get there’ ring true.

  8. During the first three camps I was in a similar situation, I was too young and there is no way I could go. But then I was old enough and I was in college away from my parents and I went to a camp 4 and 5 and ill go to every camp I possibly can for the rest of forever. I remember wishing I didn’t have to wait, but it is worth it and you’ll time will happen.

  9. Ah yes, first day of camp, AKA the only day of camp I managed to get up for yoga. I went to the Mal Blum songwriting workshop mostly to stare at their handsomeness and thought I could get away with not participating but NOPE. Luckily the rest of my group was super talented at song writing.

    Also walking around, feeling not gay enough, the Bisexual panel being on the first day was great. I had been hiding my past dude stuff, and hearing the affirmation that I was DEFINITELY gay enough almost made me cry. I also spotted one of my cabin babes at it, which relieved me a lot at the time.

    Introvert panel was also great, cause there were SO MANY OF US. Also one of the questions they answered I wrote, which made me feel warm and fuzzy. And Hana is best human, I aspire to be more like her.

    Oh man, first day was so nerve wracking and awesome! I’d re-live it in a heartbeat.

  10. I can’t even IMAGINE how amazing it would be to go to A-Camp. Like making up for all the shitty childhood bible camp memories. This one would be full of rainbows and butterflies and queers. So.many.queer.ladies.

  11. My greatest regret in life/camp was not attending the speakeasy. I love the online version, and I’m sure in person would have been 100x more amazing. I didn’t go because I didn’t know anything about zine making! Then later on I found out that that wasn’t a big deal. Fie upon me. D:

    Anyway, the recamp is bringing back so many awesome memories. Camp 5.0 was so wonderful, so transformative, so healing. I had never really been in an all queer space before. To spend four days surrounded by queer people was amazing. I spent most of camp skulking around in the shadows and didn’t meet a huge number of people, but it was still such a turning point in my life. I’m actually a little nervous for 6.0, because 5.0 made such a huge difference in my life that I know the next one won’t be able to compare. Regardless, bring it on. :D

  12. The comment about having the Bi Feelings Summit on the first day of camp so people could get over any lingering feelings of inadequacy = ON POINT. That was my greatest worry when getting into any queer spaces pre-camp, and it was my greatest worry when applying to A-Camp, and it was my greatest worry once I got there.

    And then we got all those fears out of the way on the first day, and I spent the entire week thereafter not giving a rat’s ass because we were all happily, merrily queer and could feel united without having to size one another up or make each other explain ourselves.

    And then I came home and have been waving my big ol’ attracted-to-everybody flag all over the place for the last eight months, because camp helped me understand that anyone who has a problem with my pansexuality can suck it.


  13. It’s funny – the day before this was posted, I was thinking to myself “I wonder when camp is. Wouldn’t that be cool? That sounds like such an amazing experience!” And then this post came. I want to go so badly! This is such a wonderful community on internet and I suspect that you humans would be even cooler in real life. :D (Of course, there are a couple hurdles. Like money. And also still being in the closet to the people I’m close to.)

  14. Oh gosh. this has just pumped me right back up. I am so excited for camp this year. It seems like it has been FOREVER since I have seen y’all.

    Also, I had soooo much fun helping with the bow tie workshop. I am glad y’all liked it!

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