Day Two: Thursday, May 22nd
Carmen: As usual, I woke up at the butt crack of dawn. That morning, like every subsequent morning after it, I woke up, looked over, and realized Kaylah was staring directly at me.
Crystal: I love waking up early and hanging out in Eagle lodge with Ali and other early-risers. You can always count on someone to bring french press coffee and some interesting stories. It’s such a chill time.
Cara: One cool thing about being at queer camp is that, for once, a lot of people happen to
have the same clothes as me share my unique and well-considered set of aesthetic values. Imagine my excitement when I realized that one of those people was Brittani, who, at breakfast, was wearing an extremely fly outfit comprised entirely of clothes that I had also brought to camp. I immediately changed so that we would match, and followed her around for much of the day. What would you have done?
Pre-Breakfast: Sunrise Eagle Cafe (Grace, Crystal and Ali), Unkink Yoga (Dani Orner)
Blocks A & B: Write a F*cking Book (Rachel Rice) // Cheer Camp (Kai) // Songwriting 101 (Mal Blum) // Out of The Office, Into The Streets: Activism (Carmen, Gabby, Liz Castle) // Bow-Tie Making (Cee) // DIY Neck Pillows (Kai) // Castlecraft: Glass Etching (Liz Castle) // Casual Sext (Carolyn) // It’s Right In Time: A Coming Out “Later In Life” Discussion Group (Laneia, Riese, AB Chao, Meredydd, Melinda, Dani Orner) // Beyonce’s Dance Grooves (Kaylah) // Mountaintop Bisexual* Discussion Group and Hummus Appreciation Society (Stef, Chelsea Steiner, Dani RDS & Rachel Kincaid)
Mey: In the morning, I was sitting in Eagle lodge working on my piece for the staff reading. Luckily, this was also where Mal Blum’s Songwriting 101 workshop was being held. I had the pleasure of introducing myself to them earlier that morning, and they’re so cool and nice, and that was immediately apparent as they led this group in a quick discussion of the structure of songs. Then, the group actually all stepped up and started writing a song together. This was ridiculously impressive.
Crystal: At some point I stumbled upon Mal Blum leading a group of campers in what appeared to be some sort of crowdsourced adult only Christmas carol. There were a lot of talented folks on the mountain.
Mey: The song they wrote was funny, clever, Christmasy and actually sounded like a real song, which is amazing for something that was crowdsourced over just half an hour. Each camp I’m totally blown away by the talent of the campers who come.
Carmen: I’d opted to host an activism panel at A-Camp this round because I finally felt I’d done it all: on-campus / on-the-ground activism, digital activism, professional advocacy. I rounded up Gabby and Liz Castle, convinced them they belonged there, and rolled with it.
Gabby: Mostly, we just talked with everyone about the good work they do. We asked everyone what activism was to them. We talked about the difference between being on some “white savior shit” and being someone that is listening to the communities they’re involved with and acting in accordance to their needs. We shared good practices, best ways to jump start involvement, and created a list of organizations and conferences that people should look into.
Carmen: It was awesome — people were super-willing to jump in and share advice, and we all got the chance to plug our own organizations and their work.
Liz: We talked about different types of activism, some of the struggles activists face, and how to get involved. Turns out a-campers are an incredibly passionate bunch and I left feeling inspired by everyone in the room!
Cee: For the bow-tie workshop I knew that there would be no way we could do a whole bow tie, start to finish within the time block without several sewing machines. So I bought the fabric and pre-cut and interfaced every tie before camp. I figured then we could all sit around and use the time to hand-sew the ties together. Torre agreed to help out by walking around and answering questions. It was really great that she did because so many people showed up! I had enough fabric for 30(? 35? i forget?) ties and we were turning people away at the door 15 mins before the block started!
Cee: Some people finished their ties at the workshop, and more took a needle and thread with them to finish by the dapper meet up and wedding.
Soph: I really enjoyed Casual Sext. I’d never heard anyone talk about their experiences sexting before, and their strategies or just making that aspect of texting seem chill? I don’t know but I hadn’t thought about it (maybe I live in a hole?)
Meredydd: I knew the “Tardy to the Party” panel was a huge success at last camp and felt the pressure to make it great this time as well — re-branded as Right In Time.
Riese: Last time this panel was a really emotional experience that changed everybody’s lives forever. At an earlier, more tender time in our lives, we would’ve decided to replicate the panel for this camp and inevitably disappointed attendees hoping for emotional catharsis. So we made it different in that a large portion of our time was devoted to talking about how Autostraddle could better serve this specific demographic.
Meredydd: I felt conflicted about being on the panel in the first place — I don’t have a dramatic story, I was never married or anything like that and I am not generally big on sharing personal things. But I did come out later. In talking to campers before the panel, I heard from many of them that they also though that “Right In Time” wasn’t for them for many of the same reasons. That really made me feel that being on the panel was a good thing, that I could provide a different point of view.
Riese: We had a nice range of experiences represented on the panel. Meredydd, Melinda and I didn’t come out ’til after college, which tends to be a big deal since so many queers have their formative queer experiences in college. I also had the added perspective of having a Mom who came out in her 40s. Laneia and AB Chao had both been married and had kids before coming out, and Dani Orner had also been married.
Laneia: These are the kinds of things that make me so grateful to be part of camp. I used to be terrified to tell my story, then embarrassed, and now it’s like an honor, because I know as soon as I tell mine, someone else in that room will want to tell theirs, and they do! And I get to bear witness to these brilliant little shouts of truth! Then turning it into an open forum about how we could do more for this part of the community — that was perfect.
Melinda: It was everything I hoped it would be. We live in a culture without memory, particularly of its shortcomings. No one remembers how hard it was to be a queer teen or adult in the 90s or even early 2000s. It was important to discuss that.
Riese: Things have changed so fast for queer people that many younger kids can’t comprehend a time when Ellen Degeneres was a warning story of how badly coming out could go rather than an encouraging success story like it is now.
Mere: The panel itself was amazing. Everyone on it was so open and candid about their experiences and their feelings and the campers who shared their stories were inspiring. It was really a privilege to be in such great company. A few weeks after camp at a meet up, a camper who was there told me that she really valued my sharing on that panel and that made me feel like stepping out of my comfort zone in a safe place like camp is absolutely worth it.
Carmen: Glass Etching was happening in the same lodge as my prior activism panel, which convinced me to stay. That, and Brittani’s presence. I ended up begging someone to draw me a Klub Deer stencil and then nervously applying it. It all worked out, but I legitimately felt anxiety the entire time. I am not emotionally prepared to do arts-and-crafts.
Kaylah: On a drunken night of pole dancing and sexily lip syncing to Partition (on repeat) I got the idea for Beyonce’s Dance Grooves. I had no real expectations for the workshop so I just learned a bunch of official choreography and hoped a couple of campers showed up. Oh my gosh, y’all!! The turnout was amazing.
Cara: Sometime on Thursday, I was drawn to Eagle by a force I couldn’t name. It turned out to be Beyonce’s Dance Grooves, which Kaylah was leading under the tent right outside. Sophia and I watched in awe through the window for a really long time.
Marni: Robin and I don’t always get the chance to participate in the actual activities at camp, which I regret every time, so this camp I was really intent on digging in to the amazing programming that our staff offers. The first opportunity I had was Kaylah’s dance class. It was so much fun to let go and just have a blast with everyone. I am still doing these moves to this day!
Robin: Beyonce’s Dance Grooves combined two of my favorite things, Beyonce and camp staffer extraordinaire Kaylah.
Kaylah: Having Marni and Robin there made my heart explode. Everyone was so fucking fierce and FLAWLESS that it brought me to tears.
Cara: Everyone was so magnetic and enthusiastic and learned so quickly, it encouraged me to break out my own Dance Grooves (unlearnable) much more frequently than I might have otherwise.
Kaylah: After the workshop I had to sit down since I was so lightheaded from screeching lyrics while we danced. “Blah, blah, FLAWLESS. Something, Something, FLAWLESS”
Stef: The Mountaintop Bisexual Discussion Group and Hummus Appreciation Society remained true to its name, and did involve a huge selection of delicious hummii.
Rachel Kincaid, Managing Editor & Cat Power Counselor: I love the bisexuals (and pansexuals and multisexuals and sexually fluid people, forever and ever, amen) of A-Camp so dearly. Their brains and words are so good and smart. I think this was the most exciting and challenging workshop we’ve done yet; by breaking into smaller, intimate groups, I feel like we were able to get deeper into a lot of complicated and nuanced parts of our community’s experiences.
Stef: We discussed issues we were tired of hearing about and things we’d rather hear discussed regarding our sexual identities.
Rachel: We talked about bisexuality and nonbinary gender, the intersection of gender presentation and bisexual identity, challenges in accessing physical and mental health, and so much more. I learned so much, and am so grateful to everyone who came! I can’t wait until next time!
Stef: I walked away really inspired by the stories I heard. I’m really glad we held this activity on the first day, so campers who didn’t identify strictly as homosexual knew that they weren’t alone in our little woodland community of weirdos.
Chelsea: I also got to wear all the bisexual jewelry and accessories my boyfriend has got me over the years. I looked like a bisexual superhero.
Rory: The bi one with the long name and the dips was totally bangin’ and it was great to hear how others experience their pan/bi/omni-sexuality and also trying to come up with solutions for visibility and what-word-could-we-use-to-describe-our-sexuality and stuff like that. And there was hummus. Which I appreciated.
Chelsea: I remember before Camp 2.0 that I almost didn’t come to camp because I didn’t feel like I was “gay enough” which is obviously ridiculous. Throughout the rest of the weekend, campers would come up to me and ask if they were gay enough, and I’d hug them and tell them they were gayer than a pocketful of rainbows. I WILL VALIDATE YOUR QUEERNESS EVERY DAY ALL THE TIME HOLLA AT ME.
Comics With The Lumberjanes Team (Grace & Shannon) // Name That Tune: Music Trivia (Crystal, Stef & Mal Blum) // POC Speakeasy: Politicking and Zine-Making (Gabby, Kai, Carmen, Yvonne, Brittani, Mey, Whitney, Kaylah, Laura, Dani, Elicia, Aja and Carolyn W.) // Queer Safer Sex #1 (Lizz Rubin) // Free Tully: Life As A Dolphin Trainer (Mary Tully) // Let’s Talk About Sex (Ali & Dani) // Party Of Ones: An Introvert Feelings Atrium (Riese, Crystal & Whitney) // Chingona Chats and Crafts: Sacred Queer Heart Shrines (Yvonne, Elicia Sanchez, Mey & Gabby) // Brittani on the Mountain (Brittani) // Mindfulness & Meditation (Liz Castle)
Robin: Later in the day it was too cold for me to run Pool Games, so I was able to drop into Grace and Shannon’s Lumberjanes Workshop. I loved hearing about the creative process of creating a comic book and hearing the impact they were having by creating a female-driven series.
Carolyn: Ogling Shannon Watters in a Lumberjanes hat was definitely a top-five moment for me.
Stef: Crystal and I have done some version of Music Trivia at every A-Camp, and we keep changing up the format to keep things fresh. This time, we brought in a Quickfire Round, which really upped the ante for all teams involved, and had the pleasure of Mal Blum’s charming company as we read through questions. This was my first time hanging with Mal, and gosh, what an absolute doll. The dynamic of Music Trivia changes depending on our guest stars, and Mal was a super welcome addition to the team.
Lizz Rubin, Writer & Mockingjays Counselor: My absolute favorite part of A-Camp this year was my safer sex workshops! Is that too self absorbed? That’s not why, I swear! I just love talking to all you beautiful queer folks about healthy sex, safer sex, better sex, all the sex. This year was particularly great because I held two sessions.
Bren: If you have never sat in a room and listened to Ali and Lizz talk about sex I highly recommend it.
Lizz: The first was an all around workshop about healthier sex. I say “healthier” sex and not safer sex because I really try to focus not just on STI prevention but also on proper care and management of sex toys and personal hygiene to reduce stuff like yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and UTIs. We even talked about things like emotionally safer sex. Yeah, we went there.
Bren: Lizz even brought prizes to give away! Prizes included a paddle with “XO” on it what would leave nice hugs and kisses in places, all of the lube and a lube shooter, you know, the usual. All you had to do to win was ask a question out loud with your words. I really wanted some of that lube for the wedding night, but under this high pressure satiation the only question I could think of was “Can I have some lube for my wedding night?”
Gabby: A-Camp this year was on some new shit. One of the best parts about this past camp was our QPOC-only space called The Speakeasy. It gave us a space to see each other and build community without the prying eyes of well-intentioned non-QPOC.
Carmen: It was amazing, if not only because I got to hear Robin make an announcement asking all of the white people to leave Eagle. I mean, c’mon, that’s once in a lifetime. Right?
Gabby: We were about 35 people strong: Non-binary folx, femmes, fly bois, GNC peeps, all POC, all beautiful, connected, holding each down while lifting each other up. We talked about what we wanted more of on Autostraddle. We talked about our varied lived experiences and what our connections were to each of our intersectionalities.
Mey: The POC-only space made it so much more comfortable and laid-back and open. It was also a little shocking hearing how many people had never been in a POC-only space before, but I’m really glad that we were able to facilitate this kind of space for them. Although it was technically a speakeasy, you didn’t have to drink, but the amazing Aja brought out champagne and cups for everyone who wanted it and we had a great time.
Gabby: Aja breathed life into every section of the room just by being open, generous, and dedicated to us creating family in the space. Carolyn Wysinger was the most welcoming human on the planet — her energy is so bright and warm, like a literal slice of fucking pie. I feel like it added such a home-like atmosphere to the whole vibe. But, also, Brotha Carolyn spoke with such sharp clarity on all the heavy issues we laid out in the circle.
Whitney: I don’t think I’ve ever been in an exclusively QPOC space before, but being able to chill and talk with other QPOCs about life, about family, about language and music and fashion was just so good for my soul. I got to chat a lot with Aja (Fit for a Femme), who is a great human being and a wonderful friend. Her fashion sense is impeccable, and she has such a big heart.
Gabby: I wanna give a quick shoutout to all the non-QPOC humans who were caught in the rain that day, ran to the door where the speakeasy was being held, read our signs about us having a closed-space, and respectfully, ran to another building. Thank you for having the courtesy to not ignore the sign, to not slam open the door, and just run through our space like as if we weren’t there. For those who respected our space, we thank you, we love you, we see you.
Whitney: For me, the Speakeasy was about talking, crying, sharing, laughing and feeling all the feelings. The company was great, and getting to know other QPOC campers was just so good. I hope that we’ll have this space again at the next A-Camp, and I hope that I’ll be able to find more spaces like this in my own everyday life, too.
Gabby: All the beautiful humans that helped facilitate this space, you’re my family forever, and to all the brave campers that came through, thank you from the bottom of my brown heart for sharing your stories, fears, tears, SWV tracks, isolation, endless laughter. Please tell us how we can do better next time.
Kaylah: Singing 90s R&B at the Speakeasy made my day.
Mey: The POC Speakeasy and Yvonne’s Chingona Chats and Crafts: Sacred Queer Heart Shrines workshop were two of my all-time favorite A-Camp activities ever. I wish we had thought of these activities sooner, because they were desperately needed and they were, to put it plainly, flat-out amazing.
Yvonne: I created and led my very own workshop for the first time and I couldn’t believe how awesome everything turned out. It seriously was one of the most magical moments I’ve had at A-Camp. Mey, Elicia and Gabby helped me lead the activity and we made mini shrines out of Altoid tins and talked about our experiences as queer Latin@s. I thought nobody would come to the workshop, but no, several wonderful humans showed up!
Mey: Yvonne really knocked it out of the park coming up with this activity. I mean, how can you not have fun talking to a bunch of your fellow queer Latin@s while making a miniature shrine to Sylvia Rivera? Plus, I got to hang out with the other Latin@s on staff and get to know them better, which is always a plus.
Yvonne: It was super low key and we sat in a giant circle and introduced ourselves and shared a little of our background. It was amazing to hear about so many diverse experiences and backgrounds within the group. We chatted about the feud between Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, about how we can’t be Latin@ enough for some people, about colorism in our communities, about how our families deal with our queerness and everything in between. We did this while making these cute little shrines with badass movers and shakers in them. I had such a great time just hanging out with everyone, I didn’t want it to end.
Mey: We had a really nice overlap of the two activities, so a lot of us got to keep on talking and getting to know each other for the whole afternoon.
Carmen: When I accidentally stumbled into Free Tully, I figured it would make sense to stick around and ask Mary Tully questions about my often unruly dog. Turns out Mary is The Best, and was completely willing to coach me through Eli’s habit of being too talkative. (Like mother, like son.)
Stef: Mary told us all about her experiences working with animals from puppies to dolphins, and gave a lot of attendees advice regarding how to correct behavioural issues with their animals. The primary thing I learned from this activity is that Mary approaches every single situation in her life as though she were training an animal, rewarding other people’s positive behavior and intentionally ignoring negative behavior. Mary thinks she can control all of us with her mind. Mary is probably correct.
Whitney: It is the absolute best to work with Riese and Crystal to put together The Introvert Meet-up. Riese and Crystal are some of my favorite people, and being able to bond with them and talk about the different things we do to navigate certain high-stress or high-social situations was really, really good.
Riese: Honestly one of the most fascinating parts of the Introvert Meet-up is seeing which campers show up! There’s usually at least ten people who I’m surprised to learn identify as Introverts. Afterwards my camper Hana said it was really wonderful and that made my day. Also she pointed out this weird thing I do with my hair when I’m nervous that she does too. CAUGHT IN THE ACT.
Crystal: The Introvert Meet-up seems somehow gets even better each time. Being an introvert at A-Camp can have its challenges and so I enjoy being able to share some of the coping strategies that I’ve picked up over the past few camps. Although a lot of the best advice came from the returning campers in attendance.
Whitney: I love you, you introverts, you.