Welcome to the third of four fantastic recaps of our experience at A-Camp 3.0, which took place 2.5 hours outside of Los Angeles at Alpine Meadows Camp atop a mountain in Angelus Oaks, California, from May 23rd-27th, 2013. These recamps serve to ease our collective separation anxiety, enable us to wax nostalgic over times gone by and provide prospective campers with a brilliant glimpse into the A-Camp Experience.
A-Camp was the genesis of an idea Riese had at 3AM in July 2010: the concept was to take the spirit of the website into three glorious dimensions and create an affordable vacation for queers for whom other lesbian-marketed vacations aren’t a perfect fit. In April 2012, we did it for the first time— along with 160 campers and 35 staff members, we rented out a summer camp in its off-season and enjoyed a transformative weekend of fun, friendship, panels, workshops, classes, sports, entertainment, events and so forth. It was probably the most awesome experience of our life and we knew from there it would only get bigger and better — and it did, in September 2012!
Which brings us to May 2013, when our largest-ever group of campers arrived on the mountain, and were greeted by dedicated counselors and treated to four days of kickass programming. Swagger 101! Comedy Improv! Yoga! DIY Body Scrubs! Hop-Hop Dance! Kink Panel! Know Your Whiskey Tasting! Recess Games! Drag King Workshop! Femme Luncheon! Lilith Fair! Julie Goldman & Brandy Howard! Deanne Smith! Somer Bingham! The cast of Unicorn Plan-It! Calendar Girls! Team Autostraddle! Most importantly: EACH OTHER! And So. Much. More.
In the past, these recamps have been exhaustive recollections of every minute of A-Camp, but this time we’re tightening it up a bit. See, A-Camp is whatever you want it to be — and it’s something different for everybody. You all have your own stories in your hearts and brains and cameras and in the notebook paper pieces in your back pockets and this is our story of what goes on behind-the-scenes and also in the front of our brains to make this whole she-bang come together with relative grace. Are you ready? I don’t think you’re ready. (Also, we miss you!)
Saturday, May 25th: Day Three
Early Morning: Sunrise Eagle Cafe // Early Bird Yoga (Devyn)
Block A: Zine-Making (Riese, Laneia & Rachel) // Pure Poetry Challenge (Carmen & Whitney) // Kickass Heroines in Popular Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Julia, Vanessa, Geneva, Mey) // Music Trivia (Crystal, Stef & Somer) // Handy Jobs (Marni) // Mentoring Sessions (Cee, Meredydd, Jess R, Robin, Carly)
Block B: Basketball & Recess Games (Brittani & Carrie) // Heart of (Google) Glass (Taylor) // Real Talk: Your Relationship Doesn’t Have to Suck (Sarah Evan, Gabby, Riese, Laneia, Somer, Daniela) // Sexual Health Q&A With (Almost) Dr. Lizz (Liz) // Into the WordPress (Cee & Geneva) // Devyn’s Dance Grooves (Devyn)
Crystal, Music Editor & Toros Counselor: By Saturday morning I was experiencing some serious sleep deprivation and so I stopped by one of my favorite places, The Breakfast Club, to trade some Tim Tams for two cups of the most delicious dark french press.
Carmen Rios, Contributing Editor & Inferno Counselor: I created the Pure Poetry Challenge for Camp because I knew people wanted to write poetry and I knew I needed to make it fun in order to make it worthwhile for them because, seriously, life is hard enough and sometimes you need a goddamn writing prompt, okay? Each round, I selected a type of poem randomly and then gave them a random keyword (kittens, headlamp, the patriarchy) as well as an excerpted line from a famous poem we featured during Pure Poetry Week. (You may remember these poems from the Pure Poems post that went up while we were writing things on the mountain.) The poems, produced in four to five minutes each round, were absolutely perfect – and every single one was about sex. Like, every single one. Either a lot of campers were having sex in the woods or a lot of campers were wishing they had. It was like a freudian slip nobody was trying to keep from slipping. Highest moments include our rap round, in which I spit game but forgot the keyword we were supposed to incorporate and an anonymous participant wrote about “midnight creaming.”
Riese, Editor-in-Chief and Runaways Counselor: We billed zine-making as more of a drop-in crafts session for this camp because we decided last time we weren’t qualified to lead it as a legit “workshop,” nor did we have enough time to carry out the ‘zine-making post-camp projects we often cooked up. My two co-hosts were a little late which left me a little flustered and perhaps seeming slightly unhinged, but soon enough we reached my favorite part of the experience which is the part where I can sit on the floor and cut & paste things with allt he best humans.
Riese: Thank goddess for Megan, who not only provided me with coffee, snacks and Supply Whistler assistance, but eventually located my sisters and brought them to me.
Vanessa, Contributing Editor & Blackhearts Counselor: I love to talk and I love kickass fictional heroines, so I was really excited about the Kickass Heroines in Contemporary Sci-Fi/Fantasy panel. During the planning stages we couldn’t decide if like, five humans would show up, or if 100 humans would show up, so we had a little bit of trouble conceptualizing what the panel would look like. We knew that we really wanted to foster a discussion rather than just talk at people about how much Geneva and I adore Buffy, but we were a little bit nervous about how that would work in practice.
Vanessa: But then on the day of the panel 50 humans showed up, and we somehow had an amazing and thought-provoking discussion about the Whedonverse, Hunger Games, Divergence, and more. It felt like everyone had a chance to speak – and I hope the campers felt that to be true, too – and I was really blown away by the level of respect and intelligence present in our conversation. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because Straddlers are awesome like that, but I so rarely find other people who want to have serious conversations about fictional characters and plots and worlds, and it was just really validating to be around a group that wanted to geek out as hard as I do all the time. Also special shout out to the camper who said “war changes you” as a way to think about the epilogue of the Hunger Games, you really changed my perspective on the end of the book and that was really cool!
Crystal: Stef, Somer and I hosted Music Trivia, proving once and for all that we are not the same person.
Stef, Contributor & Bombshells Counselor: This was the Music Trivia where we finally figured out how to get shit done. We tried out some new categories this time, including a series of hip hop questions donated and presented by one very raspy-voiced Miz Gabby Rivera.
Gabby, Writer & Foxfire Counselor: Before camp, Stef and I were gchatting about how much shit we still had left to do and she mentioned that she was hard up for music trivia questions. I offered to come up with some hip hop ones and she accepted. Her and Crystal liked my Qs so they kept them.
Stef: If I may say so myself, our new scoring system was a great success and Somer was a very welcome addition to the team, providing an extra bit of flavor to the good cop/bad cop dynamic Crystal and I had established in prior sessions.
Cyrstal: Stef and Somer tag-teamed the question-asking while I threw around Tim Tams for correct answers. Everyone was somehow able to guess the name of Ali Lohan’s holiday album. Red team was victorious.
Gabby: On my way to one event, I landed in the middle of the music trivia just in time for the hip hop segment and yo, Stef and Crystal let me give out the clues. It was so awesome. I know someone ragged on my questions for being mostly about 1990s hip hop but other than that one hater, everyone was into it! People knew Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s aliases, what borough Nicki Minaj is from and the rap group that jump started Lil’ Kim’s career. Badass queermos rocked the hell out of that hip hop shit and made me want to come up with even better questions next time. Play on, playas.
Stef: I’d venture to say that Music Trivia has started to reach its potential, and I can’t wait to torture campers with even tougher questions in October.
Carrie, Community Managerette & Tiger Beat Counselor: Despite having not worked out since 2010, I was feeling fairly okay with the altitude situation at this camp. Then I played basketball. Guys, did you know that Brittani played for Yale and she and many other A-campers have real basketball experience? The last time I played competitive basketball POGS were a thing.
Brittani, Contributing Editor & Hellcats Counselor: Playing basketball is always one of my favorite parts of camp. Yes, it’s hard to breathe in the altitude and yes, we end up going on several unplanned hikes when the ball plummets into a ravine and needs to be retrieved but it’s always a lot of fun. Everyone does a great job of making it a positive experience for campers of all skills levels. This time around we played shirts versus skins which should inspire more people to come cheer us on next Camp.
Carrie: Thanks for reminding me how out of shape I am, everyone. And to the campers who made half mile treks down the mountain to retrieve loose balls and the camper who commandeered a trash can for a mysterious (Canadian?) recess game, I salute you.
Brittani: I also dunked on Nate in case anyone was wondering. It was very quick. Everyone might have missed it. Including Nate.
Taylor, Contributor & Vipers Counselor: In spite of some pretty stiff competing programming, lots of you all attended my Google Glass “workshop” i.e. me talking at your faces with a thing on my face. You were so smart and had so many good questions! You will all be spared from my lasers in the Great Cyborg Reckoning.
Lizz, Contributing Editor & Starjammers Counselor: My Safer Sex Workshop was so fun. I think people had a good time a learned a little bit. I particularly loved the cards with different sex acts written on the (illustrated by the wonderful Kristen).
Kristen, Contributing Editor & Scissor Sisters Counselor: I had more fun prepping Liz’s Safer Sex Panel than I did prepping my own. I don’t think that’s how camp is supposed to work, but I’ll just make a point of sexualizing Plant 101 with Cara next time. Early Thursday morning Liz, Mey, Ali, Hansen, Cara, Rachel, Meredydd, Intern Grace, Julia and I sat around a tree stump brainstorming possible girl on girl sexy acts. Eating poop? Vore? Vulva-slapping? Cake sitting? Campers needed to know, and more importantly, know how safe these acts were. But of course, Hypersexual Flashcard Crafts became all the more thrilling when I had a chance to bask in the sun on Friday and ask randoms to help me illustrate strapon sex (giving and receiving) and nipple clamping among other things. Somehow I managed to round up Cara, Nic, Stephy, Mey, Julia and Kira of Scarlet Tentacle Fame, so let’s just say that those flashcards were raunchy and accurate as fuck.
Lizz: It was particularly great because it ended up being a discussion at times instead of a panel/presentation. Who knew “cake sitting” would be such a conversation starter?!? Just kidding. I knew it would be! But I loved it anyways.
Riese: The Your Relationship Doesn’t Have to Suck Situation was invented by Robin, Marni and I during our Pre-Camp planning meetings, and came out of a lot of things — like all the relationship advice questions you guys send us! Often same-sex relationships can become both really private and really self-destructive really quickly and people aren’t always eager to reach out for help. I had experience with all manners of sucky-relationships (with men and women) and also healthy ones, as did many of the panelists. We answered some questions from campers and it felt like a really important thing was happening.
Laneia, Executive Editor & Runaways Counselor: I’m so glad we were able to hold the healthy relationships discussion with Sarah Evan and the rest of the amazing panelists. Deer lodge was packed with so many bodies and so much support, and I really believe we each came away with something helpful that we’ll keep for when we need it most. This workshop was another example of the realness and honesty people bring to A-Camp — so we’re willing to be really exposed and vulnerable, while at the same time we’re able to help hold someone else up in their vulnerability. I sound like I’m on MDMA but I’m being totally serious here. This workshop was fucking hard for me, but I was so proud to be part of it.
Riese: Last camp Sarah Evan moderated our Body Image/Eating Disorders Discussion/Panel and after we got through this one, with all its disclosures and looking-at-the-carpet-to-avoid-crying, she was like Jesus Riese, you’ve had some fucked up shit happen in your life! And I was like, “it will all be in the book!”
Mey, Contributor & Slayers Counselor: The Femme Meet-Ups were maybe my favorite thing about camp. First of all, I got to make a super cool Lisa Frank sticker and glitter-covered poster. Plus, I found out that Femme Meet Ups are something that I had never realized that I needed so badly in my life.
Mey: In case you weren’t lucky enough to be sitting near us at lunch, we were a group of femmes who met up at lunch to hang out, dress up, and bond. We had so many types of Femmes, everyone from Lazy Femmes, to High Femmes, to Blue Jean Femmes, to New Femmes and more. Everyone looked amazing and was even more amazing once I got to know them. We talked about the merits of wearing dresses (you only have to put on one piece of clothing!) and the frustrations of constantly having to come out to people. We had between 15-20 people each time at lunch, and the second day, we were all crowded around one table, letting out our femme feelings and talking about femme angst and why we love being femmes. I had been fixing my lipstick at meals all week before this, and finally other people at my table were doing the same thing, reassuring me that I wasn’t alone. There are some places where I’m allowed to be a woman, allowed to be queer and allowed to be femme (and lots of places I’m not), but at camp, and especially at these meet ups, I wasn’t just allowed to be those things, I was actively and enthusiastically encouraged to be them.
Robin, Photographer & Camp Co-Director: I always feel like I have very little time at camp to just sit and talk with campers so the One-on-One Mentoring Sessions was my favorite activity. I loved being able to see the photographs some of our visually-talented campers had taken (especially ones from A-Camp!) and just have a chance to share my experiences and hear their own.
Riese: This idea was brilliant and I’d never wished so hard that I was a camper so that I could sign up for one and have one of these women tell me what the fuck to do with myself. Because there’s no point in me having a feeling if I can’t share it with you, I’m gonna give you their bios because it was reading these bios in the Activity Descriptions packet that made me wish I had a one-on-one mentoring session. Perhaps you will feel the same way.
Meredydd- Getting a Job, Buying a House – Professionally, I have a lot of experience going on job interviews and acting as a hiring manager. I have helped people successfully prep for interviews in the public and private sectors, reviewed countless resumes and advised employees and friends on how to navigate challenging workplace situations. Personally, I have come back from near disaster (layoffs, job loss and other personal challenges) to own my own home and become reasonably financially secure. Let me help you get a job, keep a job, understand home buying and budgeting. I don’t have all the answers but I can help!
Robin – Photography, Owning a Small Business – As a professional photographer and business owner, I can offer advice on being a freelance creative. Pricing yourself (placing value on your work), working with clients, and fine tuning your own creative process are areas where I have some experience. Specifically if you are interested in working in photography! Or if you just want me to review a portfolio or help answer your photo questions, I’m happy to help!!
Carly – Television, Working in Media – I’m an expert in muppets, drag queens, all aspects of TV/video production, bowties, being an adult human, being married to an exceptional adult human, pretending to be a DJ, being less hilarious than B but still moderately funny and managing one’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. Sign up at your own risk.
Cee – All the Things, Money Management – I’ve lived through a couple dot com booms and busts, formed a company, lived abroad for five years, published a cookbook, traveled to over 50 countries, learned another language and bought a house. I’m an independent lifelong learner with a broad range of interests. I can help with repairing/building your credit line, home buying/mortgages, investing and handling money, starting a business, navigating the tech industry, traveling/backpacking/living abroad, self motivation tips, setting personal goals and how to meet people who can help you achieve those goals.
Jess R – Nutrition Counseling, Owning a Small Business – After working web design/social media strategy for 8+ years post-college, I decided to follow my fitness/foodie passion and became certified as a Holistic Nutrition + Fitness Coach helping people create a completely personalized roadmap to health that suits their unique body, lifestyle and goals. I now offer private coaching through the business I founded, Cake to Kale (caketokale.com), where I specialize in deconstructing food cravings, disordered eating and personal training. I have worked alongside countless business and life coaches, soaking up their knowledge to share with you on starting a business from your heart-centered core. My mission is to inspire, educate and empower people to become rockstars in their bodies and minds.
RIGHT??? Did you know that Cee published a cookbook? I did not. Anyhow, according to Meredydd’s Camper Survey evaluation, y’all got a lot out of your one-on-ones, so we’ll definitely do it again in October. (And we’ll have Grace Bonney, too!)
Next: The afternoon delights…
Block A: DIY Body Scrubs (Laneia & Kristen) // Bisexuality/Sexual Fluidity Panel (Stef, Daniela & Rachel) // Swagger 101 (Gabby & Katrina) // Dirty Dancing (Launa) // Drag King Workshop (Kate)
Block B: Introvert Meet-Up (Whitney & Crystal) // High Tea (Laneia & Rachel) // Know Your Whiskey (Alex & Ali) // Angelus Oaks Fashion Week (Liz, Medd, Robin, Carly, Devyn, Mary, Brandy, Julie, Julia, Chloe, Riese, Haviland, Gabby, Rachel Walker & Intern Grace) // Dappy Hour (Gabby & Katrina)
Kate, Contributing Editor & Tiger Beat Counselor: The Drag King Workshop was hands down my absolute favorite thing about A Camp. I was originally going to do a standard “how to get into drag king mode” workshop, but it took me about five minutes to realize that this was not what the workshop needed to be about. Instead, we had an intense conversation about gender and drag as therapy and the figures in our lives we wanted to emulate. I had been trying to avoid my emotions all day, but this ended up being the most emotional afternoon yet. It was entirely worth it. It was cathartic, actually. We talked about owning spaces with body language, and building confidence through our behaviors. By the time we got to facial hair, I saw a very quiet and introverted bunch transform into a room full of grinning swaggering characters who were socially comfortable and teasing each other. That transformation almost made me cry. I am so, so, so, so proud of the Drag King Bunch for being willing to explore an intense and often difficult part of their identities, wrestling with some tough questions, and still managing to have a blast and be incredibly accepting and wonderful to each other. You handsome, beautiful bunch – It was an absolute privilege to draw your facial hair. Johnny Thunder wipes a manly tear in your honor.
Riese: My favorite thing about The Bisexuality/Sexual Fluidity Panel, besides the actual panel, were all the joked-up names Stef and Rachel used to refer to the panel prior to the panel, including but not limited to The Dirty Sluts Panel and The Blow Job Panel. We have Stupid Bisexual Stereotype Humor Shorthand.
Daniela, Intern & Starjammers Counselor: Having gone to Camp 1.0 as a camper who was scared of being judged for having a long term relationship with a cis man, the sexual fluidity panel felt cozy like a little camp fire.
Stef: The Sexual Fluidity Panel was probably the most pressure I’ve put on myself to do anything in all of A-Camp history. I’ve felt like Autostraddle needed to be talking more about bisexuality for quite some time, and I was really thrilled for the opportunity to do so at this camp. I’ve never been so nervous to have Riese sit in on an activity I’ve done.
Riese: Once upon a time I’d decided to dedicate my life to writing a memoir/non-fiction book about bisexuality and was really immersed in figuring bisexuality out for myself and also I read like ten books about bisexuality, interviewed a bunch of bisexual girls, and conducted a huge survey of bisexual women — and so I was really interested to hear other people talk about something I’ve written 300 unpublished pages about! I only had half an hour or so before I had to go get styled by Brandy for the fashion show, but I was really excited for this panel and wanted to catch as much of it as I could.
Stef: Rachel, Daniela and I talked at length about our own experiences with labels and sexual fluidity in general, and the audience gave us a lot to work with. I’m incredibly grateful the campers gave us the chance to start having this conversation and helped us make A-Camp a more inclusive space. We’re not done talking about it, I promise! Also, this panel was really important because we made our moderator Intern Grace an honorary bisexual, and she’s terribly, terribly excited about it.
Daniela: The discussion itself was difficult at times because of all the charged meanings behind particular labels, but talking out in the open about our want for community and facilitating the discussion about sexuality beyond monosexuality was a thing that soothed some of the discomfort I didn’t know I had around my own representation of my sexuality. Having so many campers be there to chat about the challenges of creating an inclusive community that doesn’t wash over some of its members was a difficult, but oh so damn encouraging conversation to have.
Riese: I feel like it opened up a space that needed to be opened up for people to live inside and breathe on this mountain.
Meredydd, Business Advisor & Golden Girls Counselor: After missing Swagger 101 at the past two camps I was excited to have a free block when Gabby and Katrina were running Swagger 101. I thought it would be all about picking up chicks (and it was) but it was also so much more. I loved the way they communicated and made it a safe space for everyone to move past their fears.
Katrina, Writer & Foxfire Counselor: What I like about Swagger 101 is that it’s kind of a total misnomer. The idea of “swagger” always felt like a male-fronted bastion of asshole behavior and false bravado, but for me and Gabby, swagger is (surprise) about feelings and honesty and vulnerability, and most of all, it’s about yourself.
Gabby: I asked Katrina if maybe we should change the name to something like “GeekSwag” or “GentleQueer Swag” and I got a resounding ‘hell no’. Katrina said that everyone has the right to own their swag. We can categorize it however we choose to but we don’t need to further cloak our queer sexiness in everything that is awkward. This is why we’re partners and part of the reason I can’t imagine any of my activities/workshops at camp without Señor Casiño. KC just gets it. We kept the name and upped our workshop game.
Cee, Tech Director & Golden Girls Counselor: I was really touched by the intro to Gabby & Katrina’s swagger workshop. It was my first time checking it out, and I’m glad I did. They lined up everyone face to face and made people tell the person opposite them what their biggest fear about approaching someone is. Since I was observing, I heard a wave of insecurities which really humbled me. It made me realize that their workshop was probably going to be really helpful for so many women, and that so many of us have the same fears and insecurities.
Katrina: We did this new exercise in the beginning where we had everyone line up and tell each other their insecurities about approaching someone, and I don’t know. It was this moment of totally visceral honesty and fear, and I loved it. I just totally loved it. I like to be afraid of things sometimes, because if you’re never afraid of anything, then you’ll never know your potential to overcome those things. Fear just means you’re a human animal, you know? You can’t rise to the challenge if there’s no challenge. You did it, and that was cool. So thank you.
Gabby: We brainstormed ways to make sure that people who came to the workshop had to (if they chose to participate and we always provide the option to just sit and chill and watch) look each other in the eyes. We wanted them up and practicing our suggestions and role playing all of the situations that they found intimidating in real life. We also needed to talk about some fucked up things that happen in the social scenes we try to thrive in off the mountain.
We call bullshit on the following real life scenarios:
1 – Trying to out-butch someone or using your butch presentation to intimidate someone trying to talk to your lady or otherwise-identified boo. Example: you go to the bathroom at the club, you come back and your boo is talking to someone who reads as “BUTCH” and you come back all on some, “Oh who’s this?” and “Umm, excuse me, that’s my girl” type shit, eyeballing everyone and grilling your boo like some major thing has occured and you need to pee a circle around the person you’re with. That shit is boring. I’ve done it and it makes everything terrible. At Swag 101, three awesome campers role played a way for everyone to just fucking kindly introduce themselves.
2 – Keeping silent. Example: a sweet self-identified femme walks by your group of friends at the club and either everyone assumes she’s straight or tries to throw themselves at her. At Swag we talked about a concept called “Ally Up.” Like in the moment, feel free to call out your friends or that asshole dyke at the bar who reinforces stereotypes, who loudly assumes they know every category that every queer person is in and who maintains those distinctions by vocalizing them while everyone else keeps their mouths shut. Maybe that exquisite queer in a fly-ass dress isn’t a femme, maybe they’re just a person who wants a drink and some nice conversation. Maybe we all just treat each other, like people? Least that’s the conclusion we came to at the workshop, together, as a f*cking badass family.
3 – Assumptions. this was kind of the general theme of the workshop and of life. We go out into the world and unintentionally assume that everything is as we see it. We keep our queer eyes on and still assume all the things. Two people, one who reads as butch and one who reads as femme, are automatically pegged as a couple, one is obvs the top and the other needs to be catered to and treated like a princess. We stereotype ourselves before we introduce ourselves to each other and it’s bullshit. One, there’s way more to life than any assumed butch/femme dynamic. Two, from what we gathered at the workshop, we’re so so tired of dealing with these attitudes from each other. We’re tired of navigating lesbian/queer circles where there’s no room to just be social and sexy and we’ve got to be all minding our presentations and shit.
Ya’ll were flawless at Swag. You looked each other in the eyes and affirmed all the things that suck about dating, flirting and navigating gay social scenes. Then you took the workshop seriously and opened yourselves up to each other. It was beautiful. We all shared our tips for flirting, nailing compliments and handling rejection.
1 – Flirting: Don’t be a creeper. Know when to be cute and when to just walk away.
2 – Compliments: They’ve got to be sincere, interesting and again as non-creepy as possible. Also, give them without expecting anything in return.
3 – Rejection – Happens to all of us so don’t let it be the thing that defines you or your whole night.
These are summaries of the awesomeness that is all of us queers talking about picking each other up and being fly on a mountain. It’s what happens when we decide to have each other’s backs, be the best wingqueers we can be and stay open to letting others be flirtatious and explore our confidence and sex appeal in a social setting.
Angelus Oaks Fashion Week
Riese: We’ve wanted to do a fashion show at camp every time but somehow never pull it off but this time we did, except we only kinda pulled it off? It was a good start I think, and we’ve got ideas for next time — like involving more campers! Baby steps. Initially the models were just gonna be Calendar Girls and The Talent, but Robin was like “I’m gonna be a model, you should be a model too,” and I was like, “okay but only if Brandy Howard can be my stylist.” Which is how I ended up in a bikini top, a blazer, a CUNTY hat, and shoes two sizes too small doing fierce bitchface with Julie Goldman. The upshot to this was that I couldn’t even pre-party my nerves away because walking in those shoes was the most challenging athletic feat of my life. Also I like it when girls who are better at being girls than I am do my makeup.
Sophia, Inferno Counselor: I was chilling in the smoker’s circle and Lizz was running around looking for Carmen and Carmen’s floral hat but she was napping, because yo, sometimes you need a nap, but in this moment I knew that the fashion show was going to be a big deal because who would move their hands that much and run around for a floral hat if it weren’t going to be a big deal? IT WAS A BIG DEAL YOU GUYS. I dropped off the hat at Liz’s cabin and it was a secretive interaction I knocked on the door and a hand popped out to get it and pulled it right back in. The hat wasn’t used in the show, but all the floral was amazing.
Brandy Howard, The Talent: It was truly an honor to be chosen as a stylist for the first annual A-Camp Fashion Show during Angelus Oaks Fashion Week. All the stars were out for the big event! The front row was a veritable who’s who of A-Camp fashionistas, and every stylist rose to the occasion.
Lizz: It was so cool to style models for the fashion show. My background is more in how-to style and shopping more than runway, so I was worried people might not connect with my look. What can I say, I ended up basically styling the girls in Lizz Rubin Chic. Denim and floral forever!
Lizz: It was cool to see how different the other styles were. I love that we can get a bunch of stylists together and all come up with such different queer looks.
Sophia: I loved the different styles presented by the stylists and how they differed; the models rocked the clothes and it was great how the stylists found outfits that their models were comfortable in while creating their own aesthetic, it was a great idea that I hope happens again!
Sophia: I especially enjoyed Carly’s which I believe was along the lines of “dapper but comfy” and a representation of the person modeling.
Carly: I am so happy I got to be a part of this! I love fashion and rarely get to dress anyone other than myself, so this was super fun for me. Everyone looked so amazing and had really great walks and I’m just so proud of all our models for getting up there and doing this!
Brandy: Carly, Sara, and Lizz’s teams were each very unique and extremely fashion forward. but my team definitely brought the house down. I styled Julie Goldman and Riese and our theme was “Supermodel Heroin Cunty Club.”
Riese: I figured if anybody noticed that my feet were bleeding in these too-small shoes, they would assume it was because of intravenous drug use. And if I like, for example, were to stumble slightly when stepping onto the stage after making it all the way around the “catwalk” with stoic bitchface and reasonable balance and therefore have to be saved from wiping out by Julie Goldman (again), everyone would just be like, omg this reminds me of Gia.
Brandy: I heard some grumblings from the other stylists that I had an unfair advantage because I had two of the world’s biggest supermodels, but you guys don’t know how hard it was to work with those egos!! Seriously. Naomi Campbell has got nothing on those two. I swear, at one point Riese threw a coffee maker at my head.
Riese: We did a raffle that a camper could win and be in the Fashion Show, I think, and Torre won and obviously was the Queen of Angelus Oaks Fashion Week. The end.
Gabby: Don’t call Dapper Hour, ‘Dappy Hour’ unless you want to be denied entry. We are dignified queers in bow ties. Ahahahaha.
Gabby: Oh My God, like The Dapper Hour made my life. Can we just take a minute to remember how fly everyone looked? From Saskia to PJ to Carly and Robin and all the Foxfires (especially after our impromptu Dapper Fashion Consultations — also, super shout outs to Ana looking so dope in sparkly pants and a bow tie). Everyone, seriously everyone at The Dapper Hour looked amazing.
Gabby: One awesome camper gave us a lesson on how to tie a bowtie. We got ideas on where to shop, how to make your own vest and ways to be dapper and thick bodied without breaking a sweat. I felt proud and safe surrounded by queers of all shades and shapes and presentations. Dapper is not butch or femme or puerto rican or cis-gendered or rich or privileged. To me it’s this way to dust off your weary skin, and find grace and beauty in the clothes and queers that make up the world you want to inhabit.
Laneia: High Tea is such a great quiet space to sort of come down from the intensity of the day so you’re all rested for the upcoming intensity of the night.
Alex: Know Your Whiskey! Ahh it was so much fun for me to co-host this tasting and cocktail workshop with Ali. (She killed it with her amazing Sazerac cocktail, by the way!) We tasted five different whiskeys while discussing tasting notes and some background history of the companies and how the whiskey was made. This was such was a blast. By the end we were all high on the glory of the ‘water of life‘ (cause that’s what it’s called you guys, a little whiskey trivia for ya) and each other obviously.
Ali: If you are in a financial position to do so and you drink alcohol, I highly suggest obtaining a bottle of Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye. I am a grumpy old man, so I like rye the best. I also like drinks with a bit of spice to them, and that was the spiciest rye I’ve ever tasted. Also I got to show everyone how to make a sazerac, and y’all, I did NOT know that there were people on that mountain that didn’t know what a sazerac was/had never had one. It’s, like, the best cocktail in the history of cocktails. Also the oldest cocktail, thus the beginning of the history of cocktails (Doc, a camper with a palette for liquor history, told me the sazerac was invented in 1850). I got to spread the good word of the Sazerac.
Crystal: Somer and I fought an epic DJ battle at the Music Hangout. There kick-off time was misprinted on the schedule and so the winners that night were the two campers who showed up.
Saturday Night After Dark
Night Block A: Deanne Smith’s Stand-up Spectacular (Deanne Smith, obvs)
Night Block B: Faggity Feud (Julie & Brandy) // Board Games (Crystal & Ali)
Night Block C: A Walk on The Spooky Side: Curated X-Files Screening (Rachel & Stef) // Klub Deer (Klub Kids)
Brittani: I hadn’t seen DeAnne Smith perform stand-up live prior to A-Camp. There’s something about live comedy that doesn’t come across in a YouTube video so I was psyched when I found out she’d be doing an hour specially catered to the A-Camp audience. Going to an hour long show for someone you’ve never seen before can be a gamble but her set was remarkable.
Gabby: My favorite thing about this crazy ass lesbo is that she laughs like a motherfucker. Deanne isn’t one of those comedians who think they’re the only funny person in the room. Me and Deanne cracked jokes all over Mount Feelings and like i love her. I keep picturing someone slapping her vulva and laughing to myself like a crazy person on the subway.
Brittani: The show reached a level of hilarity and excitement only attainable when everyone in the room is on board. Just when I thought I’d be done laughing at a joke, I’d turn around and see Ali snort laughing then I’d see Taylor trying not to laugh at Ali and I’d go into a fit of laughter all over again. It’s going to be pretty hard to have more fun at a comedy show than I did at that one.
Cara: Listening to a comedy set that was full of jokes that didn’t just happen to speak to my experience, but were actually written in order to speak to my experience, I felt like I really “got” A-Camp for the first time. I also realized I could probably never explain the feeling to a lot of people I care about. Bittersweet for sure, but luckily Deanne was so hilarious that I forgot about the bitter part.
Daniela: DeAnne Smith’s geeky pick up lines song spoke directly to my heart.
Sophia: DeAnne Smith killed it. It’s really hard to choose between any activity and DeAnne’s stand up because that was such a treat. She really knew the audience and OMG SHE SLAPPED MY VULVA I couldn’t handle it. I also couldn’t handle the laughs in the audience, the perfect hiccups of laughter, the nonstop wheezing, folks were BENT OVER, I heart Ali’s snorts from across the room, I thought some asthma attacks were happening but it was just the perfect comedy.
DeAnne Smith: Julie and Brandy polled 50 Autostraddlers-on-a-mountain for Faggity Feud and the results were hilarious. I wish I could remember more specifics about how and why, exactly, this night was so fun but I was drunk on bourbon (I’m starting to sense a theme here…). The show’s a blur of watching Carly and Grace hold down the tech requirements like total bosses, Julie’s delivery, Brandy’s salaciousness, wet, white clothing and the image of Marni dating all y’all’s moms.
Deanne: The show felt wild in a way that hundreds of queers on a mountain should feel wild. Riotous, but with statistics.
Brandy: Faggity Feud is always one of my personal favorite events at camp (and not just because I co-invented it, co-write it, and co-host it), but because of all the glorious, wet BOOBS!!!
Laneia: One of the things I love about Faggity Feud is how the contestants get super into it. I mean they get into it — wearing underpants chosen specifically for being sprayed with a water gun, cheating with their buzzers — and it’s just for us, for the rest of camp. They’re not getting a cash prize or a toaster. It’s all for the glory of rainbow war points and the honor of being the fruition of Brandy Howard’s water soaked, breast filled dreams. That’s dedication, you know? It’s a beautiful thing. Almost as beautiful as Julie Goldman in a vintage tuxedo situation. Almost.
Riese: I come for the Julie/Brandy banter and the always-unpredictable camper contestants (confession: I’m not really obsessed with boobs like how everybody else is, idk) and both were out in full force this time!
Carmen: I was proud of Cameron, resident Inferno representative working hard on behalf of the red team to help us sweep away Faggity Feud for the Nichols team and see a lot of boobs at the same time. But I was even prouder that I was selected as the number three answer for the question “who on staff would you fix up with your mom if your mom was gay” by 50 random weirdos on the mountain. I began scouting out hot moms to date as soon as the game ended, but not before I gave myself a standing o.
Carly: Oh my god, I just love all of OUR TALENT. Intern Somer — by far the best intern on the mountain — and a brilliant musician to boot. DeAnne Smith — I was crying from laughing so hard during her standup and is the reason I find myself saying “nailed it” constantly. And Julie and Brandy, my precious snowflakes who hosted a crazy awesome pool party and hosted Faggity Feud, which I had the honor of producing with them. I am still crushed that no A-Campers want me to date their mom, but I’ll dry my tears with the knowledge that you want to have a threesome with my wife and… Alex. <3 <3 <3
Crystal: While Faggity Feud was happening, Ali and I were in Deer Lodge playing card and board games. Ali participated in a really complicated card game involving historical events with campers who have a far greater attention span than I do. In the other corner, camper Celia taught us how to play Scattegories and then hosted an epic game of Cards Against Humanity.
After After Dark
Laneia: OMG Rachel dressed as Scully. I didn’t even know I gave two fucks about The X-Files, but after Rachel put on the Scully wig and the blazer, I was a believer. I mean I knew the truth was out there, is what I’m saying.
Kristen: Cara drank a lot of rum and then had three hours of Hair Feelings. I think about appearances and attraction all the time, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to do a Real Life Queer Survey about how one’s outward appearance affects their probability of getting laid with a specific subset of human beings. We had a highly academic discussion with acclaimed hair experts Katrina, Sara Medd, Hansen, Liz, Cee, Jill and anyone else that happened to be sitting in Wolf Lodge. What are your follicular options when your hair’s curly, your jaw’s strong and your style icon’s Jack White? If you feel like having an emotional hair-centric awakening, I would highly recommend doing so in Wolf Lodge with a handle of rum and 300+ sounding boards. Note, she may not remember much of this.
Riese: The last two camps were total nightmares w/r/t my overall health because drinking and humans and “having a Block A activity every day” but I was doing really good this time… until Saturday when I stayed up ’til 5AM talking about feelings with The Runaways and The Blackhearts. NO REGRETS — I wanna hear everybody’s everything forever and all night, these bright shining stargirls who come here from so many different places (geographically, but emotionally too).
Tomorrow’s recap will contain additional profound testimonials about the coolest club on the mountain, Klub Deer.
Meredydd: I love that something that started as a silly one-off thing has become an actual part of the A-Camp schedule. Klub Deer is ridiculous and fun and obviously the best club in the San Bernadino National forest.
Jill, Wild Things Counselor: Bouncing for Klub Deer this year was a hoot. Thanks everyone for bearing with me as I learned how to properly tie wristbands and apply a super smokin’ hot Klub Deer stamp. All my hard work was worth it though, because I got to use my bouncer intimidation skills to gain voyeuristic access to many cute animal smartphone pics. My favorites included a turtle eating a large piece of broccoli and a pic of Rachel Kincaid’s cats caught in…um…a compromising position. Also it never got old confusing drunk campers about the “no cover before 2 am, no cover after 2 am” situation.
Daniela: I never lasted more than 15 minutes at Klub Deer. I was ready to shower and jump into bed at the end of every single day and the charm of Klub Deer is that you could go for about half a song a still feel like you partied it up -everybody who is there is dancing, so you can trust that even if you stay for one song you’ll have the coolest, most loving dance buddies you’ll ever find at any party again. Repeat for three more nights.
Hansen, Contributing Editor & Scissor Sisters Counselor: I have to mention how awesome Klub Deer was. What a safe, inclusive space. I mean, if you could get past the tough bouncers, that is. There was a stripper pole in the middle of the room kind of randomly (Veterinarian Jill performed a pole dance, be jealous if you missed it), and everyone was super comfortable and welcoming and you could dance with strangers or friends or alone and no one looked at you like you were weird. I consider myself a terrible dancer, so this was huge for me. Also, glancing around and seeing people full-on making out wasn’t even disconcerting to me. I just considered it to be just another way that A-Camp is a super safe space for sexuality as well as really bad dance moves.
Meredydd: Carmen should also be commended for her dedication to the role of official dancer – I never knew you could dance while sleeping.
NEXT TIME: The last full day of camp — with feelings!
Registration for October camp, which will take place October 9th-13th, will open on Monday June 24th.