A-Camp October 2013 Recamp #3: If You Wanna Be My Lover, You Gotta Get With My Carnival

Once upon a time (October 9th-13th, to be specific) in a land far far atop a mountain two hours outside of sunny Los Angeles, approximately 275 queer humans gathered for four days and four nights of revelry, carnivalia, intellectual stimulation, dance parties and deep sea bonding. They called it A-Camp 4.0, and it was beautiful! This is the third of four fantastic recaps which serve to ease our collective separation anxiety, give you a behind-the-scenes look at how your A-Camp soysage is made, enable us to wax nostalgic over times gone by and provide prospective campers with a brilliant glimpse into the A-Camp Experience.

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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 by renting a summer camp in the off-season and jam-packing a long weekend with panels, workshops, discussions, crafts, sports, entertainment, parties and so much more! We gave the idea a spin with an abbreviated, smaller edition of A-Camp in April 2012, followed by full-size full-length camps in September 2012 and May 2013, all hosted by everybody’s favorite dynamic duo, Julie Goldman and Brandy Howard. Which brings us to October 2013, the Little Camp That Could!

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This fall’s camp was unforgettable and fucking awesome. Our amazing team was complemented by talented Special Guests including comedienne DeAnne Smith, new media superstar Hannah Hart, Me & My Bois collaborators Lex Kennedy and Emotions the P.O.E.T., rock star Somer Bingham and songstress and actress Haviland Stillwell. Our camp staff included Autostraddle.com team members, A-Camp Tumblr Inventress Emily Gigler and Autostraddle Calendar Girls Miss October 2014 Kai, Miss February 2014 Chloe and Miss June 2013 Dani.

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A-Camp October 2013 Recamp #3: Day Three

Friday, October 11th: Day Three of A-Camp

(photo by evan)

(photo by evan)

Haviland, The Talent: I arrived Friday morning, and was surprised at how mellow and quiet it was…until I realized there was a good bit of recovering happening from the night before! I went into breakfast, and received a standing ovation from a few of the staff members. And then Riese and I hugged it out, in our usual “I love you so much I’ve missed you so much omg” way.

Riese, Runaways Counselor and Editor-in-Chief/CEO: Friday morning brought sunshine and also new humans! YouTube superstar Hannah Hart and her manager Sarah, media-makers Lex Kennedy and Megan Benton of Me & My Bois, Actress/singer Haviland Stillwell, Autostraddle Design Director Alex Vega and Animal Trainer to the Stars Mary Tully all joined us in time for Friday’s carnival. Also even though she wasn’t on staff, one of my favorite humans in the lesbian universe, Kathy Wolfe (founder of Wolfe Video) and her wife Barbara also came on Friday. This added to the already high-level excitement already simmering in our hearts.

(photo by robin roemer)

(photo by robin roemer)

Friday Morning Activities

Both Sides Now: A Non-Monosexuality Panel (Dani RDS, Stef & Rachel) // How To Be Alone (Grace & Vanessa) // Basic Bitches Ballet (Chloe) // Blog Anything/Read Something (Laneia, Carolyn & Riese) // Body Positivity and Self-Care (Dani, Kaylah, Mey & Kai) // Encaustic Painting (Bren)

Hoop Dreams (Brittani) // Tardy For The Party: Coming Out Later In Life (Dani, Laneia, Sarah Evan & Donna) // Writing Dirty (Ali & Riese) // Queering Academia (Rachel & Alice) // Custom Personalized Glassware (Liz C)  // Slam Poetry (Emotions the P.O.E.T)

Stef, The Gossip Counselor & Music Editor: The Bisexuality/Non-Monosexuality/Sexual Fluidity Panel is a strange beast, and I can’t say enough how glad I am that it’s something we’ve started doing at every camp. Daniela, Rachel and I were all coming at this panel from different places in our lives and relationships, and this discussion focused mostly on how to queer heterosexual relationships or our identities in straight spaces.

Rachel, Girltrash! Counselor & Senior Editor: The last time we ran a panel about sexual fluidity, we got a sense of what conversations about sexual fluidity and bisexuality might be useful to have, and so it was exciting to get to see that happen with campers. We talked about some really useful stuff like how we define sexual orientation, the challenges facing the bisexual community, and how bisexuality impacts our relationships. A lot of people had really interesting and articulate things to say about identity, relationships, and resources, and I feel like I learned a lot!

Stef: Everybody brought up a lot of really wonderful points, but the best part was knowing that everyone in the room could look around at all the other attendees and know that there are lots of us bouncing around the Kinsey scale, and that they weren’t alone – at camp or otherwise.

Dani RDS, Stormtroopers Counselor & Contributing Editor: Have you been to any A-Camp panels? Then you know what it feels to realize you just surrounded yourself with about a hundred of the most thoughtful, open-minded English-speaking queers on earth. I walked out of every panel amazed at the stories both panel and audience members were willing to share, stories that sometimes challenge me and my experiences, but never cease to affirm my love for A-Camp. Where else can we have this kind of town meetings?

Hoop Dreams (photo by evan)

Hoop Dreams (photo by evan)

Chloe, Blue Crush Counselor & Calendar Girl: I was so nervous that nobody would attend my Basic Bitches Ballet class, but I had nine lovely humans prove me wrong. Ballet can be hard and intimidating, but they were all such good sports and tried everything I threw at them. It was so refreshing to teach what I love to do to a room full of wonderful queer women compared to the equally wonderful but much crazier group of 4-9 year olds I teach on a weekly basis back home. Dancing with all of you and seeing the smiles on your faces was such an amazing experience, thank you so much to all of you that came to class!

emily & kai doing carnival prep (photo by evan)

emily & kai doing carnival prep (photo by evan)

Riese: When I was putting together cabins for camp, I noticed that we had a lot of women over 28 who’d just come out, or who had just gotten divorced and come out, and most of them also mentioned feeling like they were the only ones in this situation, which was obviously not true! So I asked Laneia, Dani and Donna if they’d be interested in leading a discussion about Coming Out Later in Life, which Robin entitled “Tardy for the Party.”

Donna, The Gossip Counselor: The Tardy to the Party Panel was maybe, probably, one of the greatest moments I ever had, ever. It was definitely one of the most moving.

Laneia, Runaways Counselor & Executive Editor: I was super nervous about Tardy to the Party! I always worry that conversations geared toward older / “unconventional” (whatever that means) queers won’t be well-received or interesting, which is a dumb thing to think, I know. I was afraid we wouldn’t have anything to really talk about, but that ended up being the exact opposite of how things went down.

Donna: The amount of raw emotions and honesty in that room was crushingly beautiful. The other panelists and I shared our stories about coming out later in life, and there was, at first, a kind of stillness in the room. I think that was from everyone relating what they heard to their own experiences. Then there was just an outpouring of tears, feelings, experiences, concerns, hopes, fears, joys, and camaraderie.

Laneia: When the audience started talking, it was everything. One camper shared a story about the time they realized they could be their authentic selves and still have a family, because they’d finally found people in similar situations who’d also had kids, and I swear it was all I could do not to fly out of my seat and hug them and cry until my eyes were bleeding.

Donna: There was total acceptance and understanding in that room. People who often felt alone felt connected at that instant, and I was so happy to be a part of that moment.

Laneia: I know we talk about it to the point of ubiquity, but this panel solidified for me the importance of community, and the importance of having a space to just raise your hand and say everything you couldn’t say before and know that you’re safe, that those people will take care of your words and keep them — because they needed to hear them as much as you needed to say them. Ugh I just loved everyone in that room so much y’all.

writing at blog anything (photo by stephanie)

writing at blog anything (photo by stephanie)

Rachel: Alice and I had never done a panel about academia before, and especially given as we were planning it in the midst of our own classes and grading, we weren’t sure how Queering Academia would go. (I’m actually still working on the grading I was supposed to get done at camp. SORRY, KIDS.) It turned out that we got to meet and talk with a bunch of other really cool people with a variety of angles on teaching and learning, from other grad students, people who work with small children, dance instructors, and more. It’s really nice to know that I’m not the only one out there! I feel like our workshop helped facilitate the later meetup of grad students at lunch one day — I had to miss it this time, but I’ll be there next time!

Lizz, Flashdance Counselor & Style Editor: I’m not usually able to get to a lot of other people’s activities, but I snuck into Encaustic Painting with Bren. It was so cool! You can paint with a blow torch and wax! For real!

three runaway sailors (photo by bree)

three runaway sailors (photo by bree)

Next: Lots of fun at the carnival, so much fun at the carnival!

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, 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! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3179 articles for us.


  1. Minor correction: the song was “Groovy Kind of Love” by Phil Collins. In Your Eyes is a fantastic song, but it’s by Peter Gabriel, and I’ve never slow danced to a near-stranger for three minutes to it.

    Note to self: find a way to slow dance to a stranger to In Your Eyes.

    And the Tardy to the Party panel, OMG. This is a memorable moment in my life. The emotional honesty that came pouring out of everyone, myself included, was shocking and magical! So many tissues needed!

  2. It was so incredible in the Tardy for the Party panel was when Laneia said we could either go to lunch or keep talking and not ONE. SINGLE. PERSON. got up from their seats.

    That panel was SO FUCKING necessary. I was so moved and touched and I have never felt more connected to a gigantic group of strangers. Thank you to everyone who spoke on that panel and contributed from the audience because you gave me the words I needed to understand my own messy, complicated feelings. You are all beautiful humans and I’m so glad we were all able to show up fashionably late together <3

  3. Words cannot express what the tardy for the party panel meant to me. I was not the same person when I left that room. It was life altering. If camp had been just that panel it would have been worth the trip.
    Thank you to all that participated and especially to Laneia for remembering to bring the box of tissues!

  4. Not pictured during The Carnival: The cotton candy machine gorgeously spewing sugar dust into the rapidly returning sunlight. It was nearly as pretty as all the queers.

    I also learned first hand that Dimitri Martin’s joke about skulls and daggers with glitter on them is actually a little obscure. But my face paint still looked adorable, even though it was not the funny T-shirt for my face I tried to make it be.

    • i did not know the joke when you requested those things BUT i really fucking loved painting them on your face, for the record

  5. This I think was my favorite day of camp. Lanie and I played at the carnival and nothing bad happened and it was wonderful.
    Sarah Hansen gave me her identity, and if anyone actually believed I was her, I’m really sorry.
    AND I got to slow dance with Sarah Evan, and you should all be really jealous of that.


  6. “…like a starfish hitting an uncooked ham.”

    That line has forever been etched into my brain space. And the carnival was just, you know, everything I ever wanted out of life.

  7. Sometimes I forget that Autostraddle as a site isn’t Tumblr or Facebook because I click every picture and try to like it.

  8. guys, i just wanted to let you know that anne marie is my best friend and i’ve never been so proud of a human before. that was the best thing on earth.

  9. Every time there was a new picture, I fell in love with whomever was in it. Does that make me shallow, or is it just that A-Camp attracts such a gorgeous group of people that that reaction is totally expected?

    • the photoshop situations in this recap are really really really impressive

      like, possibly deserve space at MoMA, just saying

  10. guys! whenever i read recamps, i wish i had written more myself. sometimes, it’s too much to get into words, you know?

    for now i’ll say:

    i love that brittani was “jazzed.” i love it so much.

    may have to make that pic of stef with the vodka snowcones (which were DELISH and refreshing, by the way!) my phone background to remind me that sometimes life delivers up exactly what you didn’t know you needed.


    long live all the klubs. even club bluebird.

    • whenever i read the recamps i notice that i always start out saying I AM GONNA BE BRIEF and then i am never ever brief. maybe this means we are meant to be, deanne. maybe it means i’m just really fucking longwinded and self-involved. WHO’S TO SAY.

  11. The recamps: where I find out about all the things I was missing while doing the other things. I really need to figure out how to drink in multiple places at the same time.

    I suspect the solution involves more whiskey, but despite my best efforts, I have yet found the solution.

    More research is required.

    • Ya’ll, DJ missed out on a chunk of the carnival because she elected to let me cry on her about missing my friend, who passed right after May Camp.

      She’s real good people.

      • this made my heart swell. i am so sorry for your loss. i am also so happy that a-camp fosters such beautiful close connections.

        • Thank you Vanessa. The last night I spent with that friend was the night before May Camp. I packed my bags while she and two other close friends drank wine and made fun of my chosen camp schedule.

          Quote my friend, “Ugh, you’re going to California to learn how to SPOON?”

          I’m so glad I have ya’ll, and I’m so glad we have each other. Hold your loved ones close.

      • DJ, I’m pretty sure you already figured it out. I thought you spent a lot of the carnival with me, but you were also off being a super friend, dancing with bears and just generally having a damn whimsical time.

        It was the Whiskey snowcones we made. Whiskey snowcones make you have the ability to do ALL the things in multiple places, but you just aren’t able to remember any of it. I’m pretty sure that’s science.

        • Holy shit. I didn’t realize. Next time I’ll wear my lab coat so we can make it official.

          I think it is important to recognize prior work, so I want to give some credit for the snow on the first night. It convinced me that it needed to be combined with whiskey. I guess when the snowcones showed up, it was easy to see what needed to be done.

      • Aww, ‘Rie, you know there’s nothing else at a-camp that takes priority over a cabinmate. And not that we’re keeping a tally, but need I remind you that you were and have been there for me tons the same way?

        I was mostly thinking about that group of us who missed A-campalooza because we were at that strip cards against humanity game.

        I have no regrets. About any of it.

        But if I can figure out how to be in multiple places at once in the future, you can bet I’ll be doing it.


          I mean, reading the recamp, A-Camp-alooza sounds like it was incredible buuuuuut…absolutely no regrets missing it to join a bunch of lovely humans in getting increasingly drunk + increasingly naked (to comfort levels, for both of these things!) + increasingly hilarious.

  12. i forgot to mention in this recap that a-camp-alooza incited an official shift in my sexual orientation. my sexual orientation is now just “butch beyonce.”

    also i’m really glad carmen made “b is hilarious” signs because even if we didn’t get to use them at the intended moment we have them ready for, you know, every other moment for the rest of our lives. no one will ever again not know that b is hilarious.

  13. now that i’m finally back in the states, and have been dying to go to a-camp for the past 2 a-camps, i SWEAR i am going to go to the next a-camp! is it going to be in april or may?

  14. you guys. i’m pretty much about to cry right now. i think all of you are the funniest, coolest humans on the planet, and i love you.


  15. THIS WAS SUCH A FUN DAY AT CAMP. and not going to lie we laughed really hard with Nicole about almost getting caught by chloe while collecting sticks and honestly stick bouquets will forever be romantic now.

    BUT SERIOUSLY–I don’t even know what to say SO MUCH AMAZING STUFF HAPPENED.
    the carnival was sooo much fun and a nice break and way to socialize and all the actvities were so much fun and that fashion show! oh man. DeAnne Smith. that is all.

    I can get soooo carried away. But it was an AMAZING AMAZING day!!!

  16. I figured the best time to comment on this was after a few venti sized glasses of wine. The only thing I regret about camp was NOT doing the thing and people that I was doing some intense eye flirting with…but you bet your little queer ass I’ll break out of my shell by 5.0. I promise I won’t spend ALL of my time having panic attacks in the DSA even though I met some of the most beautiful humans by just standing outside. In the snow. Because when you’re drunk and with a bunch of amazing queers not even the snow can stop the socialization that only happens in nature…

  17. “at first it was super-disorienting to be surrounded by kinky identical twins, but it turns out I’m really into that.”

    somer my love for you grows deeper every day

  18. Man, it’s stuff like this that’s gonna have some queer attend next years awesomest camp! Spice girls medley. Man, IDK if i ever love the spice girls more.

  19. This was the day our cabin got so into bonding time that we accidentally missed part of an event just to spend time together. It was also the day I fell in love with 15 humans simultaneously. Stormtroopers for life <3

  20. Look at Kirsten being super adorable on the swings!

    Also, appreciative head nod to all the Amazons up there in their short shorts.

  21. This was an excellent day of camp. I was super impressed by the Carnival! Seriously, there were many ways it could have been half-assed, which would be totally justified because it was being set up on top of a mountain, but I really appreciated all of the little thoughtful details (gorgeous decorations, classy signs for each activity, etc.) that went into it. Definitely not half-assed!

    Also, the talent show was great – I was feeling rather oversocialized by the time the carnival rolled around (#introvertproblems) so I didn’t participate in many of the activities/talk to many people, but I still felt very much included in the goings-on when I was able to just stand there and watch all of the super talented acts take place.

    Finally, a massive thank you to Kate for coming back to our cabin to retrieve me when the Hannah Hart kissing booth was happening!!! I would have been crushed to have missed it. Hannah was seriously SO SWEET and she made a video for my [local] girlfriend so my girlfriend wouldn’t be too jealous of me meeting Hannah :)

  22. the recamps really make me miss camp so much..
    but also i’m hanging out with some of my favourite campers this weekend so that does make it a lot better

  23. I want to know more about these three ‘sailor’ people wearing the same thing! Was it planned? Was it homosexual wardrobe coincidence? Should you have all called each other first? (Or rather, should you not have and it happened perfectly?)

  24. 1. Im pretty sure that was easily the cutest queer-prom-date proposal that ever did or will happen. EVER.

    2. My face turns red just thinking about Deanne singing to me.

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