Once upon a time (May 21-26th, to be specific) in a land far far atop a mountain two hours outside of sunny Los Angeles, approximately 300 queer humans gathered for five days and five nights of revelry, renaissance, intellectual stimulation, dance parties and deep sea bonding. They called it A-Camp 5.0, and it was beautiful! This is the second of three 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.
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, May 2013 and October 2013.
This camp was our longest camp yet, and it still wasn’t enough time to spend with you weirdos. We were pleased to provide a resplendently fresh roster of special guests for you this spring like comedian Elicia Sanchez and musician/heartthrob Mal Blum. We were also blessed by the presence of new media superstar Hannah Hart, Little Horribles creator Amy York-Rubin, femme icon Aja of Fit For a Femme and home design expert AB Chao.
Day Two: Friday, May 23rd
Let’s Talk About The A-Camp Bee
Marni, A-Camp Co-Director: One day on G-chat I casually observed to Laneia that I thought it was cute when local papers were called the [town] Bee, and that gave way to the idea of an A-Camp daily paper called the Bee. And it was in that moment that the A-Camp Bee was born.
Laneia, Executive Editor & Runaways Counselor: I couldn’t stop daydreaming about the A-Camp Bee. It suddenly became one of the most important aspects of camp for me.
Chelsey, Editorial Assistant & Blackhearts Counselor: A month or so before camp, Marni and Robin emailed me to let me know that Laneia and I would be putting out a daily camp newspaper called the A-Camp Bee. I could not at this time fully grasp how beautiful and magical this thing would actually end up being.
Cara, Contributor & Ghost World Counselor: Unlike regular publications that must earn their stripes, The A-Camp Bee was a storied institution from the get-go (that’s why it’s called the bee! pre-striped). I admired it long before I knew it existed and was delighted to FINALLY, finally be asked to contribute a column. To see “More Than Birds” in print alongside Hansen’s Horoscopes, Stef’s Emoji Weather Report, and other greats was a dream come true. And watching Grace and Chelsey work hard to pull the paper together every morning inspired me to keep my head in the game as well.
Hansen, Contributor & The Con Counselor: The A-Camp Bee was the stuff of legend. Chelsey and Grace are amazing humans and committed so hard to making The Bee amazing. I jokingly suggested that we need some horoscopes and suddenly I was writing Homoscopes with Hansen. I consulted the stars and wrote the first one, which seemed to be spot on, so I think this is my true calling in life.
Stef, Music Editor & Firebrands Counselor: My contribution to the A-Camp Bee was SchwartzCast, a weather and general life forecast consisting entirely of emoji. It was pretty accurate, I guess.
Chelsey: I feel pretty confident saying that the A-Camp Bee is possibly the greatest achievement of my life. Every morning Intern Grace and I would meet up in Wolf lodge and put together the day’s Bee along with my lovely staff of columnists (a big thank you to Stef, Cara and Hansen for always meeting your deadlines) and my intern, Cara. It was such a cool thing to put it together and then see in the hands of the campers! I was just so in love with everything that was happening that I couldn’t stand it. We have so many ideas for next time on how to get this into more hands and get it out every single day. Basically, the future of the Bee is pretty fucking bright and everyone should invest in some shades.
Pop ‘n Flow Yoga (Dani Orner) // Once More With Feeling: The Buffy Musical Singalong Spectacular! (Chelsey, Chelsea, Vanessa, Laneia) // Profesh Pantsuit Power Hour (Taylor, Cee & Meredydd) // Brittani On the Mountain (Brittani) // Kink 101 (Dani RDS, Ali, Carolyn, Lizz Rubin) // Geek Trivia (Elicia, Mey, Whitney)
Riese, CEO/Editor-in-Chief & Runaways Counselor: Another bonus to having an extra day of camp was that Friday morning we let everybody sleep in a little and only scheduled one slightly longer activity block!
Brittani, Sports/Music Editor & Firebrands Counselor: Brittani on the Mountain of course was fun because I got to present my weird opinions and unpopular beliefs as facts and use an EchoMic which came in handy at several points during the rest of camp. I also watched Carly pop out at people from behind a tree and I think a video of that could probably end any war.
Carmen, Straddleverse/Feminism Editor & Gladiators Counselor: As much as I wanted to be at Pantsuit Power Hour, I’m a woman of my word – so I spent the morning helping B with Brittani on the Mountain. Since it was her own creation, it was hilarious. Kai and I had a great time quizzing people on whether or not the names we were saying were those of Autostraddle staff or L-Word guest stars. I was even more pleased whenever someone was wrong about which I was.
Laura, Contributing Editor & Outsiders Counselor: I was a “runner” during the “Brittani on the Mountain” scavenger hunt, and my job was pop out from behind a tree and ask trivia questions about One Direction and Taylor Swift. If the player got a question wrong, they could redeem themselves by tickling a teammate for 30 seconds. It was both awkward and hilarious. Would do again.
Carolyn, NSFW Editor & Bloody Valentines Counselor: The Kink workshop is always my absolute favorite to lead. Lizz, Ali, Dani RDS and I mixed beginner and intermediate subjects with live flogging and restraint demonstrations so that beginner and intermediate practitioners could bring something new into their play.
Lizz, Contributor & Mockingjays Counselor: One thing that is always hilarious is how the first few row of people are like the usual suspects of folks who come each time. Then the middle and back rows tend to be a lot of new faces. Finally, there’s always a group of huddled staffers in the background snickering. I absolutely love getting to talk about safe bondage during the bondage 101 workshop.
Carolyn: Campers also got to try out flogging (on a chair) and bondage (on each other) in a safe, guided environment.
Lizz: Seriously, though, you shouldn’t hit your partner in the kidneys! I’m always floored by how many campers are willing to open themselves up to an honest discussion about bondage. I think that being able to speak freely about taboo topics like BDSM is a big part of normalization of all sorts of sexual behavior and making sure everyone is able to enjoy themselves in physically and emotionally safe ways.
Meredydd, Outsiders Counselor: The Profesh Paintsuit Power Hour was born out of the feedback from last A-Camp. Campers wanted a chance to talk informally with each other about careers and career challenges in lots of industries. I thought that sounded like a great idea. I have lots of experiences I like to share and love talking to others about their experiences. This meet-up was so much better that I ever imagined. I know A-Campers are amazing, but learning about the amazing things they are doing with their lives was inspiring. I think I may have got more out of it than anyone.
Chelsea, My Bloody Valentines Counselor: When Vanessa and Chelsey told me that they were going to act out the Willow and Tara ballad “Under Your Spell” for the Once More With Feeling Singalong, I was obviously into it. What I did not expect was that they were going to pantomime the sex scene at the end of the song. It was literally the gayest thing I have ever witnessed and it was magical. Next year, I want to invest in a pulley system and have them fly around the stage Peter Pan-style.
Chelsey: My favorite part was performing “Under Your Spell” with Vanessa, where we got to blow bubbles in each other’s faces and I got to whisper “I think you’re supposed to be going down on me now”. Only at A-Camp, folks.
Laneia: Oh my god all the campers singing along and blowing bubbles and booing at Dawn! Chelsea was a super pro at hosting and made sure everyone got into the spirit. A Buffy Sing-Along had been a dream of mine since the year before and it was really special to see it finally happen!
Bren, Editorial Assistant & Coordinator Of Logistics (COOL): The #1 thing that I’m heartbroken to have missed – The Once More With Feeling Buffy sing-a-long. This has long been a dream of Laneia’s and I was very much looking forward to it. But alas SOMEONE had to drive down the mountain to pick up the beer for Ali’s gay craft beer tasting. Silver lining though… I now know what a “growler” is!
Mey, Trans Editor & Ghost World Counselor: Elicia, Whitney and I had a ton of fun leading Geek Trivia. It’s really spectacularly amazing how many obscure Harry Potter characters A-Campers can name.
Riese: The “we are here to be wild queer animals” vibe was at its peak when Brittani decided to settle the tie from her activity by having a Lip-Sync-Off at lunch.
Brittani: I’m not sure why it took us this long to find an excuse for people to Lip Sync for Their Life at camp but it finally happened when we needed to break the tie that resulted during Brittani on the Mountain. There are no words to describe what happened but the EchoMic played a major part. It was like the closest thing to feeling like you’re at a Beyonce concert. Probably. I’ve never been to a Beyonce concert. Shout out to everyone that participated and everyone that helped pick the songs we used.
Mey: This was also the day we had the first ever official A-Camp Trans Women Coffee Hour. I really love the way Autostraddle and A-Camp are so trans women positive, but it was nice to be able to have a safe space like this where we could talk about anything. This was definitely a great first attempt at something like this, and we brainstormed some really good trans women based activities for the next A-Camp.
Friday Afternoon: Renigayssance Fair
Robin, Photographer & A-Camp Co-Director: Friday was our Rengayssance Faire! I wanted to bring back what worked about our A-Camp Carnival from the last session and bring in new elements! An event like this for all 300 people at camp is hard to set up in a few hours, but I was so grateful for our amazing staff members for pulling it together.
Kai, Calendar Girl & Panthers Counselor: Even more than the Rengayssance Faire was prepping for the Rengayssance Faire. Carmen and I walked around forever trying to hang those great stringy decorations around the trees that people may or may not remember. Then I’m pretty sure Carmen ditched me, so Gigler stepped in to help me avoid touching the tree ants. I’m not an interior (in this case, exterior?) designer, but we did our best.
Crystal, HR Director & The Con Counselor: Some campers from The Con made a DIY costume from materials found in their cabin and spent the afternoon trotting around the campsite, with a rider on top. Their commitment to that costume was really special. Hansen and I had tears of pride in our eyes.
Robin: Some campers dressed up, even making their own homemade costumes for the event. Marni built actual wooden stocks so naturally I dressed like a horse and she dressed like a knight and we patrolled the faire, randomly choosing campers and staffers (who consented) to put in the stocks!
Marni: Far and away the most special part for me was dressing up as a knight in shining armor and having my trusty steed – Robin Romer the horse – help me round up campers and take them to the stocks. Taylor in her red underpants was a pretty big highlight as well.
Stef: Only at A-Camp can I attend a bondage workshop, build a massive white balloon arch and then while away the afternoon hours teaching ukulele lessons. Truly, this is the place dreams are made of.
Riese: As aforementioned, I’m a big RenFair geek and was therefore SO PUMPED about the event that I planned an actual outfit, like with a cape and everything. Luckily Laneia also had assembled an outfit so we could be dorks together at our Fairy Goddessmother Advice Booth.
Laneia: Giving advice is one of my favorite pastimes! I especially like telling people that they’re already doing the right thing — like when people just need to hear it from someone else? That’s the best. Everyone who came to our booth for advice was just the tenderest little light! I wanted to squeeze them up to my face and tell them how amazing and Right On they were, because they were. The world is full of so many beautiful souls just trying their best, you know?
Riese: A somewhat surprising situation began developing which was that we were COLD AS FUCK. So when it seemed like nobody else was gonna come up for advice, Laneia & I gathered our things and went inside to work on some things that needed to get done for the site. But in the camp surveys some people said they were waiting in line to talk to us when we got up and left and both of us are SO CONFUSED about this situation! We are so incredibly sorry, we had no idea that people were still waiting or that there had ever been a line at all. Was the line just narrowly out of our line of vision? Whatever happened, we’re sorry, please send me your advice questions, youneedhelp [at] autostraddle [dot] com.
Rachel, Managing Editor & Cat Power Counselor: It is probably incredibly obvious when you first meet me that I LIVED FOR Ren fairs as a child. Also a teen, and young adult. Every gay woman I know and somehow especially all the bisexual women I know were Ren Fair obsessives. Going to a Ren Fair between the ages of like 9 and 18 increases your probability of being bisexual by like 200%. Anyhow it should be clear, then, that A-Camp’s Rengayssance Fair was everything I never knew I wanted in life, and now I can die in peace.
Rachel: Highlights included but were not limited to the stocks, the multiple makeshift horses roaming the fair, the D&D table, and the full-on Maid Marian dress that Liz packed from home. In my heart, I will always be at the Rengayssance Fair. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
Laura: My favorite part was the costumes. Seven staffers (myself included) dressed in animal onesies for the scavenger hunt. There were at least two campers dressed up like Link (amazing). Marni had freaking chain mail, and Aja looked like a beautiful fairy princess (per ushe — that may not have been a costume). And a couple strange geniuses from The Con (*cough* Katie G and Partytown *cough*) created an impromptu horse costume out of a sheet and some things they had lying around their weird and wonderful cabin.
Mey: For the Rengayssance Faire, I was mostly in Falcon leading crafts, but it was still a ton of fun. I loved everyone’s costumes, and how committed everyone was. For the first half, I lead my first ever craft, the Custom Queer and Feminist Pendant Necklaces. As Ghost World knows, I’m not very crafty (I sliced my finger open using scissors to make decorations for the cabin), so it was a bit of an adventure leading crafts. But I think it worked out really well. People were making sweet necklaces with people like Ellen Page, Tegan and Sara and Kate Moennig on them. After that, I helped out Hansen with the House Crest Banners craft. Although this is a pretty simple craft, the campers blew me away with their creativity. We had felt for them the put the crest on, so they could make banners to hang, but a ton of them came in with their shirts, or strips of fabric to make patches for their denim vests, or their color wars bandanas or even their underwear to show their house pride.
Carolyn: When Robin and Marni told me they wanted me to run a Sex Dungeon at the Ren Faire, I was excited and also concerned. Instead, I combined two of my favorite things — drinking tea and talking about kink — into a low-stakes discussion group, live You Need Help session and hands-on practice area that really fulfilled the A-Camp kink workshop mandate to bring people together, and keep them there with bondage rope.
Gabby: I’m not the Renaissance Faire type, you know? But I do love a good party, esp with a bunch of queers, so I had to do something. Marni gave me table. I brought along my love of dominoes and we had ourselves a tournament. You know it’s going to be a good game when Gilles Stromberg shows up dressed as Zelda but you think they’re Tinkerbell and either way it’s awesome. I really love that everyone brought their house/ethnic rules for the game.
Soph: The fair was fantastic! The many activities were super.
Bren: I mean it had an “Alice Moat” for crying out loud! And Marni, dressed as Prince Valiant, got into a sword fight with every balloon in sight. It was just brilliant.
Carmen: T-Shirt Cutting and Stenciling, as usual, was a good ol’ time. My cabin even made Gladiator shirts thanks to Rory’s amazing artistic abilities.
Vanessa: Meredydd loaned me her unicorn onesie for the animal onesie hunt and then when she saw how attached I became to it she decided to gift it to me. It cannot be stated enough how happy I am when wearing a unicorn onesie.
Hansen: Ali and I did a craft beer tasting! We got some amazing beer from Hillcrest Brewing Company, who were so great and helpful and they gave us TASTY beer. Ali is so smart when it comes to alcohol and I learned a lot, but oh goodness, I think one of my favorite things about Ali is her alcohol tolerance. I think she was feeling it after half a tasting glass. I loved finishing up the talking portion and getting to the drinking portion, where I met a bunch of campers who also love beer like I love beer and is anything better than drinking beer with new friends? Nope.
Whitney: For this A-Camp I had a great idea: Nerdy booze! Booze-y nerds! Nerdbooze! Final working title: Gamer Grog and Battle Booze. So basically the aim of the drink-mixing workshop was to make a ton of videogame-themed mixed drinks and to have nerdy chats with all who would like to come join us.
A not-at-all-secret secret: I am a super lightweight drinker. Basically I can have a beer and I’m done for the night. I have a few sips of stout and I turn bright red and have the uncontrollable desire to give people hugs (or, in the case of Ali when she came to visit me once – lots of nose boops and “You’re the best”s). So with this knowledge in tow, with me mixing and sipping four drinks at Gamer Grog and Battle Booze? Me, bright red like a Christmas ornament, loving the hell out of everyone.
Elicia Sanchez was my co-conspirator throughout nerdy video game drink mixing, and she came up with the best nerdy toasts we would all cheer together before we took the first sip of our mixed drinks: “Victory or Valhalla!” (a Thor reference), “Do a barrel roll!” (said by Peppy Hare in Star Fox 64) and “The cake is a lie!” (from the Portal series).
My favorites of the drinks we mixed: A Mario Kart Rainbow Road Cocktail (which was a rainbow-gradient drink with orange juice, blue curacao and grenadine for color) and the Metroid Cocktail (with was bright-green coconut rum-flavored drink with floating red strawberries on top). Elicia and I stopped by the Advice Booth during the Renn Faire to give Riese and Laneia these. I think these drinks got the Riese and Laneia seal of approval.
Bren: What made it even better was just how into it the campers were. There were costumes and jousting and archery. Gilles Stromberg was even locked in the stockade for a time. There was some kind of float fashioned out of the shark that kept creeping past the Ye Olde Merch Table. To be clear it was a blow up shark, not Marni in a onesie.
Chelsea: Tarot Card Reading at the Rengayssance Faire was ridiculously fun. I got to meet so many campers and talk about all their feelings and futures. I predicted hangovers and multiple orgasms for everyone, and I think they all came true!
Aja, Contributor and A-Camp Special Guest: When I think back to this entire day, it’s just one magical, truly fantastical blur. I got to sleep in a spell, spend the morning in one-on-one style sessions with campers and organizing supplies for flower crowns. Somewhere in my brain I imagined a small but dreamy group of campers who wanted to spend a good chunk of time lovingly hand-assembling something pretty with which to adorn themselves, but campers came in droves a half-hour ahead of schedule and didn’t stop for hours. I had to create a waiting list – a waiting list! At A-Camp! It was bananas, I got hand cramps from working quickly dulled wire-cutters over lengths of twine and floral wire, snapping buds off brightly colored faux flower vines like a banshee as campers of all kinds squished onto picnic tables, perched on huge boulders and scrambled up rock walls to find places to sit and create gorgeously unique crowns. I frantically tenderly looked on as they helped one another, rushed to those who’d gotten stuck, and pointed to the step-by-step inspiration collages I’d smartly taped down to the tables for reference. We were quiet and numerous and startlingly intense, and very different from one another, yet the same. It melted my heart.
Aja: By the end of the workshop, I had no idea how the rest of the afternoon had gone elsewhere on Mt. Feelings, but nearly everyone who’d wanted to had their crown and I’d given away a few I made to campers who didn’t quite make it in time rather than send them away empty-handed. The rest of camp – breakfast, lunches, dinners, dance parties, workshops, more dance parties, cuddle huddles, the wedding – everywhere I turned a flower crown brightened the woods alongside deep and lovely smiles, my darling royals.
Cee: Every other camp I’ve walked by the archery range filled with nostalgia from summer camps as a kid, so I was really glad we got to use it this time. I was impressed by how natural everyone was at archery. It’s a hobby I’ve taken up as an adult and really enjoy, and I was glad to see others share that enjoyment.
Gabby: Kaylah, queen of the mini-dresses, challenged me to a water fight or maybe i just splashed her with a handful of agua. Either way, we sprayed each other with water and it all ended with me diving into the baby pool formerly known as Alice Moats.
Kaylah: Towards the end of the ren fair, Gabby challenged me to a splashing duel around the kiddie pool. We were so wet (HA!!!) and the pool ended up almost empty. I totally won though, and then she stole my heart shaped sunglasses.
Rory: I loved the rengayssance faire and walking around seeing all these cool people doin’ their thing.
Singalong Campfire // Black & White Ball
Rachel: I think the nighttime singalong around the fire was probably exactly what people who have never been to A-Camp imagine when I try to explain it to them, and it was really perfect in that respect. I mean also in every other respect, but I’m especially tickled by the sheer campiness of it. Serenade me forever, dreamy guitar babes of A-Camp!
Riese: The Singalong Campfire was so cute! I sang along to Taylor Swift! I have a heart!
Robin: It was a peaceful and uniting singalong campfire followed by a rousing dance!
Black & White Ball
Chelsey: Before the Black and White Ball, the staff was tasked with blowing up a shit ton of balloons. Suffering from severe lack of oxygen from blowing up a million and a half balloons, I lay down on the floor and created a balloon angel while wearing a flower crown my camper Amy made me. It was one of the most blissful moments of my life.
Stef: Cabin 16 arrived to the Black and White Ball decked out almost entirely in black, feeling like a million bucks and/or the hallway scene in Jawbreaker. Full disclosure, we actually played that song in our cabin while we got ready to psych ourselves up.
Brittani: I’m not sure how it happened but a lot of riff raff was showing up to the Black and White Ball. Good thing I had a foot long foam glowstick that doubled as a security wand. I was able to ensure the safety of everyone there by holding up suspicious individuals at the door before they were allowed entry AND I was only accused of racial profiling once.
Gigler: Everyone was fresh faced, high energy, and lookin real fine. There was supposed to be a meteor shower but I’m pretty sure it was no match for the energy emanating from the first big party of A-Camp. DJing in Eagle felt boss as hell, and opening for Carlytron was an honor and a privilege.
Stef: My favourite moment of the Black and White Ball was early in the evening, when Aja was DJing and she played “Common People” by Pulp. I guess a lot of the younger campers didn’t know it, but Carly, Alex, Meredydd, Torre and I LOST OUR DAMN MINDS and held court in our own dance circle. Mad pogo-ing ensued.
Rory: I don’t have words for this but I liked it a lot.
Carmen: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I apologize to everyone for this night. I wore a black bellbottom jumpsuit, forgot I wasn’t Madonna, and ended up doing coordinated dances with pretty much only myself on stage all night.
Soph: I do remember at some point sitting outside falcon sewing Carmen’s hole in her black jumpsuit by hand next to who was Rory painting and folks were spray painting and doing all this joyous stuff like this is the fucking gayest thing if only I had a cigarette, please.
Chelsea: I think there was a point during camp when I stopped dancing like Rihanna as a joke and STARTED DANCING LIKE RIHANNA FOR REAL.
Liz: Since I had the misfortune of proposing my dissertation the week after camp, I had to spend most of my free (read: sleep) time working. So by the time the black and white ball rolled around, I was wandering around in a sleep deprived haze, but it wasn’t so bad because everyone at camp is so incredible and supportive it really reminded me how special camp community is which was a highlight for me. Plus I got to do most of my work in my flying squirrel onesiewhich made everything less painful!
Meredydd: A-Camp can be kind of intense. The days are so packed with so many activities and the evenings are just as busy. As soon as I heard about the meteor shower I knew it was something I wanted to see. I live in Toronto and we can’t really see stars too often but I know that the stars on the mountain are always stunning. After the dance we tried watching from the swings but couldn’t see much. Then someone had the bright idea of heading up to the basketball courts and watching from there. It was quiet and dark (and freezing) but after a few misses I am pretty sure I saw a meteor. It was totally worth the bronchitis that plagued me when I came down the mountain.
Day Three: Saturday, May 24th
Sunrise Eagle Cafe // Outdoors Yoga (Dani Orner) // Knit Your Way To A Better Life (Rachel & Whitney) // Mommy Queerest (Laneia, AB Chao, Aja, Liz Rubin) // Sad, Mad and Rad (Sarah Evan, Riese, Taylor, Sophia, Dani RDS, Meredydd, Liz Castle) // Even More Than Words: Make-Your-Own-Words Workshop (Cara) // Haus of Vogue (Emily Gigler) // Mixed-Race/Biracial/Multiracial Discussion Group (Laura, Carmen & Kaylah) // The Road Best Straddled: A Solo Traveler’s Symposium (Cee, Vanessa, Hansen, Rory & Crystal) // AB Chao Design Camp: Interior Design (AB Chao) // Everyday I’m Beautiful: Hair and Makeup Tutorial with Marla Verdugo // Nature Stencils (Hansen) // Nurture vs. Nature: A Gender Feelings Hike (Kip & Rory)
Soph: I was so nervous for Sad, Mad and Rad. I know it’s natural but damn I was biting my nails before we went on.
Riese: I felt especially insane this morning so it was a great panel to kick off the day! This was another panel that we’d done last time that we wanted to do again BUT BETTER and I think we succeeded with aplomb.
Sophia: It was such a thoughtful panel and I really appreciated the strength from everyone who spoke; these are folks whom I don’t know as well as I would like who shared a part of themselves and I admire that. This is what I come to A-Camp for, this sort of discussion, regardless of the wonderful silliness that happens.
Cara: Saturday was my first time leading a workshop by myself, and I was full of nerves. But these were soothed instantly when I realized that all the attendees of Even More Than Words were bursting with awesome ideas and linguistic experience, and could probably have led it for me (plus I had an amazing talking easel named Ali). Over the course of the workshop, we filled a bunch of gaps in the language with new concoctions, including “queernaut” (someone who orbits a queer community before joining it) and “Pagentleman” (a new gender identity based on Ellen Page). It was fantasterrific.
Rory: I love love loved Gigler’s Voguing Workshop. I fell into it kinda accidently and I’m so glad I did. All those wiggly little minxes flinging their limbs around at wild angles. I’ve been practicing since too so maybe I even learnt something.
Stef: The most time-honoured tradition for me at A-Camp is rehearsing musical projects with Marni and Cara while Riese sits on her bed, frantically editing her piece for the staff reading and occasionally giggling at what ridiculous lunatics we are. That’s what we did on Saturday.
Riese: It’s a transformative experience.
Robin: Marla Verdugo, makeup artist on the 2014 Autostraddle Calendar, came up to teach a makeup class, which was sponsored by Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics. Marla did a makeup demonstration and each student in the class received a goodie bag with makeup they could use to practice new techniques.
Soph: The Travel panel was really fun, I loove traveling and I learned so much because everyone has such a different experience from traveling: I felt like everyone in the audience could have been on that panel almost, but we had such a great discussion.
Cee: Travel is one of my favorite things to do and talk about so I was really happy to participate. We had a great group discussion about the best parts of travel, our experiences, travel hacks, things we’ve learned while traveling and more. At the end we all put tiny dot stickers on a map to show where we’ve been. Between everyone in the room, we covered a large part of the world.
Crystal: It was so great to hear such a diverse range of travel experiences. Everyone who attended had such great questions and answers. The allotted hour flew by and so it was cool that a lot of people stuck around to continue the conversation and leave their mark on the map.
Carmen: The Mixed-Race Discussion group was actually amazing. I’d never felt less alone! I’d never felt less crazy! And I’d also never felt less like I had to prove my ethnicity to anyone… until Gabby forgot I was Puerto Rican. But I forgave her, duh. Props to her and B for coming as non-mixed-race-minority-allies.
Aja: When I agreed to participate in The Mommy Queerest panel, my brain went, “Pfft, sixteen years of experience, might as well do this in our sleep.” I am never nervous about the right things!
Laneia: The panel gave AB, Aja and I the chance to talk with other queer parents, queers planning to be parents, and queers just interested in hearing about parenting. Lizz was on hand to talk about the medical options available, which was super insightful and appreciated.
Lizz: It was amazing. The crowd had a bunch of moms in it too and it was just great how involved all the campers were in the discussion. I felt like whole group really bonded.
Laneia: One of my favorite moments was when we were going over what was unique about how we raised our kids, as queer parents, and I couldn’t really come up with anything from my experience. Aja discussed raising her daughter with feminist values first and foremost, and how similar/hand-in-hand that was with her queerness, and then it clicked — I realized that we do have this shared experience that goes beyond wondering how classmate’s parents will react to us and is actually more about trying to raise the kind of people who’ll respect all the other kinds of people.
Aja: The panel was right after breakfast and I am not a morning person, but suddenly a sizable room full of people were asking really tough, serious questions about parenting, the kind I usually only answer after getting to know a person for months, maybe years, if they are asked or answered at all. I’d done this batty thing and committed to total openness and people were counting on me; my cocksure brain would only go so far (and honestly not very). I am incredibly protective of my daughter and therefore I am incredibly protective of mothering. This panel forced me to push against the boundaries I’d set and left uncontested for years. It humbled me, and it was deeply touching.
Laneia: I feel like I’m talking in circles here but just know that this discussion group was amazing and I was so grateful for the chance to hear other stories and answer some questions!
Lizz: I for one came away with a lot less anxiety about some of the schematics of being a gay mom. Actually, what I loved the most was hearing everyone talk about what their kids call them! I feel like there was everything from “mommy” to “baba” to first names and totally made up phrases. It was adorable.
Aja: A few months after A-Camp, I started working for an organization that connects, supports and represents LGBTQ families nationwide. We all deserve that kind of community in our quest to create, build and protect our families on and off the mountain.
’90s Pool Party // Scissoring 101: Swizzle Sticks and Fringe Garlands (AB Chao) // CAMP Talks // Yo! A Camp Raps (Courtney Nash) // Look After Yourself With Drawings: A Self-Portraits Workshop (Rory) // Canoeing/Kayaking (Marni) // We’re Gonna Make A ‘Zine In A Day (Riese, Rachel, Laneia & Vanessa) // Mindfulness and Meditation (Liz Castle)
Riese: Saturday afternoon was a long block for longer activities, admittedly an idea I had mostly because I wanted to make an entire ‘zine at camp. Past ‘zine-making workshops had always ended with good intentions to swap and share the work we did together but it never happened — it seemed like we could prevent that this time by having us all make a ‘zine together, and we could use printer/copiers to put it all together right then and there. Thus, We’re Gonna Make a ‘Zine In A Day was born.
Rachel: I’ve always really enjoyed our zine workshops at camp, and they are always a quiet magical space in the middle of what can be a really hectic and overwhelming camp experience. But it’s always been a short respite, and I never really made anything I was proud of (except for one time when I got halfway done with a combo Mean Girls/Katy Perry page called “I Kissed A Mean Girl And I Liked It.”). I was hiding my zine-making light under a bushel.
Riese: We were SO excited to have Pioneers Press on board as a sponsor — they’re a small-press anarchist ‘zine distro whose publications focus on health, gender, sexuality, social justice and sustainability. We handed out lots of ‘zines for campers to take home and write about for the website.
Rachel: We had so much time and space and playlist this camp that I feel like everyone, including me, was able to really blossom into the making of the zine. And the end result is SO beautiful, I’ve been showing it to everyone. Autostraddle campers are a mighty and powerful zine-making force.
Robin: In the afternoon, I swam and relaxed at the 90’s Pool Party. I got to float around the pool and have some really lovely conversations with campers about their experience at camp so far. My favorite moments at camp are the rare one-on-one chats I get to have with new members of our camp family.
Brittani: The best part of the pool party was developing a long, complicated bit with Carly and Carmen about whether or not the EchoMic was on. It’s one of those you had to be there things but I’m going to put it here so that I never forget it happened because I still crack up just thinking about it.
Carmen: Guest DJ-ing the ’90s Pool Party completed my life. I drank champagne poolside, yelled into an Echo Mix (“is this thing on?”), and even took photos with the crazy shit Gigler had brought along as decoration.
Gigler: Babes in bathing suits. Pool games. Dancing by the fold out DJ table. Pool noodle limbo. AJ Sharkstar’s adorably retro critter art. Believing with all our hearts in that plastic microphone from 1996. Kickin it with Kaylah and laughing so hard all afternoon. “In a 90’s kinda world, I’m glad I got my girls.”
Carmen: The Camparazzi were out in full force at this point.
Gabby: Seriously if Court does Yo! A-Camp Raps Again, y’all queers better show up. It was Court, Marisol, and me and we laughed, had some whisky, and spit some ridiculous bars.
Marni: A 30-strong contingent of us trekked out to Jenks Lake and paddled around for the afternoon Canoe Adventure. It always feels great to be able to take a little time to get away and be on the water.
Stef: I decided to hit up canoeing, which I’d sadly missed last camp.
Marni: Not everyone may be familiar with Bill Mason, Canadian canoeing legend and father of whitewater paddling technique, but that’s neither here nor there — as a student of his technique, it is always my honor and pleasure to welcome Kip, A-Camp barber and Style Icon, as my bowman and tribute to Bill Mason’s 12-year-old video co-star Paul Mason, on A-Camp’s canoeing trips to Jenks Lake or, as friend of A-Camp and New York-based rockstar and new mother Somer Bingham calls Jenks Lake Pond. It’s not a big lake, is the thing.
Stef: First off, there was a really hot girl in charge of the boats and lifejackets; her name was Becca and I’m pretty sure she was stoned out of her gourd. She explained that only ten boats were allowed on the lake at any given time, and when someone asked why, she told us she had no idea but that those were the rules, and “whatever, man.” She may or may not have been a fever dream.
Stef: Fortunately, Marni knows everything about canoeing, and taught everyone proper paddle techniques. My camper Alana and I enjoyed a pleasant jaunt around Jenks Lake in a kayak. Marni was observed paddling Kip and Aja around in a canoe, and shortly thereafter she embarked upon a majestic solo journey across the open sea. The sun was hot, the air over the lake was cool, and I felt very fashionable in my giant poofy lifejacket. It was really weird to see non-camp people hanging at the lake, cis men walking their dogs and fishing like it was NBD, completely oblivious to our queer lake utopia.
Marni: After the all-camp photo, Robin and I told the staff that they all had to stick around for an important meeting. This camp was the longest camp we’d ever done, and everybody was running on fumes at that point. We had one full day left together, and we wanted to do something to show our appreciation for everyone so we broke out some cava and toasted their efforts as loving and committed volunteers and stewards of the A-Camp mission. We knew we weren’t going to be able to do this again for a year, so it was a really special moment.
Slam Fire // Staff Reading
Gabby: I can’t remember everyone that read a poem at The Slam Fire. It was magical to see almost 60 weirdos huddled in the dark, listening to people pour their heartbeats into the fire and giving them so much love. The people snapped their fingers, gave each other respectful silence, and honored each other as warriors in this insane existence. Shelby and Lisa, I can still feel the waves on my skin from the super real life pieces that you both shared. Thank you forever.
Whitney: The Staff Reading is always one of my favorite parts of A-Camp. Why? Because I get to hear stunning, jaw-droppingly beautiful writing produced by the people at Autostraddle – people I am so incredibly proud to call my friends and my Autostraddle family. Everyone was dressed in black and looking so good. I had butterflies in my stomach most of the day.
Mey: Although this was my third A-Camp, this was my first time participating in the Staff Reading. Now, if you’ve ever witnessed this activity, you know it’s just amazing, so I was absurdly nervous. But it ended up being a totally great experience. Before it started I was talking about how I had recently cried while watching a McDonald’s commercial about a mom and dad ordering food from their teenage son at his first day on the job (I’m legitimately tearing up writing about it right now), so when people open up their hearts in front of me and several hundred other queers, I just bawl.
Ali: The Staff reading is 100% the pinnacle of every Camp experience for me.
Gabby: I wept during Laura’s piece. It’s an honor to read with these guys camp after camp. I never feel more dignified, respected, and like a real fucking writer than when I’m up there with all of you.
Ali: Laura’s essay about experiencing gun violence made my entire body go into this weird fight or flight mode and I had this overwhelming desire to, like, run up onstage and tackle her to the ground and put my body between her and danger even though it was Camp and she was not in imminent danger? I dunno, that state of being made it really difficult to be funny about a sandwich after that.
Whitney: Laura’s piece shook me to my core. It was so beautiful and so brave, and I have all the admiration in the world for her.
Kai: It’s like all my favorite movies wrapped up in one. I laughed, I cried, I was scared at one point.
Whitney: I read a piece at the Staff Reading that was published on Autostraddle earlier this year – an essay called “I Would Grow My Hair to Cover the City.” It was such a privilege to be able to read it out loud and share it with everyone at A-Camp this year. Thank you, to everyone who listened – thank you for being there with me.
Kai: Whitney’s reading wrung my heart that night. So much so that I read it again, and again. I called my friends and made them read it.
Soph: I cried so much at the staff reading. Dani RDS held me and I’m pretty sure wiped the tears from my eyes as Whitney read, it was too much.
Hansen: When I first emailed Riese asking if I could read “Top Five Things I’ve Panic Ordered At Restaurants” I expected her to say I should write something a little more serious, but she seemed excited for it, which made me nervous.
Riese: I LIKE LAUGHING I JUST WANT EVERYONE TO LAUGH.
Hansen: But when I was up there, and I read the line “The weirdest corn dog I’ve ever had in my life” I realized how silly the whole thing was, and how grateful I am to be involved in the kind of community that entertains these weirdo thoughts in my head, and how this could ONLY happen at A-Camp, and I couldn’t stop laughing. That was the defining moment for me, honestly, just being surrounded by the most supportive people in the most supportive space, giggling about corn dogs together.
Ali: I loved Chelsea’s poem, “Julia Roberts” and hearing Gabby read “Fat Booty Butch Wears Leggings, Confuses World” in her own voice was just the best. Lizz Rubin read my very favorite thing that Lizz Rubin has ever read or possibly ever written, and yes that includes her performance at October Camp.
Riese: This year there were two pieces I’d given feedback on in early incarnations — Mey’s and Lizz’s. I’m always blown away by how incredible these pieces turn out to be when I hear the finished product.
Lizz: Because I’m completely self-involved, I always adore the staff reading. This year I actually changed things up a bit and read a piece that wasn’t just for laughs. I mean obviously it was partially for laughs, but it was also an exploration of my inner brain space and an attempt to make sense of some stuff. I mean, don’t worry, there were a few sex jokes.
Riese: Also rumor has it that Rachel managed to extract 3,000 words from Lizz’s essay that very afternoon but it was still 20 minutes long. Regardless it was damn good, and so was Mey’s.
Mey: I had only ever shared my piece with two people before I read it that night, but the love and support everyone at camp gave me really made my whole life. I love all of you guys.
Whitney: Mey’s piece was so incredibly honest and well-written. Her reading was incredibly beautiful and heartfelt – there’s a kind of emotional honesty in her writing that I really admire and that I hope for in my own writing. Her piece about family, about identity and about gender was lovely.
Laneia: I wish we could have a Staff Reading every Saturday night forever. Oh my god can you even imagine?
Chelsea: Apparently I missed the memo that we were all wearing black for Staff Reading. I asked if anyone would give me the shirt off their back, and the chivalrous Gabby Rivera offered me her button down. Someone from the audience offered me their pants too, but I didn’t want to start a sex riot.
Ali: I really love hearing Laneia read “It’s More Fun When We’re Co-Conspirators,” I think she should just read it every time. Like a favorite bedtime story. I loved everyone’s pieces, actually. Too much to really even recount in a paragraph. It’s just my very favorite thing at Camp, hearing everyone read their work.
Carmen: The staff reading always makes me wanna vomit and die. But this time, when I got to the podium, I heard a distant cry of comfort: Kaylah yelling “memembah?” a la Drake’s Worst Behavior. I responded with a quick “mothafucka” before moving on.
Kai: I will never stop admiring how Autostraddle writing staff bares everything through their keyboard.
Mey: Hansen and Ali were hilarious, Laura knocked my socks off, Lizz was funny one minute and making me cry the next, Gabby moved me, Riese was brilliant and Whitney read one of my all-time favorite essays that I’ve ever come across in any format. And of course I cried. A lot.
Riese: And five billion hours later (seriously shit got LONG) it was time to PARTY.
Carmen: Brittani and Gigler DJ’ing Klub Deer always means it’s a good night in Klub Deer. Always. I danced my ass off, and I even silly string’ed some bitches.
Ali: As always with May, my birthday is on the 23rd. Which means the past two times Camp has been in May, what you’re actually attending on that day is just a massive birthday party for me. But I did something a little different this time. Have I told y’all that, up until this Camp, I’d never been to Klub Deer? This time, when it turned into May 23rd at midnight, I hit up Klub Deer! For the first time ever! And I was happily received by The Outsiders (heavily consisting of the Outlaws and the Wildcats, my cabins from Camps 3 and 4) and the illustrious, wonderful, talented, beautiful Foxes. I danced until I was so sweaty I felt like I was sweating out my eyeballs. Turns out I like the club environment when a) you know everyone and b) everyone is gay.
In next week’s recap you can look forward to seeing those Photobooth pictures you’ve been craving all your damn lives long! A-Camp will take place from May 30th through June 4th, and registration opens January 27th.