Sometimes you wanna go to A-Camp but you just can’t afford it, and sometimes you don’t really want to go to A-Camp but totally could afford it, and if we mash both of those types of people together, we create a symbiotic relationship known as “the campership.” Although we have lots of good ideas around here, this particular idea just-so-happens to be yours.
This fall, we are introducing our first-ever MIDWESTERN A-CAMP and we are stoked about it! It’s happening very soon: September 29th —> October 2nd to be exact. I say that in a tone of voice that should not sound stressed out to you at all, but totally calm and reasonable, like a girl drinking out of a coconut on a deserted island.
In order to tug at your heartstrings with an appropriate level of aggression/empathy and ensure as many camperships are donated to these bright young things as possible, we’re going to share with you some essays from humans who received camperships to our June 2016 event.
We’ve already had several smaller donations as well as three full camperships donated, in addition to the three camperships with travel specifically offered to trans women, which you can read about here. Two of the already-gifted camperships were gifted with specific intentions, and those are:
- For a person of color who has never been to camp.
- A person who lives in a small town, gifted to you by a couple of “randos from NYC”
A’ight let’s meet some of the ladies and otherwise-identified people you sent to the mountain this year!
Hello potential campers & campership sponsors!
A little about me: I’m a 26-year-old student living in a medium sized Midwestern city. I didn’t come out until I was 25, about five months before applying for camp. I’m originally from a super liberal big city, but by the time I came out, I was the only queer woman I knew. I applied for a campership because I was early in my coming out process and I was looking for other queer people who were living out and happy lives. I just wanted to feel like I wasn’t alone.
What did I take from camp? Overall, I took a sense that there is nothing wrong with me. I am beautiful just the way I am and out there in the world there is a place for me, too.
Camp was all of that and more for me. I was scared out of my mind the whole way up the mountain. But once I got to my cabin and met my cabin mates, I knew I was in the right place. I didn’t even realize how much energy I put into hiding and keeping my guard up until I didn’t have to any more. Camp showed me how much more love, acceptance, and support I could have in my life. For once, I could see the freedom and joy that I deserved to have. Camp showed me how good it was that I had come so far, and how much further I have to go to create that richness in my regular life.
Don’t get me wrong. Camp was all kinds of silly fun too. It wasn’t all feelings and emotional stuff. Jenny Owen-Young wrote us a song. Kristin Russo told me I was sweet and I almost fainted. I’m still crushing on my camp crush even though we are all the states apart (can’t help it. She’s amazing.).
What did I take from camp? Overall, I took a sense that there is nothing wrong with me. I am beautiful just the way I am and out there in the world there is a place for me, too. All of me. I hope you find that at too, potential future camper. Rather, I hope you find whatever it is that you need.
If you think you might have even a little bit of fun, go. If you think being in a community with ~200 other queerdos would be good for you, go. If you just want something a little different from your day-to-day, go. See what’s out there. See how big your life can be.
Myra – 35 – Blauvelt, NY
I was surprised to get the congratulatory e-mail awarding me a campership. At first I was excited, but as the date approached, I got scared: going to A-Camp sounded as appealing as switching middle schools in 7th grade. I was so nervous that if I’d been able to pay my own way I probably would’ve skipped out, but the campership gave me an ethical obligation to show up.
And it was amazing.
The sessions are really what you make of it. While it can be a super heavy-Mount Feelings kind of experience or a slightly less heavy-Mount Feelings experience, you’re going to be seriously emotionally moved and challenged. I chose a series of sessions that were emotionally challenging for me and I feel like I got ten years of therapy in under a week.
I’d never connected with other mixed-ethnicity people on that level before and it gave me the opportunity to communicate about an identity and experience that I had never really talked about before.
As a QPOC, the sessions opened my eyes to a lot of issues that I did not even realize touched me. Before camp, I felt a little disconnected from the Queer-Trans community but I could not identify why. Through the camp sessions, it became obvious to me that I was missing the POC aspect of the Queer-Trans community in my life. The most impactful session for me was a zine-making session for people of mixed-ethnicities. It was amazing! I’d never connected with other mixed-ethnicity people on that level before and it gave me the opportunity to communicate about an identity and experience that I had never really talked about before. It was so impactful that it changed the way I communicate about ethnicity and heritage with my family, particularly my half siblings. My friends back home who are of mixed ethnicity or have mixed ethnicity children and I have started a whole new conversation about identity and heritage that I didn’t even have the ability to articulate before camp. Being able to take these realizations from camp and translate them back into life at home is indescribably wonderful!
The people I met at camp were incredible, particularly the people who are involved in social justice movements within the Queer-Trans community. It was so inspiring and exposure to so many passionate people who are active in the community made me start planning out my own projected work when I got home.
Of course camp is also about fun and chilling out and I am so grateful for the campership because it was the first vacation I had been able to take in 2.5 years. I’m very overwhelmed with completing graduate training and in a lot of ways camp gave me a light at the end of my school-tunnel. These days when I feel super overwhelmed with work, which is all the time, and isolated from my community because I am too focused on deadlines and job searching to go out and connect with other human beings, I think about how awesome the people I met at camp were. Those passing but meaningful connections at camp remind me that at the end of this tunnel there is a vast community out there to connect and work with and that gives me so much hope and optimism for the future. Being able to look at an uncertain future with excitement instead of fear is an invaluable gift. Thank you so much!
Faith – 25 – Los Angles, CA
When I moved to LA I was excited — I would finally be able to surround myself with other queer people and be a part of the community in the real world, not just on Tumblr! Wrong. Nearly all of my friends were straight.
I came across the recamps when I first found Autostraddle, diving deep into the archives. So when this camp was announced, I checked daily for the campership announcement. My essay poured out of me, 4,000+ words over the limit, and with the sharp editing I didn’t think it was good enough. In fact I thought nothing would come of it since I hadn’t won anything since 5th grade.
The experience was different than any other camp experience I’d ever had. My cabin mates and moms were and are so amazing and I have so much love for these people. Camp is like a really rad extended sleepover where you get to learn things and listen to other people’s perspectives while also having heaps of gay fun. The best part, for me, is that the sense of community and support that lasts long after you’ve packed your bags and descended the mountain. The worst part: not having enough vacation time to visit all of your new friends like you’ll want to.
Ellis – 19 – Newport, MN
I didn’t know how much I needed camp until I got there. I had a lot of doubts the night before, was really scared to get there, and thought that it was sort of wild that I was flying nearly two thousand miles to go hang out with a bunch of people I didn’t know just because we were all really gay.
But there I was, dragging my luggage across the mountain, reading poetry in the woods, laughing and dancing with my cabinmates, talking about things I never could, things I didn’t even know I had the words for and in a space that was so completely safe.
It’s hard to try and say how much camp meant to me. It was the first time I was able to be in a completely queer-normative space, the first time I felt I could really take a deep breath and be my entire self, unbridged and strange and passionate. The friends I made at camp are such an important part of me now and I can’t imagine how I went so long without this community. This camp changed me in the best way and I wouldn’t have been able to experience it if not for such wonderful, radical, spectacular human beans that made a campership possible.
Kate – 24 – Brooklyn, NY
The first day I moved into my dorm room at Sarah Lawrence College was also the first day I met another queer ladyperson. I was scared, and excited, and I wanted all her shoes. I studied everything about her and tried to copy her swagger so she wouldn’t know I was an imposter. Her desktop was Kristen Stewart, and when I complimented it she blithely mentioned it was from Autostraddle dot com. Having no idea what AS was at the time, I obviously responded, “oh yeah, I love Autostraddle dot com.”
That night, I fell in love. With an online community of awesome humans like me.
You guys. Camp was just…coming home. I’ve had the weirdest, worst, best, year ever. My parents got divorced, and to say that my mother and I have a bad relationship would be the understatement of a lifetime, and I live in Brooklyn, which is CHALLENGING. And through it all, I’m so privileged.
I am a birth doula, which means I get to help bring tiny humans into the world by helping the people birthing them do it on their own terms. It doesn’t pay a lot but it’s super rewarding and I’m working on getting fully certified. It takes a while and you basically are broke forever and ever Amen. The best part is I get to help queer and trans* families do things the way that they want to do them, in a way that feels comfortable and right. But it takes a lot out of you, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Camp was an emotional rollercoaster that I never wanted to stop riding, but at some point you have to get off or your heart is going to throw up.
Let’s be real. We all want to go to camp like my cat wants to be inside any box he cannot reasonably fit inside. And there was just no way I could afford it. I knew that camperships existed but to be honest, I didn’t feel like I deserved one. I just felt like there were always people who needed it more than I did. And who was I to ask for something free? Until…Kofi Opam came into my life! He went to camp on campership and was now dating my roomie. He told me about the process and encouraged me to apply. He reminded me that my own struggles were real, and that I should allow myself to try for something that would make me happy.
So when the magical email came from Riese, angel of angels, saying that I would be able to go to camp – I literally sat on my bed and cried. It was very embarrassing but forgive me because now here is a picture of me and Flash, the camp puppy.
I can’t talk about the time leading directly up to camp because it’s awkward. I talked about it a lot and was very squirrelly. The End.
When I got to camp, I realized that my cabin was going to live up to its name quite easily. Hell’s Angels. We were going to be the tomboi, partyboi, party-animal- style cabin (with a sprinkling of sass) led by the fearless and celestial Kaylah Cupcake and DJ Gigler, with assistance from the divine Carmen Rios. Next time you see them you should ask them if they like the taste of Smirnoff Ice around dinnertime.
Camp honestly flew by. It was a haze of music and drinking and dancing and pool time and eating and talking. Between re-connecting with my faith during the “Thank You Lesbian Jesus” roundtable, and getting shwasty with Vega and Osworth during the A-Camp Craft Cocktails session, it was like every day got better and better. Camp was an emotional rollercoaster that I never wanted to stop riding, but at some point you have to get off or your heart is going to throw up.
I can’t express how grateful I am for the opportunity that I received to connect with myself, my community, my faith, and to get back in touch with why I do what I do and for whom I do it. After camp, everything gets clearer, and I wouldn’t have been able to experience it if it hadn’t been for the campership that I was lucky enough to receive. THANK YOU THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES!!!
Siona – 22 – Cherry Hill, NJ
I never ‘win’ anything. I never won the raffle at high school events, I never won that radio contest to see my favorite band, and I never won a big stuffed animal at the amusement parks. This campership was the stuffed animal that I needed at this exact moment in my life. Those 5 days on the mountain now mark a turning point in my life. Before camp I was so unsure of my identity, or rather I knew what it was but didn’t feel like I had the courage or support system to truly embrace myself and live my truth.
It was tough getting there — my anxiety was flying higher than the plane. What I quickly realized was that I was not alone. From the very first moments waiting awkwardly for the shuttle bus, to all the awesome activities for introverts, I never felt unwelcomed. It seemed like everyone was either as nervous as I was, or they were so excited to be back that they were actively spreading the love to those new and those returning.
Also, summer camps were definitely Not My Thing, so I went in completely unprepared for the amazing friendships I would make in my cabin family. The bond between all the campers and the staff was equally strong, as was the connection with the land around us.
The QTPOC sessions were some of the most important activities I went to, and I’ve never felt more loved and affirmed than I had in those moments. I got to meet people from diverse backgrounds in spaces where we were honest and accepting of one another. It’s something I knew I needed to take back from camp and bring into my own life.
On the flight home I had to hold back tears because I was going to miss everyone so much. But I was also incredibly grateful to have experienced this unique queer space and make friends that would last a lifetime. From the moment I got there I knew I would be changed for the better. Without the campership I might still be struggling to understand who I am with all the pressures of a heteronormative world.
During those 5 days on the mountain I got to know what it’s like to be part of a supportive and affirming queer space and have the confidence to build one for myself wherever I end up. I came back from camp more ready to accept myself and start living the life I want.
What are you waiting for? Apply for a campership now! And don’t forget we’er always looking for applications from people of color and this time already have one campership specifically for a person of color, as well as one specifically for a camper from a small town.
Please submit your essay by August 16th.
If you’re a company and would like to sponsor a campership, please contact sarah [at] autostraddle [dot] com.