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 spring/summer, we’ll be heading up the mountain with a killer lineup of talent, a new co-director, and an innovative new programming roster that’ll probably change your life.
Although we’re popular enough to be charging more than we do (camp this year filled up in less than 12 hours!), we keep tuition as low as we possibly can because we think a more diverse group of campers makes for a much better camp, especially because camp is a crucial space for the website team to really get to know our readers and their needs. Unfortunately, as costs climb, many of the people who most need A-Camp — and who A-Camp needs the most — aren’t able to afford the trip.
That’s where Camperships come in: an opportunity for campers facing severe financial hardships to come to camp! Last year, thanks to DONATIONS FROM PEOPLE LIKE YOU, who read last year’s version of this post and felt your heart-strings tugged, we were able to give out 14 camperships — nine full camperships and five partials! THEN, an anonymous donor gifted a campership with travel, we had a sponsored campership sponsored by Sharpe Suiting and another from OK Cupid and one generous queer donated a campership specifically for a Mexican/Mexican-American camper!
If you own a business and are interested in our sponsored campership program, email Alex [at] Autostraddle [dot] com. But if you’re a human who wants to donate, read on!
This is the post where we officially ask you, dear readers and lovers, to contribute to The Campership Fund. If you want to donate a full campership ($625), we’ll be getting in touch with you about whether or not you would like your identity revealed to the camper so they can tell you thank you. But any size contribution helps! Please note that Autostraddle and A-Camp are not non-profits.
If you want to apply for a Campership, you can do so here. The only requirements for full camperships are that you be a new camper who’s never been to A-Camp before and that you are 100% certain you can get there. We are especially eager for applicants who are of color, trans women, and/or over the age of 35.
*Deadline for Campership Applications is March 13, 2016*
***Special Note: We are also looking for a person of color with hair-cutting experience
If you need a little inspiration to open your pocketbooks for some fine human beings, we’ve got here some essays from the winners of Spring 2015 Camperships. You can also obtain further heartstring-tugging from the campershippers of October 2013, September 2012, April 2012, May 2013 and May 2014. We’ve been able to send humans to camp who are facing really severe circumstances that they need a break from: supporting entire families on one low-wage job, recovering from a divorce and adjusting to life as a single mom, taking care of siblings due to absent parents, homeless after coming out to their families, caring for children with special needs, escaping conservative religious environments without a network to rely on… and lots of people who’ve yet to meet one, let alone 300, other people like them.
So, here are some of this past year’s campershippers talking about their A-Camp experience!
Leticia – 25 – San Diego, CA
I remember vividly how I used to creep on Autostraddle to get my daily dose of everything queer — I frequented the site, but never took the next step to engage in the online community. Then I stumbled across the A-Camp post and fell into an abyss of recamps. Reading about how influential and affirming A-Camp was, I knew it was a space I needed to be in.
So I called my really good friend Leah, and spent hours telling her about how I needed to go to A-Camp but was afraid I wouldn’t fit in or belong. At that time I felt that naming my queerness was a definitive answer on who I needed to be. After she talked me away from the cliff and my unrealistic worries, I decided to apply for a Campership, telling myself that if I got one, that was a sign that it was exactly where I needed to be. Then I got the Campership email and all my fears came back! After another conversation with Leah, I accepted it.
Everyone always says how camp is amazing and how it changed their life. I wasn’t a believer at first, but I was by the time I left. It was exactly what I needed at this point in my life. Queen Riese sorted me into The Beehive, a perfect cabin full of amazing individuals who gave me the space to truly come as I was. I was welcomed into the Beehive instantly: we laughed, we cried, I shared stories of camp baes. I’d never felt that sense of community before. I pride myself on being an extrovert, but I was still able to find solitude on the mountain when I needed it. I’ll always be grateful to Riese for putting together that cabin, and to all those people for sharing themselves with me.
Warm welcomes extended outside the cabin, too: my big sister Wunmi looked after me, I was able to connect with and receive love from the other QTPOCs at the Speakeasy, which by far was the most transformative space for me. It was self-care I really needed.
Camp gave me long-lasting friendships. I want to thank the sponsor who made it possible for me to attend, the powers that read by essay and choose me, and all the A-Camp staff for being amazing! If you have an inhibitions about applying for a Campership, don’t let those get in the way of what is sure to be one of the best experiences of your life.
Kate – 36 – Tacoma, WA
I struggled up the mountain across the dirt and rocks with my rolling suitcase, looking for my cabin. I turned, and there it was. If I’d been worried I wouldn’t know which cabin it was, I shouldn’t have been: the door was wide open and somehow there was light spilling out, although it was still daylight. The open arms of my cabin-mate and a cry of, “Yay! Kate!” greeted me. As easy as that, we were family.
Rewind four months…
I was lost. I’d just broken away from a 17-year long relationship with the father of my two awesome challenging amazing kiddos. A relationship that had slowly, steadily, ended up consuming my life and my sense of self until I couldn’t stand it anymore. As I began to remember and rediscover who I had been and as I began to discover and build who I am now, I came out. I began looking for community, friendship, support. I knew next to no one, certainly no one queer, in my city. I went out (when I could). I went online. I read. I watched movies and television shows. I found Autostraddle through a Heather Hogan Fosters recap. I read about A-Camp.
Camp! For grown-ups! For Queers! Camp! I fell in love with this idea immediately.
But I had no money.
I was a newly single parent (my ex moved to another state and was both unwilling and unable to provide support). Still, I went online on the day of registration, planning to sign up and then beg for money from somewhere, somehow. It was full. I was too late. I hadn’t heard of camperships. When I did, I crossed my fingers and dashed off a stream of consciousness essay that pulled me along as I wrote it, truth flying out of me. I decided not to revise it. I went with that feeling of truth and sent it as is.
And waited. When I got the email, I screamed and told lots of people (co-workers, my mom, my neighbors) who completely did not get the momentousness of the occasion. My mom came to town and stayed with the kids and I went to camp!!
Camp! Camp! Camp! Camp! Camp!
It was amazing. How to describe camp? There is something truly unique and incredible about A-Camp. It’s not the diverse array of classic camp, weird, fascinating, and fun activities. It’s not the wonderful people who come each year. It’s not the beautiful setting or the escape from the world. Or rather, it’s all of these, and so much more, something less tangible and yet so big. Somehow, it is the combined heart of Riese and the Autostraddle team and every person on that mountain to be open and to love and to be a truly safe place for campers to be themselves, whatever that may be.
Coming down of the mountain was hard. But I did carry some of that unconditional acceptance with me. I carry it to this day. I had high expectations for camp and I worried I’d be let down, that my expectations were far too unrealistic. But camp delivered far beyond my expectations. It wasn’t, of course, exactly how I thought it would be. It was something I could not have even imagined. I can’t wait to come back. Thank you to those you made it possible for me last year. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for Camp!
Ames – 26 – California
Applying for a campership was one of the most important things I’ve ever done for myself. I hadn’t figured out my queer identity ’til age 24, after a series of heart-felt struggles and successes that led me to embrace myself wholeheartedly as a radical queer. I was introduced to Autostraddle by a friend when I was coming out, and it quickly became a bookmarked tab. I appreciated it for publishing stories by, for and about people like me.
At 26, I was finally feeling good about who I really was internally and it was starting to show on the outside. I was treating myself differently, with kindness and compassion, and a lot of self-care and self work was taking place on the daily. I was envisioning a brighter future for myself.
When I found out that there was an annual camp JUST for queers, I knew I’d try my hardest to attend. I’d never been to summer camp, let alone a camp with queers from all over the world. But I couldn’t afford it. The moment that I received an email saying that I had won a campership was so surreal, and I had to reload the page a few times to make sure that what I was seeing was real. I was so happy, excited, nervous, and well, clearly ready for Mt. Feelings.
A-Camp was everything. From bonding with my cabinmates, to workshops, dances, and hiking through the San Bernadino mountains, many hilarious and sweet memories that were made. Any worries or fears I had about what camp would be like were immediately quelled when I arrived at LAX airport and was greeted by a gigantic group of fabulous campers waiting for busses together. We were in it together from that day forward! What I appreciated the most at A-Camp was getting to hear testimonies from various Autostraddler camp leaders, writers, and editors alike. I got to be 100% authentically myself 24/7 for once without worrying about what heteronormative mainstream society wanted to project onto me. I got used to letting loose and having fun. Whether I was attending a workshop on sex education, POC community building, or a mental health panel, what touched me the most were the folks who shared their stories and truths. It was such a healing space that made me feel less alone in my struggles and past experiences and more empowered than ever to be the fierce, glittery, queer that I am. Thank you Autostraddle!
Fun fact: I now live in California with my cat Bu.
Olivia – 27 – Fishers, IN
It’s hard to put into words just how much of an impact A-Camp has had on my life. How do you quantify such a massive experience and the ripples of positivity I still regularly feel? It’s more than the things I did, the friends I made, and the love I felt. It was a gateway into a community that welcomed and accepted me with open arms. And the only thing that allowed me to have this fantastic experience was the generously donated Campership.
When I applied for the A-Camp Campership, I was at a point in my life where I felt an intense disconnect from the queer community, especially the queer women’s community. I was homeless, working at a low-wage job I hated, and completely submerged in standup comedy. My only social group consisted of the other comedians I would meet at open mics, and while I love hanging out with comics, it is unfortunately an extremely straight male dominated field. It was getting exhausting. While talking about these frustrations with one of the only lesbian comics I knew, she told me about Autostraddle and A-Camp. Exploring the site on my own and reading past re-camps, I knew that this could be just the queer connection I needed. Knowing I’d never be able to afford to go to Camp on the money I was making from my job, I applied for a Campership.
After I found out I’d been chosen to receive a Campership, I felt like I was floating on a cloud of pure joy. In the weeks leading up to Camp, the thought of spending a week in the mountains surrounded by queers powered me through the hours at my crappy job. I got my cabin assignment with the Sea Otters and soon after I virtually met my cabin mates and two wonderful counselors, Morgan and Laura. In my spare time I pored over pictures and maps of Alpine Meadows. I’m sure all of my friends and coworkers were sick of hearing me talk about how amazing this queer camp was going to be. To be honest, I’m really sure they were all just jealous.
Then, finally, came Camp itself. Being quite honest, that whole week is just one big blur of wonder and joy. I don’t have memories of the entire thing so much as I have a series of moments attached to intense emotions in my mind. I remember meeting everyone on the first day and being overwhelmed with instant love and acceptance. I remember the pool opening, and the unbridled excitement I felt at being able and comfortable to go swimming for the first time since beginning my transition. I remember going canoeing and only being able to row around in circles. I remember hanging out on the swings early one morning and making up hand signals to help a group of new friends remember each others’ names. I remember dancing my butt off at Club Deer and Club Wolf. Most of all, I remembered the thrill of being able to perform my standup for all of my new friends, an experience that is still one of the all-time best moments of my comedy career. There was so much more, way more than I can recount here, and every single second was a breath of pure happiness.
I’m not going to lie, it hurt to leave. But after a couple of weeks of decompression, I began to learn that Camp never really has to end. I stayed in close contact with many of the amazing people I met at Camp, mostly online, but I also still regularly hang out with the folks who live in LA. I go out to their fun events, parties, or basketball games, and they come out to my standup shows. When I visit new cities I now have a network of cool people I can get in touch with. Finally, I’ve found the community I can be proud to be a part of, and it’s all because of the A-Camp Campership.
Joanna – 25 – Manhattan, KS
A-camp was a life-changing experience for me. I’m not being hyperbolic: it changed my life.
At A-Camp, I met my girlfriend Kayla. She’s the smartest, most thoughtful, sexiest, best-est girl I’ve ever met, and yes, I am bragging; I don’t care. We’re so grateful to the people at Autostraddle for creating an opportunity for a Midwestern trans woman and a Lebanese tomboy to meet and fall in love. I met the woman of my dreams at a time where I really thought that wasn’t possible. I can’t emphasize how much this opportunity has meant to me.
We’re so grateful to the people at Autostraddle for creating an opportunity for a Midwestern trans woman and a Lebanese tomboy to meet and fall in love.
Now, I’m not saying you’ll definitely meet the love of your life on the mountain, but who knows? What better odds than being far from home, open to adventure, and surrounded by cool queer women? (And you now they are cool because they read Autostraddle too).
I didn’t go to A-Camp expecting to find someone, but rather to escape heteronormativity for a bit. I was excited about all the great workshops I’d attend and interesting people I’d meet, and I think that was a good attitude to have. It allowed me to relax and enjoy all that A-camp had to offer. I’m a hard introvert and was a bit worried about being surrounded by strangers all the time but I found it easy to mix being social with alone time. Nobody made me feel weird for deciding to take a nap in the middle of the day if I was feeling the need to.
I had really awesome camp counselors, Heather and Mey, who helped us make our very own magic wands and recreated the magic of Hogwarts in our cabin. I discovered some new writing exercises with Rachel and learned to finger-knit with Jasika Nicole, who is a lovely human being and taught us that we have to be patient with ourselves, something I struggle with. At the witchcraft workshop, I made a Taylor Swift votive candle for my friend and got to experience Cecilia looking deeply into my eyes and picking a crystal for me. The description of the stone I got was eerily similar to a poem a friend had once written about me. Folks, it gave me chills.
I had enriching conversations you usually only have with your closest friends on topics like my relationship with my body size and navigating the world as someone who is perceived as mixed-race. I was impressed and immediately bought several of Mal Blum’s, Jenny Owen Youngs’ and Julia Nunes’ songs after I got home. Watching Brittani Nichols and Lauren Morelli have their dinner party was hilarious and I felt greatly privileged to be there and get to see it. I learned about beer and feminism from Heather and generally felt like a kid again. The only downside was that I got a terrible sunburn. I could go on but the recamps cover it all!
I had to leave the U.S. shortly after A-Camp and go back to my home country of Lebanon. It’s been extremely difficult to readjust to being in the closet full time but I feel like my A-Camp experience reminds me that things can be and will be different for me one day. I keep all you lovely straddlers in mind and hope we meet again soon. If you are hesitating to apply for a campership, go for it! You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to win. Seriously. You will not regret it!
Marcdala – 27 – St. Petersburg, FL
I never thought I’d ever win a campership. I remember around February obsessively scrolling through Autostraddle.com several times a day reading about the experiences of previous campers and wishing so badly to attend. Although I worked full time, my salary barely afforded me the basics of living, let alone a $400 plane ticket and camp fees.
I was so surprised to get the email from Riese saying I’d been chosen! Then I panicked. I obsessed and worried about everything from taking time off from work to traveling alone. What would I tell my parents about where I was going? Through all that anxious energy I scraped up money for my plane ticket, go the time off work, and set off on a 6AM flight from Florida to California.
I cried an hour after arriving at camp. I am someone who NEVER cries. I felt scared, alone, and jetlagged after my seven hour flight. Although I am not a shy person, I am painfully introverted, and had never traveled this far from home solo. Yet, here I was several thousand miles from home feeling guilty and regretting the lie I told my parents about being in Miami for a work conference. I am not out to most of my parents and did not want to open the door to questions they did not want the answers to. My parents immigrated to America from a poor third world country where violent homophobia is still the law of the land. Even though they left poverty behind, the homophobia immigrated with them. It is these and many countless emotional burdens I brought along with me to A- camp.
One of the most memorable parts of camp occurred the first night at the bonfire. Riese comes to the microphone and then struggles with working it while demanding everyone to close their eyes. I reluctantly close my eyes as she launches into what I would personally describe as a prayer. I remember hearing her say slowly, calmly, and methodically, “take a deep breath, you’re going to be fine, you are exactly where you need to be.” She was so right.
Before camp, it’s totally safe to say that I worried my way through life and hid it well. I hardly cried or became emotional in my everyday life because it never felt safe to do so. At A-Camp I opened up about my personal life to strangers and felt connected to them in ways I never had. A-Camp reminded me that I am not alone and there are people out there who understand what it’s like to be me, (even better than I do). It feels good knowing that once a year I can hang out, cry, and roast marshmallows with people who just get it. Needless to say, I never enjoyed sharing one bathroom with fourteen strangers in my entire life.
Jessica – 27 – San Jose, CA
I discovered Autostraddle about four years ago, and used that as my gateway into the world of everything queer, empowering, and wonderful. And every year I’d pine at the photos of A-Camp, but I couldn’t justify to myself splurging while I was still putting myself through school.
I’ve known I was bisexual since the age of 14, but when I came out to my Mom, she berated me for it, despite never showing homophobic inclinations before. We never spoke of it again, like it never happened. I spent most of my life hiding. If I couldn’t anticipate how my own mother would react, how could I know for sure that other close friends and family would still like me? Even though I’ve always been personally comfortable with my sexuality, I felt like I had to hide a part of myself for half my life to avoid these confrontations. There was a part of myself and my sexuality that was swept under the rug, and my sense of loneliness was compounded by having no sense of community.
I was SO ecstatic when I received a partial campership! I wouldn’t have gone otherwise, so I covered the rest of the cost as a graduation gift to myself and it was one of the best “treat yo self” things I’ve ever done for myself. I imagined A-Camp like the classic movie, “The Last Unicorn.” After a long stretch of loneliness, I ditch the straight world and I’m reunited with my magical unicorn sisterhood in an enchanted land. Ultimately, I wanted to bond with others, immerse myself in queer girl culture, and find the courage to come out to my family.
I was so overwhelmed at first, going from having zero queer female friends to being on a mountain with 300. I actually hyperventilated on a bench outside the first night, before re-centering. Did I belong? Was I too weird or awkward or not gay enough? I was wrong. THE MOUNTAIN IS FOR EVERYONE!
Everyone was so nice, friendly, positive and supportive. Whatever you’re feeling or have felt, there are others on the mountain who have been there and you’re not alone. There are so many wonderful groups and talks, there is something literally for everyone. “You do you” is such a strong theme: so many styles, talents and expressions. Queers of all different shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. And I loved all the ladies who rocked armpit and leg hair and no one batted an eye. Everyone was my hero up there.
And what Heather and Mey did with our cabin was nothing short of MAGICAL. We were the Hogwarts cabin, so we had floating LED candles above our bunks, house sigils throughout the cabin, and Moaning Myrtle chilling in the bathroom. Our first night we made wands that corresponded with our personality and drank butterbeer. Being assigned there was like getting my Hogwarts letter.
Since coming back home from camp, I’ve definitely had the most wonderful boost of confidence! I have been reflecting more on what genuinely makes me happy and going for it. I’m now more engaged with the queer community, keeping in touch with friends from camp, going to meetups, and cultivating a growing friend group. And with some great advice from my cabin mates, I have come out to a few members of my family! My brother said “As long as you’re happy, I’m happy,” as he gave me a big hug, and that meant so much to me. I’m now even dating someone special I met through one of the Autostraddle meetups, and I’m pretty certain we wouldn’t have crossed paths if didn’t have my newfound confidence thanks to A-Camp. My life has done a total 180 since camp, and I am so grateful for it.
Asher – 26 – St. Louis, MO
Returning campers aren’t eligible for full camperships, but they can get partial camperships, like Asher did!
Receiving a partial campership for A-Camp was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. I never win at anything but somehow I managed to sell myself well enough in my application such that other humans picked *me* out of dozens of others to get a campership to an amazing place. Going to camp was like living in some kind of magical fantasy land where queerness is normal, there’s always an interesting conversation to be had, you don’t have to cook for yourself, and every time you walk out your door you’re reminded that you’re on top of a SUPER gorgeous mountain. Plus the people are overwhelmingly nice and easy to get along with.
If you’re someone like me with not a lot of disposable income, getting even a partial campership for A-Camp can go a long way to helping you afford to give yourself an experience worth having; at camp there’s a sense of belonging and camaraderie that I, at least, have never experienced outside of A-Camp. Getting a campership was the key to creating a priceless experience for me and I’m so grateful to have gotten to have that experience.