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.
Our campership program has sent around 50 people to camp on full or partial camperships. This session is gonna be particularly kickass: we’re going to a new site in Wisconsin (1.5 hours from Chicago) with Mara Wilson, Gaby Dunn, Be Steadwell, Brittani Nichols, Kim Milan and additional talent TBA. You definitely want to be there!
This year we have two options for donating and applying to the campership fund:
- The typical way — contributing to the A-Camp Campership fund via Paypal and applying via our website. Applications are open to anybody, although full camperships are only available to first-time campers.
- The A-Camp Arts & Resistance Fund, a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. If you go this route, your donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law, and you will be supporting camperships specifically for QTPOC artists. You can read more about that here and we’ll probably have another post about it soon!
Now, let’s hear from some of the wonderful human beings who were able to attend A-Camp 7.5 in Wisconsin BECAUSE OF YOU. If you’d like to read further testimonials that’d tug at your heartstrings, you can do so here: Spring 2016, Spring 2015, Spring 2014, Fall 2013, Spring 2013 and Fall 2012.
There will also be some special camperships and sponsored camperships announced in the coming weeks!
Dera, 21 – St. Louis, MO
Once you attend A-Camp, you become part of a larger community of people who have attended camp, and A-Camp family has your back.
Here’s what I did when I got the email telling me I’d won a campership:
Read email. Was filled with joy and stunned at the same time.
Immediately started looking at flights, with plans to use Southwest points to buy a ticket.
Figured out that Midway airport is not ORD, and that Southwest doesn’t even go to O’Hare, which meant I couldn’t use my Rapid Rewards miles to get there.
Thought, You know what? That’s okay. You’ll figure something out.
Reread email and noticed that it says “with travel covered!”
Burst into tears.
I’m looking at that email again right now, and all the good feelings are rushing back. I feel so lucky and blessed to have been able to go to A-Camp.
I’m a queer Nigerian-American woman, and sometimes that’s too much intersectionality for my liking. Before A-Camp, I was going through a period where I felt down about my sexual orientation. I was thinking that maybe if it were different, I could have one less thing counting against me.
Before A-Camp, the only type of camp I’d experienced was years of Mormon youth camp. Well, let me tell you: they’re nothing alike. Shocking. Also A-Camp is better.
But during A-Camp? Let me tell you about during A-Camp! This is what A-Camp gave me:
- A moment when I was on the shuttle bus and thinking something ~gay~ and wondering if I could say it, and then I remembered OH WAIT EVERYONE ON THIS BUS IS TOTES INTO LADIES. Not having to filter my queerness ever is something that I really enjoyed during A-Camp.
- Amazing musical, visual, and performance art produced by awesome queer women and non-binary folks who were previously unknown to me
- More workshops than I could physically attend. There are so many great options!
- Fun times with the Autostraddle staff <3
- The power and strength in a room full of QTPOC
- Spreadable port wine cheese. I’m not sure if it’s the spreadable part or the port wine part that intrigues me more
- Klub Deer, plus an even bigger dance shebang at the end
- An overwhelming feeling of acceptance
But the joys of A-Camp weren’t confined to those three days. Once you attend A-Camp, you become part of a larger community of people who have attended camp. And A-Camp family has your back. I am often in awe of the amount of support and encouragement I see in A-Camp related groups online. For example, a person whom I’ve never met but who attended a previous A-Camp helped me save money on my passport renewal application. This wonderful human processes passport photos for work and was able to verify that my DIY passport picture met the requirements. At A-Camp, I met wonderful humans that I’m still in contact with today. Now I’m getting queer mail and holigay cards, y’all. This never happened before!
I had a dream about A-Camp registration because I’m that excited for A-Camp 8.0 to open up. If you’d like to go but don’t have the funds, please apply for the campership!
Ines, 26 – Chicago, IL
Being a fat femme, Black, Puerto Rican, and bisexual babe is hard in my white, straight, cis owned/run company, but was LIFE at camp.
A-camp is literally the best thing that happened to me in 2016 (and probably every year before that!). I came out to my family after the Pulse Massacre. I have been dancing in gay clubs for years with my best friend without a care in the world. It wasn’t just the fact that this hit so close to home, but that if anything like that would happen in the strip of “boystown” Chicago where I basically LIVE, I would be misidentified in the papers afterward. I felt that I hadn’t lived “authentically me” and this was my wake up call to do so and fuck what everyone else feels. I wanted to go to A-camp to prove to myself that I, in all of my queerness, was enough. Getting a campership was really the final push to get me to explore my identity and what I really want for my own life.
My first A-camp in October of 2016 brought every affirmation I needed to know that who I am is amazing and wonderful and fierce and great and loved. It was like utopia and I never wanted to leave it. A few of us first timers joked that we could just stay there and make our own little town of queers filled with queer businesses, queer products, queer houses, queer pets and queer lives forever.
But really, I honestly have never been more confident in who I am than when I was at camp. I was nervous that everyone would be super confident, have been out for years and years and that I would be the “baby” of the group, but that was not the case. There were people from all walks of life there. Some were not out yet, some had been out for some time, and some that still were finding themselves. So many of us found the confidence to be who we felt we really were in those late night dance parties, or those powerful discussion groups. I left there gaygaygaygaygayx100 and loved every minute of it! I found friends from across the country that I will cherish forever. We still text each other, comment on each other’s sexy pics with heart eye emojis, send articles to each other that will make us feel the same type of way, hang out when we are in the town of each other, and affirm each other daily.
Some of my favorite groups were “POC speakeasy,” “Destigmatize Your Size,” and “bisexual crafts.” Being a fat femme, Black & Puertorican, bisexual babe is hard in my white, straight, cis owned/run company, but was LIFE at camp. I could own every part of my sexuality and identity without judgement or feeling that I needed to tone down or silence any part of me. And beyond that I got to chat it up with some hot plus size babes, cry, hug and dance with my super dope and gorgeous POC fam, and dish on why can’t dating be easier for my bisexual peeps while making bi-flag shrinkydinks. Being the dancer that I am, I joined the dance team and rocked the show on the last night and had girls making me blush all night about it. I ain’t mad at them tho… I loved every second of it.
Truly, as mentioned before, going to A-Camp was the best thing I’ve ever done, and it wouldn’t have been possible without a campership. I am so grateful to the generous donors for allowing me to experience this camp and really become the confident, secure, proud, bad ass bisexual black/puertorican fat femme that I loudly rep all day every day. The experiences and the friends I made here will be things I take with me forever, and I honestly do not know where I would be without this experience.
Candice, 22 – Indianapolis, IN
Over the course of only a few days, I knew I’d found my intentional space I didn’t realize I was missing.
It’s difficult to sum up the feelings I’ve had before/during/since camp, but ‘belonging’ is a good start. I’m super active in my local AS community and we often talked about how awesome it would be if there was a camp in the midwest. My day-to-day non-profit life didn’t allow me the finances to flat out attend camp on the west coast, even though I’ve dreamt of it since I was nineteen and still pretty closeted in southern Georgia. Fast forward to age 24 — Wisconsin 7.5 was announced and I guess my stars were aligning because I was now living in the right place at the right time, but still living on ramen noodle funds (with occasional wine nights). I became my own hype-person for a few days on why I should apply for camp + campership and decided to share my story. Lo and behold — I had a Charlie Bucket/Willy Wonka moment when I received word that I was going to camp and proceeded to dance and call my mother and girlfriend with the news.
Picture this: you’re following faulty GPS through the ‘outback’ of Indiana-Illinois-Wisconsin. Not 100% sure what to expect, but I knew that it’s better than the soul-draining state of Indiana where I’m now residing. I arrived only vaguely knowing my cabin mates, but not a single other soul at camp beyond recognizing some of the staff. Over the course of only a few days, I knew I’d found my intentional space I didn’t realize I was missing. Never have I felt so much kinship like the QTPOC Speakeasy or Bi+ Crafting. I’m not much of a singer, but that didn’t stop me from joining the Belle Jars A Capella squad. I even made an amazing vision board that I took back to my office space as a daily reminder from A-Camp to hold on to that feeling of belonging when things get rough (life update: things are pretty dreadful right now, imo).
Leaving camp led to a week of tears, but the friendships I made didn’t stop on that flat mountain. My cabin still maintains almost-daily contact and we even held a mini A-Camp reunion in Madison, WI a few weeks ago (#lexareunion). These are the people who came into my life at the right time and it wouldn’t’ve been possible if some folks hadn’t chipped in to make this happen. Things are pretty rough in the world and morale is low. BUT, I dream of when I can go back to camp and plan to also contribute so someone else can find the chosen and intentional family that we all need.
Rachel, 24 – Baton Rouge, LA
I finally felt totally accepted. I found somewhere I could be myself and talk to anyone about anything.
For me, attending a Catholic middle school in a small town outside of a small city was not a great experience. I was relentlessly made fun of for being a lesbian before I even knew I was one. I had thought I was just a “late bloomer”, and that I didn’t like boys “yet”, but all of a sudden I found myself questioning every part of my life. Fast forward through the years of high school I spent dating boys and making out with girls in secret and the years of southern sorority culture filled with pearls and seersucker, and I found myself once again with a lot of time to myself, stuck in the South, thinking about how much I liked (loved) girls, and wishing I had some sort of lgbtq community for support and education. I knew I needed some sort of queer getaway, and after combing the Internet, I found A-Camp. It seemed perfect. I’d always loved summer camps growing up, and nothing sounded better than surrounding myself with a bunch of queer humans. Even though I was saving to go back to school, I was determined to make it work. But late that summer, disaster struck the Baton Rouge area. We ended up with almost three feet of water in our house, and between the things lost and the time I had to take off of work, I knew there was no way I’d be able to go to camp. Then, I read about a neat little thing called camperships. It seemed far fetched, but I figured I had nothing to lose.
That email from Riese saying I actually got it was by far one of the best emails I have ever received (even though there was a typo in my email address and Riese is a miracle worker and somehow figured it out anyway). Although I was a bundle of excited nerves over the next few weeks, all it took were the smiling faces of my fellow campers waiting at the Chicago airport to completely dispel my fears. By the time we were walking to the shuttle bus to take us to camp, I remember feeling such a distinct and overwhelming sense of belonging, and I knew I had found a home in A-Camp.
I could go on and on about camp, and probably did for a solid two weeks. I could tell you about the friend I made on the bus and how we impulse bought cheese head hats together. I could tell about the songs we sang, the cheap wine and expensive cheese consumed, the trivia we rocked, about how Heather Hogan taught me about badass lesbian nuns who brewed beer, the haunted house, and the crystal given to me at witch//craft. I could go on and on about the camp itself, with its tire swing, and lakefront, its delicious food, and super cool observatory that is perfect for sneaking away to. But really, the most important part for me, was the people. I finally felt totally accepted. I found somewhere I could be myself and talk to anyone about anything. I made fast friends, and stories of the past were shared as well as hopes for the future. Some of my fondest memories from camp include sitting on the floor of our cabin, bonding, and sitting on a log outside of evening programming, having a mini heart to heart, and strolling along the camp grounds, talking about anything and everything that came to mind. Living a life where I’d always felt a bit like an outsider, I had finally found a place where I felt wholly myself, somewhere I belonged.
My life has changed so much since I left Wisconsin. I am now out to almost everyone, whereas before it was just a select few. I finally really put myself out there, met someone, and am in the most fulfilling relationship with the most amazing girl. I joined my local roller derby league, where I feel empowered as a woman, and have found a plethora of queer friends right here in the Deep South. A-Camp gave me confidence and pride; it is a magical place I wish everyone could experience, and this is why camperships are so important. I am beyond thankful for having received one, and can’t wait to meet all of the amazing, deserving humans that camperships send to camp come May!
Jessica, 23 – Dunn, NC
This world was not created with our safety in mind, and yet we exist and we thrive and we were able to come together in the flatlands of Wisconsin to celebrate that which disrupts the so called norm.
“What’s the difference between a butterfly and a moth? Exactly.”
El Sanchez relayed this joke they had overheard on a train during their stand-up routine for the A-Camp variety show. I was huddled next to my cabin mates on wooden benches, a crackle of electricity in the air, like logs in the fire, this warmth seeping through my chest. I remember looking out into the crowd and trying to grasp that everyone I was looking at was queer. Laughter rumbled through the audience, twinkling eyes glued to the stage, and it was one of those times when the concept of time ceased to exist. I remembered thinking it was one of the most magical moments of my life. Months later, it’s still one of the most magical moments of my life.
A-Camp is magical in ways that are hard to explain. To be surrounded by queer women and non-binary folks and not to constantly have an inner dialogue with myself over whether or not I should be vocally out in my comments was a validation that was so incredibly gratifying and powerful and wonderful. I could just be my unapologetically gay self without fear. I came to A-Camp from the aggressively heterosexual land of rural North Carolina, and to be able to embrace this part of my identity that I had been forced to keep closeted for my job was so healing in ways that I didn’t know I needed to heal from.
At A-Camp, I met people who were about the friendliest group of people I’ve ever came into contact with. Everybody was so willing to engage with you and converse with you and even though you were surrounded by complete strangers, you never felt alone. I was placed in the best camp family I could ever dream of (special shout out to the Blackhearts and Runaways!), and not only were they my closest friends at camp, but they also made my time at camp unforgettable.
The activities were unforgettable as well. I got to learn the history of women in whiskey making which involved a group wide discussion about whether or not Marianne Barnes was queer. I got out of my comfort zone and tried the bondage class with my awesome roommate Lisa who patiently sat through my failed attempts at knots. I spoke with Valerie Anne about the possibility of Alex Danvers being gay on Supergirl. I sang in the acapella group next to the incredibly talented and fabulous Be Steadwell. I finally was able to put all that queer television knowledge to good use during TV Trivia. I met Heather Hogan, a personal hero of mine. She opened a door for me. I said thank you, and she said you’re welcome, and she walked back to whatever brilliant thing Heather Hogan does, and I tried walking back to my room without imploding from fangirlness.
DREAMS COME TRUE HERE Y’ALL
The world has dramatically changed these last few months. Back then, the most pressing issue for LGBTQ rights seemed to be HB2. Hillary Clinton was still a bright liberal North Star we hoped America would follow, and the world didn’t seem like an executive order away from implosion. However, through the rough times, I think back to my memory at A-Camp and remember that that moment in time existed. I hold onto those memories like rosary beads, with whispered caresses of amen. This world was not created with our safety in mind, and yet we exist and we thrive and we were able to come together in the flatlands of Wisconsin to celebrate that which disrupts the so called norm. We bonded and laughed, Jesus did we laugh, and for that weekend, it was magic. We were magic.
So, what’s the difference between A-Camp and the brimstone fire world of Heterolandia we find ourselves in?
Vita, 27 – Chicago, IL
A-Camp gave me another home, a year after I almost left this world altogether.
To be honest, I had no fucking idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up for camp. My friend Jenny V Simile applied for a campership, and then hit me up on Twitter to do it. I don’t win these things, to be honest, I don’t really win anything like this! Like, if my life were a raffle ticket, it’d be the one that always gets to the last digit before someone else is called. That’s me, all the time… except for this time.
A-Camp was in the middle of the Wisconsin woods and it took place on the anniversary of the time I tried to commit suicide (again), and wound up in the hospital for three days. When I got out, and eventually moved to Chicago, I was aching for some semblance of community. I was finding it in doses, but never truly feeling like it was coming. That’s long since changed, and I owed part of that to A-Camp, and the late Charlotte Jo.
Now before y’all freak out, let me explain.
After the first night, which consisted of all kinds of debauchery (dance parties at Club deer, music from the camp staff, some NSFW things y’all can ask me about in person at the next camp ;), I remember feeling some kinda fear. I remember catching myself stuck in nerves around all these fascinating people, and feelin’ like I didn’t belong. I remember being one of the only visible Black Trans people there, and how that scared me.
I woke up the next morning, blissful and hungover, which is an interesting combo, but a good one when you’re surrounded by everyone who’s just as lit as you are. Hehe. It was then, that all these signs started popping up, and I mean, wherever they could be found. There was a picture of a woman, and the words, “Where is Charlotte Jo,” in big letters? I was like, “who the actual fuck is Charlotte Jo, why did they bring us to the WOODS SHE WENT MISSING IN, and where she at?”
We kept asking that question in-between meals made with love. We kept asking between shibari rope sessions and sex trivia. We asked that question in between the sway of dance moves and hugs between tears and life given in the QTPOC speakeasy. We asked in between songs, makeout sessions, and smoke breaks by the lake. That whole time, none of us had a clue what was up, and most of us were hella confused! Well, right before the end of camp, we all found her.
She showed up in-between the beautiful melodies of Cameron Glavin, Be Steadwell, and Jenny Owen Youngs, because they were phenomenal. She laughed at all of El Sanchez and Brittani Nichols’ jokes, cause they were hella funny. She danced every single night in Klub Deer, surrounded by many who just wanted to get free for a few days. Then she was seconds away from beatboxing with the acapella group onstage, when her name was called… when my name was called. Mey Rude announced that they had found Charlotte Jo, and that Charlotte Jo was me.
I freaked out so bad I almost backpedaled into another human being, slowly and shyly walked onstage, with a spotlight and the smiles and cheers of people who had easily become family. It felt weird to be there, but it felt wonderful. A-Camp gave me another home, a year after I almost left this world altogether. I struggled at first to feel this good, and nothing is perfect in any sense, but I truly feel that this is a place where people love up on each other, try their best to understand each other, and build true community. Tbhonest, I can’t think of another way I would have loved to spend the anniversary of the moment I told myself, “I’m still here for a reason.”
If you have any thoughts about A-Camp, go. Do it. It’s life giving, healing, enjoyment, and true coming into self, surrounded by people who are doing some version of the same. It literally changed my life. I think it’ll do the same for you.
Love to all campers past, present, and future.
You can donate to the A-Camp Arts & Resistance Fund, which goes directly to camperships for queer people of color who have some kind of interest in the arts. Your donations to the ARF are entirely tax deductible, and you can read more about that here.