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 60 people to camp on full or partial camperships. This session is gonna be particularly kickass: we’re at a brand-new location in Ojai, California, and our talent line-up includes Mary Lambert, Mara Wilson, Liza Dye, Jen Richards, Gaby Dunn, Be Steadwell, Brittani Nichols and Kim Milan! We’re gonna have some great guest instructors and TWO SWIMMING POOLS.
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. You can read more about that here and you can donate here.
Now, let’s hear from some of the wonderful human beings who were able to attend A-Camp 8.0 (which was officially our 9th camp, because we called our eighth 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: Fall 2016, 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!
Mika, 25 – Minneapolis, MN
I fucking love camp. I know I’m gonna sound corny as hell but camp really changed my life in a way I wasn’t expecting.
When I applied to go to camp I did so knowing that it could compromise a lot of things in my life. I’ve been an Autostraddle reader since like 2010, it’s been with me forever in a way, it’s guided me through so many things. This was a dream I’d had for a long time. At the time of my application I was struggling with stuff I couldn’t quite grasp or wasn’t ready to yet, and just from a gut feeling I decided it was the time to apply, kinda like phone-a-friend in, not really knowing much more.
I know camp can have a lot of ups and downs, I know we are all kind of homosexuals having a panic attack any given day, but what camp did for me was remind me of who I am, who I’ve always been, and that much in hogwarts fashion: if you ask for help, help will be given.
“What camp did for me was remind me of who I am, who I’ve always been, and that, much in Hogwarts fashion; if you ask for help, help will be given.”
Again, I know it’s corny but I was able to breathe at a time I had forgotten how. There was one specific workshop that by the time I left I had to run to the woods to just cry, because for a minute or so I felt held and like, I held others. It was honestly magic and cathartic and it changed everything.
I’ll always keep that with me, I’m glad I fought like hell to go, because without it I wouldn’t have been reminded how much my life is worth. I’ll forever be grateful to camp for reminding me that, like an old friend.
Anna, 36 – Green Bay, WI
My intentions for A-Camp 2017 were simple enough: I wanted to meet interesting people, share in-person space with other queer and trans folks, and have some fun during an otherwise difficult year. Camp vastly exceeded these expectations, and I was surprised by how much it also helped me gain confidence in being my queer, trans, nerdy self.
I’m somewhat introverted and anxiety-prone, and navigating new spaces can feel pretty daunting – especially if I’m by myself and meeting lots of new people. I’m usually a homebody who doesn’t push too far out of my comfort zone, so venturing out to my first A-Camp was both exhilarating and a little scary.
“This was the kind of community I longed for, and I surprised myself by how quickly I let my guard down and opened up to new friends and experiences.”
To my delight, everyone I met at camp made me feel so welcome and excited for the days to come. My cabinmates, the staff, and other campers all made A-Camp feel like coming home. This was the kind of community I longed for, and I surprised myself by how quickly I let my guard down and opened up to new friends and experiences.
Over the next few days of camp I attended superb workshops, laughed (and cried) at the terrific evening entertainment events, and shared some profoundly beautiful moments with my friends. I even danced late into the night for the first time in 15 years, and being me — truly me — never felt so good.
I feel such an incredible amount of gratitude for these experiences and for the people who make camp everything it is. I’m especially thankful for everyone who contributed to the campership fund and helped make such a dream come true for me.
Diana, 27 – Rosemead, CA
After years of experiencing what is now referred to as FOMO, I took a risk and submitted my campership essay. I didn’t think I’d get it because like, who do I think I am? I never win anything! But to my surprise, when I found that golden email from Riese within my inbox, I cannot tell you how meaningful it felt to be seen. While growing up gay in a strict Catholic household, the concept of obtaining an adequate sense of self-worth seemed too far in the distance for me to fully grasp. But once I eventually stopped genuflecting around my queerness and stepped out of the closet, it took some time to reverse the mentality that led me to believe that I didn’t deserve anything. Plus it’s very hard to connect with anyone while sitting high upon a mountain’s worth of disappointment.
Even at my most inaccessible, Autostraddle always seemed to inch its way into my heart. Most readers would agree that the sense of community found here is something we had longed for in our wildest dreams. And camp is essentially the IRL version of our digital refuge. A-Camp was to be my chance to connect with community because even at 27, it was something I’d never fully experienced yet. Plus this was my chance to hit the reset button on my childhood camp experiences. Those kids were so cruel and now the queers will help make it all feel better! The weeks leading up to camp were a blur but when it happened, it became very apparent that this place was everything!
“My cabin-mates and cabin-counselors proved that unconditional love can be healing and reciprocated without question.”
When you arrive, the collective feeling of excitement wraps you up into the warmest embrace. I felt that feeling the most when spending time with my cabin-mates and cabin-counselors, who serve as proof that unconditional love can be healing and reciprocated without question. Those moments we shared on the floor of our cabin, on the wet grass within flashes of Midwestern silence or way too deep within a dance circle at klub deer; all of these things — though warm and fuzzy and seeped in liquor — they are the best kind of memories that you carry for the rest of your life. And let’s be honest here pals, where else can you attend a rope bondage workshop, sing an acapella version of a song that was penned by the originator of a universal baby queer anthem, take in Heather Hogan’s brilliant rundown of bad asses who brewed beer, gleefully geek out with fellow Buffering fans, process several unsuccessful tinder matches through the healing powers of art & crafts, make a pin hole camera out of a beer can, trade smiles and stories with your long lost chosen family, feel so validated within the incomparable safe space that is the QTPOC Speakeasy, hear the most beautiful sounds and see the most wonderful movements that a bunch of really talented queers easily accomplish (on and off stage) without breaking a sweat, feel all the feels at the staff reading, witness a beautifully touching quince celebration, get great tips on writing out your thoughts, learn how to speak up without fear, incessantly blush over a crush, indulge in some cheese and feel like a lush overcome by wine while someone is slapping the bag as you are trying to craft the most perfectly apt boxed wine review? There’s so much more to share as this place cannot be contained!
Post-Camp, you’ll go home to realize that you achieved what seemed to be the impossible. Not only does everything suddenly feel so attainable, not only is it possible to accept the affections of others, not only is it easier to love yourself but best of all, you will leave camp exponentially gayer than you arrived! But seriously, I am so grateful for my campership and I encourage everyone to apply because it changes your life! One thing’s for sure, you will always be able to find yourself in the woods as it is a good place to be. It’s where queers realize we are forever free.
Bailey, 29 – London, UK
A-Camp 8.0 was my second camp! Two words come to mind with 8.0: flogging and friendships. But to really thrash out the impact of A-Camp, let’s rewind to my first…
A little before A-Camp 7.5, I got sober. I was miserable and isolated, keeping my decision a secret. Coming to A-Camp was scary for a medley of reasons, the main one was my want — my need — to remain sober as I worked through my shit. In the end, I found so many new folks who just-so-happened to have shit to deal with too. A-Camp was the first queer event / party / experience I’d gone to expecting to feel uncomfortable without alcohol but once there, realized there was nothing to be uncomfortable about.
“A-Camp is a place I can be queer as fuck, brown as fuck, not give any fucks and that’s OKAY!”
I remembered everything that happened — my cabin’s own documentarian — and I kept those experiences with me. I applied for a partial campership for A-Camp 8.0 and received confirmation a few days after my birthday. I replied right away: “I am crying with joy inside. Happy birthday to meeee.”
When A-Camp 8.0 came around, I was down for anything thrown my way. On the first day our cabin flogged a pizza piñata, screaming at it before we shifted to a mini dance party (disclaimer: not all cabins are this wild.) I guess you could say from then on we were family. Wildfires huddled together outside the hall one night telling secrets consisting of everything from camp crushes to most recent bowel movements.
A-Camp is a place I can be queer as fuck, brown as fuck, not give any fucks and that’s OKAY! It’s a place where I can feel influenced and inspired by other creative and successful queers. I can share meals with people I wouldn’t normally organize a potluck with. I can attend workshops from songwriting to queer parenting, masculine of center dancing to collage. I can take part in game shows and escape rooms. I can hear all the debauchery my cabin mates got up to and be there when they need that second opinion on whether or not to hook up with so and so in the cabin over there even though so and so hooked up with so and so in the bunk next to them the night before.
A-Camp really is that queer and simple. A place to be you! Not only do I hope you enjoy your experience at A-Camp, but I hope you’re able to take something away from it. What I’ve taken away from A-Camp are all of the connections that have allowed me to enjoy lunch in Chicago with Ines, stay with Tahirah in Washington D.C., buy creepy cat hologram postcards in Los Angeles with Reneice and continue conversations with Dera about where in the world our paths would cross best. If things don’t work out, we’ll always have A-Camp.
Steph, 22 – Austin, TX
It was comforting to see folks I knew present in the planning component or photos from past camps. A-Camp seems like one of those things that’s hard to believe is real, so having that context made it much more accessible and tangible.
I was so grateful to win a campership. I’d never been to camp before. As a young child, my summers were spent in Mexico, and as a teenager, I was playing bad noise rock with my friends. I had no idea what to expect other than crafts and queers. Don’t get me wrong, A-Camp had a lot of that.
I anticipated arriving to camp for weeks leading up to it, sharing with anyone that would listen. It wasn’t difficult to find the group of campers gathered near baggage check at O’Hare. Old friends reunited and all shared traveling stories.
“The QTPOC-specific spaces were very necessary and appreciated. Through these workshops we could connect through food, media, kink, and anti-racism all in the same day.”
At Opening Ceremonies, it was the quietest it had been after a long day of travel and getting settled at camp, to have Riese share why A-Camp was created and how powerful it was to have us all together.
My cabin was filled with majority first-time A-Camp attendees. It was comforting to share that when it felt as though everyone at camp already knew each other very well. s/o to Hot Springs for feeling like I had something to come home to every night of camp. It’s been incredible to see my bunkmates grow after sharing this experience.
It’s easy to get comfortable in your own queer community and circles. A-Camp brought so many different people together for this weekend in the mountains to support, affirm, and challenge one another. I loved seeing the workshops offered and executed by those that were passionate about presenting them to this group. The QTPOC-specific spaces were very necessary and appreciated. Through these workshops we could connect through food, media, kink, and anti-racism all in the same day. The intention to create these spaces in the tr*mp era is absolutely vital to keep reminding us that were are family working to survive every day.
Also, have I mentioned that camp is really fun?? I loved all the stand-up sets, the bouncy house, and just enjoyed being somewhere where queer joy was all around me.
If you feel conflicted about supporting this project financially, know that you’re contributing to folks feeling safe and empowered. Through all the frills and the perfectly executed summer camp vibe, this is an an opportunity for folks to be their authentic selves.
Anonymous, 20 – Baton Rouge, LA
The first time I read about A-Camp, it immediately struck me as an unbelievable experience and one that I knew I wanted. I think I read every page on the website… and I distinctly remember seeing the price and feeling my stomach drop. True to my nature, I bookmarked the site and tried to put it out of my mind.
Flash forward to spring of 2017. I was on Autostraddle.com, probably procrastinating studying for some upcoming exams, and I stumbled across a call to apply for “camperships.” On somewhat of a whim, I decided that I might as well try, and if nothing came out of it I would just wait until I graduated college and had enough money. So I wrote my heart out and submitted my campership application. A few months later I got an email that a campership had opened up and Riese was offering the spot to me. Y’all. I started crying as I read it.
I am also an anxious bug, so once I replied with confirmation and booked my plane tickets, I was especially grateful for the moral obligation to attend (you can’t transfer camperships!!!!)
In retrospect, attending is one of the best things I’ve done for myself so far. A-Camp is AN EXPERIENCE. I teared up periodically throughout camp, sometimes just overwhelmed with thankfulness to be in a room full of queer folks. For us, by us.
“Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more seen or affirmed than during the QTPOC speakeasy.”
You are in for amazing workshops! Your heart will be cracked open and also mended, stronger than ever, and you will dance (if that’s your thing), and meet the most incredible people and have the privilege to see/hear ridiculously wonderful performances by incredible queer women and non-binary folks. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more seen or affirmed than during the QTPOC speakeasy. The whole camp experience was out of my comfort zone (somewhat-strangers!) but I was also somehow, simultaneously, very much at peace and connected with so many people.
I left with more strength and hope and joy, and I am so thankful for the friendships I made and the community being fostered here (during camp and after). I want to thank everyone who made it possible for me to attend. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. And to anyone reading this, if you’re thinking about A-Camp and $$$ is holding you back, please apply for a campership!
Sasha, 31 – Sunnyvale, CA
All my life, I’ve been the sassy black friend in the movie. You know, that one who is cute, funny, and seems awesome, but has no storyline of her own besides being late to things, or somehow getting ketchup on her shirt. The story has never been about me.
EXCEPT AT A-CAMP.
You guys, it was like being the protagonist of a homofriendly teen movie! I was in a cabin full of other fun, interesting, queerdos. There were friendly beautiful, silly, amazingly hot queer folks everywhere. I cannot stress enough how attractive everyone there was. It was quite overwhelming! I got to take part in amazingly fun and creative activities. I did things that scared me, that embarrassed me greatly; I was goofy and felt deeply. I was a part of it.
“A-Camp was like being the protagonist of a homofriendly teen movie!”
I met this really cute girl. We did crafts together, we talked, we danced. I gave her a flower. We held hands and went to the big dance together. It was beautiful and pure, safe and free. Other campers looked at us and smiled. We kissed. It was kinda cheesy how adorable it all was. There was an openness in my heart that night like I’ve never felt before. I was present and fully part of this magical world that A-Camp had built around me.
The activities, programming, and performances at A-Camp were all lovely, special, and felt like they were made for my little lesbian self. But the real gift of this experience is the joy and acceptance that is being with your people.
Mahdia, 29 – Chicago, IL
I needed a gaycation.
That was the opening line of my A-Camp application: “I need a gaycation.” As a community organizer in a post-Cheeto Prez world, I was the busiest I’ve ever been and running on fumes. I’ve always been “organizer” first, a “” next, and “authentically myself without fear” right around “Never.” For me, A-Camp was a space where I could catch my breath and prioritize myself for once.
In all, it was a pretty great gaycation. I woke up early to explore the beautiful campgrounds, had great conversations with amazing people, made a mini-succulent garden (which has GROWN btw and is thriving still), and one of my bunkmates was a T-Rex (who was surprisingly good at trivia).
A-Camp was the first time I’ve been to a queer social space where I felt like I could be present and uncompromisingly myself 100% of the time I was there. As a disabled person, accessibility can be a nightmare on camp-style spaces, but the planning team made a commitment to prioritize accessibility every step of the way and for once, I felt like I could fully participate in the entire Camp experience. Not only that — I was able to join in on workshops on disabled sexuality and connecting with other disabled queers was truly transformative.
Kira, 24 – Salt Lake City, UT
I was nervous when I submitted the campership application, and when I got accepted I was thrilled and honestly very nervous! I didn’t know what to expect. I’d finally come to terms with myself, but I was afraid to be myself. I was lost. I was living in a conservative, mostly-Mormon state, and didn’t know if I could be myself, much less be myself with other people like me.
I’m grateful I got the campership that also came with partial travel help because at the time, I was homeless, and that extra help made it possible to go to A-Camp. But, as someone who’s only left Utah twice in her life, flying was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous, terrified, and had anxiety up the roof. I’m a trans woman of color who was still taking the steps to understand herself.
“Reliving it is like reliving a dream, something I wish I could go through over and over again.”
When I got to the airport in Milwaukee, I saw the group, but walked by them, not sure how to approach. When I did approach, it was nice — people didn’t ask questions or second-guess my appearance. They accepted me right away. When I got to my cabin I was accepted almost immediately. No one gave me weird looks or asked me about “being born a guy.” It was such a relief, and one of the most heartwarming feelings of my life.
Reliving it is like reliving a dream, something I wish I could go through over and over again. My first official day, I was still nervous about interacting with my cabinmates, but that first breakfast was nice. I made fast friends with some of my cabinmates, and went through the first set of workshops with them. I got to know them and was able to plan for the rest of the week. The gap before dinner is when we all really talked and I started to feel at home and accepted.
What really made this experience the best by far is the people. There were many activities and all of them where great and wonderful but the people in those activities is what made things fun. I never felt left out and never felt the need to wear a mask or over-compensate. There was never an issue with bathrooms, which was a huge concern for me. People accepted me. People egged me on, listened to me and made this by far the best experience I have ever had in 2017.
Leaving tore me up. I wasn’t ready to go back to real life but it wasn’t really the end. I still talk with a lot of the friends I made from A-Camp, and they’ve helped me out more then once with my real life struggles. It’s wonderful. The friendships and memories from that camp will last forever. I still dream of moments where I’m at camp, in the Yurt with my cabin-mates, or in our cabin with the Sarah Paulson cut-out.
If you wanna make somebody’s dream come true, you can donate to the campership fund right this minute! A full campership (which includes shuttles & linens) is $800, or you can donate any small amount you wish because it all adds up. If you’d like to make a tax-deductable donation, you can do so through the Arts & Resistance Fund.
Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. And A+ members keep the majority of our site free for everyone. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you’re able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?