A-Camp X Was a Huge Success and We’d Like to Have Some Feelings About It Together

feature image by Taylor Hatmaker

Laneia, Riese, and Sarah registered campers on the first day of A-Camp // by Taylor Hatmaker

Last week Autostraddle hosted A-Camp X, the tenth iteration of our wildly successful, extremely ambitious, and incredibly affirming annual adult summer camp event. We had a feeling it was going to be a good one – we’ve had nine times to perfect the weirdo art of this endeavor, after all – but this A-Camp not only met our high expectations, it blew them right out of the atmosphere. We have some feelings about it that we’d like to share; perhaps you do too!

(Also, if you’re more of a visual person or you just want to feast your eyes upon a bajillion incredibly attractive and wonderful queerdos, check out the #autostraddlecamp tag on Instagram, because it is TRULY INSPIRING IN A VARIETY OF WAYS.)

First of all, as the community editor of Autostraddle dot com, I would like to personally thank every single camper who attended A-Camp X. Without our campers, we would be nothing. The folks who attend A-Camp are some of the bravest, smartest, coolest, hottest, most incredible humans I have ever met. So many campers show up at camp not knowing a single other soul, and by the end of the session it feels like we’ve all been friends forever. That’s not a random accident – it’s because A-Campers are kind, inclusive, and generous. I witnessed so many acts of compassion and openness at A-Camp X. We were gentle with each other, and I could feel that we were all grateful for it.

by Taylor Hatmaker

Our campers are kind, and they are also so, so, so weird! In the best possible way. They are inventive and creative and hilarious. We had a camper who acts as a full-time mail person, delivering love notes and urgent messages all across camp in a full-on uniform that we certainly did not provide! (Thank you, Mailperson Maggie!) We had a board filled with missed connections that ranged from notes about who was single, offers for rides to LAX post-camp, and a casting call for a project called the Butchelorette. That’s just how camp goes, and it is one of my favorite parts: outside of the programming that the A-Camp staff works so hard to create, we have an incredibly robust set of activities that the campers simply take upon themselves to organize. Camp is truly a place where you can create your own reality and make your dreams come true.

by Taylor Hatmaker

Speaking of the A-Camp staff, my second order of business is to shout out the incredible staff team and the exceptional talent we had join us this year at A-Camp. Did you know Mary Lambert came to A-Camp, y’all? Sit down for a second and breath with that information. Mary Lambert came to A-Camp and she loved it! She told me getting interviewed by me for Autostraddle back in 2013 was as good a feeling as going to the Grammy Awards! I don’t really believe her but it was SO NICE OF HER TO SAY! We were also blessed with the presence of the following talented humans: Kim Katrin Milan, Mara Wilson, Gaby Dunn, Brittani Nichols, Mal Blum, Be Steadwell, Jen Richards, and Ava Benjamin Schorr. I could write full-on essays about how talented and inspiring each one of them is, but I’ll let the campers do that in the comments. Alongside the talent we had our tireless staff members, almost all of whom give up a week of paid work to volunteer their time to make A-Camp run. If the campers are the weirdo heart of the operation, our staff and talent are the backbone and the lungs. Are you following this metaphor? I didn’t sleep a lot last week. What I’m saying is, THANK YOU to the entire A-Camp staff and talent team, who set up an incredibly intricate structure and breathed life into the space so that a ginormous group of queer babes could prance and pounce through and infuse the whole goddamn event with more love and affirmation than most of us feel in a lifetime, let alone in five days.

Mary Lambert and Be Steadwell performing together at A-Camp X // by Taylor Hatmaker

We are so lucky. We are so grateful. We can’t wait to keep putting this event on forever and ever, and we hope every single human being reading this who wants to attend A-Camp is able to one day. It will change your life.

Kim Katrin Milan delivered a powerful presentation called From Theory Into Action: Moving From Allyship to Accomplices // by Taylor Hatmaker

Did you attend A-Camp X? Tell us all your feelings in the comments! What was your favorite program? Did you like all four different kinds of berries equally? Was your bunk the cutest place ever? What about your new friends and your new skills and your new confidence and your new (old) irritation with straight people? Show us your cutest photos! Direct us to your Instagram feeds! I WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING!

by Taylor Hatmaker

A note to our readers who did not attend A-Camp, aka Most Of You, and our Autostraddle staff who were also unable to attend: Thank you for holding down the site while we were away! Thank you for being supportive and for those of you telling us you’re saving up to come to camp next year and for being so great, really truly madly deeply. You’re lovely. We see you and we appreciate you. And to the campers who did attend A-Camp – you probably missed some really rad articles we published on Autostraddle dot com last week while you were busy crafting and dancing and sportsballing and making out – so be sure to go back to the previous week’s articles and see if you missed anything relevant to your interests!

by Taylor Hatmaker

IN CONCLUSION: Go browse the #autostraddlecamp hashtag for a very nice experience on Instagram, and I’ll see you in the comment section to gush unapologetically about how wonderful and healing and restorative the A-Camp X experience turned out to be. Is it A-Camp 2019 yet?!

Vanessa is a queer feminist writer and photographer currently based in New York. She really misses Portland. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 258 articles for us.

200 Comments

  1. I’m so very Excited! I don’t think I had a favourite activity, they were all so good. Ocean Spray was the best cabin ever, and we were right next to the flamingos (the best neighbours ever) and Heather Hogan’s cabin, so I felt very good about that. I have many feelings, most of which everyone at camp already heard, but follow me @nelspixs if you want, and also if you want my open mike reading because I have no idea who asked for it.

  2. The body positivity party was probably my favorite event at all four camps I’ve been to combined. It’s the most belonging I’ve ever felt in my life I think? Also I got an amazing shark dress from ModCloth there and got to hug Mary Lambert so… yeah.

    ALSO Izzy’s Utilifemme Swiss Army knife at the merch table gave me my label that I’ve been searching for for years. Last night I fixed our fridge (it was making a weird noise) and afterward I flexed my arms and said “utilifemme!” which felt so good (because referring to handiness as butch for myself always felt wrong)

    ALSO marching down The Hill with my cabin and others who joined in while singing “I’ll Make a Man Out if You” from Mulan was another highlight.

    Finally: I did so many crafts and even made a ceramic boob / pinch bowl and since getting home my wife and I have both started touching the nipple for good luck each morning. 😁

  3. I had the absolute best week of my life. I even got my first tattoo to commemorate it!! My favorite part is the dance at the end. I’ve never been to a dance before I went to A-camp. Highly recommended!

  4. it was my first camp, and i showed up without knowing a soul, so the first 24 hours were intimidating and terrifying and i had no idea if i was in the right place. but the sea serpents cabin and heather hogan and samantha green and all the amazing staff and campers helped me figure out how to navigate the magic that is a-camp, and i can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences of my life.

    there were so many incredible events, but i was particularly grateful for the introvert meet-up, singing alto 2 with the belle jars, sipping whiskey with austen, helping the slytherins win the house cup, making my own oracle cards, getting angry about beer with heather, and having my heart shredded and put back together at the staff reading. i sat by the pool in black clothing, hung out with fellow buffering listeners, and sang hamilton with new friends. i read tarot cards and learned about astrology and wrote bisexual characters. i felt more seen and accepted than i maybe ever have before.

    THANK YOU to every single person who had a hand in putting this event together. i already can’t wait for next year, and in the meantime i’ll be obsessing over the #autostraddlecamp hashtag and finding fellow campers in NYC.

  5. I want the first timers to know they’re all spoiled. Back in my day I had to bus my own table! And take the linen out, put it in the pillow case not take it to Eagle! Uphill, both ways!
    Just kidding, camp was amazing. Arguably the best one yet. Great job, team!

  6. Ive been to five A Camps (consecutive spring camps since 2014), each camp has a different vibe, the vibe this camp was openness and love. I left feeling like a more complete me. The friendship and adventures, the little moments that feel so big. I just love you all and you helped me find pieces of myself that have been missing for a while. I appreciate everything.

  7. Oh wow, where to begin. A-Camp X was my 3rd and by far favorite camp experience. I really could tell that the staff worked hard to improve their ability to serve and welcome all campers (from my perspective at least). Thank you to all the staffers who made camp what it was (VANESSA!!)

    I’ve never felt so encouraged to be myself and so loved for it. I came into camp with the intention to be my most leo-self, to resist holding myself back, to own my own power, and to dance my ass off! I exceeded my own expectations, and it was because of the campers/staff/environment that this was possible.

    I’m feeling the post-camp-blues and definitely sleep deprivation, but I’m also feeling more equipped for this world and ready to carry all that I learned into my everyday life.

    Highlights of camp include:
    1. Being in the PINK FLAMINGOS!!! I feel so seen by all of you and also like a sexy babe because of your constant love and admiration. It was honestly rude how hot you all are.
    2. Practicing honest and open communication with everyone! Deciding when I want to dance, kiss, etxxx…
    3. Finding my place in the disability community. Owning my space and learning from those so open to teaching. Thank you Alyssa (don’t know how to tag, sorry) for our conversations, it meant more than you know!
    4. Dancing on the dance team and realizing that I AM a good dancer! Thanks Kaylah <3
    5. Erasing my idea that I'm not a "cool queer", cause guess what, we all are!! This helped me talk to people I otherwise would have been too scared/shy to otherwise, and wow did this open up all the possibilities 🙂
    6. Going down the slip n slide with Sarah and Loie and laughing until my side's hurt
    7. Meeting fellow Crohnies/IBD-ers. It feels so good to know I'm not alone.
    8. Singing kareoke in the craft room!
    9. Pool party times, even though I coudlnt get my arm wet!
    10. Making so many friends, I'm so excited to know all of you <3

    I know this is an essay, I just have so much love to share. Thank you × 10!!!

    • i’m so happy you had so many great experiences at camp and so grateful to be part of them! it was nice connecting in the real world. remember it’s okay to take up space and if you need anything i’m always around! xo

  8. Camp was such an awesome place! I think the Body Posi Party was my favorite this year, meeting Mary Lambert, talking about fat feels, and I got a free new dress I look amazing in! Birding with Natalie, twice, was amazing both from getting out and exploring the nature around camp, and listening to Natalie talk about birds and nature. I had a blast spending time in the pool, and enjoying the fast slide(getting stuck in the slow slide was the worst part of camp). The new camp site is amazing, with the views and the weather, I could just sit outside and take them all in. I was surprised at how good the food was this year, I’ve never had so many berries, and the OJ was amazing! Everyone had the most awesome outfits for the enchantment under the sea dance. Best of all I go to share this with both old & new friends. I can’t wait for the next A-Camp! Just don’t go down the slow water slide.

  9. Immediately rushed out and bought a berry yesterday bc my household was lacking.

    I’m definitely still processing camp, but the “Three Cheers for Sober Queers” panel brought me to my knees emotionally in a good way. The only thing I felt in that room was compassion, and it was so lovely.

    Thanks for another great camp, y’all, to both staff and my fellow campers. <3

  10. Thank you to all the staff, talent and campers for making camp happen!!! I’m procrastinating a lot at work because I can’t stay away from all the camp pictures and tweets!

    I loved my cabin sooo much, my beautiful Ocean Spray family! Thank you AS for putting us all together!!!

    Another thing I loved was the Ace meet up one of my cabin mates organized! We had a super nice conversation about being in the ace spectrum and it made me feel so more comfortable with myself!

    Also, the queer in TV panel was sooo good! I’m so glad to know that there are people in the industry creating space for us and it gave my grumpy skeptic heart hope for the future.

  11. This was my first camp, so I gotta say, thank you, Vanessa, and all the staff for a wonderful A-Camp! It was definitely weird and magical. I loved all the crafts (can’t wait to hang up my mer-person puppet, finish my oracle deck, and wear my s’mores earrings again)!

    The best part for me was doing things that I love while surrounded by supportive queers. Cheering for each other during the volleyball match, complimenting each other’s bathing suits at the pool. I love swimming so much, and to finally have a space with an amazing pool that is full of queers?? Amazing.

    I also got the opportunity to meet some folks who I only knew online, and talking face to face in that environment was something else. I’m still having feelings from the Enby/genderqueer/trans s’mores meetup.

  12. The first night, when I was meeting the campers in my cabin for the first time, they were all so quiet and scared that I worried about how to help them get the most out of camp. By day two they were traveling in a bunch, and by the last day they had scheduled a Cabin Feelings hour so they could process everything camp-related. It was truly wonderful to watch them grow and get more comfortable with themselves and each other as the week went on. This was my fourth camp so part of me wondered if the magic would have worn off by now but SPOILER ALERT it was more magical than ever. My favorite thing my campers told me was that when they went home, they were going to tell all of their queer friends that A-Camp should be a rite of passage for everyone.

    Another thing I loved is that on the last morning at breakfast, I asked the people at my table what their favorite activity was, and they all had different answers.

    I miss our commune and can’t wait until next year. <3

  13. I think this was quite literally the best time of my life. First time in a solely queer normative space. I wrestled with intense anxiety (but i do all the time) that i wasn’t queer “enough”, or that i wasn’t cool enough and I’m still wrestling with those feelings but everyone I met was so validating of my exploration of identity and as a Black queer person, that doesn’t happen all the damn time. I think my Blackhearts cabin was the most supportive group of people I could have asked for. Always laughing, always honest. I loved every minute of living with them and I’m kind of mad that I’m not with all of them right ow and that I live with a bunch of straight people. Some of my favorite things were the Dildo Baggins & Silicone Dreams (made my own purple dildo), QTPOC Speakeasy (felt wonderful to be affirmed with other qtpoc!!!), SWIMMING IN THE POOL AND DANCING WITH BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, the rural queers meetup that was very validating with Molly Priddy, OKAY THE MARY LAMBERT AND MAL BLUM CONCERT THAT GOT ME SO IN MY FEELINGS THAT I LITERALLY SPILLED ALCOHOL ON MYSELF WHILE CRYING – I used to cry myself to sleep to Mary Lambert as a baby queer dreaming about who would ever love me, BE STEADWELL SINGING ABOUT NETFLIX FUCKING UP HER SEX LIFE LIKE DANG WOW, nonbinary karaoke with Mal singing godam dreams by fleetwood mac and being flawless even though they didn’t know the song, Thirst Games!!!! I just had a lot of fun this camp and i will definitely be back next year. My only thing is that i felt like I was still wrestling with not having any experience talking to cute girls and people and i want to work on that so that i’m not in the middle of “Dancing on my Own” where several people are aggressively making out and i’m just awkwardly single in the middle. But I made the best friends ever and I’m really sad i’m living with the coolest queer people ever. I have half a mind to move to certain cities (cough cough Chicago, Minneapolis) b/c of the cool people i met there!!!!! tl;dr: i’m sad and gay and i love a-camp cause it was the first place i could be myself.

  14. The best things in my life have happened because of Camp–the friends I’ve made, the causes I believe in, the hobbies I have, everything. Bestie and I are besties five years, as of today! We never might have even met if we didn’t have a crush on the same cabinmate.

    I skipped this year cause I have a boob reduction coming up (YAY), but I’m already saving for A-Camp XI!! (And trying to convince my cute gf to join. She likes D&D, video games, and the ocean.)

  15. i encourage everyone to sign up for a-camp next year just because that water slide has so many turns that you never feel like it will end, and the hill is really great for selfies and also it’s just a blast and people will congratulate you 700000 times for graduating/dancing or singing in public/looking amazing and it’s GREAT.

  16. I was so freaking blown away by how Themselves everyone was. I stepped into intense conversations about mental health and gender and names and family. Everyone here is so vulnerable and encouraging. This isn’t a normal space. Camp feels like stepping off of a smelly, crowded subway car onto an open field where you can finally fucking breathe. For some people it’s exactly that. I’ve been to camp maybe 6 times as both a camper and as staff. And I’m always surprised by how much my body and mind need the space Camp gives to explore what my needs are.

    And as a bonus I came back with both ankles intact, STEF.

  17. You guys, I wasn’t even there and this is all making me cry at my desk!

    Seeing the pictures/tweets/etc. all week filled me with so much joy. You’re all amazing and I can’t wait to hang at Camp next year 🙂

  18. Some of my favorite things were: the tv panel, the introvert meet-up, all the evening entertainment, tv trivia, the body posiparty, how kind and welcoming everyone was, watching Heather’s TED talk on beer/women being awesome/the patriarchy (with a cameo from a baby bird!), and most of all the Sea Serpents and our fearless leaders Heather and Sam. Thanks so much A-Camp staff!!

    • A short and incomplete list of favorite parts of camp:

      * Seeing my friends from last year and carpooling up the PCH with some of them!
      * Making so many new friends and saying ‘yes’ to new things because camp is THE place to do it!
      * A jet-lagged early morning hike up to the observation deck on the first day, and seeing the heck out of some new nature on my first trip to CA
      * Sharing space, feelings, hugs, and radical kindness & openness with my Legends cabinmates ❤️
      * Two words: Megasus Parade on the way to Happy Hour 🦄🌈
      * The Ace meetup dinner. I love all of you so much and I’m grateful beyond words for our time together
      * THE most incredible game of Pictionary during Game Night. Wow, Y’all!
      * Dancing with tears of joy during the A-Camp Family Band performance

      I hope all my IRL friends are ready for me to talk nonstop about camp for the next month!

  19. y’all! i’m DEPRESSED. which would typically be very upsetting but i know that it’s only because the time i shared with all of you was some of the best i’ve had in my life and it’s a BUMMER that it can’t go on forever and ever and ever.

    i loved on my forever camp crush, had great workshop times with amazinggggg attendees, ate every berry, met all kinds of amazing babes, got and sent really cute pigeon hole notes, and was asked! for every! single! hug! i! got!

    i am forever grateful for this community, for your love and support over the (now) YEARS, and i can’t wait to see you and love you all again next year. thank you for everything, you have no idea how much i needed you all in my life.

  20. This was my 4th and best camp yet!!!! <3 I'm still plague processing all my feelings, but I know for sure I want to make changes in my life so more of my relationships are affirming and I feel safe to be open and totally myself and connect to my body more. I am so thankful for my cabinmates, I've never been around a group that can be as simultaneous goofy, babely, sexy, and kind as them. I really felt completely like myself and never once felt I needed to censor myself because of anxiety or doubt. I am really not sure if timing and money will work out for me to come next time, but I'm not gonna let family pressure to attend my grad school graduation next year keep me from coming. I knew going to camp I would have a lot of family/queer family feelings, but my Outsiders family really showed me that I can have a family community that deeply loves me and I don't need to compromise myself in order to be part of a "family". With loving family, I'm going to be okay, I'm going to be loved, I'm going to be myself 100%, I'm going to be supported.

  21. (accidentally posted this as a nested comment, so I’ll repeat it here)

    A short and incomplete list of favorite parts of camp:

    * Seeing my friends from last year and carpooling up the PCH with some of them!
    * Making so many new friends and saying ‘yes’ to new things because camp is THE place to do it!
    * A jet-lagged early morning hike up to the observation deck on the first day, and seeing the heck out of some new nature on my first trip to CA
    * Sharing space, feelings, hugs, and radical kindness & openness with my Legends cabinmates ❤
    * Two words: Megasus Parade on the way to Happy Hour 🦄🌈
    * The Ace meetup dinner. I love all of you so much and I’m grateful beyond words for our time together
    * THE most incredible game of Pictionary during Game Night. Wow, Y’all!
    * Dancing with tears of joy during the A-Camp Family Band performance

    I hope all my IRL friends are ready for me to talk nonstop about camp for the next month!

  22. I finally admitted to myself (and others!) that am non-binary at Camp this year and it was amazing! I am so so happy!

    I attended Camp in 21015 and didn’t have that great an experience, so I figured I probably wouldn’t go back. I am SO SO grateful that my friend, Mavi, convinced me to, because this was one of the best weeks of my whole life. I can’t stop feeling happy and good supported and loved. My cabin-mates are friends for life, the activities were awesome, even the food was great! Plus my crush crushed back so… the glitter heart explosions just don’t stop. Thank you Autostraddle! Thank you staff! Thank you special guests! And thank you to every beautiful/handsome/wonderful/lovely camper who made camp the safest, queerest, space ever!

    • Thank you for coming back, Adriel! The best thing about camp for me is that people trust each other with sooooooo much, and it is AMAZING to be able to see people as they want to be seen—as they truly are—BEAUTIFUL! You all are loved, you all are supported, and you all deserve to be happy. Please keep coming back!

  23. I’m a loudmouth Sagittarius, so people usually assume I’m comfortable in any scenario. But truly, I was terrified going into my first A-Camp. I was anxious that no one would like what an obnoxious freak I am, I was concerned I wouldn’t “win” at camp (take advantage of every activity & push myself out of my comfort zone), and I was stressed that it might not impact me, a long-time gay who has lived in many a queer Mecca, as meaningfully as it might a baby queer. On all counts, my fears were completely unfounded.

    A-Camp was so transformative for me. I’d known about it for years and can’t recall what made me decide to go this year, but I’m so glad I did. A few ways it was significant for me:

    – I’m not a tenderqueer and usually I say I don’t/can’t cry, but I wept my eyes out at the staff reading and cried a lot for the rest of camp.

    – I’m petrified of dancing, and just generally doing anything in public that I’m not naturally skilled at. I did dance workshops every day, danced all night at Klub Deer, and did the Magic Dyke performance in only a rope harness and Lisa Frank “pasties”.

    – While I did cruise and live my best bottom life, I spent far more time with friends than people I was sleeping with(which I rarely do).

    – Gay Gospel Brunch and seeing gays pray and do communion with coffee cake and champagne hit the softest spot in my cold gay catholic heart that I still can’t fully explain.

    Camp was beautiful and amazing and I miss it in every moment since I have come back to LA.

  24. HELLO THIS WAS MY FIRST A CAMP EVER (I GOT TO BE ON STAFF TOO??? LIVING THE ULTIMATE DREAM) AND I WILL NEVER STOP SCREAMING ABOUT IT THANK YOU SO MUCH

    I mostly avoided the last day, like talking to too many people because I knew I was gonna cry and I wasn’t trying to go out like that but! The good things:

    my cabin was v lovely even if they scared me by screaming my name whenever they saw me

    Reneice was my co-cabin leader which is at least 98% of the reason A-Camp was a dream come true

    I didn’t know how wonderful life could be when you like strip away the fear that people you don’t know will hurt you for being you, for at least a few days, a few hours at a time, I could just be without needing to explain why I am the way I am

    i got a shit ton of hugs which also will make me cry apparently

    I learned a lot and was given a lot of space to come into learning more about myself and im actually just gonna stop cause im getting emotional all over again I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS HAPPENED I CAN’T BELIEVE I GOT TO GO I CAN’T BELIEVE PEOPLE WANT TO SEE ME AGAIN NEXT YEAR WOW WOW WOW
    I was super worried about getting back to like….not A Camp and in some ways I was right, like hearing about/being around straight and cis people and seeing so many white men be white men is beyond grating when you’ve experienced the opposite but also really thankful because I never thought I could exist outside that space and after A Camp knowing I can, it’s easier for me to leave little things that don’t serve me. Like, I’m not making huge moves, but I stay around shit that depresses the fuck out of me and takes me a week to get out of, less, and when I’m presented with straight white couples during my leisure time?? I can check that no box real quick which was a lot harder to do before cause I was lowkey believing it was the best that could be offered to me? But now I’m like ALL THE GAY SHIT ALL THE BLACK AND QUEER AND NOTHING LESS and it’s a wonderful way to live (in the past two days I’ve been 99% happier, more okay with myself than I’ve ever remembered)

    im v excited and probably gonna cry from missing everyone for the next two weeks are people sharing instagrams? im lexplayagame and like 89% of the photos from camp are from amanda cause i never thought “hey let me use my phone to document this moment” because i never really felt so overwhelmed with good that i had to do that before

  25. Let’s put it this way: I broke my arm and it was the best time of my life. It really was the best group of people and it was nice being able to just approach others and kick off a conversation together. It was my first A-Camp but it won’t be my last. (Maybe no arm wrestling next year though)

  26. I can’t even begin to find the words to describe how much this space meant to me. To be in a queer normative space, around so many folks who accepted me as I am.

    My cabin, blue crush, was fantastic. I appreciated the sober space there. The folks I met there were so amazing and supportive and beautiful.

    I too worried about not being cool enough, queer enough, thin enough. But I was welcomed and affirmed more than I’ve ever been before. I’ve never had more people checking in on how I was doing, offering hugs and asking consent. The amount of incredible conversations I had about identity, mental health, trauma, accessibility, was just mind blowing. I never thought a place like this could exist.

    I’m having trouble readjusting to the world outside camp. I feel alone and over analyzing my every action, tearing up at the thought of putting back the armor and hiding my queerness again. It hurts.

    But camp got me to sing in a Hamilton pregame party, gave me permission to try new things and stop if they didn’t feel right, to allow myself connections, try a meet up for librarians, gave me space to leave all the cute notes I wanted at the pigeon holes. I read a poem I wrote in front of a crowd for the first time at the open mic and felt so affirmed and supported. The experience of camp gave me the push to finally join and comment on autostraddle.

    Staff- I know how much work this camp is. But from the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much for all you do. It means so much to know these people and this place can exist. And all your thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and planning meant the world to me.

    I can’t wait for next year.

    • Hope! We talked at the embroidery thing about books and librarianing and committees (at least I’m pretty sure that was you?) We should exchange info and stay in touch 🙂

    • Hope! You’re an amazing soul and a wonderful human being. You may feel the need to hide your light — and believe me, I know how that feels all too well — but know it’s burning bright and the right people will see it. All of us in Blue Crush certainly did.

      Also, speaking of which, GO BLUE CRUSH! Woo! The sober cabin turned out to be the best cabin of all. Who would’ve guessed?

    • Hope! I’m *so* glad to see you here in the comments. I’m very happy we met and that camp was such a positive experience for you. I look forward to seeing you there next year, too ☺️

      As for settling in back home, I know what you mean – the transition back into ‘regular’ life is pretty jarring for me. One thing that’s helping me right now is staying in touch with other campers. If you’re interested, I’d like to exchange contact info and maybe hang out sometime (after all, we live relatively close). DM me here or on Twitter (@astro_kari) if you’d like chat more / exchange info.

      ❤️ Anna

  27. This was my second camp and it was AMAZING!!

    Black Sails was the best cabin full of the best people I ever could have asked for! We have a group chat that has been going non-stop since we left each other and it is seriously easing the transition into real life. I am so grateful I got to meet so many amazing people and I hope we stay friends forever. Like, for real.

    I really felt like Camp this year was this magical place. Like – what would happen if we all made the choice to support and love and affirm each other? Camp. It would look like Camp. Even the little things, like the wonderful tall human who let me stand in front of them at the Family Band concert because I am short and couldn’t see, or how no matter what you wore someone would tell you that you looked cute (because you all did! Such beautiful humans!)

    I learned that women invented beer, and men fuck everything up. I learned about filmmaking from Jen Richards herself, and watched one of my cabin mates make the best damn 1 min film ever made. I watched folks get up at Open Mic and be vulnerable and I had a million conversation where I was open and present and in my body in a way I don’t think I’ve ever been before. Also I swam topless and that was an absolute first for me.

    I am so full of love and kindness and gratitude that I don’t even really have much room for the sadness that comes with leaving such a magical place.

    Thanks so much to the staff who made it all possible! See you next year!

    • RACHEL, this is so sweet and sad. Like that orange. Hopefully you can eat it in a celebratory moment, and be filled not only with that tasty tasty citrus, but also good memories and warmth. <3

  28. This was my first A-Camp and I have to say it was everything I ever dreamed it could be and then some. The best and also most overwhelming part was just how KIND everyone was to each other. I’ve never been in such a positive, affirming, and loving space. Being back in the real world has felt real harsh, y’all.

    I laughed and cried and had way too many feelings and a rollicking good time. I’m obsessed with everyone I met and honestly a lot of people I didn’t meet and just admired from afar. Already counting the days until I can go back.

    P.S. Shoutout to my Pink Flamingos for being the best cabin of all time <3

    • Running late to the flamingle, as always, but really want to second this.

      Vulnerability, kindness, empathy, and patience are not prioritized in my corner of the universe, and being surrounded by the enthusiastic affirmation of 400 badass queer folks was a much-needed correction in my life. My world is so much brighter with all of you in it.

      Camp was euphoric, overwhelming, exhausting, healing, and all-around GREAT.

      Thanks to the staff—you clearly put a lot of effort into every aspect of this program. You’re changing lives out here.

  29. A-Camp X was incredible. Staff – you all did a really stellar job and your hard work showed. I am so so so grateful.

    I could list highlights for days but here’s a few:

    – the Dana Fairbanks Memorial Tennis Tournament resurrected the competitive, blazingly confident part of myself I had all but forgotten and now that I’m home I’m already looking for a queer summer tennis league y’all!

    – cheering for every person who showed up to Legends/Bluebird happy hour and watching their reactions go from “oh I wonder what they are cheering about” to “what? this is for me?” to “heck yes, here I am!”

    – Be Steadwell and Reniece singing the “Make Me Feel”/”Pynk” mashup with the A-Camp Family Band absolutely sent me to the moon, from which I was launched to the stars by Alaina tearing up “Love on Top”

    I feel so blessed. Fortified. Loved. Thank you, all of you.

  30. I had such a wonderful time this year!! I felt like everyone was so engaged in my programming and I had such a blast processing feelings with you guys.

    Also Be Steadwell– more like be still my heart.

  31. “next year at A-camp” is my own personal “next year in Jerusalem” – every year I think “I’ll go next year” and then I never do for one reason or another, but I really, really think I might actually get over my not-queer-enough fears and ACTUALLY GO next time.

    • Even if you don’t overcome those fears, know that almost every queer out there think they’re not queer enough. There were plenty of people to talk to about this at camp! It was the most validated I had ever felt in my whole life.

  32. Where to even begin? It was my first camp, and started out genuinely overwhelmed with the positivity and acceptance. Once I was more comfortable, though, this wondrous place made it easy for me to start challenging myself, to try and maybe untangle some of the lies I have told myself and have had told to me. I was able to go swimming for the first time in about twenty years, and came out of it okay (except for that minor lower back sprain, anyway). Removed my wig and walked about for a while, without any second glances (okay, maybe some, but not because of the androgenic alopecia pattern :p). Had what was honestly the first good sexual experience of my life, which finally drove home that all of that mess was really dysphoria I can now start to set aside… and the honesty, openness, and clarity in communication modeled/practiced will undoubtedly help if I do find someone interested in a relationship someday. This doesn’t even begin to go into all of the wonderful seminars and impromptu camper-created activities and other gloriousness that was present.

    Thank you, all of you, for the parts you played in this. Would there be any interest in a group of people using DIY handcuffs and other materials to firmly attach themselves to the tables/chairs at the end of the next camp, and maybe throw in a chorus of “but we don’t wanna go!!!!” when Riese insists we have to at the end of next camp? (I’m being mostly facetious. 51% is still mostly, right? Even if it is likely to drop to 45% by tomorrow?)

  33. Y’all, camp drop, camp plague, and jet lag is a rough combo. I took a day in between but going back to work has still been really tough. I’m doing everything in a haze and just trying to put one foot in front of the other. I miss camp so much!

    My current strategy is trying to make the real world more like our queer utopia – getting together with other campers in my area, wearing my s’mores earrings, comforting queer friends when they face homophobia, and pushing back when people say heteronormative nonsense. Also I remembered that it’s totally normal to wear a lapel pin so now my AS she/her pin is my lapel pin at work.

  34. May I also say that I’ve never felt so affirmed in my life. Megan told me she loved my one grey hair, strangers in the bathroom told me they liked my Under the Sea Dance blazer, so many people complimented my rainbow and/or Wonder Woman chucks. It was something I really needed and I love every single one of you for it.

  35. A-Camp was so good for my soul. As someone newly diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses, and fairly newly out as bi, connecting with disabled queers was particularly important to me. I’m being lazy and sharing something I wrote on tumblr (yes. I tumbl) the day camp ended. Follow me of insta (emdroge) and twitter (Liz Droge-Young)!

    A-Camp was one of the most beautiful, affirming, physically and emotionally challenging, and exhausting experiences I’ve ever had.

    I ended up not meticulously tracking my food and symptoms, mostly because what I ate was largely out of my control (there was an incredibly supportive woman from Autostraddle who worked with the camp to be sure I had safe food for MCAD) and I knew I’d be overexerting in every way possible every day.

    As soon as I left camp and got settled “in the real world” my first thought was about needing to start back up with data gathering. It felt oppressive and invasive. It felt like I had a week where I was able to listen and respond to my body, and above all to use it. And now it was back to measuring its deficiencies and trying to force it into the nebulous new normal I’m supposed to achieve.

    And then I had a radical thought: what if I don’t start tracking. What if I listen and engage with my body instead of monitor and reproach?

    And then another: what if I write about this. And not just this, what if I write about my whole experience as a disabled person at queer camp. What if I write about the juxtaposition of feeling intensely seen as a bi woman, but painfully erased in my invisible illnesses?

    A-Camp gave me even more than I realized. It reawakened agency and confidence. I feel like I have something to add to the conversation. I feel like I have a future that isn’t entirely defined by my conditions.

  36. I registered for the first A-Camp in 2012, and then I backed out at the last minute. I was not out to everyone in my life at the time and felt panicked over how I’d explain to people where I was going. I registered again a few years later (after a horrible breakup), and backed out once again, this time because I was too insecure to go by myself.

    I registered for A-Camp X this year, and I actually went, and WOW AM I SO GLAD THAT I DID. Those five days have changed my life. I am so inspired by and in awe of the people I met, and I feel like I’ve come away with at least 20 new best friends, and a new community of queers all over the world. Every single person I encountered at camp was unbelievably kind and warm and generous. Everyone asked for consent and was respectful of the needs and boundaries of those around them. The overall atmosphere was one of compassion, positivity, and joy. It felt like magic to be enveloped in it. I was glowing, we were all glowing, and I think we’ll all be carrying that light forward with us into our lives.

    I was going to share a selection of highlights from my A-Camp experience, but the list is way too long and I’m sorry I just I cannot narrow it down!

    Shoutout to the Pink Flamingos, I LOVE AND MISS YOU WONDERFUL QUEERS! Our cabin decorations next year are going to be epic. Just you all wait.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.