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 333 articles for us.

200 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. “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.

  6. 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?)

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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