OPEN THREAD: A-Camp Was So Amazing We Can Hardly Believe It Was Real

Everybody kept talking about this energy, this “good energy” that was in the air up there, and they were right about that. You arrived boundlessly and we celebrated ceaselessly. You were there to make friends, and I think we all did. You are a truly majestic assortment of human beings and it was a privilege to share a mountaintop with you.

The QTPOC Speakeasy

The QTPOC Speakeasy, via instagram

Do you remember? Do you even know where to begin? Can you even state, definitively, which song is stuck in your head right now? Do you remember that first night at the fire circle when Julia Nunes and Jenny Owen Youngs did the most beautiful duet of “With A Little Help From My Friends” ever and the week was so young and so were you and all that energy was already wrapped up in stars?  Do you remember Jasika Nicole dancing like the personification of neon in Club Wolf and how you probably realized way before that moment that she was an actual perfect human? Remember when Kristin Russo and Dannielle Owens-Reid choreographed an enormous and epic lip sync performance in which every one of you outdid your own self? Did you know that banter about where a certain person prefers to eat dinner is actually the funniest thing ever when it’s being discussed by Britttani Nichols and Lauren Morelli? Remember Deanne Smith reminding you that it was 2 PM on a Thursday and you were watching queer cheerleaders, chair dancers and Beyonce groovers perform like old pros, and that this was your life? (Are you remembering to say FUCK IT? Are ya?) Can we take a minute for the A-Camp dance team, the A-Camp Family Band, Elicia Sanchez‘s childhood, Mal Blum‘s gold glittered vest, Djuan Trent‘s selfie stick and tightrope, Kimber Hall‘s group text, and all of Brittani’s monsters? Remember that song you wrote with Jenny and Mal? No seriously, that song was so good, I hope you remember that song, I hope you’re still singing it on the airplane.


Dannielle and Kristin on a mountain, via instagram

You turned up and turned out. You arm-wrestled, witch-crafted, finger-knitted, quilted, made magic, kinker-toyed, fixed bikes, wrote , and sang along to Selena. You talked about being queer adults, size destigmatizers, mixed-race, good allies, feminist beer-drinkers, community caretakers and anal sex enthusiasts. You played basketball and trivia and drank three-ingredient gin cocktails. Most importantly, above all: YOU HAD A TIME.

Senior Editors Hike

Senior Editors Hike

I left the mountain today slack-jawed, hungry, sunburnt, exhausted, eager to catch up on the website — and so happy, too. So happy! I had the time of my life with you humans, and seeing you have the time of your life with each other made love tumble out of my heart like a rockslide.

Okay, your turn: what was your favorite part of camp? What do you already miss? (Besides the GOURMET DINING, obviously.)

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.


  1. tbh I’m really missing how good one of my cabin sestra’s butt looked in a skirt they wore??? oh, and Michelle. What a gem.

  2. I cried so much, laughed so hard and danced my ass off. I did the silliest things with the best people, and let myself be the most vulnerable.

    Camp felt like taking my own soul out of my body and handing it to a bunch of people who took such of it, healed it, and gave it back.

  3. i miss everything!
    (including my headphones >.<)

    this was my first camp and it was so much more than it needed to be. it was so much more than i wanted it to be.

    the absence of so much idiocy (patriarchy) at camp has made the flood of it returning, now that camp is over, so painful.

    can we go back now?

  4. A-Camp was one of the most AMAZING experiences of my life!! Thank you to all the beautiful humans who made it possible! Those that shared their experience reading my articles and gave thumbs up for the readings and workshops! Those who listened to me. Those that allowed me the honor of listening to you. Those that checked me when I needed to be checked. Those that just shared a moment. I have never in my life felt so honored and validated. Yay to Mt Feelings!!!

  5. I wasn’t there and it makes me so sad. But I literally (*literally*) stalked on instagram that had #autostraddlecamp. Seriously, it became my pastime. It became the thing I looked forward to at numerous points during the day. On the bike at the gym, on transit, when I woke up in the morning. IT BECAME MY LIFE (not really, that’d be going too far. but I really did build it into my day).

    SO all of which to say, I feel like I was there with y’all in some small way. And it looked fucking incredible. Those live performances (Carmen as Bruno Mars gives me all kinds of feelings), that carnival, the mountain, all you impossibly beautiful people. Glad you all had such a great time. I hope I can go some year D:

  6. I miss being surrounded by so many incredible queers with so much validation and love (and booze) to give.

  7. my airplane seatmate was manspreading and taking up so much space and I almost stabbed him with a knife made of feelings and ugh why isn’t everything camp

    seriously one of the most transformative and uplifting weeks of my life, y’all are the best humans

    • OMG Kat me too! Every time the dude next to me started to move his knee into my space I deathglared at him.

  8. It’s only just now hitting me that I won’t be able to go dancing at Club Deer tonight :(

  9. You guys are the best. It looked really pretty driving down the mountain today. There was that blanket of cloud that seemed to cover all of real life. Then Cameron and I pulled over at the best turnout and the clouds just seemed to rise up and over us. The sun and heavens looked like they were hugging. When we stopped at In N Out I wanted to go back to the mountain forever and ever you guys.

    I have all the Family band performances except the 3rd song which I don’t remember..IDK what happened. TOO MANY FEELINGS maybe. NOW I HAVE FEELINGS. It will be a whole year before I see all of your beautiful faces again and give you real hugs. But in the meantime, we can hang out here on the interwebs. IDK where to put all the videos and pictures right now but I can tell you guys there are some great sequence shots of humans being cute on the swings, playing pool games and bouncing around that HUGE boxing ring with these gloves and helmets.

    CAMP WAS SO GREAT THIS YEAR GUYS. Now I think I’m going to sleep for a whole week. BYE.

  10. Picked out a couple of my favorite photos to share with you guys from camp. Tomorrow I will take a look into those videos and how to get them on the interwebs. LOL. Most were from the State Fair which was extremely entertaining.


  11. YOU GUYS I WANT THAT SHIRTTTT. So bad. It would match my new head bandana because (thyroid surprise!) my hair is falling out. I hope next a-camp my health and finances will be exponentially better so I can come. I love you guys and wish I could have been there with you!

  12. I can indeed state which songs are stuck in my head, namely OUR COLLECTIVE A-CAMP SONG (“whoa-oh, doin’ stuff at camp”) and Boss (all the lyrics I know: “Michelle Obama,” “nay-nay,” “I pledge allegiance to my independent girls in there”).

    When I go in to work tomorrow I will fully expect my boss to sing “Announcements, announcements, anoouuuuncements” to me and my coworkers.

  13. Definitely my cabin. I am just attached to my Facebook feed watching the pics come in, already nostalgic and ready for a reunion.

    Witchblades 2015, y’all

  14. I miss my Sharks! And learning a new craft every day.

    So many favorite memories but one would be on the senior editors hike when everyone was smelling the bark of a seemingly magic tree because it smelled like vanilla and/or cream soda. Like, nose shoved right in cracks of the bark kind of smelling. (It turns out that’s normal for ponderosa pines? Yay learning.)

  15. Nothing like entering that packed cafeteria, look around and think “everyone here is queer”

  16. CAMPIRES, you feisty beautiful party queers, I will never get over playing Spin The Bottle With Feelings with you. All kinds of other great folks I met- cheers! Stay in touch. No better dance party than the dance parties at camp. No better place to hike or to journal. I loved the workshops and the talent this year were incredible- thank you for all your musical gifts!! And thank you to Autostraddle, as always, for making all this happen.

    • Whoa whoa, spin the bottle with feelings? Can I get the rules of this game so I can play it FOREVER?

      • The rules are slightly secret and originated in the legendary Flashdance game of Camp 4.0 but for those who need to know… Message me and I will impart my ancient secret wisdom :P

    • Gosh, where to even start? My body is uber thankful about the dancing opportunities, especially the Speakeasy takeover of Klub Deer, and simultaneously all banged up and achy—so worth it, though. The self-care workshop was both chill and effective in ways I haven’t seen other SC workshops be, and maaaaan, I’ve been to a LOT of conferences, so major props on that. Every time I use the little lavender salve I’ll remember your beautiful faces. :) So good to have a mix of practical skills, good conversation, kinesthetic learning, and all that great stuff in one session. Just the variety in workshops, too, was rad—what other camps/events can you attend where you can learn how to chair-dance, make chapstick, play tug-of-war, have a fishbowl activity on good/bad anti-racist allyship, learn how to be a bo$$lady entrepreneur, AND learn about rockets?

      And speaking of bossladies, how can I NOT comment on the BO$$ lip-synching experience? That was so fun and hilarious to do, and the song is now just looping in my head forever. [I’m okay with that.]

      But beyond all the activities, what made it was the space and the people themselves. SO many vulnerable, amazing, thoughtful, resourceful humans with huge hearts looking for connection. I was blown away by meeting the QTPOC speakeasy folks in person, and by being in, objectively, one of the best cabins ever ;) #THEBEYHIVE FOREVER.

  17. And for those of you missing queers in your everyday life — if anyone missed our lunch meetup on How To Have An Awesome Straddler Group/ Meetup In Your City So There Will Still Be Queer-normative Spaces In Your Life, feel free to message me on here and I can pass along all kinds of tips, suggestions, etc. for just meeting new people, for building community, etc. We’re probably gonna have a Facebook group just for organizers of Straddler groups so I can add you to that as well! :)

    • ME! I meant to go to the meetup and of course I didn’t because there’s 10 trillion things going on at a-camp and now I’m super sad about no straddles in my area!! I’ll message you!

  18. So I’ve been following all the A-Camp shenanigans on Instagram and I’m not sure I’d survive the feels. So glad you guys had an amazing time.

  19. Building (and sorting!) Legos with Heather was a dream come true, geek trivia, bouncy castle boxing, zine making and sharing a mountain with the sweetest bunch of weirdos on earth. Thank you so much for building this world!

  20. I just got home and I don’t yet have words to describe how great camp was or how perfect you all are. Thanks for making my first camp incredible!

    • KaeLyn, you and Yvonne were such warm and welcoming cabin counselors, and did a great job of helping us feel safe and comfortable. Thank you! #sharkfamily4ever

  21. So so so many favorite moments but they can all be summed up in laughing until you fall down (or drool) and dancing until 2am every. single. night. So happy to be part of the Outsiders, the most badass yet loving group of crazy folks. #hotcabin #upgradedtosexy Thanks everyone for letting me my most comfortable and authentic self!

  22. Y’all, I slept until noon today. I can only guess that my body didn’t know what to do with itself because I wasn’t in Eagle having morning tea/that badass hot chocolate with every single one of y’all. Thank you for an amazing time and for enduring lentil loaf with me. <3

    • Ali! You and Whitney were the most amazing counselors us newbie Star Runners could ask for!!! You made me feel so welcomed and comfortable from the moment I stepped off the shuttle. Thank you for everything! Can’t wait to come back again next year!!!!

  23. Honestly not sure yet if the whole thing was a really magical fantastic dream? I don’t know what to do now that every face I am having a conversation with isn’t so DARN BEAUTIFUL.

  24. i loved my campires
    i loved my bandmates
    i loved emily gigler (today and every day)
    i loved all your bright and shining faces and getting to know so many amazing people
    but mostly i loved the sudden and remarkable resurgence of lil mama’s “lipgloss”

  25. I loved how fearless all of my cabin mates were about getting bugs away from me. I loved how sweet everyone was when they found out I had come down with the Great Stomach Plague of a-camp, I loved the many outfit changes shamelessly and proudly made by all of us, and I loved the moment in line for nachos when a cute girl turned to me and said, “I’m so excited for this.” (sarah right? I think I got your name after the last dance???)

    RIP to my heart forever now that we’re back to reality

  26. Doing comedy for all of you beautiful qweirdos is by far the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me so thanks for that I suppose.

  27. I spent about a billion hours trying to word my feelings on Facebook and this is what I finally posted.

    “I just spent six days immersed in the closest thing to utopia that this fucked-up planet can manage. Six days surrounded by joyful, supportive, open-hearted, hilarious, irreverent, genuine sparks of life. Six whole days without hearing (first-hand, anyway) a single negative or judgemental comment directed toward anyone, where 300 human beings were free to be exactly who they are without fear or shame. Six days where I bonded with not just one or two, but an entire cabin full of amazing people who are now friends for life, despite many of us being people who usually find it difficult to make close friends.

    Having said that – I know that even this exceptional, magical space was not perfect. I acknowledge that my impressions were only my own. As a white cis able-bodied person, I am certain there were microaggressions I didn’t notice and pain I didn’t have to experience. I am fortunate enough to return to a comfortable home with a supportive network of family and friends. For me, leaving the mountain was sad, but not traumatic.

    But I do leave the mountain inspired and emboldened. Imagine how the world could be if we could bring even just this basic level of human decency and mutual respect into our wider societies? What would that look like? I leave the mountain realizing that Autostraddle is not just an entertaining website, and A-Camp is not just a fun place to prank rival teams and dance in your pyjamas – but that these people have created a powerful, life-changing network of incandescent minds. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have had the opportunity to be a small part of it.”

  28. I think I just wrote an entire essay about my gender identity after spending all morning crying and writing mini love notes to friends on facebook. chosen fucking family, y’all.

  29. Also the STAFF READINGS. The staff readings wrecked me, you guys. I was totally incapable of doing anything other than lying comatose in my bunk for hours afterwards. Literally everyone’s piece was amazing, but I most especially loved Whitney’s, who I never got the chance to talk to afterwards, and Gabby’s, who I later awkwardly fangirled at in the office (sorryaboutthatIamnotgoodattalkingtohumans). Public readings are usually hours of boredom punctuated by the occasional flash of brilliance, but this was like we are going to turn the feelings laser on full force for 2.5 hours and there is nothing you can do about it except sit there and be slowly dismantled molecule by molecule, so say goodbye to your heart/brain mwahahahaaaa.

    • I RELATE TO THIS. The Readings this year were a-fucking-mazing. Literally every. single. one. UGHHHH

    • Yeah, the staff readings definitely devastated my emotional landscape IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY.

  30. I’m experiencing some intense A-Camp withdrawal. This “real world” bullshit’s got nothing on Mount Feelings, that’s for sure.

  31. I just love y’all so much. Beyhive for life. Brass and Ass for life. A-Camp for life.

  32. Honestly all I want to do is talk about camp but people who weren’t there don’t get it. :(

    It’s been so long since I’ve allowed myself to be that vulnerable with other people. Despite occasional heavy feels the whole experience was very recharging and gave me just what I needed I think. My cabin mates were amazing and I miss them all (Space Jam represent heyyy #irving)!

    I want to say my favorite panels were definitely the queer desire map, kinker toys (which was a pun I literally just got on the plane), and destigmatize your size but everything I attended was so great.

    Also so thankful for that No Diggity cover and Elicia Sanchez. Also also gosh, so many cute people. Wow.

    • The No Diggity cover was everything. I totally know what you mean about trying to explain camp to people who just don’t get it. It sucks! Buuuut of course maybe some magical moments are better left to us than to others.

  33. My cabinmates were the most incredible people. The only way I’m handling the post-camp blues is a group text we have going on.
    My favorite moment was Jenny singing “With a Little Help from my Friends” after the speech Riese gave. It was such a surreal moment with all of us singing and lovin’ on each other.
    I miss you all terribly. <3

  34. I miss being drunk fist-bumped six or seven times by Nurse Vivian, and being told I was the greatest…for about two seconds, until someone else was the greatest. But that was okay, ’cause two minutes later I was the greatest again.

    I miss turning down for bed.

    I miss watching a bunch of queers learn how to block punches from bears.

    I miss playing catch with a waterpolo ball and fighting my own teammates for the ever-elusive invisible watermelon.

    I miss all the opportunities I missed to take videos and photos because I was too busy dancing my life away in a denim vest.

    I miss the excellent haircuts and spontaneous deep conversations.


  35. i continue to swim in a sea of residual camp amazingness. thank you to everyone for being just the Best, even those of you who call yourselves the Worst. i miss my firebirds, i miss my co-capitan, i miss the joint gloriousness that was the sister-cabin-pair the Birds and the Beys.

    thank you to everyone who came to my letter writing workshop and sent beautiful letters and love from the mountain to incarcerated community members. thanks to everyone who shared at bad allies and the workshop to make queer women’s spaces trans-inclusive. thank you everyone who was at the staff reading and to everyone else who read. thanks to everyone who swang on swings with me. thanks to those fucking giant pinecones.


    • Your presence at camp was so kind and genuine and I completely enjoyed any workshop/activity you were involved in. Thank you for being you!

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