OPEN THREAD: Let’s Talk About How Awesome A-Camp Was

this is camper kate hinchey's photo of someone taking our team photo

I’m sitting at the desk in Crystal’s hotel room — she’s flying out to Australia tonight, so Marni and I stayed with her here last night — and I slept for like eight entire hours and I’m not even hungover! So I’m feeling pretty good, is what I’m telling you. But not as good as I felt at A-Camp — sans sleep, nutrients or sobriety — because nothing in the entire world that I’ve seen so far has felt as good as A-Camp. As you may or may not know, I’ve had a LOT of feelings throughout my tender exploratory life on earth, but I don’t know yet how to talk about the A-Camp feelings.

Luckily, we’ve got an eight-hour drive and two battles with transportation companies ahead of us today, and you know what that means — lots of time to process!

For now, I have this: I wish it had gone on and on and on and on, just like in the song, that I could’ve sat down and talked to every single camper instead of just some of the campers, that I had words for this (rather than just facial expressions). I’ve never been so proud of my 35-strong team and so honored to be working with them, or more in awe of their incredible talent and intelligence and spirit — and I’d like to specifically mention Robin and Marni here, too, ’cause they organized and ran this weekend like pros.

I’ve never been so proud of all of you — 163 beautiful, energetic women and otherwise-identified queers — who came to a spot in the mountains from all over the world with such enormously positive attitudes and open arms. We talked about writing, made ‘zines, went hiking, drank tea, cross-stitched, pressed flowers, got alternative lifestyle haircuts, had our breasts pelted by giant super soakers wielded by Julie Goldman & Brandy Howard, met and geeked, performed slam poetry, played jeopardy, took photos, did interviews for Carly’s documentary, speed-dated with Hannah Hart, learned to sing with Haviland, attended gender panels and queer women of color panels and sex panels and queer-women-in-media panels and activism panels and career panels and formspring panels and also we drank/danced/laughed/sang/played/loved. I laughed so fucking hard my jaw ached by the end of every day, and we all clapped and cheered for all the things. And I believe somewhere in between planning elaborate pranks on one another, many of you got laid!

But maybe the one personal memememe feeling I think I’ve got right now at 30 minutes ’til check-out and three unpacked bags is that maybe this weekend I finally started to get it, what you’ve been telling me all along — I did this, right? I found you crazy-ass motherfuckers and we made this place and I had this vision and you all helped me realize it and we all found our words and now lots of people have been transformed forever and we have THIS — THIS THING! So — I guess I’m pretty proud of myself, too.

So yes, we’re looking at October (UPDATE: Maybe September or November actually, we’ll let you know!) for our next A-Camp event — in California again, although we do plan to host camps on other coasts hopefully next year (we’re aware of your 50 billion requests for this, never fear) — and I need to see all of your faces and also a lot of new faces next time.

And now I turn this open thread over to you and your feelings. We’ll have lots of camp-related content throughout the week to share our joy with you, but if you’re anything like me, you probably have lots of joy you already need to talk about right now. Take it away, special snowflakes!

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Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," 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. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2885 articles for us.

595 Comments

  1. If we were playing the lesbian processing drinking game we’d all be dead right now. This thread is the best thing.

    I am still recovering from my 19 hour travel day back to Michigan. So my feelings are still somewhat jumbled.

    My number one feelings: I was so grateful to be able to see all your beautiful faces in real life. Seeing all of you being open and gorgeously living your truths has inspired me to start telling the truth more in my own life, which means coming out to more family and at work. So thank you for that!

    Winning lesbian jeopardy was definitely a highlight of the weekend, as well as zine making (can’t wait for the finished project!) and the gender panel.

    Also the insane amount of booze the Golden Girls consumed this weekend was spectacular. Thanks Digger, Cynthia, and everyone else who made our pub crawl cabin happen!

  2. i am not a cryer and i wasn’t even there, but this thread has made me tear up. i’m just so happy for everyone who went and so grateful to the whole team for creating this for everyone. riese, you really have made such an amazing, inspiring thing, that is way way more than just a website, NEVER sell yourself short.

  3. Oh God. All these comments give me so many feelings that I don’t think I stopped running around to feel during camp.

    Can I just take a second to thank all the girls who came up to me and told me they bought blazers because of Autostraddle? It weirdly really really meant a lot to me. There were so many blazers and I LOVED IT. You know how I feel about blazers!

    Also if you missed the How To Pick Up Girls Workshop you missed a moment of life.

  4. Would a fifteen year old questioning girl be welcomed in October or is it more for older, actual queers?
    This all looks so so so so so amazing
    And meeting reise and everyone else of course
    And this is just like unicorns

  5. I’ve always wanted to see the US. I think I could make October :)

    and, I’m so glad everyone had a wonderful time! But how could you not, what with everyone being awesomesauce and all.

  6. Bummed I had to miss it. Sounds like it was pure awesomeness.

    But, there’s hope for October! Maybe A-Camp will happen early enough in the law school semester when I won’t have to study during the weekend and could skip off to the the West Coast…or I could always study torts and contracts during that long ass flight to California.

    A more central (ie: Midwest) or East Coast location for future A-Camps would be awesome though. Snow is not an evil word.

  7. So I was the kid sitting awkwardly in the corner while everyone else took the massive group photo because I am so far in the closet I chose not to appear in pictures, but I want to say thank you to everyone who made me feel super comfortable the whole time, entertained my endless stream of questions, and endured my rants about not being able to convert Farenheit to Celsius in my head. Having a safe space to be myself and be among people who were really my people, people who got me, was really truly amazing even if it was just for a weekend.

    I don’t think I’ll be attending the next camp because I don’t think I could justify spending that kinda money and time on myself twice, but I will at least sponsor and/or otherwise persuade someone around me to go because (a) I really want my friends to feel the same kind of acceptance & safety that I did and (b) both Singapore and London are on the list of top 20 cities AS readers come from so WE NEED TO BE REPRESENTED.

    To anyone who might have any doubts about attending the next A-Camp: no one EVER pressurises you into doing anything you don’t want to do, and you will find plenty of things you will want to do, and honestly the best part for me was hanging around (IN THE SUN) and just talking to people. I would pay the full price just for the environment and the people alone, that’s how worth it it was.

    P.S. Riese in my haphazard rush to catch the shuttle I left my pen with you and it made it a little harder for me to fill in my UK landing card, but it’s cool I still love you because of all the other things. And by that I mean EVERYTHING. Thank you for doing this, you fully deserve to feel proud of yourself.

  8. coming back to real life was hard. feelings :

    1) if gabby was involved in anything ever, i’d probably attend it. she is incredible.
    2) canadians are all super hot
    3) pranking is still fun as an adult
    4) you can fit 8 people in a comfortable cuddlepuddle in a bunkbed
    5) RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE

    my gay goggles are still on. i’m convinced that every lady i look at is a lesbian and will want to immediately talk to me and process feelings. this is not the case. I WANT TO GO BACK TO MY QUEER UTOPIA GUYS.

  9. I’m so late to this thread because I was passed out (pneumonia monostraddler here). A Camp was amazing, I was intimidated at first and kind of anti social because I’m shy with large groups. But I got past it (kind of). That is what A Camp is about.

    I bummed a lot of weed off people, lost two pairs of panties from tossing them on stage at the talent show. The last night was awesome, I hung out with so many amazing chicks (people I’ve technically known for months from chat), and particularly with soccermom when at four in the morning we went down to the main campfire site and lay on the stage and just looked at the stars. It was fucking beautiful.

    I never felt like because we were all gay or queer we needed to hook up or do something sexual, it was just a place to make friends, especially for those of us who don’t necessarily have a lot of LGBT friends in our daily lives. (not that there wasn’t hooking up happening a-hem)

    And although I felt a bit starry eyed for the Autostraddle staff, no one felt unapproachable and everyone was so nice. Though Gaby really does know how to make a girl blush, I was totally speechless for a couple seconds after I talked to her, just felt like my breath went whoosh right out of me.

  10. Even though I have always had a pretty stellar relationship with my mom, I came away from camp with a new set of experiences, vocabulary, and understanding of myself that triggered one of the most productive and heartwarming conversations that I have ever had about gay-dom with her. Thank you to everyone who made that possible :) I miss you all!

  11. Oh my GOD I wish I had been there. October, maybe. I still have to figure out some sort of “real world getting a job” thing, but I will be there if it is even the tiniest bit possible. I WANT TO MEET ALL OF YOU AWESOME PEOPLE.

  12. Camp was so, so amazing. So much so that I have finally decided to start commenting. It’s so cool to recognize some faces on here finally. Can’t wait to see you all next time!

  13. Fucking camp, you guys.

    Since I don’t really have the words to talk about what camp meant to me, I’ll just list some things that happened:

    – Golden Girls booze shelves
    – wasteunit and the raccoon in the snack shack
    – being called an institution (STILL NOT OVER THAT K)
    – being too nervous to talk to Annika but then Crystal introduced us and now we’re going to dinner when I’m in Berkeley on my wife’s and my big gay road trip :O
    – dancing like an idiot to my favorite Le Tigre song surrounded by all my new friends
    – Beth’s rap
    – Laneia saying she felt like she knows me already
    – telling Riese I wanted to shake her hand and Riese telling me she wanted to shake my pants
    – spin the fucking bottle
    – wanting to cry with my whole body because camp was over

    I love all you bitches.

  14. So proud to have been a part of the beginning of what I’m sure will become a gayyyyyy baby army.

    I’ve never been in a place where every single person was so open minded and determined to have a positive experience. I liked every single person I met, and can’t wait to see you all again and see new faces too!

    I can’t even fucking believe this all happened and I am so sad our gay bubble burst and we all had to go back to the real world where not everyone is an awesome queer. I definitely have a new appreciation for the term “safe space.”

    Most lesbian thing ever was the last night when she-who-will-remain-unnamed got sick literally because of TOO MANY FEELINGS. I will miss all the processing sessions and I feel like nobody in my daily life except Autostraddlers understands how necessary they are.

    Also – other half of EliseSquared, HOLLA!

    Gabby & Katrina = the best counselors.

    Cherry Bomb FTW.

  15. Can I add that I am so so grateful that the A-Camp fbook page, the A-Camp tumblr, and this thread exist? Because nobody at home knows where I spent the weekend and I need to share it with someone.

  16. Y’ALL. I was a mute all weekend because I was awe-struck at how wonderful and beautiful and amazing you all were. It was so surreal to be standing with 200 queers who were welcoming, hilarious, and accepting. I have been reading this website since day 1 (and started reading autowin in 08). I could not believe that it was really happening.

    I promise to start commenting more. I miss you all so much already.

  17. My girlfriend doesn’t get it yet (“it” being my love for Autostraddle and my need to go to A-Camp). She will.

    I need to just show her this whole thread and have her see the magic that is lesbians camping on a mountain with whiskey and rapping.

  18. Confession: although I check Autostraddle every day, I never comment. Is A Camp only really for those who are very active in the AS community, or can a dedicated lurker who just may be in-area for a short time in October have fun and make friends too?

  19. I have so many feelings about camp too guys.
    I’m a huge introvert so going into such a large group of new people was very daunting but A-camp made me feel as comfortable as possible, and i met heaps of awesome people.

    It’s very strange being back home in the real world and it’s amazing reading through this thread and recognising all the people i met a camp.

    Anyway just wanted to say thanks to all the autostraddle staff for making camp happen. And especially to Taylor and Bren and all the girls in the Golden Girls cabin :)

  20. Riese, will Autumn A-Camp be a weekend again or are you thinking a week-long deal? (I ask bc I will find it easier to justify blowing my savings to come over from the UK if it’s a week, but I may come anyway tbh.)

  21. I’ve taken a couple days to collect my thoughts, and all my stories now start with ‘One time, at A-Camp…’

    So, this one time at A-Camp, I was the hopper and Beth smiled at me in that way that says I’m so glad you are all here. Made my day/weekend/life.

    Also, everyone smiled a lot at camp, and that was my favorite part.

  22. A-CAMP FEELS LIKE A DREAM. The whole weekend felt so empowering having all these awesome people in such a beautiful place. I’m pretty introverted and came late so I didn’t get to meet everyone, but it was still frickin’amazing just to be surrounded by it all. All of you are my heroes; so inspiring!

  23. SO MANY FEELINGS! (and i wasn’t even there) Seems like a wonderful time, sooo hoping i can go next time (but just checked out the plane tickets, 2000 dollazzz gotta sell my soul on ebay first)

  24. So pre A-Camp I was out, but still trying to blend in with the heteros around me. I would censor my gayness and let it only when explicitly asked.
    Now post A-Camp I find myself wanting to shout from the rooftops “I’m gay and I fucking love it!”
    Thank you A-Camp.

  25. You guys, I would like to take this time to nominate myself for a camp award. I walked in on sexytimes a total of four times, accidentally, during all times of the day or night.

    Can anyone beat this, or do I just have a knack for interrupting?

  26. I’m currently not old enough/close enough/financially stable enough to go to an A-Camp but oh wow does it look like fun!

    And I’d be lying if I said that going to A camp wasn’t on my bucket list so yay for future camps, woo!

  27. I somehow missed the initial posting about A-Camp but I will totally go in the fall. I will even pay you all of my the money right now! I’m a pretty introverted person at first but I think A-Camp is exactly what I need :)

  28. ughhh this needs to happen again because i JUST FOUND THIS FUCKING SITE AND JUST JOINED AND JUST REALIZED THIS HAPPENED AND I’VE NEVER BEEN TO ANY KIND OF SLEEP AWAY CAMP AND IT SOUNDS PERFECT AND GAY. im glad everyone had a good time. im 16… can i still go next time it happens??? were there many teens? i dont care. either way it sounds amazing. good job.

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