In an effort to build a space for queer people like myself, every Tuesday I’ll be posting opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community. Welcome to Queerly Not Straight! Enjoy and leave a comment below if you have a suggestion for what I should cover next.
This past week I was fortunate enough to join the queer community at Autostraddle’s A-Camp in Ojai, California. For those not in the know, A-Camp is an adult camp for the queer community that celebrates diversity, acceptance, and all the glitter and rainbow wars you’re queer little heart has ever desired. (Last one is real. There were rainbow wars and pink *cough* MY TEAM *cough* won!)
Over the span of a couple days I have learned so much about myself, my community, and the changes I want to make from here on out as a queer person and human being. And as a means of somehow bringing this whole experience into one post, here are 7 things I learned at A-Camp.
Warning: Sex toys will be discussed, the world will be a brighter & queerer place after reading this, and you’ll want to immediately want to go to A-Camp next year!
1. We need more QTPOC spaces.
I didn’t know that I needed a queer space for people of color until I was surrounded by the most beautiful, honest, and kind POC that I’ve ever met. Our experiences are shaped differently because of where we were born, our language, or the color of our skin. And being given a space at A-Camp to understand and discover this part of my queer experience was liberating and eye opening. I needed this space, and so does every other QTPOC, to feel like I belong and like my POV is just as valid as any other queer.
2. Everything is better with consent.
Until A-Camp I thought that consent was something only attributed to sexual intercourse. (Ignorance happens to the best of us.) Oh, how wrong I was. Consent is about acknowledging someone else’s feelings, limitations, and personal space because we respect and care about them. So if I was going to hug someone I’d ask them if touching was ok. Before I took a picture of someone, I’d ask them if it was ok. Even before I danced up on someone, I’d ask them if it was ok. And every single time I respected someone’s personal space, our relationship and bond grew in unexpected and fantastic ways.
Asking for consent, no matter the situation, is something I want to take with me no matter where I go or who I become in the future; because I deserve to have my space respected and so do others.
3. They/them pronouns aren’t as hard to use as people think.
Even as a queer woman, I’ll admit to my ignorance when it came to ‘they, theirs, and them’ pronouns. In a way I thought it was excessive and something that wasn’t needed. You were a she or a he and that was ok. But identifying as ‘they, theirs, and them’ isn’t about me. It’s about the other person and how they want to identify themselves. And if I respect them then why I can’t respect their choice to use the pronouns ‘they, theirs, and them’?
A part of my ignorance of these pronouns does come from medias perpetual view of ‘they, theirs, and them’ pronouns being too hard to remember. It’s not. I myself mucked up a couple times and was kindly asked to use the proper pronouns. After 3 or 4 times, something clicked in my mind and using ‘they, theirs, and them’ became as easy as using ‘she/her’ or ‘he/him.’
4. Safe spaces are real.
From falling asleep in a hammock at midnight to knowing that I could depend on the food not to have anything that would give me an allergy, A-Camp is the safest I’ve ever felt in my life. Big words, right? But they ring true. The staff and campers at A-Camp listened, learned, and were there to make sure that we got something that isn’t available to us in the rest of the world: a safe place to let ourselves go and free without fear of being hurt, rejected, or having an allergic reaction because someone paid no mind to that gluten or shellfish allergy.
I was listened to at A-Camp. I was appreciated at A-Camp. I was free of judgement at A-Camp. I was encouraged to try new things at A-Camp. I was honest at A-Camp. I was safe at A-Camp.
5. Fuck bras and things you think you can’t wear.
I saw one bra during my time at A-Camp. My own. And initially I thought someone was going to say something like, “Oh my god, you’re boobs are hanging so low!” or “That’s so inappropriate. No one needs to see your nipples, especially kids!” Well, there were no kids here and there was no shaming at all because nipples are a natural and beautiful part of the body and everyone has them. Wearing no bra felt liberating and seeing all the people at A-Camp saying fuck you to societies standards made me like I could set myself free from what others think too.
A-Camp was also a mecca for outrageous outfits that I never thought I could wear. From rainbow sequinned pants to cat jumpsuits, campers were expressing themselves in a multitude of ways that I desperately want to keep a hold of in my life post-camp. And I will. P.S. I see The Little Mermaid overalls in my future!
6. Sex toys are yes toys.
From The Womanizer to the Sqweel, I have learned so much about sex toys at various A-Camp workshops, trivia hours, and Thirst Games in the style of the traditional egg and spoon race. Most importantly, I’ve learned to not to be ashamed of them at all. My pleasure and the many ways that I can seek it isn’t dirty or something I should pretend I never engage in or think about.
It’s my body and I will love it in any way I see fit, even if that means buying a Magic Wand or the Minna Life Lemon. Look them both up. They look like a fantastic way to start accepting and taking care of your body. Keyword: start.
7. Everyone needs to go to A-Camp!
I could sit here all day talking about the wonderful things you can do at A-Camp. You can make life long friends, you can meet a camp boo, and you can even do a ropes course like any other camp. Difference is that this space, this gloriously gay space, is the safest and most welcoming I have ever felt in my life. And if I can be changed by this one experience, if I can feel like I could conquer the world right now, one queer at a time, imagine what it could do for you.
Imagine what it could do for a loved one still hiding in the closet.
Imagine what it could do for that person still looking for their space or community.
Imagine what it could do for the world.
P.S. If you need clarification on the last one, here it is: the world can become a happier, more accepting, and safer place with more camps, activities, and meetups like the ones I attended at A-Camp. This is the real gay agenda.
Queerly Not Straight posts every Tuesday with opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community.