After four years of spending a week in August in the woods of Maine at an LGBT summer camp, called Camp Camp, I've decided to take a year off.
Camp is doing some organizational / management things that have resulted in the annual fees increasing significantly, even for staff members. While I could certainly make it happen if I were highly motivated, I'm not highly motivated. I've become pretty ambivalent about the experience, I'll try to flesh that out a little here.
First off, an internal problem. I have this tendency of getting involved / embedded into an organization or event in such a way that I'm not so much enjoying the event as I am working. Camp has become that way for me - I do almost no formal activities, the evening stuff seems like an effort, and between official and unofficial responsibilities: teaching yoga, rainbow group leader, talent show set-up - it felt more like a job. If I were getting more back, I guess I'd feel OK about that, but more and more I felt like I was putting in time, trying hard, serving others, not getting too much back.
On some level, that's an "It's not you, it's me" kind of thing - increasingly I've felt myself having a "stranger in a strange land" experience, feeling as if I move through, observe, serve this human species without actually being a member. I guess I've come to accept this feeling of alienation and separateness in the mainstream world; I take the moments of connection where I can find them. But to have that experience in a queer ghetto like camp is particularly difficult and painful.
Added to that is an increasing sensitivity and awareness of the difficulty of negotiating what is predominantly a G/L camp as a transwoman. While there is a "gender free" cabin (that, for the most part, is not occupied by transfolk), all of the out transwomen at camp have ended up in the same cabin in a way that has increasingly felt ghetto-izing and exclusionary. While I've never experienced trans-exclusionary-rad-fem (TERF) attitudes at camp, there are the occasional MWMF shirts and hats visible, and my own suspicions that the egregious / outspoken TERFs are just the tip of a much larger iceberg of lesbian women who don't see transwomen as women.
Last year, a camper of color made some waves with regard to a tea dance outfit (a rough approximation of drag geisha) and a talent show outfit (an afro wig, glasses, dashiki that was supposed to be hippie chic, but was perhaps somewhat colonizing of african american fashion). I was not too involved or invested in that discussion, but it kind of hit me square in the face how she was empowered / entitled to her discomfort with these encroaches, while as a transwoman, I'm sitting in a camp filled with nontrans men doing drag, and kind of sitting on my own discomfort / difficulty. Blackface (however mild) - bad. Transface - no big deal.
Finally, with the increase in cost, I felt that there would be a continued and increasing skewing of the camp population towards men (more money) - although I know camp is not really a "dating and mating" experience, its still nice to have that possibility. Between coupled women (many) and fewer women, well, the odds are growing increasingly long. Again, moving through the straight world, I've kind of grown accustomed to spending time alone, not having a lot of support or relationship opportunities - but spending a week at a relatively "target rich environment" such as camp and feeling similarly uncoupled and ineligible is particularly painful.
So - no camp for me, this year, this year for sure and possibly into the future. I'd rather spend the time and money at something that I get more out of (such as the NERFA conference).