I Went to Queer Summer Camp & Came Back More Gay


// view from 8,000ft; via Instagram \\

Recently someone asked me, “How can you be a feminist when you’re married to a man?”

Now, while this question was jam packed with all kinds of heavy complexity—things that I’d rather not get into right now—I realized that answering it was a lot easier than answering the other question I’ve been tossing around in my head for almost 10 years:

“How can you be bisexual when you’ve only ever dated men?”

I’ve written about this before. About my first real understandings of my sexuality; about opening up my marriage so I could date women; about disowning and then re-embracing the word “bisexual” to describe my orientation. But learning to take up space and fully accept myself as a bi-slash-queer woman is what I’ve been navigating and processing the most.

For as long as I’ve known that I wasn’t straight, I didn’t think I was allowed to claim a spot in the queer community. Partly because I had come out so late in life, and partly because I was married to a cis (albeit, queer himself) guy. I felt that by identifying as bi (or queer, or pansexual) and not having had sexual or romantic experience with women, I was being dishonest—with myself and with others.

Because on the surface, me and my life can very easily pass as hetero. I’m in a long-term committed relationship with a dude. My sexual history is comprised almost entirely of the opposite sex. I’m super femme. I don’t have an alternative and / or multi-colored hairstyle.

Bi-erasure is very real, & I’ve often felt like I contribute to my own invisibility.

Sometimes I’d get curious about whether living a more out and “queer lifestyle”—whatever that meant—would help assuage my feelings of disconnect. But mostly, I’ve felt strangely separated and disallowed from non-straight circles because my sexual identity didn’t seem to qualify within the explicit confines of queerness.

Which bred self-doubt. Which spurred spiraling inner denial. Which exacerbated my otherness.

Of course, these things would’ve worked themselves out eventually. I would’ve figured out how much leniency and flexibility and acceptance queer spaces and identities contain. And I think I would’ve eventually found peace in my queerness, enough to finally take up space and claim my sexuality with pride and consistency.

But it’s hard to do these things alone. And it’s hard to try to transform and transcend yourself out of nowhere without an experience that anchors you to what’s true.

Sometimes you have to just go for it; take a risk and expose yourself to a whole new element to figure out once and for all who you really are.

I’m really good at doing that—taking risks and exposing myself to new things. Not so much for the pleasure of it, but more so because I like resolution and closure.

So, in hopes of finding resolution to the question “Can I really be queer if I’m married to a guy?”, and with determination to get closure around the separateness of me and the queer community, I went to queer summer camp. 

The details of the camp—the who, what, where, why—don’t matter (though you can read all about it here). What’s most important to me is how this adventure helped to validate and solidify my beingness as a queer woman of color. How I was seen and heard and accepted fully for who I was—even though I’m married to a guy and have bare minimum experience with women.

In a word, camp was cathartic, and I came back home more gay than I was before I left.

Not more gay in the sense that I like women way more than I like men now, but more like I can stand tall and big and proud in my queerness. That I finally feel free to take up and claim space in the queer community. That I can call myself queer (or bi, or pansexual) and not have a quiver in my voice or a tremble in my knees.

All because I was seen, heard, accepted.

It helps, too, when you’re suspended on a giant mountain 8,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by wild terrain and incredible humans.

While I was up there, I took many moments to myself to collect my thoughts and re-center myself back to my True North, and on the second-to-last day of camp, I wrote this in my journal:

I am a pretty cool person. last night, I danced until 2am; I moved my body in ways that felt so fluid, so sexually charged & sensual. I went to bed with my ears buzzing—perhaps from the blaring music, but likely from the delightful energy radiating throughout my body.

today, who I am feels so bottomless, so vast that I cannot measure it, so wild that I cannot tame it. I am enjoying it. I am enjoying the freedom & independence of this trip. I am loving how I am leaning into spontaneity & openness.

it’s so beautiful up here. I feel a deep connection to this place. it almost feels like home, & essentially it is. the desert is where I grew up—where I began my journey of selfhood. & I’m doing it all over again. in these woods. I am truly happy to be here.

Being affirmed is the most healing of medicines.

It gives you the courage to stand fully in your truth. It restores the parts of you that feel withered and worn. It reminds you of where your home is.

© 2018 Ev'Yan Whitney. All rights reserved.