CAMP GB: the first LGBTQQI camp in SC

Wow, where to start?! Well, last weekend was one of the best, if not the best weekend of my life. My beautiful and ever so patient fiancé, Misha and I had the honor of hosting the first annual Camp GB at our place (which happens to be a campground). To the best of my knowledge this is the first LGBT camp ever in South Carolina. We pulled this together with 5 weeks of planning, no paid staff, and we had exactly $0.00 in our budget for it when we announced that we were going to do this. We took a leap of faith, that we would be able to raise enough money to feed everyone for the weekend, and we started pouring ourselves into planning. We spent hours organizing the GBs and getting the word out. We spent hours coming up with fundraising strategies and implementing those strategies. We spent hours researching team building activities, lining up meeting facilitators, outlining the weekend schedule, creating workshops, making grocery lists, prepping food, cooking, cleaning, finding air mattresses, and everything else that we put in to get ready for camp. And it was worth every single second of it!! I’m going to attempt to relay to you what that experience was like, but honestly, I just don’t know that words can do it justice.

3 days to change your life. That may be a good tag line for next year, it was most certainly the case for this year’s camp. Friday evening GBs started arriving, and the fun began. We kicked off the weekend with some amazing camp songs and two of the biggest pans of lasagna I’ve ever made (not to toot my own horn, but it was pretty dope and we made ALL that lasagna for roughly $35). Then we played a couple of the best icebreaker games ever “Honey I Love You” and “Two Truths and a Lie”. This was a great way to get everyone laughing and smiling, and learn a little about the folks who we only knew via facebook prior to camp. Then we hit 9:00 and our camp GB turned into club GB. The music got turned up, adult beverages were enjoyed, a little dancing happened, and catch phrase was the source of many laughs shared with friends.

Saturday morning I got up early and made my way down the hill for the morning meditation meeting I was leading. We started out with the prayer of St. Francis. Then we did 10 minutes of silent group meditation. After that we went around and all shared one word about about meditation time, and with the last 30ish minutes the folks who wanted to share more about their meditation did. I won’t go into details about the subject matters covered in this meeting, but it was healing. Very healing. Cleansing tears were shed. Genuine hugs were given. And peace and serenity made guest appearances at that meeting. Very good stuff happened during meditation for me, and I think at least a few of the other folks who were there would agree.

Then we had a little free time before our partners/allies breakout group and trans/gender variant breakout group. Both of these meetings were pretty awesome from what I’ve heard, but I can only speak to the trans/gender variant meeting from experience. Li lead this meeting for us. He had us choose 6 pieces of paper that we identified with from this big book filled with all kinds of paper. As we passed the book around choosing our papers, Li spoke to us about the definition of identity. And really broke some stuff down. Then he started talking about feeling like you have to fit in a box in society, and he told us that today we were going to build our own box. Our identity box. He taught us some origami and we all helped each other when we would forget to “tuck” (yes, this made the crowd roar with laughter. Don’t forget “tucking” was being stressed to a room full of transgender folks. lol). At the end we all had very different boxes. Boxes that can be taken apart and changed as we see fit. That was a beautiful meeting that I’m so glad I got to participate in.

Then we had some small group choices including; creative journaling (which was one of the ones I repeatedly heard amazing things about throughout the weekend) with Alex Fisher, Mushroom hunting with Misha and Myself, and trans issues with Ethan. It was a cool change of pace to have spilt up into the small groups and had a chance to get into some deeper stuff for the folks at meetings, and to surround yourself in nature and learn about the plants and fungi for the folks who went with Mish and me. Fun times were had on the mushroom hunt for sure, though I’m now pretty sure that Mika hates sider webs and may choose to stay on the trail should we ever do this one again. 🙂

Up next was the Spirit Walk. This was the meeting I had put the most work in to. The concept is one I developed many years ago for a support group I was a part of as a teenager. But this time it was different because I got to tailor it to fit the GBs. I spent some time in prayer and meditation over what to include in the walk, and I believe it served it’s purpose.

Here’s how it works: I have multiple readings and activity stations set out along a half mile trail. One at a time I take folks from the office up to the trail head where the Spirit Walk starts. Each sign along the way is either a quote to reflect on, or has some instructions to follow (see pictures). Half way through the walk a sign tells you to wait on the next GB to come along, and to finish your journey together. Once everyone made it through we all got together in the pool (it was hot out!) and had a little debriefing about the walk. This may have been the single most special meeting to me throughout the duration of the weekend. People were moved to tears. There was no denying that special bonds were formed between all of the folks who were paired up with each other. And then we read all of the words of encouragement we had left for each other. And again just started crying. we were realizing that we had truly become a family. I just don’t have the words to describe the feeling I had as I listened to these stories of everyones experiences on the Spirit Walk. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. And felt so very rewarded to have created a workshop that brought about such healing in such deep places.

Also happening Saturday was a meeting on expanding your “toolbox” on coping skills with Li. I heard some really amazing things about that meeting! Unfortunately someone had to make sure all of these GBs had dinner ready so I was making the low country boil happen with Mish. After we ate an ever so delicious low country boil Ethan and I teamed up to lead our team building workshop. This may have been the most fun meeting of the weekend. We played two games that created much need for communication and learning from mistakes. Team 1 completely dominated both games (just sayin’ :)). “Magic Carpet Ride” seemed to get the most laughs from everyone. It was so much fun! And we all got very close…literally. If you are ever looking for some good team building activities just hit me up. These were winners!

As team building drew to a close we all huddled up and did our new and improved chant to close the meeting. I just feel this is worth mentioning because you could literally feel the energy in the room. It was electrifying. I had goosebumps as I lead our crew chanting “Ain’t no power like the power of the GBs ‘cause the power of the GBs don’t stoooooop. Ain’t no power like the power of the GBs ‘cause the power of the GBs don’t stooooooop. Aint no power like the power of the GBs ‘cause the power of the GBs don’t stooooop!” Misha- “I say G you say B. G-B G-B G-B!!” and we all throw our hands up and yell with excitement because we know that the words that are coming out of our mouth are the Gods honest truth. There really isn’t any other power I know to compare the power of this group of human beings to. We are STRONG, because we are a TEAM.

So, by the time we concluded this amazing team building session it was 9:00 (aka party time at Camp GB) and it also happened to be Jay’s birthday. Ethan took charge of keeping everyone occupied and stationary in the living room. Misha got the prop box out and got everyone a prop for our amazing photos to follow. And I grab Oliver and Wanda and go get the biggest and baddest surprise birthday cake EVER (shout out to Kathi, founder and president of Rude Cakes; the baddest cakes in town) and we come down the hill. We get back. Ethan announces that he heard it was someone’s birthday, and we come walking in with the most awesome cake ever (complete with high heel shoe on top and it becomes a rainbow flag when you cut a slice) as everyone starts singing happy birthday. We take a couple of amazing group photos and then the music comes on, the drinks are consumed (only by those 21+ duh), and the dancing began. The crazy, fun, funny, amazing dancing that was Saturday night at Camp GB. So. Good. Happy birthday Jay!

Before we could blink it was already Sunday morning. I was up early again for the morning meditation meeting, lead by Li this time. He read us a story about a monk who was tearing down the abbot in order to not block the sunrise as dawn. We reflected on that and then talked about our meditation. Again tears fell from our eyes as we spoke of how healing the weekend had been and the things we needed to tear down in order to not block the sunrise. I had no idea how much I would get out of group meditation time with my GBs. It was beautiful.

Then it was time to clean up before our friends and family meeting. I believe we had 25 cars in the parking area for this meeting and somewhere between 35 and 40 folks at the meeting. Landa Basham (shameless plug, she’s an amazing licensed marriage and family therapist who many of our group see) facilitated this tearful and healing meeting. She lead us in a discussion that everyone was able to participate in. A discussion that had many loved ones talking about these hard issues and asking themselves how they could help on this difficult journey. This was healing, and I just don’t have another word…it was beautiful!

We sang a couple more camp songs in there. Fed the crowd some lunch. And then had our debriefing meeting with everyone from the weekend. We all went around and shared a couple of our most memorable moments from the weekend. I cried and cried and cried through this meeting. It was at this point, hearing everyone’s stories of how their lives had been forever changed because of this camp through cracking voices and teary eyes, that I realized the impact we really had. It was at this point that I realized that we had just pulled off the very first LGBT camp in our state with 5 weeks of planning, no paid staff, and about $600 that we were able to raise from the community. And I just broke down. I couldn’t believe we did it. And I was humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude to have so much love outpouring from everyone.

These words still just don’t do it justice. It was the best weekend of my life. I don’t know how to describe to you how it feels to be in a GB bubble for the weekend. A bubble where you constantly hear roaring laughter in the background, but no one is ever laughing at anyone else, we are only laughing with each other. A bubble where it literally doesn’t matter if this is your first GB event, or if you’ve been coming for years, you are an equal member of our family. To not be touched by any pressures of society for a whole weekend. To laugh and dance until it hurts, and look like an idiot in a room full of people, and still be surrounded by folks who love you. I just don’t know how to describe to you how it feels to sit and listen to folks shed tears and talk about burdens they have held on to for years that they are working to let go of after they went to the workshop you put together. I don’t know how to tell you how good your soul feels when you laugh until it hurts with people who love you unconditionally for 3 days straight. I don’t know how to tell you how it feels to have had so many genuine connections with new friends, and deepen relationships that have been present for years over the weekend. I can’t find the right words to convey how overwhelmed I was when Jay presented home made construction paper thank you cards that everyone had been sneaking around to sign. And not just sign their names, but to take time to write something special just for us. Well…it’s still just overwhelming. These moments….these were priceless moments. Priceless moments that gave me the gift of lifelong memories. This is an experience you do not want to miss. It was a weekend filled with chicken soup for the GB soul.

There was just so much awesome packed into one weekend that it’s really difficult to try to capture that. Even as I bring this to a close I know that these words still don’t touch what it was like to be in that bubble with us. Stay tuned. I’m sure this topic will be touched on again later. But I am really excited to share about this experience with yall, so I just didn’t want to wait to put some kind of recap out there. THANK YOU for all of your support! We couldn’t do stuff like this without support from community members like you. ❤

In short: We cried cleansing and healing tears. We laughed until it hurt. We bonded in ways that are sure to last a lifetime. We loved unconditionally. We cared about each other no matter what. We hugged longer and tighter than we ever had before. We played the best of games. We grew closer than we knew we could. We supported each other when we needed it. We changed lives. We did it! And we already can’t wait for next year!!! ❤

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3 thoughts on “CAMP GB: the first LGBTQQI camp in SC

  1. Ivy,

    Chills and tears.
    This is BEAUTIFUL!!

    I cannot even find words.
    So grateful for your heart, for the work and energy you and your circle poured into this gathering.

    Thank you!

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