TransCampOut: Longfork, WV
Quick note: As I’ve said before, I am a traveling sex/kink/spirituality educator, and one of the reasons I started this blog was so I could write about my experiences at various events. This just happens to be the first event I’m writing a report for; there will be more in the future. I can’t promise to write one for every event I attend, but I will try.
First of all, the facts: TransCampOut is a small to medium sized event held at a rustic gay men’s campground in rural West Virginia. Conceived by the leather group La Fraternitie De Loup-Garou, a backpatch club for transmasculine leather people, it is now run by a small staff of dedicated people from all over the country. It’s primary target demographic is transmasculine persons, but is open to people of all genders and orientations.
I have to be honest. I attended this event two years ago and had a less-than-stellar experience. Last year, I was supposed to attend but got sick at the last minute and had to cancel. I was a little surprised that they approached me to return after a no-show, but I very much appreciated being given a second chance. It was being run by different people with a different style of organizing, so I decided to give the event another try.
Overall, I had a really good time. The atmosphere promoted a freedom for people who usually have to hide their bodies for fear of hate or undue judgment; and not just for trans* identified people. I saw all sorts of body types and histories walking around in various states of undress, and no one blinked an eye. Everyone present had an optimistic attitude and an eager, friendly demeanor. You could sit down just about anywhere and people would strike up a conversation with you (and sometimes you’d find yourself in a heady conversation about serious things and it was good!). The organizers busted their asses to provide a meaningful experience, were easy to approach/talk to about event needs, and were actually involved in the event – you could find them attending classes, eating meals, and playing along side everyone else. I never noticed how often organizers tend to corral themselves away at events – I mean, I’m sure they’re super busy with lots to attend to, but finding time to experience the thing they’ve created helps them to better understand the average attendee’s experience, and that is something I definitely noticed with this event.
I reconnected with people I have met before and only see at events like this one, and I also met some new people that I felt a strong connection with. My FetLife friend’s list has definitely swollen after CampOut. My classes were very well attended, and I even got to co-teach with a stranger for the first time! (My BDSM For Bigger Bodies class was scheduled opposite Dave’s Food Play class, and after comparing outlines we realized there was signficant cross-over, so we chose to combine and teach together to great success!) The hook ritual, Into the Deep, was an outrageous success, especially for a hook team that was thrown together last minute.
The things I enjoyed most about this event:
- The classes: There were a wide variety of classes for everyone, including intermediate and advanced classes. There was a great mix of lectures, demos, and hands-on experiences. The instructors were knowlegable and approachable.
- The social scene: People were very friendly, and eager to get to know new people. This is a good event to attend solo – as long as you’re willing to strike up a conversation, you’ll likely find people to talk to and hang out with, if not play with or fuck. I met some great people and had some wonderful conversations.
- The dollar auction: I admit, this is the only event I’ve attended that holds one of these, so in my mind the two have become linked. The concept is that they put an item up for auction, and every bid is one dollar. When you bid, your dollar is added to the pot and taken away from you. The last person to bid wins the item. So although you may have only paid a dollar or two to get said item, the event raises much more from all of your competitors. It’s great fun and I got some amazing items for very cheap.
- The general feel: It was very welcoming, and open, and accepting. There was a rule in place to not assume pronouns, and I saw more than one attendee standing up for another and reminding people of that rule. (As I was with my service tiger, whose chosen pronoun is “it”, this was very handy, even when we had to correct people.) People of all body types could feel free to wander around in whatever state of dress they felt comfortable with, without fear of judgment. It was relaxed, and flexible, and slow-paced. I liked that a lot.
This is not to say there were no negatives, but both of them were somewhat outside of the organizers’ control. The first was the weather. For an event where most of the attendees are staying in tents and the roads are unpaved and ungraveled, we were hammered with rain. It was bad enough that several attendees left prematurely, their tents having been soaked. The roads to get around camp became dangerous and sometimes impassable (we were lucky to have brought a Range Rover that thrives on challenges like this, but others, who had brought sedans and hybrids, weren’t so lucky). The power went out for a while, although after Fusion I think I’ve learned how to handle that with style. It was hard to predict when you could be outside for a period of time, as the storms kept coming with varying intensity.
The other, more serious challenge for me, was the campground itself. I was staying in a cabin at the top of the hill – a very steep hill that makes the hill at Ramblewood look like child’s play – and the event was at the bottom of the hill. In between were the bathrooms – yes, there was no bathroom in my cabin, so if I awoke in the middle of the night I had to find someone to drive me to the bathroom, since it was not a walkable distance for Dels. Or if I wanted a quick trip in between classes, my options were bushes or a camping toilet someone blessedly thought to bring. But as someone with very limited mobility and chronic pain issues, this was not a friendly campground in the slightest. I get that the event organizers feel nostalgic about it (it’s been using this campground for years) and that there’s something to be said for a transmasculine-focused event happening at a campground that is otherwise restricted for gay men. But the tent field needs serious upgrading (I heard a rumor we’re the only event who still uses it), the roads need to be safer to traverse in foul weather, and there needs to be full bathrooms available to disabled patrons that don’t require long distances.
The only event-related complaint I had was the food. The event had promised to provide food for the attendees and presenters, and frequently there was either very small portions or not enough for everyone present. Because I’m on a strict diet, I brought my own food to supplement, but we ended up either making our own food, going off site, or eating at the small campground-run cafe the entire event (except for one breakfast). If you decide to go to this event, you should bring your own food, and think of the food provided as a supplement. You’ll thank me for it.
I want to be abundantly clear – the event was awesome, and I had a really wonderful time. It was the location I had serious issues with. I used to be a ‘roughing it’ type of guy, but not so much in my current state of health, and so all the mud and the walking around and the peeing in bushes is just not my thing anymore.
I would highly recommend this event for able-bodied trans* people of all genders as a safe place to explore your body and it’s turn ons. I would even recommend this event for SO’s of gender-transgressive people, because there’s a lot of support for you there as well. It’s great for kinksters and leatherpeople of all levels of experience – the classes ran the gamut from the beginner to the advanced. If you enjoy tent camping in the woods, and want the feel of the old time gay leather runs, this event can fulfill that need, regardless of your gender.