Earlier this year I attended a sleepaway camp for adult trans men who never had a boyhood camp growing up. When I was there I tried to capture, via journal, everything I felt and experienced. Here are my journal entries I over the three days I was there. Warning: it is lengthy. But, I learned a lot and personally I think it’s worth the read.
Day One: Friday April 4th, 2018
The flight from Chicago to Denver is going smoothly so far. My first flight from Buffalo to Chicago also “flew by” since I slept through most of it.
I’m really looking forward to this brief sleepaway camp. I’m going to meet so many other guys like me, who all understand what it’s like to be a trans man. I’m hoping to make some lasting connections that will be beneficial for me now as well as in the near and far future.
I wish I had more time in Colorado–it truly is a beautiful state. I can see myself living there someday.
I’m not sure how long this flight is. I probably should’ve checked, but as long as I’m there by noon to meet up with my carpool, that’s all I care about.
It’s a little nerve-wracking thinking about how I’m not going to know anybody at camp. It’s the perfect opportunity for new friends! Have I established that I like making connections and am excited for more? I’m trying really hard to not have expectations so I’m not disappointed if it turns out to suck (which I doubt it will, but just in case). I keep imagining the awesome pictures I’m going to take, both of the scenery and selfies with new friends. I’m really aiming for a kickass Instagram post.
My phone decided to stop playing Spotify, so I plugged my headphones into my seat’s headphone jack and immediately heard this kickass drum solo–I stumbled onto the oldies station. I instantly had enough of that and switched my wifi on and connected back to Spotify.
The view from this plane is really pretty. We’re above the clouds, coasting at around 30,000 feet. There are thick clouds above us, and fluffy cumulus clouds below. I wish I could see the ground so I could see all the different ways people till their land. I’d also prefer to see the Rockies as we get closer.
I’ve been to Colorado twice, but never to Denver–so this is a new experience all-around. Flying on my own is nothing new to me: my parents used to send me to Baltimore every summer in high school. I’d stay with my aunt and uncle until they had their first daughter, and then it probably would’ve been too much for me to be there too.
I’ve always loved opportunities to be independent: traveling alone, doing errands alone, getting tattoos alone.
There’s only a sliver of blue sky visible right now. It’s far off in the distance, like a huge blast door on the Death Star coming to a close.
Now, after napping lightly on that flight, I’ve found an empty space in the Denver International airport with an outlet, so I am sitting here recharging until Jamie (my carpool driver) lands and gets the rental car. I’m really hoping we can stop at a dispensary since I have yet to go inside of one, and what kind of stoner hasn’t been inside a recreational dispensary?
I wish I had brought food that is more substantial than cheese puffs and Nilla Wafers but I am a child so…that’s where we’re at.
Jamie said he landed, I’m now waiting for him to get his bags and then he’ll meet up with me and we can start being friends!
I’m so excited to be doing this. I’m glad I am branching out and meeting more people in my community. I can’t wait to learn new things and gain new perspectives on being trans. I need to find an ATM so I can pay Jamie for gas, but this airport is so big.
So, a lot has happened in the last six hours or so. I met Jamie and he is super chill. He travels the country with his wife in their RV and he wants to start a rescue farm. He also loves birds! We went to a dispensary (the strictest place I’ve ever been to–we had our IDs checked at least three separate times and had to be let into a locked room where we waited in line to be helped. Then I bought one pre-rolled joint and one container of THC gummies–the watermelon flavor), then we went to Ruby Tuesday’s. I had never been there before, so their salad bar was phenomenal–I was also high.
After hanging out with Jamie we had to drive back to the airport to pick up Kaydon, our other carpool buddy. From there we drove straight to camp. It took a little over an hour and we listened to bluegrass and jam bands on the way. Minimal highway, majorly backcountry roads.
After we checked into camp and received our drawstring bags with the camp’s info and a coffee mug, we went to our cabins to pick out our spots in the bunks. I was the first in my cabin to arrive, so I chose the bed closest to an outlet. I set up the linens I borrowed from camp. Once I felt set up, I went for a walk around the ranch we were staying at. I ran into a group of guys doing a scavenger hunt and they asked me to join, which was nice of them because I was feeling nervous about meeting new people.
I left the talent show early. I’m in my sweats, listening to Kate Nash’s new album. Also, I ate a gummy and shared a blunt, which both contributed to why I left the crowd early.
Anyways, dinner was really good–we had roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli soup, and oatmeal raisin cookies. They also prepared a delicious salad. I have never eaten so much salad in one day, I feel like a rabbit.
Way back before I started T, I was virtually introduced to this guy Jay who was a few months into his transition at that point. I talked to him quite a bit about what it’s like being on T. I would tell him my concerns and he’d reassure me or give a new perspective. One time, right before I started T, we skyped and talked about my biggest fears about transitioning. His other trans friend was with him so the three of us talked about it together. Well, that other trans friend – Tyler – is here at camp! The best part is that he didn’t recognize me! He said I don’t have “the baby face” anymore.
I’m feeling very Sylvia Plath tonight. I always sit away from everyone, behind the crowd, distancing myself from the event. When people walk around and mingle, I aimlessly wander and listen to the pointless thoughts swimming in my head. Will I ever fit in? I hear. Over and over. Even in this highly marginalized group, I feel I don’t belong. I tend to feel this way at big group events. Why do I always pull myself out of big social events? Why do I like to be separate and alone all of the time?
Something fun I’ve noticed is that a lot of the guys here style their facial hair the same way I do. It must be a trend or something. Everyone I’ve met so far has been exceedingly nice and welcoming, and it’s really cool to be surrounded only by guys who know what it’s like to be trans.
There’s 16 of us in this cabin; it’s the most people I’ve ever shared a sleeping space with! It’s kind of weird. I really wanted to try doing stand-up comedy at the talent show, but I was too nervous and not confident enough in my jokes.
Day Two: Saturday April 7th, 2018
Today has been jam-packed, and the weather is so nice. It’s sunny, there is minimal wind, and it feels like the upper 50s.
I woke up at 6:30am, took some pictures, then went to eat breakfast. I had oatmeal, a hard-boiled egg, palenka, and some yogurt. After that I attended a “dad chat,” where a bunch of us spoke with one another about being a parent as a trans man. People talked about adoption, carrying a child themselves, artificial insemination, and other methods. We also talked about talking to your child about gender identity and transness.
A few guys shared their personal experiences with conception. One guy had a close friend of his ejaculate into a cup, and then they used a testosterone syringe to inject it into his wife. A different gentleman carried his own child, and he said it was the most beautiful and enlightening experience he’s ever had. A third guy found an anonymous sperm donor, a fourth man picked a donor, bought the sperm, and conceived at home. Someone else had his eggs retrieved and implanted in his wife with a known donor, and then for their second child, they plan on using the same donor but with the wife’s eggs this time (I personally really like that idea. That way both children are related to both parents. I think that’s a really smart and creative way to make a family.)
Basically, there are many options for trans men who want to be parents. For myself, if I want to have my eggs retrieved or if I want to carry a child (which I really do not want to do), I have to act sooner rather than later. The longer I’m on T, the more sterile I become. What I did decide, though, is that if I do have a child, I want to raise them as gender-neutral as possible for as long as possible.
After the dad chat, Mason, Charlie, and I went to the tye-dye station to color some white shirts. I did mine pink and blue, of course. We also got to pet, brush, and feed the horses who live on the ranch.
We went to another chat where a trans rights lawyer (who is also a trans man) spoke about legal issues, especially surrounding family law and Trump’s trans military ban. If I ever have a child, I’ll need to adopt them if they’re not biologically mine or else I could have custody taken from me. He also suggested that a prenup that states that my spouse is aware that I am trans and is ok with it so in case we get divorced, my transness can’t be used against me.
There’s currently a chat going on about long-term transition things but it was starting to make me feel anxious with all the talk of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms…I had to leave. Now I’m sitting in the sun, writing. It’s so peaceful. I’m learning there’s still so much more left to accomplish as a community.
I’m so tired. The most exhausted I’ve ever been, I think. We were out in the sun today (shirtless, of course) playing basketball and this newer game called Gaga ball. I also climbed a 30 ft pole and ziplined across a field, tye-dyed a shirt, made a bracelet, and really developed a sense of community and oneness… it’s something I’ve never felt before.
After dinner we watched two films on the trans masculine experience. I left halfway through the second one though, because I was (and still am) feeling extremely emotionally drained as well as physical – and the higher altitude does not help my case.
I’ve learned a lot so far. Mostly, I think I understand now, that “trans” is an experience. In a way, it’s a path to enlightenment.
Most of all, this camp has given me hope for my future as a man, after most/all of my “transition steps” are completed. It has also encouraged me to stay creative and interested in multiple facets of creative outlets – like book writing, filmmaking, photography – they can all be a part of me just like my transness is. If I plan ahead, I can find the time to pursue a long-term project like making a documentary film on the trans experience.
So much has happened today, I’m not sure how to process all of it yet. Writing helps. I feel like a baby tran compared to most people here.
Another guy just came into the cabin and went to bed. Same.
Day Three: Sunday April 8th, 2018
The final day (or half-day, rather). I was originally supposed to leave camp right after breakfast because I couldn’t find anyone to take me to the airport later, yet early enough to catch my 4:20pm flight. But, right after breakfast, Mason mentioned that he was going near the airport – so I asked him if we could leave at 2pm instead of 3pm and we did – so I got to experience some really great things.
I hung out with a few guys and we walked around the ranch on another scavenger hunt – but this was after the hike I went on. So I did a ton of walking this weekend, which probably isn’t ideal for my ankle. Oh well.
I really connected with this guy Garrick. Some other guys I formed good connections with and hung out with are Caysin, Mason, Charlie, and Ajay. These are just the main ones. I had a lot of great conversations with pretty much everyone there, which is really cool. There were no cliques.
So after the hike and the scavenger hunt, we went to the bottom surgery chat. It was intense, emotional, and informative. Three very brave guys showed the group their results (two phalloplasty and one metoidioplasty) and talked in detail about their surgery experiences from early decision-making to recovery and post-op complications. From what I gathered, phallo poses a bigger risk for complications, and one in eight guys lose sensation in their genitals. Although, I was pretty impressed with how the phallo results looked. One guy had testicular implants, the other didn’t. A commonality among guys who had phallo is that the recipients experienced extreme pain after surgery, and they had an overwhelmingly emotional (and long) recovery period. One gentleman cried as he told us about his wife and how she had the majority of the burden of his recovery due to his limited mobility.
On the other hand, meta seems to come with fewer risks, yet not as “cis”-looking results. There are different kinds of meta, and you can get testicular implants too, if desired.
There’s so much to think about and process from this weekend, my brain feels like jelly and I’m so worn down. At least I got some sun on my face! The exhaustion is totally worth it. It was truly incredible to be surrounded by people who are just like me. I’ve gained some wisdom about becoming a man, defining my own masculinity, and transcending the binary. In talking with one dude, he described his gender identity as both a man and a woman – possessing womanly parts and a masculine outward presence. I really connected with that aspect – just being me regardless of how society labels my body and my social presence. It’s much easier said than done, but it’s something I can strive for as I continue on my crazy journey and become the person I am meant to be.
Being trans is an experience. It differs vastly from person to person, similarly to how sex, sexuality, and gender are all on a spectrum. Every body is different. Surgery results are incredibly variable. Life experiences are all over the place, and it has been amazing learning so much about my own community.
I am returning home with a newfound love for myself, my identity, and my community. I no longer feel isolated or like a freak, or like a girl who was just pretending. Society may not have a safe, comfy spot for me and my ilk, but damn it, I’m gonna fight for our spot because we are human and we deserve equal treatment.
I am returning home feeling whole, accepted, loved, and most importantly – understood.