This film by Ana Grillo and Beth Nelsen is one of two documentaries shot at last year’s Burning Man and featured at the Queer Film Festival. Camp Beaverton, a.k.a the Home for Wayward Girls, is an all-women, trans-inclusive, sex-positive camp founded a few years ago by—somewhat ironically—a straight couple, who realised there was a need for queer women to connect. From the interviews it looks like Beaverton definitely serves its purpose, and more.
The directors (who occasionally turn the camera on themselves) are frank in admitting that they didn’t know too much about the camp coming in, expecting mostly a lot of sex and drugs. And yes, there’s a fair bit of hooking up, even if you don’t count the “Strapon-athon” and other semi-private sex events, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The camp serves the community by giving workshops on safe sex and communication skills (which I believe welcome men as well); the women there are a very diverse and welcoming group who respect each other’s identities and experiences, always mindful of boundaries and consent; they have built a space where any woman can feel safe to relax and unwind, one that successfully combines sexuality with a sense of the sacred. It’s a little lesbian-feminist utopia right there in the Arizona desert, and when it ends every year, participants can bring a little of it back home with them.
I’ve never been to Burning Man, let alone Camp Beaverton, but I think I got a small taste of what it would be like. For one thing, the documentary gave me a great feel for the place, both emotionally and in the nitty-gritty details. For another, I was one of maybe 5 men in the entire audience. I’ve hardly ever been in a mostly-female space before. It’s a different atmosphere, and I liked it. I think more men, queer and straight, should experience that once in a while.