Saturday, August 17, 2013

summer loving

"She's a real carpenter's dream - flat as a board and needs a screw!"

Did everyone see that business about  The Lonely Doll book in Famke Jansen's bedroom last week?  Of course you did.  I'm still not over it.   I just love when news stories exist in a frequency that only gays can hear.  Between this and Bryan Singer's refusal to take her calls for a Jean Grey reprieve on top of having to appear in that unmentionable Netflix show, Famke is having a rough year. Poor thing.  If you see her on the street, be sure to smile warmly (but avoid making eye contact).

There's a movie Famke should watch to get through this difficult time; one of my favorite comfort movies that, much like The Lonely Doll and the early mid-90s work of Meryl Streep, operates on a frequency that only gays can hear. 
Yes, dolls, the day has come.
I'm ready to talk about Sleepaway Camp.

In 1996, I was picked by my high school to attend "Boys State."  To date, this was the closest I've ever come to camping. While other young gays would have been titillated by the idea of living in an abandoned dormitory in the middle of the woods with a hundred other teenage boys, this was not a golden moment for little Jeffrey.

Luckily, years of horror movie consumption taught me the importance of keeping a low profile and hiding my candy. Equipped with an Epipen, my Original Broadway Cast recording of Rent (on cassette) and a pound bag of Twizzlers, I was prepared.   
I spent the days writing in my journal and working on my highlights under the country sun.  Setting my alarm to shower at 3:15am when the other boys were still asleep, I made it through the week unscathed.  I wish I could tell you more about this lost week in the woods, but that was the period when I insisted on writing my diaries entries in French.  Your guess is as good as mine. The Boys State experience would have had a completely different ending had I been fortunate enough to attend Sleepaway Camp.

"What are you, queer or somethin'?"

Thirty years before we were all free to be you and me, Camp Arawak was a progressive camp for LGBT teenagers nestled away in upstate New York.   Imagine a camp where midriff tops and short shorts are mandatory! The boys at Camp Arawak spent their days playing ball, frolicking in the lake, exploring each other's bodies, sharing their fashion and exposing their pre-pubescent nuttage to hostile lesbians.  Boys will be boys! If only we had one of these in Boston - maybe I wouldn't still be so averse to the idea of communal showers. 

"Wait 'til I get my hands on you."

Mind you, there's a big difference between being aloof and being negative.  While I may not have spoken to anyone, I still had a fabulous time at the Lord of the Flies retreat for upwardly mobile teens.  But not everyone's so easy to please. I don't have to re-watch Boys in the Band to remember that every party has its pooper - that one Messy Mary whose insecurities and sexual repression invariably manifests itself in homicidal behavior.  
In the case of Sleepaway Camp, this bad egg was a preoperative trans girl named Angela.

You see, Angela had been carrying around a world of emotional distress because she lost one of her gay dads and her twin sister in a boating accident when she was a toddler. 
After the accident, Angela's surviving gay dad couldn't cope so he left her to be raised by his sister who suffers from borderline personality disorder.  An American tragedy. As a result, it takes a lot for Angela to open up to people. She was definitely not the camping type. 
Wanting nothing to do with summer, she nonetheless tagged along with her gay cousin to the Sleepaway Camp where the other campers went out of their way to include Angela, to make her feel comfortable and popular.  Well, everyone except the lesbians, but girls will be girls.

1983 was a completely different time for gay parents of trans children.  This was before Unique was getting all the good songs on Glee and teaching middle-America about gender politics. The staff of the GLBT camp didn't have a lot of experience in dealing with preoperative trans kids and a few mistakes were made.  Long story short, that summer didn't end well for some of the more privileged children and there's no longer any such camp in New York or elsewhere.

Much like William Friedken's Cruising, I can't decide if Sleepaway Camp is regressive or years ahead of its time.  But who cares? I’m messy, you knew this. This movie has it all... Fake mustaches.  Bare torsos. Children violently cussing at each other. A closing credits love theme!!  

Stay in and watch it - save yourself the agony of underarm staph infections and bear attacks.

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