September Issue

Photo courtesy ‘Camp’ Camp


Somewhere beyond pulsating Castro District nightlife and maneuvering your way through strollers in Tomorrowland is an oasis so damn queer you’ll wonder how you’ve managed without it for so long.

Now entering its twenty-third year, ‘Camp’ Camp is an adult LGBTQ sleepaway destination set in southwest Maine. Every August, folks from around the globe come out for a week of traditional summer camp fun with a gay twist.

Curiously skeptical newbies arrive to Camp coyly navigating the group of over 200 lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, and allies. While veteran campers — some of whom have attended for nearly two decades — laugh and embrace Camp family both new and old.

Betsy Orr has attended for 16 years, spending 11 years as ‘Camp’ Camp co-owner and director.

“People come here to experience community versus to find a date or to drink, though there’s a little bit of all that that goes on,” said Orr. “I want [campers] to know that this is a safe space that we work hard at creating.”

Chock full of adventurous camp favorites like hiking, rockwall climbing, and canoeing, ‘Camp’ Camp also offers modular programs that build pottery, stained glass, and model rockets. Activities are scheduled around breakfasts, lunches, and dinners of appetizing fare prepared by a skilled kitchen crew.

The food is better than expected, but don’t expect plush accommodations. While you may never get used to sleeping on bunk beds, reading love notes etched into the wooden bedframe does feel nostalgic. And the cabins — named after iconic LGBTQ figures like Harvey Milk, Ellen DeGeneres, Sappho, and Oscar Wilde — get glam makeovers with Christmas lights, tinsel, and colorful drapey fabrics.

On the final night, Dance Dance is the kind of scene every gayborhood deserves: lesbians dancing with gays, younger folks mingling with older folks, and a genuinely positive energy permeating the group. Just as the last dance signifies an end to another year at Camp, it’s a near guarantee of the beginning of life-long friendships.

According to the ‘Camp’ Camp website, about 75 percent of people who come to Camp return for at least one more year. And while most campers arrive from New England and the East Coast, many campers travel cross-country and even across oceans to get their gay-camp fix.

“I’ve never had more fun or felt more close to so many people in one place at one time as at Camp,” said Camp veteran Cheryl Schaffer, who has attended for the past 20 years.

As the Trump administration takes active steps towards making America unsafe to be gay again, spaces like ‘Camp’ Camp are all the more necessary — especially in Maine.


Earlier this month, Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins defended the nomination of controversial Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And in July, Republican Maine Governor Paul LePage became the first in the country to veto a ban on conversion therapy.

According to The Daily Beast, as of August, Maine is currently one of the last holdouts in New England on banning conversion therapy.

However, in the land of ‘Camp’ Camp, having a gay ol’ time is the only objective.

“[I enjoy seeing] the excitement of others when they realize they can play like a child, laugh, stretch their limits, challenge themselves to swim across the lake or jump off a high point of the ropes course,” said Schaffer.

“Camp is not an intense party scene. It’s for people who like the outdoors and like to have fun; it doesn’t matter what age you are,” Schaffer continued. “For me it’s not about going to the activities because I’ve done them all. For me it’s about sitting on the watePhoto courtesy ‘Camp’ Campo fall off their floaty.”

Travel vlogger and first-time camper Josh Rimer from Vancouver said ‘Camp’ Camp is “the friendliest thing [he’s] ever been to,” adding that he was surprised at how easy it was getting along with everyone.

“[We were] so open to talking and hanging out and doing activities together,” Rimer added. “It didn’t matter what we looked like, where we were from, what we do for a living; we were all just here celebrating being queer.”

Add ‘Camp’ Camp to your summer 2019 travel plans. It truly is the best time ever.

Now entering its twenty-third year, ‘Camp’ Camp is an adult LGBTQ sleepaway destination set in southwest Maine.


Also in the September Issue


Photo: Eddie Bartley

As the crows — and other birds - fly

We tend to think of birds as very similar, but, according to Eddie Bartley, they can be as different from each other as a giraffe is from a mouse. Bartley is a docent at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory in Marin and teaches Master Birder classes in migration at the California Academy of Sciences.

This difference in bird species is especially true when it comes to migration, a stressful and risky venture for birds. We still need to learn a lot about the how and why of migration. We can deduce that the birds are searching for plentiful food, for a climate conducive to raising young, and for safety from predators. Overall, birds are like people-- they are looking for a good income and a safe neighborhood in which to raise the kids.

There are many kinds of bird migration, and the type of migration can even vary within a species. Some birds migrate thousands of miles and others just hop over to a nearby nesting area. However, within a given species there is a typical pattern. According to Bartley, “Every species has its own story.”

For example, the Orange-crowned Warbler lives high in the Sierras in the summer and drops down in elevation in the winter. This is an example of elevation migration -- birds moving uphill and downhill, according to the season.

The delightful Sooty Fox Sparrow is a mid-distance traveler. The mid-distance migrants can move from southern Alaska to British Columbia or even as far as the Bay Area.

The neo-tropical migrants, such as the North American Warblers, can move from the northern boreal forests and tundra to Central America or even South America. Wilson’s Warbler breeds in the Bay Area and then journeys to Mexico for the winter.

Swainson’s Hawks breed in Northern California and then fly off to Argentina for the winter.

Some birds don’t migrate. They are the permanent residents or sedentary birds. The California towhee likes to hang out around home, as does the Wrentit. In fact, the Wrentit is such a couch potato that it rarely travels more than a mile from where it first fledged.

Although migration is stressful, not migrating can also present survival problems for a species. At one time, Wrentits were common in San Francisco. They have since been almost eliminated from the City (or extirpated, in bird lingo) due to loss of their preferred habitat.

Some birds within the same species migrate differently from each other. Our Anna’s Hummingbird can be seen zooming around San Francisco year-round, but some Anna’s fly off to winter in the desert and then return to San Francisco in the summer. Other Anna’s breed high in the Sierras and drop down to the desert in winter.

And then there is post-breeding dispersal. It is not really a migration but rather the kids moving out of the house to find a new place to live, court, and produce grand-birds. They won’t return home, to live in that spare room. Many raptors raised in Northern California end up dining on rodents in the Salinas Valley for their first winter and fan out from there to find new territory.

And some birds are either independent minded or just get lost, usually in their first year. They are the vagrants. These are the birds you read about in the newspaper, with photos of large groups (flocks?) of people with giant, long-lens cameras gathering for a glimpse of the bird of a lifetime. Vagrants may act as pioneers, looking for a new home to extend the range of their species.

If you like looking at birds, San Francisco is the place to be. The Bay Area is located along the Pacific Flyway, a major north-south migratory route extending from the Arctic tundra to South America. According to Bartley, almost one-half of all species of birds in the United States have been seen in San Francisco.

Many birds raise their young here in the spring and summer, and so autumn is when we have the most birds. Sadly, the first winter for young birds is when they are most likely to expire. Some species have only a 30% survival rate! They are lost over the winter mainly due to starvation, predation, and disease.

You can help the birds who are just passing through on their arduous journeys as well as those who stay for the winter (or the summer). Bartley advises that you can “paint your garden” with birds by growing those plants that attract the birds that you want to see. Keep your housecat indoors (better for the cat, too), provide fresh water, keep your bird feeder clean to prevent the spread of disease, and don’t use rodenticides, herbicides, or pesticides. Songbirds, in particular, rely on insects. As Bartley says, “They don’t call them flycatchers because they eat fruit.”

Support legislation on “bird-safe” windows and the Lights Out for Birds campaigns. Many birds navigate by the stars, and artificial light can be a big problem for them. We’ll cover the “how they do it” of migration in a future article.

And the crows - how do they fly? Well, according to the Cornell bird website, some migrate, some are resident, and sometimes both behaviors take place in one population of crows.



Want to learn more?

Both migrating raptors and the raptor dispersal can be seen from the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory in Marin, which hosts birdwatching during the migration seasons.`


You can reach Eddie Bartley at:


Also in the September Issue

Housing Advocate Says Yes On Prop C



Brian Basinger, also known as Saint Ruby Slippers, was honored with the moniker by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in recognition of the outstanding work he has done as Founder and Executive Director of Q Foundation. Q Foundation has been nothing short of a miracle for the hundreds of grateful San Franciscans who were able to secure housing, or who have been able to maintain the housing that they’d already had, thanks to the great help from Brian Basinger and his expert staff. Q Foundation, along with other homeless advocacy groups, have come together to construct and support Prop C, which is on the ballot in this November’s election.


Wendy: At Q Foundation you see the issues surrounding homelessness firsthand. Who did you join together with to work toward making Prop C a reality?


Brian: Prop C was envisioned by the experts of the field, by those of us who are doing housing and homeless services day after day, year after year, decade after decade. There’s a lot of expertise in the trenches of the people actually doing the work every day. We know what works, and we all got together, and came up with this plan. [We asked ourselves], “What are the tools we need to do the best possible job?” It’s the Coalition on Homelessness; it’s GLIDE; it’s St. Anthony’s; it’s Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, and the Getting to Zero Consortium, all the different HIV providers. It’s a very broad group. It’s small business owners, and we’ve gotten a lot of support from the tech sector. They’re in the trenches working on this every single day with us. They’re also writing really big checks. One person came in and gave us a 100,000 dollar check. Stripe gave a 19,999 dollar donation to the opposition, and their engineers are countering that and making donations to our campaign, because they are so opposed to what the leadership of the Stripe organization is doing. It’s really the best campaign I’ve ever worked on in my life. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve done since working on marriage equality. It’s that big.


Wendy: Yes on C - Our City, Our Home, what does that really mean? Where is the money gonna come from? It’s to be funded by the largest corporations, those that have come to our city and done so well, who are pulling in over 50 million dollars per year.


Brian: Yes. these same corporations just got a 14 percent tax cut from Donald Trump, so they’re enjoying this massive windfall. We’re simply taking, on average, one half of one percent back, and using it to address the most pressing problem facing San Francisco today.


Wendy: That 300 million that you would collect annually, will provide 4000 homes, which represents 50 percent of the money.


Brian: What’s really an important detail there is that these are gonna be units that are affordable to people who are experiencing homelessness. It represents more affordable units built under Prop C than the city of San Francisco has built in 30 years. This is 30 years worth of housing for homeless people. This is housing that a senior on a Social Security check is gonna be able to get into.


Wendy: The remainder of the money goes to shelter beds and substance abuse issues, along with mental health services?


Brian: 25 percent of the money is going toward mental health and substance use treatment, and it’s focused on street-based treatment, so that way we’re going to have the resources for people with psychiatric needs and substance use needs on the street. We’re gonna be able to get them connected to the care that they need that can get them off of the street. Once we get them indoors, the psychiatric nurses and all of the other support systems can make sure they’re successful and remain housed.


Wendy: For short-term help, Prop C will add 1000 shelter beds.


Brian: Yes. There are now 1100 people on the shelter wait list, so there are over 1000 people on the streets who are asking for shelter. They’ve been able to find out how to get on the wait list. Who even knows how to do these things if you’ve been working all your life and suddenly find yourself in these destitute situations? We’ll be able to rapidly get 1000 people indoors, and into navigation centers, and start getting them connected to care. 10 percent of the funds are gonna go for those shelter beds. They’re also gonna fund hygiene centers, so people have public restrooms, and also jobs for people to clean the streets and make San Francisco clean and beautiful. Voters are really frustrated with the conditions on the streets of San Francisco, and this is gonna give them some pretty significant and immediate relief.


Wendy: That will obviously be good for tourism too. What one consistently hears fro tourists and other visitors is, “There are so many homeless here.”


Brian: People don’t wanna come here anymore. Tourism really is our largest source of jobs. Also, all of the suffering that’s going on in the streets is really impacting the small businesses. We’ve got all of these landlords who are jacking up the rent because there’s no commercial rent control, and they have all of the new hipster businesses with the 12 dollar toast moving in and putting pressure on long-term mom and pop stores. [They also have to to deal with the] impacts of street homelessness, which impacts foot traffic, and hurts their business too. This is gonna provide the relief that small business owners deserve.


Wendy: Places are sitting empty because nobody can afford the rent, and there are people in every doorway.


Brian: The situation we’re in is partially fueled by poor policy decisions that have been going on, really since Gavin Newsom did Care Not Cash. Politicians found that they could get a lot of attention by criminalizing people who are experiencing homelessness. One of the things they did was Scott Weiner passed a law to get all of the homeless people out of the parks. We told them that if you push the people out of the parks, they’re gonna go into the neighborhoods, so suddenly everybody’s seeing all of these people on the sidewalks. I’m not exactly saying, “I told you so,” but we knew this would happen.


Wendy: Aside from helping existing businesses in a myriad of ways, Prop C will create jobs for people who already live here, who can find work in some of the facilities that you’ve mentioned. Brian: Yes. 25 percent of the funding is for mental health services, those are really good jobs for psychiatric nurses and other care providers, who tend to live here in the city. Also, [it means] really good construction jobs. When you buy, acquire, rehab and build 4000 units of housing, you are creating a lot of jobs, and there are also the add-on jobs, all of the jobs multipliers. One of the tenets of economics is that you want to prevent as much expatriation of wealth from an economy as you can. For-profits expatriate wealth from the San Francisco economy and they send it to Wall Street, so it’s actually bad for an economy. When we can recapture 300 million dollars that would have been leaving our economy, and recycle it back into the local ecosystem, it’s better. And those jobs create jobs.


Wendy: The opposition to this is the Chamber of Commerce and some of these large corporations who don’t want to pay the percentage, and who say that Prop C would cost jobs. Just recently, the economic report by San Francisco’s Chief Economist, Ted Egan, disproved those oppositions.


Brian: Oh, we were so happy with what our Chief Economist said. You know, economists tend to be business minded people, and even the economist said that the job loss is negligible. It’s an estimated one tenth of one percent, over 20 years, and even his analysis does not include the job multipliers created here, the positive impacts of how many jobs in the tourism industry we’re going to save, and also create when San Francisco gets its shine back. It was really a very strong message in support of what we’re doing and really countered that negative messaging that the opposition is doing. By the way, it’s the same message they had when we went to a 15 dollar minimum wage. These same people said that people are gonna leave the city. It didn’t happen. They said the same thing with marriage equality and they said the same thing when Tom Ammiano did the equal benefits ordinance, saying that employers in San Francisco have to provide the same benefits to LGBT same-sex partners as they do to heterosexual opposite partners. The same Chamber of Commerce, the same people, used that same scare tactic. It’s wrong every single time.


Wendy: It’s so important for everyone to have a safe place to go to at the end of the day. That would help to make the city a better place for everyone.


Brian: One of the exciting things about this is that 15 percent of these funds are gonna be for eviction prevention, for longtime San Franciscans, to keep them in their homes, because you can’t address homelessness, without stopping the bleeding, and the flow into homelessness. 7000 households are gonna receive eviction prevention services. That’s enough money for 4000 rental subsidies. The days when a little old lady who’s 88 years old and their spouse dies, and they lose that other Social Security check and get evicted from their apartment that they’ve lived in for 40 years, because she’s 50 dollars a month shy of being able to pay the rent - those days are gone. They’re over. A family losing a job, they shouldn’t lose their apartment too, and they don’t have to. It’s profound the way that this is gonna impact things and make things better; it’s just so incredibly substantial.


Wendy: By the time this paper hits the street, you will have just held your fundraiser event, also a celebration of your and Cleve Jones’ birthdays, but of course people can still donate and volunteer. Where can people go if they’d like to volunteer?


Brian: People can go to and sign up to volunteer. They’ll get on the newsletter and all of the volunteer opportunities will be sent out to them. We’re phone banking almost every night of the week; different organizations are phone banking. We’re partnered with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Getting to Zero Consortium; every Thursday night from six to eight we’re doing an LGBT phone banking. Senior and Disability Action and Hospitality House are ushering all over the city, where these groups are getting together and calling their neighbors. That’s during the week, and then every weekend we’re out in a different district and we’re talking to voters, we’re tabling, we’re dropping literature, and we’re knocking on doors, and asking our neighbors to support Yes on C.


Brian Basinger was honored by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in recognition of the work he’s done as homeless advocate.

© Castro Courier 2019 No part of this website or artwork portrayed may be redistributed or republished without the express permission of the Castro Courier. Opinions expressed are strictly those of the writers and do not reflect the opinions of the publisher or staff.

As the Trump administration takes active steps towards making America unsafe to be gay again, spaces like ‘Camp’ Camp are all the more necessary — especially in Maine.