Last summer Saga Eir Svanbergsdóttir decided to go on a vacation with a relative to a place called Rittergut in Lützensommern in the south of Germany. What Saga initially didn’t know is that the plan was to go to a summer camp for LGBT youth.
“Well, it was actually a misunderstanding, Saga gleefully explains and laughs. “My cousin, who manages these camps, contacted me because somebody had dropped out and asked if I wanted to come. I didn’t quite hear him and thought I was going shopping! (The Icelandic word for summer camp is “sumar-búðir” and the Icelandic word for stores is “búðir”, hence the misunderstanding.) I was crazy excited naturally, to go shopping for a week!”
So what Saga didn’t realise is that they would in fact be part of an Icelandic group going to a closed camp-site called Rittergut in Lützensommern in the south of Germany, where LGBT youth organization Lambda has an annual, week-long summer camp program for young people between the ages of 15-25 years old.
“When I realized that I had misunderstood what the camp was about I got really stressed, felt I didn’t belong there. But after talking it over with my friends I decided to go and just try to have as much fun as I could.”
The day the Icelandic group, which consisted of about fifteen people, got to the camp the kids ended up being about forty all in all, the youngest was 14 years old and the oldest was 25 years old. “Then there were six people who supervised it; Two from Germany, two from Iceland, one from France and one from Malta,” Saga explains and admits that the first days where a bit tough, though it helped a lot to be with a group of other Icelanders. Two of who Saga already knew.
“Of course people were surprised to hear I was straight, they jokingly called me “the straight girl” but never in a mean tone.”
“English was the only language we were allowed to speak during the day but at night your group would meet up and talk about your day, go through our experiences and that was very helpful. And since there was so much activities that you could pick, the days were packed.”
On the very first night at the summer camp, when everybody sat down by the camp fire to talk, Saga decided to confess something to the whole group. “I told them that I was straight. I thought it was silly to lie about it,” Saga explains and adds with a sigh of relief that thankfully nobody made a fuss about it. “Of course people were surprised to hear I was straight, they jokingly called me “the straight girl” but never in a mean tone.”
However, it wasn’t until later, in an activity called Trans-talk conducted by “teamer” (a word used for supervisor) Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir, that Saga made a life altering discovery which made her re-evaluate the statement about being straight. “I simply thought all girls sometimes experienced that they were in the wrong body or felt a longing for having other body parts, but as I found out during Trans-talk, that is not the case. That’s when I realized I am a trans-person and gender-fluid.”
Did you expect something like that could happen to you there?
“No! (Laughs.) I didn’t expect much really. I just thought the camp would be fun and then I would return to my old life as it was.”
“They had all sorts of activities ranging from poetry-slam, choir … and ending with yoga every night.”
How did your parents react you told them about your discovery?
“They took it really well. My mother got really excited because of the actress Ruby Rose and that I was like her (laughs).”
And you have a boyfriend now…
“Yeah. He was in the Icelandic group and we got to know each other and quickly became friends. On one of the last nights there, at the campfire, we kissed and have been inseparable since. He’s pan so it suits me very well, since I keep changing gender (laughs).”
Despite the initial misunderstanding Saga says the summer camp was great fun. “They had all sorts of activities ranging from poetry-slam, choir, dancing, trans-talk and ending with yoga every night. But if you weren’t feeling up to it, no one would pressure you to do anything. The atmosphere at the camps was very relaxed in that way. You were told that if you wanted to have a quiet day, you could. Then you could hang in your tent and read or something.”
Saga also points out that to be at the camp for a week and get to know new people your own age who are going through similar things as you, was amazing. “They come from other countries so it was interesting to hear about the different problems that they are facing. It’s such a good experience. You learn so much there and the friendship you gain is precious.”
So would you recommend these camps to others?
Iceland can bring fifteen participants to the camp between the ages of 15-25 along with two supervisors. Those interested can apply here, until midnight next Sunday (17th of April).
Cost: Individuals pay themselves for the plane ticked and travel expenses but 70 percent has been reimbursed via grants. Total reimbursement is after the cost for the camp themselves have been withdrawn.
Detailed information can be found here but you can also send an inquiry to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Icelandic “teamers” (supervisors) this year will be Sigurður Ýmir Sigurjónsson and Anna R. Jörundardóttir.
Photos: Courtesy of Lambda.