The Global Leadership Conference hosted by Burning Man in Oakland at the beginning of the month was an amazing experience. This was my 5th or 6th one. When one starts forgetting those details then it feels like maybe it’s time to slow down? IDK… but I was super grateful to see so many people there.
People have since asked regarding the last post: “GLC: Gayborhood Broken Up?” questions like where is the queer representation at BMorg? With the Census showing an LGBTQ population hovering about 30% [2016 Report] of Black Rock City are we represented in the org the same way? When it comes to Ethnic Diversity and other populations anyone can ask the same question.
After my experience at the GLC and my interactions with BMorg there is a resounding yes (regarding representation), but there are some consistent problems with the BMorg as far as being able to react to Sexual Identity and Ethnic needs in the community that are slowly getting the recognition they have sorely needed over the years.
This is my 9th year in the community and when I tell you I have seen some real shit hit the fan, I have. BUT, I have also seen certain bodies of the BMorg really bounce right back to save the moment. There are some heroes up there.
Let’s focus on some of the positives. This year there were more community leaders brought into the fold than ever before. This also included Theme Camp leaders and more diverse community leaders with various agendas. While some of these agendas were Ethnic, some were about Disability Access, and others were about creating new space to commune and make community.
Not to harp on myself, but my first GLC was as a Community Leader for the Las Vegas community and then each year following I went to talk about the Gayborhood. I also talked vigorously about safety for queers and women which is already documented well in the scope of this site.
There were queer leaders from all over the country. Many of whom lead Queer Burner regional message boards listed here on this site. It is also fair to say, without outing anyone who is not ready to be outed, that there are top level people who identify as LGBTQ.
We have many many allies, but that does not mean we have a free pass. Queer Burners as a community has to toil and resolve issues like everyone else in the community. There are issues we have to fight against but that is minutia compared to the scope of what we do for a week out of the year and how we bring Burning Man ideology to our communities.
And that is the key! Burning Man mission statement has been pared down to something very simple about bringing the 10 Principles to the world and creating community with that. Burners Without Boards and the Burning Man Project have been the pivot point on all that.
Us v. Them
Thinking there is an ‘us versus them mentality’ is not really conducive to a positive outcome. There is no such thing. If we want something from this community, we have to ask or demand it. If it happens through our Theme Camp Applications or where we spend our money then those are strong voices.
- Going back to the Gayborhood question: Radical Self Reliance means we have to put in our applications who we want to be camped near and where.
- If queers feel unsafe at Burning Man because of dangers growing out of a surging tourist culture then there are other places to spend and get value from that $425 dollar ticket.
- If the dissolution of 10 Principles ideology is making it hard to be part of the burn, then become an activist and use Immediacy to start your own – thing.
As with any institution there are ways to work within the scope of the community or with our freedom; we can make our own. For many of us Burning Man is something we cherish. We might see some scars but the bigger picture is the value of those few days a year we get to create something amazing.
The GLC had a lot of sessions that were very valuable. If you can go next year then by all means go. As this was my 5th or 6th year it has become almost a 2nd Burning Man trip for me… without the dust. I have allies that are there as well as people who would see my work torn apart.
I will post about the workshops and some feedback about them in my next post.
Sorry about the brevity and lack of content in this post. I wanted to share some thoughts about what I perceive as our individual responsibilities in this community to our goals in the Burning Man Community. Queer Burners comes in behind that somewhere as well as your Theme Camp and Yourself in any order that works for you.
We get what we petition for. If this is a chorus rather than one guy shouting like a crazy guy in the street that is very different. If we want the Gayborhood then we have to ask for it. We have to find our strategic partner camps and unite with them and put that in the application.
As far as who is representing us at Burning Man we have a lot of strong voices. For every twenty people there is maybe 1 neigh-sayer. We really do have more allies than not. The only thing I would like to discourage is letting other people be your voice… be your own voice and be heard.