2015 Burning Man: Global Leadership Conference

The Burning Man Global Leadership Conference happened again this year and Toaster went representing QueerBurners.Com. There were a lot of other LGBTQ++ burners there working the event as well as participating.

Toaster, Jim Taflinger the Georgia Regional, and Bobby (aka Poohbear) from the New York Community
Toaster, Jim Taflinger the Georgia Regional, and Bobby (aka Poohbear) from the New York Community

The 9th Annual Global Leadership Conference runs Thursday, April 9th through Sunday, April 12th, 2015. Each day will be action-packed with incredible workshops, presentations, and fun gatherings. The 2015 Burning Man Global Leadership Conference will take place in the San Francisco Bay Area. The conference theme is “The Next Creative Renaissance: Buildin’ it up, Bustin’ it Out, and Bringin’ it Home” aimed at inspiring civic engagement through art and community. We want participants to return home full of ideas about how to make a meaningful impact in their hometowns, cities, and regions. Featured speakers and programming will address and explore activating and nurturing Burning Man culture and communities across the world.

– taken from the conference web site page

There were queer burner leaders in attendance, but only one wore the badge that said “QueerBurners.Com” LGBT Burners; that was your very own Toaster.


This was a weekend full of amazing dialog and communication building for the “Carnival of Mirrors” event, but the scope of the Leadership Conference is developing community and the Burning Man ideology (brand, projects and identity protection). One thing is definitely sure, what Burning Man IS has changed. The up and coming leaders (in the community, not necessarily employees) have changed.

Burning Man is a business and the many limbs of Burning Man are wrapping around themselves building a stronger core by collapsing those ancillary entities into the whole. In recent months: the Black Rock Arts Foundation and Burners Without Borders are now internal elements of the Burning Man Project instead of satellites. Those employees are now Burning Man employees and they now have the resources that Burning Man has developed as well as the influence.

Politics and Wrangling Not Your Thing?

This ‘thing’ has grown and is still growing. Burning Man is not just Burning Man (in the desert) anymore. It is a corporation that works hard to maintain it’s identity. It seems to work hard from being too mega and from being marginalized.

  1. It fights to maintain representation of the 10 Principles and the gray area surrounding them while increasing its ability to give the people who are a part of the culture a chance to really have a piece through community effort.
  2. It also fights to be seen as something more than a rave-like festival in the deep Nevada desert filled with cracked out naked hippies.

Burning Man is in that wide field in-between all that. While this is all an opinion being shared here as a participant, it became clear to me that some of the ugly parts of Burning Man are being matured away from by a generation that does not accept the snark, sexually aggressive, community destructive ideas. But at the same time while the community as a whole is growing into new shoes the struggle to really maintain the 10 Principles every day has also been a struggle.

10 Principles

See the 10 Principles here… CLICK. One of the questions that came up was: What is Radical Inclusion … Really? Here are two scenarios:

  • Creepy individual in camp stalking or pushing themselves on other members of the camp; does this person have the right to be a part of the camp under the Radical Inclusion umbrella or not? Most say no, but those that do not have to deal with the consequences say maybe or yes.
  • A camp of people with a certain “body type” or an “aesthetic” with an age limit or gender requirement is approached by someone that does not meet that standard; do they have the right to say no? Many would say no, but we have the right to choose who we camp with. The value of that individual is not known until we get to know that person.

Both these were discussed at the summit and in one case a unsolicited comment was made by one of the Gayborhood camps in a session of leaders. Most had never heard of the camp before, but as a member of the community behind this camp I was stunned and reeled.

the 11th Principle

There was a lot of talk about an eleventh principle. Seems like communities all over have developed something with the word “radical” put in front of it and found meaning with it. Among them, for a long while anyway, was the word Gratitude.

  • Radical Vulnerability: among leaders needing permission to look for a support team/system when working/building/launching events.

(See our post on this that started this conversation at the GLC: CLICK)


BMGLS2015 attendeesAll those leaders who went to this event (400 of them) should be bringing these tools back to their communities. It should be a trickle down idea and it will hopefully see some people be inspired and step up to help make leadership better. To all Queer Burners… I give this site to you. I present this whole project to you. Only you can take the baton and raise the bar for the future and yourselves and your communities.

Radical Vulnerability

This post was take from a discussion string on the Burning Man Global Leadership Summit with the written permission of the poster Gustav Josefsson and one of the respondents Jered Floyd. This was an important post of people in leadership roles:

Last year at the GLC I was at the Saturday night dinner, when me and the guy next to me from Oregon coined the term: “radical vulnerability”.

I’ve thought about this concept a lot, context of community leadership, and I would like to find a way to address this at the GLC. I think that vulnerability is a core ability in being able to lead a participatory community such as ours. More than that, I think it is going to be essential in the emergent network based leadership of the 21st century.

1423704446I’m not interested in just talking about this conceptually, but rather to get the opportunity to share the things that I am personally battling with other community leaders and hear and discuss their personal issues as leaders.

For you to understand more what I’m looking for, I’d like to share with you a list of issues that I’m personally battling with. These are just my list, and I’m sure that others will have different ones. In my mind, a session should be a facilitated session of sharing, with little set content. I’m just listing these now to give an idea of what kind of issues I’m trying to get at.

In my role as a community leader, I feel uncomfortable when:
* Everyone knows my name and I feel bad for not knowing theirs.
* People I don’t know come up to me to give me (what I feel is) undeserved credit, projecting the work of others on me.
* I hear of people in the community talking shit about me around my back.
* I have problem feeling connected during the event, because I’m worrying about the well-being of others.
* Some participants have a hard time approaching me, because they think i have better things to do than talk to hem.
* Sometimes I’m tired or lazy and I feel like I don’t contribute, so I try to hide it by pretending to be busy.
* I love being in the center of attention, but at the same time afraid of using my position as a leader to satisfy my ego.
* Someone puts me on a pedestal, making it hard for me to connect with them. When this illusion of a perfect me breaks, I’m met with disappointment.
* When I am stressed out and would need someone to calm me down, I tend to scare people off by seeming “busy”.
* Issues in my personal relationships affect my performance as a leader, and vice versa.

How does these things resonate with you? Would anyone else like to be a part of sharing thoughts and feelings on this? – Gustov

In my capacity with Queer Burners over the years I have tried to provide this service to my community with any fanfare. While I hope to do it and inspire others to help out, I found that I related a lot to the words he wrote and wanted to to share it with Queer Burners.

Boston Area Regional Contact and Queer Burner Jered Floyd [Facebook] posted his reply and I thought it was a really concise and thoughtful response:

The fact that you have these worries shows that, as a leader, your heart is in the right place! These are concerns common to leadership roles, and amplified in ones that are volunteer-oriented.

These feelings are normal and widespread across volunteer leadership, and dealing with them falls squarely in the category of reducing stress and preventing burnout. One key is identifying and following positive coping strategies for volunteerism-related stress, and avoiding negative ones.

1151004_10151507192887315_1201687110_nIt’d be great to have a “community leader support group” session, especially if we can find a facilitator who is trained in positive coping strategies – any volunteers? 🙂

As a start, I’d say that you have excellent self-awareness. For each of your items, look if there’s a way to address it in a positive light. For example:
– People I don’t know come up to me to give me (what I feel is) undeserved credit, projecting the work of others on me.
+ I appreciate being recognized for helping catalyze our community, and have the opportunity to direct attention and appreciation to other makers and doers.

  • Some participants have a hard time approaching me, because they think i have better things to do than talk to them.
  • I work to be approachable and friendly, and talk to new people when I can.
  • Sometimes I’m tired or lazy and I feel like I don’t contribute, so I try to hide it by pretending to be busy.
  • I can’t do everything, and I should keep time for myself for things I want to do, or even nothing at all.

This isn’t about just feel-good affirmations, but rather recognizing your worries as valid, identifying the good things that you do that show why they aren’t serious, and choosing specific steps to take if you want to improve further.

Your list absolutely resonates with me; I’m happy to discuss this further, or at the GLC. – Jered

I have not met a single leader in this community that puts this kind of effort into various projects in order to receive personal recognition. The work I do is sincerely to make events, productions, spaces and more better for all participants. My sense is that it is much the same for all of you.

There was a lot more to the discussion than what was posted above including my own responses. Mostly personal accounts from other Regional Contacts best left there. But at a recent leadership gathering in San Francisco the subject came up in the conversation and there was interest so I thought I would share it here.

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