Too White to be Queer

The theme this year was : “Incusivity”. The production team form the 2016 Retreat worked very hard to make the event itself safe, welcoming and desirable for people of mixed gender and race. We had a significant amount of success depending on your point of view.

Another gay, white, male member of this community met with another gay, white, male of this community this week and they talked about the work being done to include those who have been marginalized in the LGBTQQ construct and both had wondered the same thing. How are they continually dismissed for being gay, white, males – thus dismissed – by people not wanting to be marginalized?

There is no right answer, because agreeing or disagreeing is an ‘us versus them‘ thinking that benefits no one. If it is under the LGBTQQ construct then we are eating ourselves from the inside out. Understanding and patience has to be the banner and hopefully it was a rainbow banner.

It’s clear that gay, white males are the overwhelming participants and camps at Burning Man so that is the demographic that carries that loudest voice by volume. Whatever entitlement and perspective came with that no one has to be marginalized and everyone in this community has a voice.

What they say Post Event: SURVEY RESULTS

Out of 150 attendees we got 42 people who answered a survey about the weekend. Overall it looks like people love GroundSwell, but not their plumbing or the cabins so much. But overall people seem to love it very much. The goal was to capture the general feeling of the event as a whole.

Back2GSquestionThere is little doubt that GroundSwell was very appreciated by everyone attending. While we love the property the production team is already looking at a place that can hold for a larger population next year. The Queer Burner Retreat is not looking to grow significantly, but we feel that the new venue will allow us some growth and the ability to expand what we are offering.

We had no injuries this year, thank goodness. We had no need for any medical assistance or problems with behavior. Everyone was safe and not a single incident was raised that except for 2 minor abrasions that were treated with the first aide kit.

We were fortunate to have a attendee who was a paramedic and he was not needed in that sense.

In regards to GroundSwell there were some comments:

Cut down the tall grass in tent sites to decrease tick activity.

“Time to upgrade that bathhouse! :)”

“…No real suggestions except possibly expanding volunteer roles a bit with like a “bathroom mop” daily or something. But
people were super-cooperative and pitched in. It worked!”

Events

The next biggest area we got comments on was about the events that were offered and not offered. We had a limited program based on the amount of time available on the weekend. A few people asked about having an ice breaker on day 1 which is something we should definitely consider.

  • Day 1: Camp fire meet and greet at 9pm

Maybe they were suggesting some kind of exercise. We did have Dinner Circle wherein people were introduced but if someone has a suggestion in the future that is something that can be implemented please let us know.

4 workshops

  • Inclusivity workshop on Saturday at 10am

This seemed to be a well attended workshop and really took on the banner of the weekend as the Production Team wanted a gender and racially diverse weekend. We went to a lot of effort to try and make sure people felt comfortable.

  • Hats for the Playa on Saturday at 1pm

A nice afternoon crafting workshop with good attendance.

  • Being a Ranger on Sunday at 10am

While the rangers out-numbered the attendees it was really nice and we hope some people felt inspired to explore rangering. I know a few people understand what Rangers do more.

  • Acculturation Sunday at Noon

There were comments about workshops for people new to Burning Man. We did have this piece for newbies and encouraged all new people to attend.

The Food

The survey at the top was very well in favor of the food produced, but there were some people who noted some dissatisfaction. Clearly we need to do better with Vegetarian food as the chef was not as prepared as needed to handle those needs. This falls strictly on Toaster who will make sure that these needs are met next year significantly better.

Lessons Learned

Mistakes happen and the real failure is not doing better next time around. Here are a few areas of note in random order:

  • improved meals for vegetarian diets
  • more clearly defined workshops
  • better explanation of the requirements of consent and personal boundaries among the attendees
  • written agreement with staff
  • making sure property representatives are able to respond to the needs of their guests

Conclusion

The survey we put out was to get a general temperature of what people experienced and how we could do better in the future. There were places we fell down and hope people will give us a chance again next year. Please add comments to this page or continue the dialog in the Groups / Forums part of this web site.

Safety

In the wake of Orlando, many of us are just stunned. It is probably more surprising that something as bad as that did not happen before. Every week it seems we are hearing about some horrible tragedy with guns in the world, but Orlando hit close to home for all of us. Queers have been targets for years by zealots.

In recent weeks we have been talking to BMorg about safety on the playa and in the Queer parts of the city and how it is important. That reason exploded this week. Believe it or not: many BMorg leaders and community participants have this misshapen view that Burning Man is all hippies and hugs which is not true.

Safety everywhere is a real issue. Listen to our older members of the community; to those who grew up in rural, scary places, to those who could not come out of the closet. Gay marriage was not the golden rainbow bridge that made us all equal. The things we did to survive in a hostile world in a country where all people were never really equal.

When the BMorg asked us if the flood of 7:30 Sector requests was queer camps we figure out the answer was no. Camps want the 7:30 sector because of alleged reasons such as better weather, streets in good condition, energy and more entertainment. While queer camps coalesced for safety, we hear BMorg uttering the dull roar of breaking it up again. We can’t have that. Now more than ever we need to safety and security of a united community.

Does that exclude non-queer community members? Not at all. We are a radically inclusive community but we have not always felt that inclusivity. Many see themselves and have experienced clear and defined marginalism. Our strength is in our perseverance and our chosen family and our community pride.

NOTE: BMorg Placement has not said they are breaking up the area typically known as the Gayborhood. But they are talking about making two distinct spaces in future events. This year it looks like we are going to see a Rainbow Road scenario and many of us are excited for that. But as Placement is taking on new leadership this year we need to be vigilant that the dialog of integrating queer camps through the city simply does not happen to dissolute the magic we bring as an attraction year after year.

Are you Safe at Burning Man?

In a recent poll we took from our subscribing community asking LGBTQ++ people we asked about the reasons why the Gayborhood became a thing. We also knew from the Queer Burner Leadership Summits from 2012 and 2013 that Safety was the principle reason for queer camps coming together.

It was less so for gay, white males. The amount of people who felt threatened in the poll was nominal until your removed the gay, white male numbers from the report. Trans, woman and other gender identified persons went to 100%.

So we brought up a project from 2014 in a new form and held a discussion about it. Here is the video. But for notes and documentation see:

Are we ready to make this happen for the well being of our community?

BRC Gay Pride Parade – Please Support

There is new blood running the Gay Pride event at Burning Man this year. Justin is part of Camp Proper and he is taking a whole new perspective on the Gay Pride Parade which has historically taken place on Friday of burn week.

The Gay Pride Parade started more than a decade ago under Mario Cisneros (formerly Moonbow Camp / RIP) whom we lost in 2012. Since then Toaster took over the Pride event, but in 2015 participation was at an all time low and the thought was that it needed new imagination, new eyes and new ideas.

Burner Buddies has been the other end of that event and have generously invited attendees to their camp with Nacho Daddies and others to an after party in their camp.

The pride parade is still done in honor of the memory of Mario and is driven by community support. This is really important to people who knew and felt the loving support and brotherhood with Mario in his day.

This is important to rally and support this project. If everyone would commit to giving a couple hours to Justin and help make this a success it would be a great way of helping build community.

All in Placement’s hands now…

Many community members were given a jolt with the news that BMorg’s Placement wanted to talk to LGBTQQ leaders about the state of the Gayborhood. Was it getting too big? Why are there 350 applications for the 7:30 sector and is it because they were from queer Camps? Is the high number of self identified queer attendees a correlation of these applications to the sector?

The above graphic came from the BMorg meeting showing that, according to BM Census almost 1/3rd of attendees identified as LGBTQQ (BMorgs choice of acronyms). Queer Burners has posted similar numbers on this before showing significant results of the impact of queer patrons on the Burning Man event but we have been marginalized in the culture every year.

A majority of our community have been marginalized in society and it was still prevalent in the Burning Man event except in the Gayborhood; which is not 100% true. Burning Man queers are predominantly gay, white males which to some are still vilified on some level for the same reasons as our straight, white part of society.

At the 2016 Queer Burner Retreat we were part of a well attended workshop about inclusivity and how simply respecting basic pronouns for people of various gender identification make a huge difference in the area of respect.

The popularity and attraction of the Gayborhood provides 1 outstanding feature for many people of all orientation and gender identity and that is Safety.

  • gender queer people (people of other ethnicity as well) are more vigilant about their environment  in the world and will react and go to the aide of other queers who might be in trouble.
  • that environment of awareness and networked safety has attracted people outside that demographic seeking the safe spaces just like they do in gay communities in cities all over the world.

The 7:30 sector, in this burners 8 years, has been a zone with the best camps with the best attractions including but not limited to the Gayborhood. Camps like Orphan Endorphine, Party Naked Tiki Bar, AEZ, Playfully Yours, Suspended Animation and so many more have been based in that same zone.

The 3:00 zone tends to be a popular zone as well with camps known for making that space highly entertaining.

The 10:00 and 2:00 zones speak for themselves.

So the Gayborhood is just one part of the attraction that makes that sector so big and under demand. It is close to Center Camp. It is a hub of activity and entertainment especially at night.

So when members of the BMorg talk about a dream that one day all of Burning Man will be integrated and there is no need for a Gayborhood, I see this as fundamentally offensive. We are not always welcomed with open arms and we have been faced with threatening behavior by other burners. We have the numbers showing that. And many of us do not want to turned into processed cheese slices that fit nicely into someone’s bland world where we are all marching around in our gray suits.

Out of 302 respondents on a survey about personal safety in the gayborhood:

  • 14.57% say they were threatened or felt endangered at Burning Man
  • 21.67% say they knew someone in the same circumstance

IMPORTANT: removed the white, gay male respondents and the numbers jump up to nearly 100%.

Based on our conversation with Placement this week we can anticipate the Rainbow Road layout of what we have been calling the Gayborhood. However, with changes coming in 2017, there is a chance the Gayborhood will be split into 2 sectors or Rainbow Road might be extended; although we want the community to be prepared for both possibilities.

To see the results of the recent survey follow the following links:

Footnote: “Gayborhood” is a term a lot of people are looking to see retired. Queerborhood has been thrown around but it is not a marketable phrase. Neither is “Gayburbs” (the 4:30 & J mini queer collective). As Placement releases the placement of camps that we consider a new brand; like Rainbow Road or something else that might better represent our community as a whole.

Burning Man Placement is asking for Feedback

We did it! A collective of local queer camp leaders met with Placement at BMHQ to discuss how to manage the number of request for 7:30 sector, which are almost double the number requesting any other sector of Burning Man. Besides providing a safe space for LGBTQIA folks, we’ve created a tight-knit community that produces amazing art and a powerful experience on the playa. Other burners have responded, and queers and allies alike are flocking to our rainbow colored beacon.

Using survey data you, the Queer Burner community, provided us, we discussed what makes the Gayborhood (or more inclusively “Queerborhood”) such an important place for our community and for Burning Man in general. We tried to tackle issues of safety, inclusion, freedom, self-expression, and all the powerful themes that you all wrote to us about!

The Placement Team also brought data of their own. Using the BRC census data, almost a third of the BRC population self-identify as “LGBTQQ”.

Scan_20160602

And, now, BURNING MAN PLACEMENT needs actionable information so as to not break up the Gayborhood/Queerborhood and still solve the logistics challenge of cramming too many camps in a limited amount of space. So…

URGENT: Before Friday afternoon we need the community to answer a few more questions (not many, really): https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GPJFRLZ

Answering the questions above will directly guide the ongoing logistics discussion with Placement. You and your camp leaders are invited to participate so that we can continue to create a supportive space for those who want to share in the community.

This year we anticipate seeing a Gayborhood “Rainbow Road” scenario much like 2016 (possibly extending beyond the bounds of 7:30 and into the adjacent sectors). However, in the not so distant future, we are likely to see TWO Gayborhoods and new questions in the Placement Questionnaire for camps to self-identify as queer and wanting to be in the Gayborhood/Queerborhood (rather than just requesting 7:30).

For now, use the Queer Burners [dot] Com Forums to share your opinions. Help us continue the dialog by letting us know what you need!

Leaders of Queer Camps facilitating the discussion:

– *Tiger (Glamcocks) – *Christian (BAAAHS) – *Cyndi NoPants (Gender Blender) – *Toaster (Sun Guardians / Queer Burners) – *Indigo (Astropups) – *Dare (Glamcocks) – *Foxy (Beaverton) – *Ariel (Gender Blender) – Terry Grossman (Gaylactic Village / Time to Burn) – Ed Edmond (Burner Buddies) – Zach Bunker (BloAsis)  *in attendance at meeting w/ Placement Team

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