With the upcoming Queer Burner Leadership Summit on the horizon and all the crazy uber-anxiety of the general Burner population where do we fit into the scheme of things? It seems a lot of burners never think too much about. Maybe Burning Man is something that exists 8 days a year for you (maybe a few days more?), but within the schema where are we?
For those of us drunk on the Burning Man kool-aide and live this stuff through the year, the perception of the relationship between the queer culture of the burner community varies as much as it is possible. Some blend in nicely to the masses or are silent participants in the bigger picture while some feel like they exist quite well outside the burner bubble.
Sometimes we blend in and sometimes not. We are in a culture of radical inclusion and to understand that is to see the blurry lines described on this site. Not a single camp at Burning Man is 100% gay, straight, bi or otherwise and if they were (or weren’t) probably most would not know.
In a very un-scientific study it is estimated that nearly a 25% of Burning Man participants are LGBT+ or curious … if a guestimate is scientific then I have a bridge in Arizona for sale. Another blogger/observer/burgin last year estimated us at 30%. Well, some have their doubts.
Without a doubt the Queers of Burning Man are not solely defined by sexual orientation, acknowledged or not, but self identified queer camps can develop a greater impact supporting some of the community and fund raising events put on by each other.
In the end, when we are coming home to BRC there are another 52 weeks of the year where in small pockets we are making an impact on our communities at-large.
The Leadership Conference offers even more than that and we have a chance to unite and engage each other on a new level.
Where does this theme fit in with our culture? Is this an over heterosexual concept that excludes Queers? The answer can be found in an exciting exchange led by Kitten who will bring a whole new dimension to the concept behind a seemingly exclusive concept. There will be an open discussion full of exciting dialog.
Thinking about Radical Self-Reliance and how the LGBT community has struggled for solidarity over the last few decades our culture has been one of self expression and artistry that some are still striving for. United and better networked we can sustain each other more and take advantage of a stronger system that benefits all of us:
Support each other with fund raisers
Regional event participation with queer camps
more more more…..
There is a lot of other benefits that will certainly come to light through the course of events. Please see the schedule for the night that will see updates tonight. [schedule]
According to research, the term Sparkle Pony goes back to 2008. It is like glitter in the eyes or cotton candy farts of not preparing for an event where you could literally and unceremoniously DIE at. You have to be prepared, do the research, and make sure you bring what you need to survive for any Burner Event.
SPARKLE PONY, –NOUN, One of the Burner Principles is Radical Self-Reliance. Everyone at a Burn event is expected to bring everything they need to survive for the duration of the event — food, clothes, water and shelter. Yet this principle overlaps with another — the gift economy, where Burners share what they have with those that need. Of course there are those who take advantage of this by coming to the event poorly prepared.
A sparkle pony is a Burner who is under-prepared for basic survival but still managed to pack 2 suitcases full of fabulous outfits. He or she expects the community to take up the slack because they’re just so wonderful and drama inevitably follows when expectations are not met. – [source on ePlaya]
Radical Self Reliance
Burning Man provides a detailed survival guide on the main web site and a few cute phrases that really have import meaning:
That means stay hydrated. That means don’t be a douche and party your balls off without remembering to get plenty of fluids. All too often people do not come with enough water. Although many camps generously bring extra you should not expect others to cover your needs on any level.
The same goes with food, sleeping space and anything else needed for survival for the week.
It’s a good question, but the answer really is what should you bring? All those are covered in the above and the survival guide. You need to have all the essentials that will allow you to survive in the middle of no where for however many days you plan on attending. It’s just that simple.
There are things Burning Man does ask people not to bring that is always in the guide. Anything that creates MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) like feathers or paper or anything else that can break loose and blow across the playa.
Avoid being a Sparkle Pony if you can. Do your research and do your due-diligence and you will have a hell of a lot more out of the experience. A prepared Burner is a Happy Burner.
Most of us who opted into the the Burning Man life and live it in our daily lives by observing and respecting the 10 Principles have had that occasion where someone asked about Burning Man and why: “why won’t you shut the fuck up about it?”
More than that there is those said principles that get a gray area like nothing else, but a body of the burner community can be robust in their application of the principles. One R.C. (Regional Contact) I know called it Churchification, but an aggressive point of view versus a more laid back application run the gambit in the community as a whole.
Quite simply the 10 Principles are not the 10 Commandments. While the 10 Commandments are great for a national basic series of laws to live by, the principles are ideal for a community or communities that are part of that nation.
Talking about Burning Man
“…going to Burning Man is on my bucket list…”
– same quote from about 500 Twitter users
There is a world of difference with newbies who have a natural inclination to the Burning Man lifestyle versus the Frat Boy going out to crunch beer cans. Talking about these principles and applying them will affect these people differently potentially. Talking about ‘why‘ Burning Man is more than a week long event insights some interesting reactions.
“She told me she was planning on going to Burning Man next year in our discussion over coffee. We were meeting in a local cafe called “Cafe Flore” that has a Burning Man Man on the roof and is owned by Burners. We were meeting because she was going to provide me a service and was interviewing me for this service… but she kept going back to ‘why‘ is Burning Man in your life beyond some festival that happens 7 days a year?
“When I tried explaining that the 10 Principles include things like radical self reliance, radical self expression, community involvement, etc… I explained these were things that were are not the 10 Commandments. But she countered:
‘Why wouldn’t a normal person just do the right thing? Why is Burning Man in your life beyond some festival that happens 7 days a year?’
“Not everyone just does the right things and we are looking this as guidelines for a community. It’s a culture. It’s an ideal.
“I kept the story as to why it was important to me, naturally unable to speak for others, but in her frustration she shut down our conversation obviously irritated. She terminated our business and walked away implying I had lost my mind.”
– Just Scott
How many Burners experienced this reaction? It is hard at this time to find something to compare this to.
Distilling this reaction to Fear or Anger of something that a person cannot clearly ‘wrap their head around’ over simplifies the severe response. Perhaps a psychologist can offer some insight?
The principles are what they are. 10 great guidelines that have a wide gray line on both sides. How deep they follow you beyond the trash fence is just as individual as the participant at the event. So, if you have an adverse reaction to information about the event in the life of someone else – maybe this is not for you.
“In the course of our conversation and how she kept referring to it being just a 7 day event that begins and ends and then, as she said, ‘people return to their normal lives’ I gave her a suggestion. I said, in the nicest way possible, cushioning it and told her: Maybe Burning Man is really not for you.”
– Just Scott
So, what else can you say? Feel free to add your thoughts below.
Very often an invitation goes to a person in the Burning Man Culture/Community to be a verified member on GayBurners.Com and post their activities or their schtik because it is of interest to this community in the opinion of the various admins. The reply is always: “…but I am not gay”.
Referring to one of the 10 principles and applying it to Black Rock City for 8 days a year, there really are few exclusions. An individuals sexual orientation is not on the surface most of the time. It can be assumed and ass-u-me-d is a bad word. When a “Gay Camp” or a “Gay Burner” web site or resource is set out for general consumption it really is not literally ‘exclusively gay’ as exclusion is not part of this culture.
“Gay” or “Lesbian” or “Trans” or more are labels. Resources like these help to bring together resources for people who live their lives with these identities. Sexual Orientation becomes passe.
“I had a wonderful time meeting and hanging out with my gay neighbors. They were all really nice guys and we got along really well. It was fun sharing burning man “war stories” with them. Jay and I were a straight guy island surrounded by a sea of homosexuality, and it was awesome. The major downside was that the area didn’t exactly attract many ladies, but then again, I was out playing and enjoying the art more often than not anyway! I think that it helped that there didn’t seem to be any Sparkle Ponies in the Dust Haven camp. Those guys have their act together!” – Cromatest J. Pantsmaker R.C. Arizona
The Blurry Lines
On the playa the “Down Low Club” has been touted as being a place where “straight” or “questioning” men can explore their sexuality. It goes without saying that a lot of self-identified “straight”-ish men explore life that cannot be executed in the default world. They explore cross dressing and making parodies of the women in their lives or fantasies. Sometimes it is purely the sexual exploration.
There are several camps where sexual exploration is all they do. And then there are camps like “Poly Paradise” that provide resources and information for partnerships that have a varied gender makeup.
As free and open those 8 days are, there are still men and women who are outwardly defensive with their sexual identities. ‘Homo-Phobia’ in whatever degree is still present.
Playing Nice Together
There are camps that define themselves as gay or lesbian or gender blending. Most attendees know ‘Comfort & Joy’ as one of the largest gay camps on playa. The same thing with ‘Camp Beaverton’ and ‘Gender Blender’ for lesbians and trans. It seems to also be widely known there is open sexual behavior at these camps on some degree, but they are also entertaining and educating and offering support for people looking for it.
The “Gayborhood” and the “Gay Ghetto” is where queer camps tend to collect. These are definitely non-exclusive and very welcoming.
Burning Man has some traditional events that really tend to blend people with no exclusions and on some level allows people to be vulnerable in their sexuality on some level. “Critical Tits”, “Critical Dicks” and “The Naked Pub Crawl” strip away the exterior with nudity but turn people into this tossed salad of self defined sexual orientation where that orientation becomes unimportant to enjoyment of the event itself.
Census results for 2006 on BurningMan[dot]Com are the most current available. Since then attendance of the event has shifted in popularity and in 2011 (for example) the event sold out for the first time. In a recent article by Burgin attendee Oscar Remundo in the Huffington Post he stated that queers accounted for 1/3 of the attendance. Not sure how accurate that was but it feels like queer attendance is growing.
Afterburn Reports for 2007 are not available and 2008 only asks no specific gender and only if the person completing the survey are attracted to men or women. 2009 is not compiled according to the site.
How does Burning Man see Queer Camps?
It is hard to say without direct knowledge of how Burning Man sees the strong queer presence at the event. We are actively contributing to the culture and the event. We actively live the 10 principles. We have put blood, sweat and tears every year. ‘We’ is all encompassing.
At the Regional Leadership Conference in April 2011 the question was posed: “Do Queer Burners need their own regional representation?” For those who do not know, communities all over the world have a person(s) that represent Burning Man to them as a contact and they also watch out that the Brand is not being abused; they are called RC’s or Regional Contacts. Some communities have 3 to 5 people representing them.
Regions are represented by geography like Southern Nevada is a region and Northern Nevada is a region.
The answer that was given was an example: [paraphrased] “…a similar request came from the BDSM community and it just was not practical…” Lifestyle cultures versus a community of people living in a shadow of prejudice in the default world cannot compare. Do you think queers should have regional representation?
Do you think the Queer people of Burning Man need Regional Contact representation?
No (57%, 4 Votes)
I do not know (43%, 3 Votes)
Yes (0%, 0 Votes)
Yes, but all queers should have someone: gay man, lesbian woman, transgender (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 7
In a way we sorta have people looking out for Queers and the relationship with Burning Man. There are some great unofficial relationships that exist and active leadership working hard to represent. There are Queers working for Burning Man, but are they speaking for Queers?
If the Queer part of the Burner culture was given representation what would stop the Poly or BDSM or Swingers or those wild rabbits that show up every year. Although us Queers are not just simply a chosen ‘lifestyle’ or organization – Burning Man represents people by geography.
Homo/Hetero life for 8 days a year generally blends nicely with Radical Inclusion. No gay camp is exclusively gay; there are bisexual, pansexuals, asexuals and more. In the default world we occasionally revive Burning Man in our Regions through Precompression and Decompression. For the most part the blend carries over.
When it comes to the Regional Contact list where is the representation there matching the demographic of Burning Man? It is a Hetero heavy list, while many have nothing against Queers, who is the voice of a community as large as ours.
Sexual orientation/proclivity is a big subject in Burning Man census data as there is a sexual part of this event.
There are strong relationships exist between Burners generally Hetero & Homo. There is a natural ebb and flow that draws similar people into similar groups. We have proven that individually we (all inclusive again) are mighty. Together we are unstoppable. Together we make Burning Man the community that is the envy of the world.
In the world that we have all opted into called Burning Man, we the pee-ple have a varying commitment to the 10 principles. The 10 principles of Burning Man are not biblical scripture. Everyone sees them with different shades of gray. In this case we are talking about “Civic Responsibility”.
Several members on this site and some of their friends, many of who are Burners, have created an organization committed to making their community stronger.
Through self-respect and self expression, Payasos-L.A. is a brotherhood of gay/bi Latino men whom are committed to keeping and enhancing the quality of life for the future generations and our communities. Through fund raising, public appearances and volunteering that support youth programs, promoting Latino presence in the Arts, and generating awareness on issues that affect the Latino community in Los Angeles; Payasos-L.A. is dedicated to a better tomorrow.
This is just one example of efforts made by members of our community and how their reach goes beyond the playa. Many of the guys were camped in Dickstracted Camp this year. The founder of this great organization is Leo Iriarte (a.k.a. Stinky Foo) wins 2011 Mr. L.A. Leather contest and scored 5th Place on International Mr. Leather 2011.
The history of payasiando/clowning is a history of creativity, evolution, and change. Payasos-L.A. honors and maintains this tradition for the benefit of it members, friends and the community.
There are others in our community that have been paying it forward on their own missions.
Anyone paying attention to the many postings before Burning Man this year would have seen the many efforts by Comfort & Joy in their support of the Native Americans (Indians) who live in the land where once a year we call Home. They had a successful canned food drive and are often promoting books that talk about the tribes.
Certainly they these fine examples of burners giving back. Note I did not say Gay Burners, because this is not a principle related to any one person’s sexual identity.
[much of the contextual information is taken from Payasos web site or their Facebook]