Admin Note: Discussing about Acculturation

In the last few days we talked a little about Acculturation and the way it was written on the playajoy.org web site resonates with me a lot. This being my eighth year in the community I am struck by the perceived vacuum of understanding Burning Man culture when engaging people out of context; e.g. when in a Burning Man environment versus outside. When the frat boy or O.C. housewives make their tourist destination a burn and treat it like they were at a mainstream festival. Their disconnection is something that I feel.

Definition: Ac·cul·tur·a·tion 1. A process by which the culture of an isolated society changes on contact with a different one. 2. A process by which a person acquires the culture of the society that he/she inhabits. – playajoy.org

Being a Radically Inclusive culture means that we embrace people for whomever they are and where-ever they stem from which includes people like Pip Diddy (or whatever he calls himself these days), and billionaires in inflatable houses, pop-stars in bustiers and (heavy sigh) Segway riders. It’s always we… otherwise it becomes us versus them.

The 10 Principles are important. The glittery glint in a newbie’s eye when they drink the burning man punch is something that makes salty veterans smile and avert their eyes because the saltier they are now the more glittery they were then. We remember when we chased those pretty lights with fishing-line behind them?

We have been forced to learn that at some point the radical inclusion had a gray area: I don’t want to hang out with the frat boys or others that do not appreciate …TTITD*. My gray area is that I get to say ‘no’ to a group or individual that I do not choose to embrace.

Show me a principle and let me show you a gray area.

Show me a principle and let me show you how it fits into my life… so both are true. Life is about balance. Life is perspective and the 10 Principles shine very differently depending on where you are in your journey through the Burning Man culture.

Why is Acculturation important?

Or one might ask why is acculturation necessary? Depends on how deep the proverbial bug bites. If you chose to embrace the popular gypsy image of burners or the outlaw anarchist.

Burners come in all shapes and sizes. Often naked or shirt-cocking. But one either finds a life in the playa or simply moves on to new things.

There is an interesting trend for those who are smitten:

  • Year One: Can’t shut up about it
  • Year Two: This is the year you bring a theme/sound camp or art car
    (that is better than all the others you saw because it can be done)
  • Year Three: The real year you get a theme camp going or you make that great art piece

The culture of this community we celebrate is still growing around the world. It’s inevitable commercialization are seeds falling from the trees starting new forests of followers.

Acculturating to Burning Man Principles is not giving up your individuality, but embracing new definitions of what it could mean.

1. A process by which the culture of an isolated society changes on contact with a different one.

This could go either way. Who is isolated?

2. A process by which a person acquires the culture of the society that he/she inhabits.

Opening the mind to the ways of others.

Acculturation: Acceptance

Definition of ACCULTURATION from Merriam-Webster

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/acculturation

1
:  cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture; also :  a merging of cultures as a result of prolonged contact
2
:  the process by which a human being acquires the culture of a particular society from infancy
ac·cul·tur·a·tion·al
\-shnəl, -shə-nəl\ adjective
ac·cul·tur·a·tive
\ə-ˈkəl-chə-ˌrā-tiv, a-\ adjective
————
*TTITD = That Thing In The Desert

How to make the perfect Sun Rise

So, it seems to be happening. When one had gone to Burning Man for a few years now it is an experience on a level that is different than people heading out in their freshman and sophomore years. Inevitably the single person will meet and date someone who wants to join in the experience as well and… there-in lies a new challenge.

Burgin Dreams

That person going to burning man enough years where the glitter had been finally washed out of their eyes has met someone who sees Burning Man as something shiny and new. It happened. It’s meant to be shared.

It’s that person who arrived to the party who wants to run around naked on happy pills while the rest of us are sitting back and chilling out. It’s like being in two different states of being trying to inhabit the same journey that inevitably leads to some kind of misunderstanding.

As entertaining and cute as it might be, for some of those who traveled the road a while it is a very different experience. We look out for our burgins in theme camps and the friends we brought out there, but it’s very different when it’s you and the person you are dating.

Gone Shoppin’ – A Story

Taking my burgin partner shopping was an eye opening experience and walking him through the various shops I saw other young burgins eagerly making their purchases and realized I was in a clearly different place.

  • Goggle – check (with no vents and fit properly. It’s also important to have goggle that work at night and at day time).
  • Dust Mask – check (a lot easier to get anything that will let you breathe and not inhale a bunch of playa).
  • Lighting – we do not want to walk the city at night without illumination: no dark-tards here.

He found a cap and marching goggles right out of “She’s So High” by Tal Bachmal video (below) and something inside me wanted to cry but in my attempt to be open minded I faked a smile and told him he should have whatever he wants. It seems like he was getting caught up in the idea costumes were a necessity when we all know it is really just whatever creative expression you want to bring.

I was really bad at being supportive.

However, after talking to more people he worried less about having a Steampunk outfit and just making sure he had what he needed to be safe and alive out on the playa. He might never read the survival guide assuming his boyfriend was going to  make sure everything happened the right way. I might have my sparkle pony this year or I might be pleasantly surprised, but I will know it while we are at Burning Man for the first time together.

Your New Adventure Together

Have a conversation and know your boundaries more than ever. While this is the place of Radical Self Expression and more starting out on shaky ground is an earthquake waiting to happen. It is drama that is not fair for each other or for anyone you are camping with.

Good news is there are people out there who can help. The amazing folks at Poly Paradise do more relationship counseling and training than you could ever imagine. Perhaps more than they expected.

The playa is a paradox and going with expectations on yourself or other people will rarely turn out well. It is one thing many of our youth have is that amazing optimism and hope that drives them to a beautiful sunset every day. Find your sunset together if that is the promise you made.

That hot Israeli guy that winked at you is probably going to be out there again next year where you boundaries might be different. Try this article on relationships on the playa too.

Have a beautiful Sun Rise

So there might be some good advice and maybe some positive ideas out of the words preceding. Focus on the love you have for that special person and wherever the universe (playa) drives us then do it in reflection and peace. None of it will be really clear until we return to the default world.

 

Trip Report: 2014 QBLS

This was the third year for the QBLS and it was amazing. See details on previous years, including trip reports at the library of links below. Special thanks to all who came and those who traveled to be a part of it.

2012 | 2013 | 2014

The event was held at The Box Factory in San Francisco; the Box Factory is run by Bernadette Bohan who is a great friend to the community and has been very generous about letting projects use her art/living space.

Who is Queer Burners?

2014 QBLSQueer Burners is a 5 year old project designed to provide a network for LGBTQ++ burners a means of communicating and is also dedicated to promoting the Gayborhood at Black Rock City,  Nevada. We are not political and we are not a whipping post. This is a 10 principles based idea system who seeks to promote those idea on and off the playa.

Starting off…

There was a lot to be said and a lot of feeling expressed at this year’s event the spun off the agenda items and started right out of the gate when everyone introduced themselves and talks about their individual projects. A couple highlights included:

  • Terry Goodman’s Time To Burn App on Android and iPhone
  • Camp Beaverton & Gender Blender’s amicable separation
  • A new system to help the community at-large in personal safety

The Past

Toaster went over some of the key items from previous QBLS including a break down of ways of getting people motivated to be part of camp activities; see the who story from the 2012 QBLS and the amazing TED video posted there.

We also highlighted past discussions of the Gayborhood  and why we feel it is a very important service to the community; safety, awareness, and it has become an attraction.

Social Networking / Fund Raising

Cam Brochu cam in from EBB asking about social networking while Glo from Beaverton was asking about fund raising. While we talked about a lot of things here were the quick highlights:

  • Social Networking: Facebook is the media of choice right now that can networking with twitter.com, pintertrest.com, tumblr.com and more. SnapChat is popular but not always ideal. Always embed, use #tags, call out partners using @name (name or twitter name). More
  • Fund Raising: Few people have the remarkable success of C&J. We all need to find the right niche for those goals. C&J has a captive audience; who is your audience? With that, is crowd fund the right channel for you: kickstarter.com, indiegogo.com and more. More

Intense Feelings

There were a lot of intense feelings over various issues including, but not limited to, what is perceived to be BMorg’s general view of the LGBTQ++ community; which very much seems to be a hands over the eyes approach. Keeping something very important in mind: BMorg ideology as best as we can interpret seems to be that we are all part on one melting pot.

LGBTQ Issues: Theoretically: So, women issues, racial issues, spiritual issues, sexual orientation issues don’t fall on their radar because those are personal and not community issues.

Personal Safety: while the Regional Team has emphasized personal responsibility (as stated on the back of the ticket as an agreement); sexual assault, homophobia and other issues like that still fall on community members for their individual choices.

  • Self Care: Someone asked why these were BMorg problems they had to deal with. What do we as a community do to combat it? A project was discussed called Secure Sanctuary that is in the first stages of development answering all the above.

Feelings were frequently intense as people share beliefs that came from deeply felt positions on the above mentioned items.

Tension Relief

Special thanks to some people who really shined:

  • Theo (aka Turtle) for coming and talking to us about the Cafe in Center Camp. Who also helped out with a lot of history information that will be seen on this site soon.
  • Jean-Jaques who was our chief volunteer and who helped everything around the summit work smoothly.
  • Bradley (aka Badger) for making an amazing lunch!

And on a special note! There was an energizing surprise set up for the late afternoon that would allow us to start shutting down for the day. SF CHEER camp to liven up the scene and wow, did they!

Final Session

After SF Cheer left the scene we were all blown away and excited! The video will tell all. But we managed to get back on track and jump back into the agenda where we hit on Queer Burner History. A page was on this site with a short chronology that was pulled down until a lot of information could be changed or updated.

What was different this year?

Not a whole lot, but it was also very different. We had a lot of new people who came out to play and be involved. We had some strong personalities but our focus was making what we do better and helping each other in the process.

5 Years of Queer Burners

One of the best pieces of advice I got when in the first half of this project came from Kitten was that the posts and so forth from this site were not written in “I” statements. This project is not about me. It is about a community of people inside a community in side… etc. Why is this project to important to me and what am I asking people to do with it? This is more of an “I” entry…

Here I come!My name is Scott. On playa I am known as Toaster. I am a queer male who loves people of all genders and joined the Burning Man community to grow and I did. One of my early specific goals was to improve my relationship with women. I since then learned to accept and relate to people of all gender identities and am so blessed for it.

2008/2009: the beginning

When I became involved with my first Burning Man collective it was the Las Vegas Burning Man group. I arrived on a beach on Lake Meade one night and met Debbie and Mike; older wild ass couple you would fall in love with immediately. The Vegas community was in a huge transition at the Me and the girlstime with identity and base. I quickly became deeply involved and at some point along the way was being considered for a Regional Contact (R.C.) role.

At the time Cameron Grant was the core R.C. and his girlfriend Melissa were real heroes in keeping the community on track. Captain Bill and his wife Amber were also strong leaders in the community and I did great things will all of them.

  • Fact: there was a true embrace of people from all walks of life in this community. The lines between LGBTQ++ and other burners was never an issue. There were a lot of blurry lines.

So Why?

It became clear after my first year to Burning Man in 2009 that there was a huge presence of LGBTQ++ people. The Gayborhood was established and Comfort & Joy was the jewel of the crown. There was the last ember of “Stiffy Lube” in the shadow (history). I met a shining star under the mylar rain out front… and I wondered how could it be possible to make this amazing feeling last.

While queer burners had their own camps, clicks and factions there was no single unifying presence that understood LGBTQ++ needs. And, there was something clearly missing from the burner culture at large. There was direct and indirect homophobia. Not to mention on the onslaught of trolls on message boards; ePlaya etc….

This project is designed to provide safe space for people to network from. This is the space to get camp information and general information from the community within and without the LGBTQ part of it.

The web site

It started off as Gay Burners [dot] Com. An accident by a member who called it Queer Burners got me wondering… “who is looking at this site and who is the audience?” After all, this is for every person regardless of gender of orientation with a focus on the LGBTQ++ population.

It is about a place for community. While Burning Man [dot] Com is the premiere source for all things Burning Man there is a bevvy of sites out there for the pockets of communities out there. This is just another one. This speaks to the fastest growing segment of the Burning Man demographic.

Burning Man is not a gay event and many LGBTQ people who attend never go near the Gayborhood. But, the Gayborhood is so vital and important as an entity. Why? If you cannot see that now it simply cannot be explained any more than explaining Burning Man to normal people.

Keywords to note: safety, security, sanctuary, familiarity.

Bottom Line

I hope with all my heart that people see the value in this project and embrace it. We have groups to make us feel safe. Many of us queers have CHOSEN our families and made new and unconventional ones. We have our queer neighborhoods at home cities. We have groups of friends. We have so much and asking you to see the pride and community that blooms from queer burners inspires passion and more. It’s about community. It’s about a pocket of light that wants to shine back on all of you.

X-Post from Gay Burners Facebook

(This is a repost from the Gay Burners page on Facebook. It, according to Facebook, was seen by 261 people as of this x-post and almost no one made comments on the content of it.)

With all the fun stuff there is some serious things too. We take the good and the bad and we deal with it as a community. Never be afraid of offering critical feedback. And if you have suggestions please feel free to share them. Even when a subject makes a person feel uncomfortable it is still important to deal with them. If you have something to add then pARTticpate with immediacy and do it… this project Gay Burners / Queer Burners / Quire is a community driven series of projects.

This is Scott aka Toaster writing after the last 2 posts. Some members of the community have been critical about some of my postings in the past as having been too controversial. The phrase “…more flies with honey” has been thrown around a lot.

Truth is I have struggled a lot with the comments made to me by Andie Grace in the main hall during the Burning Man Regioanal Conference that I attended for the 2nd year in a row in 2012.

Now I see these posts about rape while on the other hand the Placement team did such an amazing job helping build the Gayborhood; and from that came the Gayburbs (see trip report on queerburners.com for details on that).

I read the @Burners.Me article as soon as it came out and let it flow around in my head until I saw the Huffington Post’s article. Even then I held my tongue because I started to realize on Thursday night with a group of Burners that I am invested in this culture very differently than many of my fellow burners.

I see us as being not unlike a congressional district desperately in need to a voice and I think I was trying to be that voice. I have, from the heart, taken on some ugly tasks in this culture where I believed strongly that the 10 Principles were being violated by people who were charged to enforce them. I also took on a Burning Man representative and his partner who were actively attacking specifically female members of the community and ended up landing on my face. I have taken on battles against some great people in this community in leadership positions with a hell of a lot more influence than I and have been knocked down again and again.

Andie Grace aka ActionGirlWhen I stood up at the Leadership Conference for Burning Man Regionals and spoke out I realized I just took another grenade thrown by the Regional Network; specifically Andie Grace. I was at the front of another losing battle when I talked about the concerns that were addressed at the Queer Burner Leadership Summit 2 weeks before.

When I asked for other representatives from the Queer Burner community to come with me to the Regional Leadership Conference the Regional Office said “no”. I was fortunate to attend, but this office in particular ( that includes Megs, Andie Grace [formerly] and Marian Goodell [one of the 6 owners of Burning Man, Director of Communications, and Board Member of the Burning Man Project]) has been highly resistant to giving us an official voice even though we make up a huge part of their census.

There is a flaw in my argument though! When I say we should have a Regional Contact (or 2 or 3) for LGBT people I am not unaware that Radical Inclusion is not part of our community.

My home community, the regional community I was once a part of before moving to San Francisco was Las Vegas and they were so loving and inclusive generally speaking. There was no need, in my opinion, for a separate Regional Contact in my mind back then.

Yet, as I became more involved in the landscape of this culture and invested myself to an “all-in” position I see where this is actually important. We are a community in a community.

When I asked the Regional Network team about this I was dismissed. I was told the BDSM community asked for their own regional, too, where would it stop? Again, the LGBT community was dismissed as if we were part of some chosen quirky lifestyle making unreasonable demands. Yet, 2nd Life (a computer game) has its own freaking regional?

There are Regional Contacts out there who have done NOTHING for the community in years but still hold on to this title for their free ticket to Burning Man each year (a reward for all their work). We do have queer Regional Contacts and I met a lot of them this year; but who are they representing?

Yes, they have a voice for Queer subjects but who is watching out for the LGBT part of burning man. Imagine when Jiffy Lube was being told they had to relocate (way back when) if there was a buffer between them and Larry Harvey… have you seen the videos?

Note to beat a dead horse, but there are some serious disconnects at BMorg and I am personally trying very hard to make this project be a positive representation of what we are bring to the playa and the default world every day.

My personal investment is a little OCD compared to others I see around me. At our San Francisco meet & greet Thursday night I looked around at the people around me. I saw in them a deep commitment to this life. I saw how different it was from mine; NOT THAT MINE IS BETTER! I am saying mine is a little too much sometimes. The issues I bare might not be mine to carry, but I try to do it to make things better for us all and better networked so we queers can help each other with our projects and other functions inside and outside the trash fence.

So with respect and love I invite critical feedback. Don’t shove daisies up my ass and pretend everything is lovely… some have. We need to be able to talk about things and your involvement at the next Queer Burner Leadership Summit in the beginning of 2013 will be invaluable.

Report: Burning Man Leadership Summit 2012

The Burning Man Project is the new face of Burning Man as they move into non-profit status and work on expanding their model as a guide for community growth. While Burning Man is growing limbs  the journey and mission for Toaster was to reach to the roots.

Glossary of terms:

The Burning Man Leadership Summit Mar 29-Apr 1

The 3 day plus summit brought 185 representatives from around the world to network and share resources. Everyone was bringing questions about their own projects, regions and Burning Man related plans. Out of the 185 attendees approximately 60 were Regional Contacts and the remaining were various Community Leaders.

Marian Goodell (aka maidMarian) one of the 6 owners of Burning Man today
Marian Goodell (aka MaidMarian) giving the key note Saturday

Regional Contacts are officially placed representatives from Burning Man who are geographically located (in almost all circumstances) and have a couple of ‘jobs’: 1. they help protect the brand and report back to Burning Man when it is being abused. 2. many help build community events and cultivate the relationship between Burners in their area.

Community Leaders are people in the Burner culture who have emerged and are cultivating the community without any official recognition or remuneration.

Neither get paid for what they do and are voluntary roles.

A Distilling of BM’s New Mission

Burning Man has an amazing network and a lot of people within it looking to make things happen. However, the means to achieving these things has changed. Along with the 501(C)(3) status of the new Burning Man, it’s minions are taking their projects in directions with more legal protection and mechanisms to protect assets and resources under various legal entities.

The network is looking to cultivate more community based projects and are looking for ways of embracing more people into the concept laid out in the 10 principles. That means developing community relationships by sharing our culture and we were given a lot of examples of how to do that and what people have done in their communities.

Burning Man still says the future is in their Regionals. This was a word was called into question a lot. For those unaware (as noted in the opening paragraphs) Regional Contacts have an official role in communities. Regionals are also the names of events that have an official recognition from Burning Man that are micro Burning Man events.

Conceptually the word “Regionals” is deceiving only that with term has become deprecated. R.C.’s are conduits for the community up to Burning Man and down to the communities they represent. It also has a sense that is separates THEM from the community on some level. There was a lot of talk about this word and better ways to communicate the mission of people in these positions.

Steven Raspa clearing the air on ticketsAlso, $teven Ra$pa gave us a great example of the ticket crisis with a visual representation showing why Regional Events are getting more and more relevant over the Burning Man Event in August. Showing us eggs (like ovaries) and a field of sperm working their way in the eggs soon displayed signs saying “Full” and “No Vacancy” representing the ticket sale process that sent so many people into a frenzy recently. He colored in the areas surround the eggs describing those as where people need to flow into; the Regional events.

I have attended a lot of the events like: Element-11 in Salt Lake City, Toast for Arizona, Dark Skies for Las Vegas which went away and now has Forgotten City. Transformus in the Carolinas, Lightening in the Bottle and so many more.

“Regional”

The word Regional was was called into question and with the recent invention of the Meta-Regional roles. Meta-Regionals are a layer between the Regional Contacts and BMHQ. Some are geographical and some are specialized in areas like event planning, conflict resolution or other things relevant to helping stitch the R.C. network together.

Start Here

Okay, so maybe you already read all that stuff above with definitions and floating data about some of the workings in Burning Man that I tried to distil as best as I could. The most frequent question I have been asked so far from OUR community is about the tickets.

Frankly, Burning Man makes limited apologies for the ticket situation but looks at it for some results in a couple ways. 1. Lesson learned; they have tried for years to give us a working ticket system and people get pissed off every year anyway. 2. Who knew??? Who knew there would be such a demand for people wanting to actually go to Burning Man and fill those many Bucket Lists. Well, they should have had an idea since there own mailing list is gi-normous. There is a viral video that went out that is believed to have inspired a lot of attention to the event itself.

If you need tickets there are ways to get them still without having to rely on scalpers; for some people. Be a part of the machine. Be a cog in one of the wheels; an art project, theme camp, volunteer… something integral and save your fucking pennies because you have to be prepared to make sure your needs and safety are met out there no matter what!

Ticket Issue: Done –

Personal Safety on the Playa

The 2012 Queer Burner Leadership Summit revealed one major concern that I brought safety to the table in several ways and I made myself heard: Personal Safety. With the expected influx of people not invested in the Burner lifestyle there is a concern that there will be more aggression threatening otherwise very vulnerable people at Burning Man in 2012.

Vulnerable means EVERYONE! Although we talked about women for the most part, we also talked about our drag queens and trans-gendered people.

At Burning Man many of us have come to feel we live in a place called Home. It is a place where we have learned to drop our guard. Our guard, walls, shields, anxiety protect us from the harsh realities of the default world. The dog eat dog of society where live 52 weeks a year versus where we are thinking about gifting and hugging everyone we meet is something very special.

Many of us might be physically vulnerable, but if impaired and unable to protect oneself, it is even more important to rally each other and always travel in groups.

Why this level of concern? And is Burning Man listening to OUR concerns? I brought this to Burning Man as OUR main concern as it was related during the QBLS.

  • I wrote a report on the QBLS that got noticed and started a dialog. On the private Regional Contact list the topic started to get some serious attention but it devolved into something of a joke among the R.C.’s and this was confirmed by a Meta-Regional as well as other R.C.’s who are active on the list.
  • In a main hall discussion I asked about steps Burning Man would take to help assure personal safety. As usual I was shut down very fast by Andie Grace (aka ActionGrl) when she said: “Everyone attending Burning Man is responsible for their own safety“. And there it died for the day on Saturday. In the main hall this was not a place to chose a battle.

Many more Regionals were genuinely concerned about this subject and were shocked that there was a severe enough issue. Females knew there was a problem especially around Critical Tits and have been vocal.

When I spoke up in the main hall I was trying to channel words spoken by Foxy, Shayna and Kitten; they brought the most real light to the discussion during the QBLS.

The Regional Coordinators (BMHQ) have been incredibly resistant to the idea of any official representation for the Queer Burner Community. Frankly, I am not sure we need our own R.C., but when I discover some of the dialog that has taken place away from the community at large I feel deeply troubled about it.

In the end… Yes, we are all responsible for our own safety so we have to work together to make sure we have safety valves in place for ourselves. It made me smile to talk about the Drag Queens, Drag Kings and Bull Horn use employed by some camps as a great way to defuse situations. Humor and being vigilant is the key and we can help each other with that.

Instead of a response that acknowledged the concern or worry that has been echoed by many of the female population out there already the response was very cold and concise. She called me out by my default world name so she knows WHO I am . I AM not anyone special, but I have been a voice for a long time and sometimes the occasional thorn. However, I sincerely wonder if the question had come from any of the heterosexual women in that audience would we have seen the same kind of response either by delivery (tone) or maybe got a bit more consideration. My question was this:

“With the influx of so many people who are not familiar with the Burning Man culture and lifestyle expected at Burning Man in 2012; is there any plan to increase security for personal safety?”

Maybe from that alone you can see WHY I got the answer I did get?I did have a chance to revisit it through various workshops on Sunday and heard from people more one on one but time will tell how it all sorts itself out.

Queer Burners

There was a perception in some cases that the entity Queer Burners itself was our way of being separate from the BRC community. And it is not unnoticed (in perception only!) that it seems like other Burners and BMHQ perceive us as if WE are asking for some kind of special treatment from Burning Man.

Queer Burners the Community and Burning Man

I described QueerBurners.Com (aka gayburners.com) as a social network for burners of a like mind can come together and find resources within the queer culture inside the community of Burning Man. We are a community as much as Oakland is a community as much as Austin, Texas is a community and we seek each other out for safety, for comfort and for support.

In fact, I also described my experience with the Burner Community in Las Vegas as a community that was very well integrated. Queers blended right in with everyone else and it works pretty much that way in almost every community out there; Burner specific. I was very proud to be a leader in that community. But since then I moved to San Francisco and it plays out very differently here.

In the 9 months I have been here the Decompression is where I witnessed groups blending. There was something called Rites of Massive out on Treasure Island where I was happy to see some more sharing of space among people of various origins.

Personal Note: This might be a time to do some reflection and evaluation. For me, Toaster, I have taken my own position on this relationship with BMHQ. My impression and perception is based on some interesting experiences with Marion and Megs while I was being considered for an R.C. role in Vegas last year. It may have tarnished something in my eyes or jaded my faith.

I could easily say… they don’t get it. BUT! I would be partially wrong. Queers in the Burning Man culture have our own unique and applied perspective just like ALL the others; speaking of geographical regions because we are also a part of those. The irony is that this organization came out of the gayest city of the nation and cannot see the unique puzzle piece like us; it’s pink and covered with glitter and feathers.

Not Burning Man’s Fault

With a lot of listening and absorbing we have to fight for our own place in the sun and not look to Burning Man to fertilize that. Communities, camps and other entities in Burning Man are doing it on their own. Maybe this is a case of Burning Man helping those who help themselves.

I have been looking at Burning Man leadership for a sense of acknowledgement and approval and they are looking up higher in their growing tree and so far I (ME) am that termite that passes in their line of site once in a while.

In the opening of this report I said I was reaching in while Burning Man was reaching out to things past me. I am swimming against the current and risked putting everything in jeopardy for this project in spite of what I was building until this weekend.

We have an opportunity here that is being handed to us and it came from this summit with a gold tray beneath it. We have a tool we can all be a part of, build from, and in turn give back to Burning Man in a way that helps their mission and puts our community in a better position.

At the 2012 QBLS one of the agenda items was the Queer Burner Fund, LLC. We make this a reality and take a step back from wearing a Burning Man label like the word “Burners”. We define our own structure and resources that we can use to help each other raise funds, conduct community projects and provide grants to the community. More to come… so watch out for this one!

Conclusion

It was 3 days of recharging. 185 people went to get their kool-aide containers refilled and we heard about HOW the Burning Man Project is taking on a whole new identity. Burning Man, the event in the desert, has manifested into something else.

Burners seem to hate change, but we embrace it once we get past the lumps. WE, as a community, have to unite and grow with the changing face of what we love. WE need to reflect what is going on around us.

It is, at its core, the same thing we grew to love. Yet this monster sheds its skin and hisses once in a while , it bites, but WE (ALL BURNERS irregardless of identity) rally and find strength in what makes some flake away making way for new.

 

Authors note: I am Toaster, aka Scott, and have had a strange upbringing in this community. Once upon a time I was going to be an R.C. in Vegas and had some pretty terrible problems with another R.C. and a Community Leader who was a lot more old school Burner than I, which there is nothing wrong with. We tangled over an issue and both had strong opinions on it and it spilled over into the community of Las Vegas at large. BMHQ came in to actively mediate the issue, but there was a point where they gave up. I was told, you guys need to resolve your own problems. Again, I hated the answer but it was true. Out of that, although it may not sound like it, I came to have some expectations out BMHQ that were completely unrealistic. Never has Radical Self Reliance hit me in the face with more frequency than anything else; you would think I would finally get it. Well, I learned a lot this weekend. I hope you will join me on this journey and take some of the ownership of what this project (Queer Burner Project) is and help make it something more grand.

The 10 Princa-mandments

Orignal photo by Scott Haefner

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.

 Orignal photo by Scott Haefner

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?

General Recap

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.

MAP OF THE WORLD

2011 Black Rock City

ROUGHLY speaking, and without any authority to claim one way or another, for those asking here is the general Queer Spread. There are a couple concentrations of gay camps.

The Gayborhood usually contains but not limited to:

  • Comfort & Joy
  • Camp Beaverton Home for Wayward Girls
  • Gender Blender
  • Dickstracted

The Gay Ghetto usually contains but not limited to:

  • Moonbow
  • Tiny’s Lounge

Like I said this is generally rough. Be sure and check out all the postings including the Events Page where great things are going on. The Beavers and Gender Blender have some amazing classes and events, but they post on their Google Group of which I will add to the links section to the right.

Now, there are camps that might be “queer” that have not participated with Gay Burners yet, but given Radical Inclusion everyone is a little Queer out there… just get into the Downlow Club and see. HA HA HA… Some of the camps that threw down and have a very queer vibe include:

  • Pink Mammoth
  • Mal-Mart [www.mal-mart.org]
  • Pink Heart Camp

 

Costuming

(7/18/2011) Yesterday’s trip to the “Prepare for the Playa” and my recent involvement with “Burning Man Costume Creations” got me thinking a lot about what people are wearing to playa.

A few weeks ago I went to “Rites of Massive” which was a huge fund raiser on Treasure Island for Opulent Temple and the Distrikt which are 2 of the larger clubs on the Playa. It was huge, amazing and… opulent. On the way in I started looking at peoples wardrobe and heard a veteran burner describing to his newbie friend was is burner and what is not.

There is a mainstream of apparel that smacks of typical burner attire including for women: corsets, fishnets light tubes and fake dreads in any form; also include almost anything you might see Stevie Nicks in. For men there are these beautiful long pirate or Edwardian coats, womens skirts, more dreads either real or fake and often some kind of full on women’s outfit at some point. Note: almost anything with faux fur is a winner as in vests, animal hats and giant coats!

With all the talk of radical self-expression there is a hell of a lot of definition what is burner and what is not. It can’t all be furry pimp hats and Edwardian /  Stempunk blah blah blah, but the idea of radical Self Expression is the ability to make your own spin on the costume of your choice.

Burning Man itself is a very hetrero-centric, Caucasian, hedonistic love fest that somewhere along the way blended with the Raver community. I feel often that their radical self expression is something Queers like us already do on a daily basis; but with a little more style. (Note: hesitates with some of these words as to not seem to put us above this demographic, but note that gays – lesbians –  trans-genders – etceteras have been do this in the default world in our daily lives)

The impact on the Burning Man culture with the huge presence of gay neighborhoods has more or less fit into the culture and the costume expression that has gone along with it has been fairly uninspired on a lot of levels, but I suspect we have made a lot of effort to show how much we appreciate Burning Man and the ability to play like all the others. The biggest innovators from the gay world has been the more hard core gender bending camps that Comfort & Joy as well as Camp Beaverton/Gender Blender have brought to the scene.

Costumes for the Newb

If nothing else there is a shopping list of must haves when at Burning Man and a few suggestions. As far as what the average burner is wearing often that is defined by the economic status you are in or what you are able to create. Radical Self Expression still has to be the core that your express yourself with! You can go to things like “Prepare for the Playa” and spend hundreds of dollars on playa gear, too. What I saw on prices was pretty high, but then I looked closely at what was there and said…I can make that. Don’t be afraid to whip out your hot glue gun or Barbie sewing machine and give it a whirl.

What you Need

Tutu (or 2) | Good Shoes/Boots | Sari or wrap | Theme Costume (See posts on ePlaya)

Okay, so maybe that is a relatively short list of needed items. But the beauty of that is YOU get to fill in the blanks. I think… the billion bunny marsh is a annual tradition led by $tephen Ra$pa so you might need a bunny costume. Of course any type of cute bee costume seems to be a winner. Las year they did a whole superhero thing that went on through several days and camps. If you watch the chat boards they will start talking about something new. I did see something about unicorns… but who knows where that will go.

For survival through the week be sure to read all that Burning Man has to offer on Burning Man [dot] Com

Burner + Virgin = Birgin

General Burning Man Image

So many people lately have told me they have never been to Burning Man and always wanted to go. The ones who are not blowing smoke out their asses sometimes ask questions about it. It’s definitely not all naked people and drugs! It is so much more.

The question often asked: what is Burning Man? Anyone who thinks they can answer that question and do it successfully should have a Pulitzer. The experience at Burning Man is so personal, so individual, and not dependent on anyone else. Even if you go with your best buddies, the only person that can screw your burn or make it the best ever is YOU.

Burning Man Survival

Burning Man has resources for you on their web site for what to prepare for that are an absolute necessity to read. There are any number of members out there sharing their experiences and their variations of survival out there. Do me and every other burner a favor before going out at a minimum:

Respect the world you are going into and respect the people ahead of you as well. Don’t get caught up in the party and miss out on the art and performances that are mind blowing, inspiring, and life changing.

Image from tamalerocks.com

Preparation

Besides and the resources above there is some evaluation you need to consider and this too shall help shape your burn. Where are you camping and with whom? Our Queer Camp list here on GB will get an update soon of the Gay /  Lesbian / Queer / Trans friendly camps of which there are many. You are not limited to a Gayborhood / Gay Ghetto (areas where gay camps have collected) because they still span the width of the city. While some are private and some require a camp fee.

Maybe you want to go it alone and camp on the outer rim? A lot of people do that with a lot of success. All you have to do is arrive and plop your butt down in any free space. Often I hear the benefit of that is you may have access to cleaner toilets through the event.

A Personal Note

This coming year will be my 3rd year on the playa while we have many members on the site who have many more. Burning Man has changed over the years. I have managed to spend some time reading and learning the history of Burning Man to what it was before the Opulent Temple, before Root Society and Distrikt. It is a value to know where this sprang from and what started it.

Contribute in the way that works for you or dabble in the different things you can do because if you go as a spectator for the event it will be very different than if you participate and add yourself to the machinery that makes the city work. I found my passion in the art of Burning Man while I know a lot of people who find their passion as a Greeter, or as a Front Gate attendant and Ranger. Working at the ARTery, the DMV or the Cafe is all rewarding, but that depends on what gets your vibe going.

And finally get involved with a local Burner Community. Stay out of politics if you can and let your relationship with the local community grow naturally and with the idea that you are there to support the concept of community. COMMUNITY! This is the big word that I think some people gloss over. Being a member of a/several communities means you are a part of that element. YOU are one of the neurons of that atom. Without you that atom is incomplete.

I am going to "Rites of Passage" and staying:

  • With a Gay themed camp (45%, 46 Votes)
  • With any camp that will take me (26%, 27 Votes)
  • ...on the outer rim (17%, 17 Votes)
  • With them Beavers (7%, 7 Votes)
  • Comfort & Joy (5%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 102


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In Closing

Gay Burners has a place in the culture of Burning Man because when it comes to Radical Self Expression and Radical Self Reliance it is definitely something we queers have been doing for generations. Some times just to survive in a world hostile to us.

In my observation I have seen people exploring their concepts of sexuality, sexual identity and the boundaries of their body image. Some of us from the older generations can appreciate that and maybe rural gays. We can support and honor not only our queer identity as Burners, but the exploring blurry lines of all the other Burners.

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