All Of Us was fucking awesome

So, it’s been a week now since All Of Us ended. Many of the people involved in the magic are off doing the ALC (AIDS Life Cycle) ride from San Francisco to L.A.. So, as I write the official report on the event about money and critical things I await the details to fill in those pieces on the other web site. (www.lgbtproduction.org)

The event opened on Thursday noon and went through Monday noon after Memorial Day. It was the longest weekend we attempted before. It worked out well for so many! The space at www.saratogasprings.com was absolutely perfect. We have just under 150 people come out and thank goodness we managed to just break even on expenses versus income.

A Great Week

While these lovely people at the jacuzzi do not represent the diversity we had, we are proud that All Of Us brought a lot of new faces to the event. It was glorious…

There was a pop-up Jacuzzi party hosted by thee (in spirit) Whitney Houston on Thursday evening. It was a naked soirée in the hot water and it was fabulous. There were all kinds of wonderful human in the mix and the music was fantastic. The Jacuzzi was the most popular spot on the land at the end of any day – no wonder it was turning green by Sunday afternoon. We ended up closing it by then so the land could bring it back to life.

Each day progressed with a new layer of loveliness and unimaginable brilliance among all those who came out. There was so much love, uninhibited embrace, with no matter who was there or gender. We were blessed that our demographic did change on some level with a lot more women and gender non-conforming people that fit together and celebrated.

On a couple notes, there was a detailed waiver everyone signed when coming in and part of it talked about respecting other people and their boundaries. We did have a moment when someone was talking about trans-people openly with real trans persons just a few feet away and it was wrong and hurtful. We also talked about boundaries for consent and as it turned out someone did not heed that either. Someone was violated and we simply cannot allow those things to happen in our community. All Of Us is about unity and inclusiveness.

DJ Jason Godfrey on Decks at the back of the BAAAHS bus and next to The Journey
DJ Jason Godfrey on Decks at the back of the BAAAHS bus and next to The Journey

The Journey

The crown jewel of the event was the 30 foot long piece of this art piece going to Burning Man in 2017. Dan Reeves was the original visionary and his team of amazing humans who came out and set this up. It was celebrated every night!

 

It was part of the Art Garden that we had set up in front of the Heart Lodge along with Squares by Steve Dudek and Frames by www.visualsby3.com that was a great collection of installation pieces.

Friday night was a party at the art piece and the DJ’s sis an amazing job. The art was outstanding. The energy was awe-inspiring.

Saturday saw the majority of the workshops in all three tracks of the weekend while The Journey folks did live screen printing in front of the main Lodge. The Journey folks even set up a bar and served drinks as they did their magic.

  • Mental / Physical Health and Self Care
  • Acculturation and the 10 Principles
  • Leadership

The workshops were amazing and well orchestrated. The information was invaluable. We shared some amazing ideas and performed some exercises that made our participation and community stronger.

Meal Time

The food was amazing as well. Thank you to Jose for another year of delicious offerings. While we may have fell down on some of the vegetarian options we will do even better next year. But happily everyone got fed and our food and beverage team did a great job in the end. We are grateful that Jose came up from Mexico once again to help us!

We did daily Brunch and Dinner with snacks in between. The kitchen team seemed to be able to take it more easy this year which I was very glad for.

They even served hot dogs and snacks at the Sunday Pool Party (SPF) with bacon wrapped around them and on buns. Event the veggie dogs had a veggie bacon on them. Someone was heard saying: “They are really committed to bacon.” Well, this is a burner event, right?

 

Thank you to everyone who helped with volunteering.  The weekend could not happen without you. While we had some paid positions, many gave their time and energy to make this event happen. Who profited from it? Well, no one did. All the money that was left over is being folded back into the community.

The Gate ran flawlessly thanks to an amazing team there. Exodus was went just as smoothly. It with a sincere and deeply held feeling of appreciation to everyone to helped in making the magic either by being there or getting us there.

Burning Man GLC: Toaster Trip Report

This was my fourth or fifth GLC. The Global Leadership Conference focuses on Regional Contacts and Community Leaders out there in the world making Burning Man style events happen, This includes Burners Without Borders, Black Rock Solar, and Black Rock Arts among many entities.

A lot of people ask me how they can go, too. This was the first year they let me bring someone I nominated. One usually has to be nominated by a Regional Contact, but then of course San Francisco (where I live) does not have an R.C.. The facility where this was held was packed with people and there were people I knew who said were there on Facebook whom I never got a chance to see the whole weekend.

“The 10th annual Burning Man Global Leadership Conference (GLC) is an annual conference of Burning Man community leadership that happens each spring in San Francisco. From humble beginnings in 2007, where 70 Regional Contacts joined us at Burning Man HQ, the GLC has since grown to include over 400 participants from around the world.

These highly-energized folks are Burning Man’s global representatives and community leaders, ambassadors of Burning Man culture in their regions who throw any of 65 Regional events in 20 countries. They participate in the GLC to share ideas, best practices and inspiration, and to make the invaluable face-to-face connections that may just lead to the next big thing.

The conference is for organizers and community leaders in the Burning Man Regional Network, and space is limited, so attendance isn’t open to the public, BUT … we’re going to be covering key sessions that are of interest to the larger Burning Man community on the Burning Man Journal, as well as on Twitter.”

Burning Man [dot] Org (linked)

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On @queer_burners on Twitter right from this conversation we tweeted a quote right from Larry Harvey in this Q&A where he talked about funding the arts. He said “Lots of hungry puppies only so many tits.” In fact the word “Money” was bandied about a lot for a corporation always faced with someone eager for a taste of the pie; e.g. the new Nevada tax that added $50+ to our ticket prices this year.

The Burning Man Global Leadership Conference

It happen April 1st to the 3rd at the Marines Memorial Theater / Hotel at 609 Sutter Ave here in San Francisco. Myself and Foxy (of Beaverton fame) went representing the Queer Burner community and a voice that was only about LGBTQ++ burning man participants. There are a lot of Queer leaders in the community whose missions are more specific to the geographic community than a “lifestyle” or “sexual orientation”. Regional Contacts are the primary focus, as well as future leaders, who also do projects in the long cast shadow of what Burning Man is.

Burning Man often looks and complains about a lack of diversity in their culture; specifically in skin color in the United States. There have been efforts to improve the variety of racial demographics. However, with the launching of Burning Man culture into different parts of the world the racial concerns seem to have wained as burns in Africa, Asia, South America, Central America and Europe have brought in a hungry and exciting rush of fresh blood making the 10 Principles their own.

Finally, the misogyny of the culture took more dents with the on-going delivery of messages about consent and personal responsibility. Over recent years these have been strongly related messages to leaders with tools to bring back to their communities. A champion in this area has been North Caroline burners.

The BMOrg is a corporation run by women (and Charlie and the odd board member) which has also sent a whole new set of messages to the community. A lot of Queer people work for the org as well but there is still this lingering blind disregard for a system to help queers, in many cases, and women who are venerable in a sexually charged and space where people have often lowered their defenses. This is still changing.

Some of our biggest concerns about Queer burners also came out of the South with a NC burner talking about degrading behavior toward Trans and queer people at South eastern events; but there are voices that are strong enough to let their peers know that such behavior was unacceptable. It was also refreshing to hear that a Radical Faery group USED TO go to the NC event but sadly they faded away. There was a subtle wake up call that LGBTQ burners are STILL not safe at all Burner events.

So we ask about what kind of diversity is Burning Man really looking for?It starts at the root level and has to grow. Almost anything meaningful has started with members of the community taking action which is why Queer Burners is here without any – ANY official support or injection from the BMOrg. If anything else, it has been clear that events are being driven toward family friendly and diverse audiences by Stephen Ra$pa and his team with less on adult activities. Yet, believe it or not anything with an LGBT label on it is still lumped into the ‘adults only’ category.

Why this summary?

There were leaders all over the world at the Conference (GLC) and for those interested in taking official status with the BMOrg the message was pretty clear what those steps needed were. Queer Burners is and will remain a grass roots project with it’s mission centered on Queer Burning Man participants and community builders.

I listened to everything there and talked to people at the best GLC I had ever been to. I do not know if it was the venue, the improved range of speakers or the delivery. Queer Burners (the project since 2008) has felt like the black sheep of the family year after year. But this year felt more like we were a part of the conversation and we had something to add for a variety of reasons.

If only I could figure out why there is a strong sense of opposition of our presence from a couple key people in the Borg. That is a conversation for another day, though.

Content

The GLC was mostly all business. The workshops followed key tracks:

  • Civic Activation
  • Community Events
  • Leadership Skills
  • Organizational Development
  • Foundation Skills

This year my focus was mostly on Financial and Event related tracks because of the many things Queer Burners is doing with events and planning. This included risk management and working on a better system of transparency. Queer Burners is launching events and making money; all of which will go right back into the community.

Foxy wrote a report on her experience here if you would like to see it. Being a Green Dot Ranger and in Ranger leadership she had a special spin on her experience. As Ranger Torchwood she wants to see more Queers who are a good fit into the Ranger culture. She will be presenting at the Queer Burner Retreat with 4 other Rangers.

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A famous Science Fiction writer was the key note speaker. His Playa name is/was Mez and had the theme camp the Church of Mez. Ramez Naam (Twitter: @ramez) wrote the award winning book APEX (part of a trilogy) and talked a lot about the future through the past. He talked about the possibility of Science Fiction versus reality. And interesting enough he talked about Stonewall and the gay rights movement a lot which I was taken by.

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Marian Goodell (the CEO of Burning Man) welcomed everyone. While she was genuinely excited to have people there she seemed unprepared for her presentation. She complained about her position as ‘having drawn the short straw’ for a role she is perfectly suited for. She took over from Larry though he remains the face of Burning Man. Marian used to run the Regional Network (of Regional Contacts) when I first joined the community less than a decade ago and I got to know her when she interviewed me as a potential R.C. way back then. But what did I do, I did what burners are supposed to do I went out and developed community without the approving nod of the BMOrg.

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There were a lot of people there presenting a lot of impressive projects. Above are two Chicago leaders reporting their event called the Chididerod. It’s decorated shopping carts racing through the city but raise a serious-butt-load of food for food banks in the area there; like – literally tons of food. While these folks had a ton to be proud of the self congratulating with so thickly layered on it was stifling. The ego landed on stage and waved a big flag all the way form Chicago. But they were not the only ones which I will cover soon.

The projects were impressive and part of the content was how to do stuff like this and not get sued, arrested or hurt. It was also about building communication with the local authorities and officials as needed to get the right people on board with your projects so you can find success. Nothing ends a great project faster than one that is misunderstood. How many times have you mentioned Burning Man to someone only to be judged as a hippie, druggie, pervert before the next word came out of your mouth?

We learned a lot about protecting the reputation as much as the people making and benefiting from whatever project a leader is putting out there.

There were so many people patting themselves on the backs or waving their arms around to say how they were doing it better. On the other hand, there were a lot of broken people who were crushed under failed projects like Apogea in Colorado. Pride and Envy are ugly demons and we all hope not to be run over by them.

I learned a lot and hope others learned too because some of the problems people were having seemed to have such obvious solutions, yet so many seemed to be resolvable by setting expectations for oneself and for their communities.

The picture gallery below will depict a lot of the content as it was presented, but maybe one day more leaders will be able to go to the GLC.

Queer Burners Presentation

On a lark, I decided to submit a suggestion for the UNconference. The unconference was a user generated pool of breakout sessions where we could put subject on the table and see if there was interest. We would get 45 minutes to bring the subject to the table and see what happened.

“LGBT issues in the Burner Community”: Foxy called me when I was waiting to get my hair cut on Saturday night after I left and told me I was presenting. I was shocked and excited and when her and I talked I realized I had no idea what I was going to really say.

– who was the audience?
– what if this goes in a completely wrong direction?

We asked ourselves a ton of questions and naturally I asked Foxy to co-facilitate it with me and help me with it no matter what direction it went.

We were originally scheduled to share a HUGE room with the Chididerod people but they asked us to leave because they needed the whole theater. We found space in a public area and managed with the half dozen people that joined us. We learned a lot about LGBT issues in other regions, too. Some feedback  is already contained in the content of this page.

It really felt good to contribute and bring this subject to the table.

What were the issues you ask? In the above section where we talked about the North Carolina regional event, that came from this discussion. Essentially for a lot of queers in various regions there is no “problem” but the emphasis was that out, queer people just want to feel welcome and safe. Perception of safety, even a glimpse, means a lot.

We only had 45 minutes and it went fast, but the topics were amazing. Talking about the regions that were present might make some people feel on the spot, but the NC information was really important and that prejudice still exists in the community; even at Black Rock City.

Personal Note

I got hit by a seriously bad cold on Saturday and I was a soppy wet mess. While this report is not about Toaster the point is that I missed out on some of the best networking time because of it. I missed all the evening events which was a disappointment but thank goodness Foxy was there.

In Conclusion

When these things come up and are offered by BMOrg people in the community should jump in. Whether it is GLC, Placement meeting, or event the amazing stuff offered in the various regions. These resources are a tremendous value. The GLC is really good for the communities when leaders are bringing back what are learned.

Burning Man GLC: Foxy Trip Report

4 days of great sessions, based on tracks such as Civic Activation, Community Events, Leadership Skills, and Organizational Development.

I attended: Effective Leadership Skills in the Burnerverse, Creating a Culture of Consent, Danger Ranger’s (the founder of the Rangers) talk ‘Coyote goes to Burning Man’, Cultivating Strong Regional Rangers, plus the closing Plenary.

What struck me personally was the idea of the ‘grey area’, not only in leadership, but also with consent.

Leadership

Many of you have been in situations where you are asked to make a decision as a community leader on something that does not have a black or white answer. Looking at both sides of the equation, might not garner enough information. What I took from the session, is that we as leaders should exercise good judgement, be empathetic, listen, give and get advice, look at what is good for the community as a whole, and then make a decision based as best you can. If you do your due diligence for those grey area situations, and be open to revisiting the situation if new information arises, you may not make everyone happy, but you have led in an ethical and thoughtful way. Embrace the grey area, you can learn a lot from it.

Consent

Creating a culture of consent is top of mind for many of us, which is awesome. Again, that grey area came up, and I heard an interesting concept, that of Consent Mistakes. Verbal, sober consent should be the norm, but what if you thought you had consent and you actually didn’t. What if you consented to something, but for reasons such as peer pressure, you weren’t actually consenting. I think we can all take a deeper look into what it means to really have and give consent. Even just acknowledging a Consent Mistake, can be empowering if you had an experience that just didn’t sit right with you. You are then able to take steps, have conversations, or get help if you need it.

Regional Rangers

In this session, a lot was discussed about the different cultures of the regionals. Did you know Rangers have to deal with issues with Whales in Victoria BC.? There are many Regional Rangers, that don’t go to TTITD, they just do the Regionals. Perhaps that is something some of you might be interested in doing, if you aren’t set on becoming a Black Rock City Ranger. If so, let me know and I can start the ball rolling for you.

Coyote Goes to Burning Man

This was an amazing, insightful, inspiring, wander through the history of pranksters in San Francisco which ultimately led us to Burning Man and it’s culture. The Coyote as a symbol of pranksterism in Native American culture, was fascinating. In England, the Fox is our prankster, this made me very happy. If you have a chance to listen to this talk, it’s well worth it.

I learnt a great many things, met wonderful people, and heard amazing stories from Burners without Borders, makers, and community leaders. We Queer Burners have an amazing culture, let’s share it!

Indian Burning Man?

I saw this post by accident when I went looking for camps with people from India. It was written by Chip Connelly, or better he was referred and revered in it. It talks about a festival in India that mirrors Burning Man in many ways. I thought I would share it here though I never have been. Just seemed like something to … share.

https://www.fest300.com/magazine/the-commonalities-of-burning-man-and-kumbh-mela

This is the same guy who got a lot of trouble with his pug and play camp at Burning Man that went so badly I think.

– – – – – – – – – – copy and link of post – – – – – – – —

“The most obvious commonality is that these two festivals require a gargantuan effort to create a temporary tent village. The logistics and commitment of volunteers to create Burning Man for 60,000 people in the inhospitable high desert is mind-boggling. And, we’re proud to say that on Burning Man’s peak night, Black Rock City (the name of the Burning Man village) is the third most populous city in the state of Nevada. But, that’s child’s play compared to Kumbh Mela which, on the most auspicious bathing period, welcomes approximately 30 million people on that day alone, made it the most populous city on earth on February 10. And, since the Mela is lasting 55 days this year, as compared to a week and a half for Burning Man, the number of visitors over the course of that time is estimated to be as much as 100 million devotees.”

Link to full article

Dispatches from Burning Man

In less than a week, over 70,000 people will converge on a dry lake bed in Northwestern Nevada to create Black Rock City, which hosts the festival known as Burning Man. Founded on the principle of radical self-expression, it’s natural that it would attract more than its share of folks who identify as queer. I am one of those people.

What has kept me coming back year after year since 2005 is that Burning Man makes me feel boring and pedestrian. Being a stereotypically flamboyant gay man, I was often the most “creative” or “out-there” person in family settings, at work, or in other social settings.

My first trip to the playa (the term used to refer to the dry lake bed) made me realize just how many other people had similar approaches to expressing themselves, many of whom had developed it to a much more sophisticated level than I had. It is comforting to have such a wealth of inspiration.

In this article I present the perspective of five other queer burners. I will be referring to people by their “playa name.” It is simply a snapshot, one of thousands that could be taken.

To read the complete original article on EDGE Media Network…

Kitten

During Kitten’s first burn in 1998, a particularly violent storm scattered all his belongings, which were then cemented into the ground by a three-inch downpour of rain. Desolate, he wandered the streets aimlessly until he stumbled upon a camp focused on providing mani/pedicures.

“My hands and feet were all cracked, and through the process of cleaning, moisturizing and painting my nails I became much more hopeful. It made me appreciate the value a camp could bring to my fellow burners.”

After centering himself, he was able to focus on getting some action.

“A lot of my awkwardness before going to Burning Man was from trying to fit into other people’s parameters of hotness. I was shocked that I could get as much play as I did out there, from the type of guys who wouldn’t have been interested in me in the city.”

Although Black Rock City had a population just over 10,000 at that point, there were already a couple of camps that had a queer sexual vibe to them.

“Bianca’s Smut Shack looked like a typical suburban home, except for the pornography spread throughout the place. It wasn’t necessarily an orgy happening, but people of all persuasions would have sex there. They also served grilled cheese sandwiches every night at 3 A.M. I heard about Jiffy Lube as the place to go for man-on-man action, but I couldn’t locate it until my second year.”

(Jiffy Lube, which started in 1995, sparked one of the greatest controversies at Burning Man in 2001, when a large mechanized illustrated sign of two men fucking was used to advertise their space. For the full story, visit www.pissclear.org/Articles/2002/coverstory_Jiffy%20Lube_1.html)

These early experiences, plus a few years being a part of another theme camp, inspired Kitten to help found Comfort & Joy.

“Our platform for success is to feed people well, and take care of their physical needs, so they’re able to do their art, whatever that may be.”

This philosophy helped grow the camp from 35 people in 2005 to 140 people by 2013. It features a large courtyard with several interactive art pieces, a large shade structure, a kitchen/commissary area, a gym area painted bright pink, two fire pits, a drag closet, an elaborate multiple head shower, and most famously, a 20 x 50′ tent that hosts workshops, performances, nightly dance parties, and all manner of sexual expression.

The entire camp is highlighted by large neon flags, which are visible from half a mile away.

Says Kitten, “If you are just walking by the camp, there is nothing overtly gay about it, but the bright colors of the flags and the art draw you in.”

Over the past five years, many queer camps have been requesting to be situated next to Comfort & Joy, creating a “gayborhood” in Black Rock City. A previous incarnation of the gayborhood existed from 2000-2008, during which a collection of queer/queer-friendly camps assembled themselves into Avalon Village.

Kitten would like to extend the philosophy of Comfort & Joy to the outside world. The group holds several parties a year in San Francisco, holds educational workshops related to helping fellow queers, and is building a relationship with the Paiute Indians, on whose ancestral land Burning Man takes place.

“As a queer person, I sympathize with other oppressed peoples,” said Kitten. “The Paiutes have a rich tradition of honoring Two Spirits (people believed to possess both the masculine and feminine). Unfortunately, due to colonization of their tribe, the Two Spirits are considered sinful by most other tribe members and most are closeted. Therefore, Comfort & Joy coordinates a food drive every year, where we encourage people leaving the burn to donate their leftover food at two sites marked by our neon flags. By identifying ourselves as Two Spirits while interacting with tribe members, we hope to change tribe members’ perceptions of Two Spirit individuals.”

(Learn more about the food drive at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1446811415604268)

Amanda Love

For Amanda Love, who first attended in 2007, “It was a very magical and very intense year. I went with my boyfriend at the time who was there to spread the ashes of a loved one, while at the same time my brother was battling cancer.”

One of the ways he processed this was by visiting the Temple, the second largest structure at Burning Man. Designed to allow contemplation, people place all sorts of notes, photographs, and objects relating to their thoughts. The entire structure is burned on Sunday night, the day after the “Man” is burned.

Amanda has been burning on and off since then, always as a member of Comfort & Joy. “They allow me to be included in a group without having to conform to a set type. No judgement happens, just open arms.”

As a hairdresser, one of the ways he likes to participate is by providing manscaping, a service which has proven quite popular.

“I’ve had a line of twenty guys, both gay and straight, waiting for me to groom them.”

One of the straight guys would become erect every time Amanda held his junk to shave something.

“Lines are very fuzzy out there,” said Love. “Sometimes guys are horny, but they don’t really know where they’re going with it. I’m not going to be the one to shove them over that line, so I’m gentle about those things.”

What Amanda appreciates the most about Burning Man is the overall environment. “Burning Man creates so many different flavors of spaces for people to explore their identity, all crammed right next to each other. It brings out the best in most people. The intention behind something is where you find the magic.”

Ariel Pink Pants

After driving from the East Coast in 2005 in a biofueled bus with two other people, Ariel Pink Pants and her pals named their first camp “Unifried.”

“My first year was about my own self-experience, but it developed into a desire to give people like me a place to shine,” said Ariel. “I was sitting on the playa with my friend when we realized there was no camp talking about trans issues.”

Inspired by her experiences at Comfort & Joy and Camp Beaverton (whose members are primarily queer women), Ariel helped create Gender Blender in 2009, “to give gender queer people a safe space, and to give cis-gendered people a place to explore.” Their first year was a bit rocky but instructive.

“We were placed on the Esplanade (the most heavily trafficked road) by the Placement Committee, because they liked what we were doing and wanted us to get lots of exposure. Our neighboring camp had a much larger budget than we did, and it showed. They were so put off by the scrappiness of our camp they put an orange net fence between us. Since then, we have requested to be next to more sympathetic camps in the gayborhood.”

That experience gives Ariel pause about the supposed difference between Burning Man and what is often refered to as “default world.”

“Trans people do not have the same access to resources as the broader gay community does, or society in general. Most of our camp members are on low-income tickets and we run our camp on a shoe-string budget. I would like to see a discussion within the Burning Man community about how this sort of work can receive more support, particularly in light of the phenomenon of ‘plug n’ play’ camps, where attendees spend tens of thousands of dollars to have everything assembled and taken apart for them, without really adding anything to the Burning Man experience.”

In spite of these difficulties, Ariel is excited about the opportunities she is providing people.

“At our play parties, we have trans people of all stripes, gay men, lesbians, and straight people. What we are doing is unique even for Burning Man.”

Hysterica

“My first year was 1996,” Hysterica recalls. “We arrived at the entrance and were told by the lady standing there to drive 4.6 miles straight ahead, then turn 90 degrees and drive 2.5 miles. All this through a blinding dust storm. Somehow at the end of it, the storm lifted and we were in Shangra-La.”

Hysterica camped next to Mascara, which featured legendary club promoter Ggreg Taylor (who would arrive on-playa fully decked out in evil clown make-up, sometimes dripping with lit candles on his shaved head), and drag artiste Phatima Rude, who was fond of lounging in a play pen.

One morning Hysterica and his playa boyfriend (term used to describe someone you meet and hang out with only at Burning Man) started a tradition that lasted several years, The Romp of the Playa Hookers.

“We came up with the idea of being playa hookers,” he said. “We got all scantally dressed up and walked all over town, amusing people and causing mischief. The next year, we had 20 more people along with us. I’ve tried to retire it several times but so many people would come up to me the next year asking to be a part of it.”

He was and is thrilled by how friendly people are on the playa. “Burning Man has a very bisexual energy,” said Hysterica. “People in general are very kind and flirtacious. One Sunday night after Temple Burn, I was riding my bike around, looking for one last party. I struck up a conversation with a straight man, who then confided he would like to experiment with another man. So we went back to my tent and had a lovely time.”

Mucho

Mucho heard about Burning Man for almost a decade before finally attending with his partner Matt in 2010. “We felt very welcomed,” he said “A lot of care was taken to make us feel a part of our camp and of Burning Man in general.”

He immediately sought out ways to participate in the wider Burning Man community, including joining the Rangers, the volunteer force of intermediaries between law enforcement and the burners.

“One year, I often worked alongside a straight ex-navy guy, who was very cool about me being gay, and felt comfortable telling me intimate things about himself. People out there are very open about things. They break down barriers and share.”

Last year he helped create the art car dubbed BAAAHS (Big Ass Amazingly Awesome Homosexual Sheep), a school bus converted into a giant sheep/mobile sound system.

“I was a ‘rear entry specialist,’ developing the chute through which people would enter BAAAHS. When we’d meet people driving around the playa, they’d get a big thrill out of sliding into its asshole.”

Burning Man inspired Mucho and Matt to relocate to San Francisco from New York to be closer to a larger concentration of burners. “We’re not fond of circuit parties,” he said. “Burner parties have a much broader array of people who all comfortable around each other and are creating amazing spaces.”

Decompression

Because Burning Man is such a magical environment, many people get depressed when it is over and they have to return to the default world.

I used to feel this way, until I finally relocated to San Francisco last year after attending Burning Man for nine years. Just like Black Rock City, San Francisco can be very physically and emotionally challenging, but it’s also full of dynamic, creative people who gently push me to be a better person. Burning Man is the natural by-product of this city’s ability to foster all kinds of people, especially queer ones.

2014 Caravansary Trip Report

2014 came to the playa with a lot of ceremony as a late released theme for the year seemed to come with a forced luster and lack of promise in the shadow of 2013’s Cargo Cult. But that would be wrong. Caravansary delivered and the Souk was a shining ring of light around the biggest Man to date.

14_theme_pavilionThe big winners!!!

Here here to an organization that is taking it’s growing pains and making them work for them. While the popularity of Burning Man and it’s accessibility have definitely become more mainstream, it has driven a more diverse audience into the annual festival. The coffers of Burning Man must be ringing jingle bells.

While many burners see it simply as a drunken, naked drug fest in the desert the massive presence of Burning Man was nothing to scoff at. Embrace did not live up to it’s promise. The star on that desert floor was the souk and the man hands down.

On the other hand…

The returning burners who were picking up moop and scoffing at the pee bottles, beer cans and other oddities left in – on – around porta potties. Frat boys dropping beer cans in the street and the growing plug-n-play loosers on their Segway’s with 1000$ cape jackets and a distinct lack of personal lighting.

Nothing too new, but it cannot go without notation that the douche-baggery level was up. Yes, ladies and gentleman, Fonzie is on the water skis and the shark has been jumped indeed.

All bitching aside…

The event was produced really well and in spite of rain and huge delays at the gate the shifting demographic and newly minted “burners” has led to shorter exodus times and a chance to evolve. It was uniquely beautiful in spite of a few things and the love of the event was still present in so many eyes.

Art: so much beauty and imagination out there this year with very few out shining the Man. There seemed to be a lot of repeat pieces from previous years but another… another zoetrope … that was pretty cool looking.

20130827_002032Art Cars: Lots of beauties out there; new ones and some old favorites. Although in the Queer Burner mind a favorite of the playa is Crisco Disco, another star this year was an Mayan Warrior looking art car with a sound system that rivaled even Robot Heart.

Theme Camps: Once again Comfort & Joy was the crown jewel of the Gayborhood even though they had 100 feet less than what they wanted they managed to make it work. Adorned with the new Queer Temple the camp really raised the bar once again even though they have been doing this for something around 15 years.

7:30 Corridor: The location of the Gayborhood was piled fill of amazing camps and capped with a giant purple penis. This was the most alive passage in the city at all hours of the day and still a main attraction of the city that really never sleeps. The “Red Light Corridor” was apparently placed next to the Gayborhood starting with Playfully Yours.

08282012_burn-303Gayborhood: One of the brightest centers of the city from Comfort & Joy, BloAsis, Beaverton and Gender Blender; a lot of old favorites. Wasabi Kisses, Sun Guardians and a few others were new kids in the block that put on a good show. Too many amazing camps to mention just take a look at the 2014 camp listing page.

Gay Pride Parade: Another change to the structure of the parade this year allowed participants to stop in queer and queer-friendly camps on the way to Burner Buddies. We started at Crisco Disco home camp inside Comfort & Joy then bounced over to BloAsis, then Party Naked Tiki Bar, Champagne Lounge and finished at all amazing Burner Buddies for everyone to get a chance to get their Gay Card!

Aerial footage of The Burn, Burning Man 2014 from Eric Cheng on Vimeo.

Trip Report: GLC 2014 by Toaster

Burning Man Global Leadership Summit #bmglc14 happened April 3rd-6th in San Francisco and Inside CELL Space for GLScould not be contained a single space. It was in three large buildings with 300+ attendees with a mass of workshops and meeting spaces. This includes Burning Man HQ and the infamous CELL Space.

My name is Toaster and though it is my policy (with the exception of 3 previous posts) not to make posts in the first person; so apologies by a slightly more personalized position of this particular trip report. I am hoping that Gloria and Bobby will also give in depth reports from their perspective.

Day 1: April 4

10168035_820639437950897_1230827200_nI skipped the pre-conference schtuff at the BMHQ for a variety of reasons mostly due to the fact I had to go to work after the daily meetings and wanted to minimize the stress on my weekend. So, I opted to come in Friday and had a rather interesting day.

After meeting some queer community partners like Bobby, Jim from Atlanta and more, I dug in to listen and hear about all the changes happening at Burning Man and the welcoming of so many leaders from all over of the world.

Changes:

  • Larry Harvey & Micheal Mikel are effectually retired.
  • Marian Goodell is the Burning Man CEO
  • Burning Man is almost completely transferred over to Burning Man Project; a non-profit

Day 2: April 5

We got a great sneak peek of the temple and a variety of other art projects, community regionals events and more being produced all around the world. There were many workshops, deeper conversations, and a party later that evening. But, Larry and Marian talked to the crowd, too.

Day 3: April 6

The wrapping up… the slow cumbersome completion of the event that some people had to flee in the middle of in order to catch flights all over.

Is that it? No…

Starting off, this is my 3rd Burning Man Global Leadership Conference (2011, 2012) and each year has been vastly different. This year cam with some baggage so note or ignore the items in italics. Having skipped 2013 and just came out of the Queer Burner Leadership Summit a week ago I came with something of an agenda to help positively promote the Gayborhood and other queer camps.

Side Note: I was also dealing with some real issues still pending with the Regional Network of Burning Man where there have been a number of challenges. Seeing Meghan R, Marian and others have been a challenge.

Major Topics

There always seems to be some vein of topics people want to know more about each year and come up at these events. This is beside the normal topics of discussion like getting people motivated and whatever ticket drama is going on.

Conflict /  Physical & Sexual Assault: There were two sessions on this subject. I attended the second and ease dropped on the first one for a bit. Part 1 seemed to be filled with a lot of emotion while the second was more focused on processes and mechanisms in place combating this issue.

  • Transformus: North Carolina Burners have an acculturated process already in place for their Regional Event; it has virtually eliminated these problems and given them the mechanism to confront these issues quickly as a community. (web site)
  • Secure Sanctuary: New project looking for people to start jumping on board. It seeks to add a new layer of acculturation for camps to provide a very temporary safe space for people in trouble while on the playa and speed them into whatever services they need: EMS, Rangers, Etc… (Facebook front page / Facebook group work project page)

There is some genuine concern on this issue and it seems that the Boston and N.C. community have made huge strides into this subject on their own local levels.

Secure Sanctuary is a bit of shameless self promotion as it is something that a group of us started to visualize out of a recent burner meetup. Although I have been the loud voice on it so far I am hoping to see this get wings.

Getting the Burning Man Project Word Out

The word of the day is Art and Community. If someone were counting the repetition of words out 10009317_820639474617560_2124767676_nthere those two might have seen themselves more than any.

According to Harley K. DuBois, Burning Man is coming to the fruition of many changes this year and is almost fully migrated to the Burning Man Project as a Non-Profit. Her core expression was about the Community of Burning Man. This project will help promote art in every way possible.

While Harley spoke about Community “…in any form…” we are still missing something important to this writer; an acknowledgement of LGBTQ++ needs and the realization that part of the physical threat on playa includes homophobia.

This is a capital concern for me and something the Regional Network does not seem to be able to wrap their heads around. They refuse to deal with the LGBTQ community stating our needs are really the same as any member of the community and are not special; that from a group of stright white people.

The Regional Network, with all it’s flaws and successes, falls under that new non-profit. Regional Contacts (R.C.’s) are all volunteer liaisons to their communities and guardians of the Burning Man brand.

Jim “Ron John” Graham – Burning Man PR Guru

“Larry Harvey is interested in community and all the manifestations that it brings…”

Burning Man Regional Network

There are some new and old faces at the wheel for the this part of Burning Man that is an active doorway to the Burning Man communities. They have official representatives called Regional Contacts and they represent geographical locations and 1 cyberspace location of Burners.

For most of my engagement with the Regional Network there has been this passive denial of right to exist from the Regional Network for the LGBTQ community within Burning Man like the one created with Queer Burners. It has been quite frustrating as their occasional support would be helpful in the building of this community. Network Guru: Sauce spent a lot of time with me at the GLS promising to renew this relationship in a positive way and let see what happens.

While Marian Goodell is now CEO it seems like the Regional Network has become the project for Meghan Rutigiano (aka Megs). Since she is is the remaining voice of the network since Marian and Andie Grace moved on (another story) it comes with a lot of hope that the future will be brighter.

What could the Regional Network offer that is important? There are a number of things including resources and support that are generally helpful in building community. Tools for leadership and the occasional voice of reason.

  • An LGBTQ set of regionals? Why not?
  • A channel into their closed off network?

Our own Kitten has been a voice for me more often than I can count. He is of the feeling that we really do not need the Regional Network anyway. I feel that this community is a self evolved and important service to LGBTQ++ people. We do not deserve anything. We do, however, deserve the same respect as the other communities in the Burning Man culture and not to be discounted just because LGBTQ++ is attached to the name.

This network also helps keep community leaders above board with Regional Events like Lakes of Fire, Element-11, Apogea, and Forgotten City. Check these out on your own.

Conclusion

Along with the new Burning Man (Project) there is still a lot of the old Burning Man people still around. Harley spoke of those so in love with their roles that they refuse to leave and it makes the flow of growth stagnant. Some people have been pushed along while some remain steadfast in their places.

We cannot so easily brush off the dust and cast out the ghosts. There are A LOT OF Burning Man Regional Contacts who hang on the network and get the perks but do nothing to advance it.

Change has made an impact on the Burning Man culture, but the many of the same people at the GLS were the same people from 2 and 3 years ago in the same outfits, same hair, same ideals. Many are in the same clicks with all their fame wrapped up in their burner personality. How creative is that?

We cannot evolve without change. Burning Man itself is radically evolving right now and faced with having to be more commercial and maintaining their identity and commitment to the 10 Principles. The Org (Burning Man Organization) is doing a pretty good job overall. The GLS and local leadership events springing up all over the world are proof of that. However, we have to get them to be more sensitive to people needs even if they do not fit perfectly into a utopian dream where we all are one loving culture. Because, there is homophobia and hate out there and some come to Burning Man.

I arrived at the GLS and kept largely to myself burdened with a feeling of being spurned largely by the community because I want LGBTQ++ needs heard. Safety is important. Plus, I personally want the community at large to know the Gayborhood has an important role for people. There have been a few incidents where leadership withing Burning Man has been disparaging of LGBTQ people and derogatory about the Gayborhood and the people in it. Making them understand it is a place of safety and a part of the city the really dives back is important. If not to quell snide remarks by calling it the Gay Ghetto, but to be just a bright part of the city with neon flags at the center of it all.

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.

Trip Report: Burning Man Placement

On Saturday the 29th Burning Man called in the troops and passed out a mega-ton of information about camps preparing for the playa. That also means preparing people and resources.

It can’t be emphasized any more that this: get your shit together. If you are planning on requesting placement you will be working with the most gregarious team at Burning Man and they want your experience to be the best possible. However, your project has to be thought out and complete and submitted by July!

Hot Button Issues

You have to see the right pages for the right thing. There is no single source for all your questions. Just remember this, deadlines matter and getting your documentation in early counts.

  • Theme Camp FAQ
  • Outside Services: Thinks have changed: Linked Here
  • Vehicle Passes: MUST HAVE: Recommended Blog Post
    (Note: this is still very confusing. How do people who need vehicle passes get them if they are not purchased at the time of the ticket purchase? Who thought of this? How do low-income ticket purchasers get passes…)
    – Alternatives: The Burner Express

This tiny blog cannot answer all the important questions, but radical self-reliance means a guuurl has got to take action with immediacy. Wurkit.

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