So we have the Gayborhood today, but how long has it been around? Why is there any controversy about the existence of it? Who started it and why? Who and what actions made this happen? (Added Summer 2015): See the account of one of our members who was part of the pre-gayborhood scene as told right from the source (click here).
1986 | 1993 | 1995 | 1997 | 2001 | 2007 | 2008 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016
Pre “Gayborhood” – Then to Now – Beginning to Present
The story of the Gayborhood (as we know it today) has had quite a tale and this document cannot contain it all and over time we might need to add and tweak. Special thanks to everyone who gave input including Turtle (Center Camp, formerly Camp Stella and C&J), Chickpea (Comfort & Joy) and JD / aka Sister Porn-Again and more.
Once upon a time…
Three (four) guys who would one day evolve into Mudskippers Urban Decay Cafe have traced a historical perspective of their own that led to the story trying to be told here. They wandered in almost accidentally into this thing called Burning Man in the middle of no where.
- 1993: a Mudskippers origin: story
J.D. Petras (owner of Cafe Flore and Sister or Perpetual Indulgence – Sister Porn Again) brought Camp Bibawack which turned into Jiffy Lube around 1995. That was the first seed (no pun intended) that made the Gayborhood what it was set to become.
- 1995: Camp Bibawack and Jiffy Lube
Butchy Motley Crew homos rocking and rolling
- 1997: M*A*S*Hcara Camp
One camp became two and the second was Mascara Camp in 1997 but that was a short lived relationship.
Jiffy Lube became something of an icon itself. It was the play space on the playa for many years. As the Gayborhood grew around it, it coalesced more queer camps.
- 2001: Scandal:
All hell broke loose when a highly sexually suggestive sign was thought too risque for where it was posted on the playa. A protest erupted that was filmed in its entirety on YouTube Video
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3: Larry Harvey reacts to protest in #3
Jiffy Lube was the most infamous adult play space on the playa until 2005. Then, due to a wide range of factors, it ceased appearing on the playa; in 2009 “Stiffy Lube” (formerly Jiffy Lube) made a limping reemergence to the playa in the shadow of Comfort & Joy and then faded away.
2001 – 2008: Avalon Village
Containing camps that became Comfort & Joy and included big favorites like Fairyland, Vietnamese Iced Coffee Camp, Black Rock Gym and more over time. UT camp became Mudskippers Urban Decay Cafe.
- 2008: Last Year of Avalon Village
Along came the Down Low Club that filled the vacuum of the defunct Jiffy Lube. However, Jiffy Lube (or Stiffy Lube after a cease and desist order) continued a vague existence in the shadow of Comfort & Joy until 2009).
- 2009: Down Low Club
DLC came to the playa and joined the Gayborhood in 2010
(note: the Jiffy Lube tent was also at Burning Man 2009 but more as a shadow to C&J)
Why is the presence of a sex camp at Burning Man / Gayborhood a notable thing of our history? Many participants are sex-positive thinkers and see their expression of sexuality/sensuality a part of their experience; not all agree. The fact of being gay and Burning Man are not mutually inclusive for all.
Comfort & Joy
C&J came upon the scene around 2001 and at the time were called “The Octopus Garden of Comfort and Joy”. It started off as a camp with a mixed variety of queer people and flew under the flag of the Radical Faery (what’s Radical Faery?) centric camp it is today. Kitten was one of the original founders and has been a very active leader in the Queer Burner community since.
- 2007: Tragedy:
Suicide in the big tent: an attendee was found hanging in a tent one morning by the neck. A promising young man from Colorado
Comfort & Joy once had these amazing Moroccan tents that resonated lovely on the playa shown in the image to the right. They have been retired for larger and easier to manage structures.
Camp Beaverton Home for Wayward Girls
Mostly a women’s collective on the playa it creates a safe place for female and female identified people. Ironically the camp was founded by a heterosexual male but now caters to an amazing group of people who provide to their community with popular workshops and sex positive ideology. A second successful lesbian camp has yet to appear on the playa that is known of.
- 2013: Meet the Beavers: a film about Camp Beaverton featuring the people of Beaverton and the reason the Beavers and Gender Blender became two amazing camps. [IMDB Source for Movie: “Meet the Beavers”]
The first camp on the playa with a place for Transgender folks specifically but open to all kinds of humans at the same time.
- 2009: Gender Blender appears: Gender Blender was placed on Esplanade (oddly enough even to them) and they met the Beavers and a bond was formed! They would become CBGB: Camp Beaverton Gender Blender (CBGB) for 2010.
- 2014: CBGB part ways amicably: CB and GB make separate camps for 2014
- 2014: Wasabi Kisses starts a second Trans Camp
A camp of younger gay men who hit the playa like a meteor, but grew so fast in a short period of time that everyone seemed to think they were there the whole time.
- 2011: Glamcocks appeared on the playa and each year since exploded in size with a presentation that topped itself year after year. Their high-profile image and sexy, but smart composition, is a main attraction on playa
- 2013: Meet the Glamcocks: a film featuring the boys that also appeared on the alternative movie circuit also done in documentary form around the Burning Man theme
2013 and 2014 the Nexus camps of the Gayborhood went from Beaverton and Comfort & Joy to include the Glamcocks and BloAsis. These four camps anchor the Gayborhood
BMorg v. Gayborhood
There is a tricky history with the existence of the Gayborhood in Black Rock City (BRC). While one could look at the Gayborhood at Black Rock City as being like the Castro is to San Francisco. The Regional Office of Burning Man has been a bit of a tug of war from about 2001 to recent, but a change of leadership and mission for the Org (BM Org) has them offering a generous olive branch in 2014.
There was this long period where BMorg: Regional Office could not wrap their heads around the Gayborhood and it turned ugly in 2012 when certain staff members refused to acknowledge the community needs. But the LGBTQ++ burners have proven themselves an asset to the city and the Gayborhood itself is a notable attraction for the city.
What brings gay people to Burning Man in the first place? It was started by a group of white people, who are/were largely heterosexual? The message, the 10 Principles, are very similar to the call of the LGBTQ++ population since the 1960’s. We queers have embraced those same messages in our culture, but Burning Man offers (on the surface and fairly deeply) a world where all people of race, sexual identity and more can play together on the same level.
If 2001 put a sour taste in BMorg’s mouth when it came to Queer issues then a by product of the transition 2013-2014 of Burning Man from profit to non-profit opened the door for better communication with the Regional Network. At the 2014 Global Leadership Summit new, more human forward thinking members of the team, showed real effort in wanting to build a bridge. Other departments of Burning Man like the Placement Team have been good friends with our community. Of course that is one of the core issues behind the Queer Burners Project.
- Harley K. DuBois: this one time head of placement for the Burning Man Org and now (2015) the President of the Burning Man Project pushed to have Queer camps integrated throughout the city and fought the existence of the Gayborhood. We have steadfast refused to be integrated and marginalized.
Queer Burners Project
It started off as a static web site at the end of 2008 and quickly became a more dynamic site as the project grew. It started off as Gay Burners [dot] Com but became Queer Burners [dot] Com to be more inclusive for LGBTQ++. It’s whole purpose was to set a platform for networking the people and build a stronger sense of community beyond ourselves.
Uniting individuals and uniting camp structures is designed to make us a stronger community and be more supportive and present for all of our projects and events.
- 2011: Queer Burner Leadership Summit (QBLS): The First of the annual events takes place in San Francisco with amazing results. Quire: Queer + Fire is the mantel of the Queer Burner Leadership Network (QBLN). Quire Information
Save the Gayborhood
The Gayborhood of today is not the same from just a few years ago. It has evolved dramatically over the years since 1993. Why the Gayborhood? Why are some, and some within the LGBTQ community, so opposed to it? A large and visible queer camp appeared and other camps of queers decided to camp close by for familiarity and most prominently: safety.
Homophobia exists even at Burning Man. People have reported feeling threatened and unsafe in discussion at the QBLS. While we are all responsible for our own actions and safety we are forced to find safety among the familiar. The previous statements sound big and scary there have been many who have testified to being threatened on the playa during Burning Man.
Back at the beginning of this post we talked about how wandering adventurers found Burning Man out of nowhere and became part of Mudskippers that grew uAvaolon Village and then the Gayborhood was born. One day that might all change. But the 62% attendance of non hetero conventional attendees in the 2013 Census will always seek a playground for LGBTQ++ friendly space, support, and safety.
- 2013: The Gayborhood was placed and took over the 7:30 Corridor. From D to past the plaza the Gayborhood became a even brighter jewel in the clock shaped crown.
A few more shining points of history
The Gayborhood and the camps that find home in it are ones who usually identify as Queer but Radical Inclusion brings people from all of the worlds shapes, kinds, clicks and flavors. With that some of those in the Gayborhood have shined very bright and here are some of those notes:
- 2013: Meet the Beaver: Feature film about the Camp Beaverton Home for Wayward Girls [www.meetthebeavers.com]
- 2013: Meet the GlamCocks : Feature film about the GlamCocks camp [www.meettheglamcocks.com]
What the Queer Burners Project / Quire / Queer Burner Leadership Network / Queer Burner Regional pages hope to accomplish is to support and empower LGBTQ++ Burners to communicate with each other and help each other succeed in our projects and events. We also want to help and support our Burner Community at-large and all members are STRONGLY encouraged to engage and participate in their Regional events. The Regionals ARE the future of Burning Man.
While some comments and criticisms might give the impression that the Queer Burners Project is looking to BMorg for support, which is simply ridiculous, but seeks a life from within those that share the vision of our great community. We believe in the 10 Principles and it is founded in the power of community, self expression and self reliance!
- Personal Note: Toaster: I have worked hard on this project since 2008 and while I often looked to BMorg for support I realized after a lot of grief that I was spinning my wheels and wasting my energy. It was clear that LGBT and Women’s issues were secondary to issues of the Burning Man community at-large. With wise words from Kitten and others it became clear that BMorg would never be a partner in this issues and the Regional Network would be at best a frenemy.
2014 brought a lot of hope to growth and friendship, but the real winner in all of this is the Gayborhood and how it has shines. Placement is filled with amazing people who see the value of our community!
I should make a special note that I might not have made it this far given the amount of weight I have occasionally taken on for this project if it were not for Mario Cisneros. Very shortly before his passing I received a call from him with encouraging words and it filled my heart with fire. The voices of burners I meet at the Official Queer Burner Meet & Greets (which Mario used to run) add fuel to that fire.
– Thank you all so much….
Thank you all for your support and participation.
Burning Man Regional Network
There is a core of Burning Man as the organization called the Regional Network designed to manage and monitor the health and well being of the Burning Man brand around the world with contracted representatives who also act as leaders for their respective communities. This includes
regional events like Forgotten City and Element-11 and so forth.
Read back to the previous paragraph about the Jiffy Lube incident of 2001. Shown in the image: Action Girl posing with the same image that caused the protest at Burning Man and brought Larry Harvey out. It is a confusing paradigm in the end as we are all encouraged to be radically self-expressive and do so only to be given mixed messages off this network partially designed to be a light in the dark for the community.
Was that 2001 event that soured relations between the BMorg and the Gayborhood for all those years? While it is not clear there was definitely a hostile force that thankfully left the team in 2012/13 that allowed new blood and new thinking.
Burning Man is changing all the time and one day the Regional Network will be receptive to LGBTQ++ voices. (See controversy articles previously posted here for more details)
- Larry Harvey: one of the original founders of Burning Man and known as the “Man with the hat” became the face of Burning Man. Reportedly retired now and stepped down in the transition to non-profit and saw former partner Marian Goodell left in charge.
- Marian Goodell/Maid Marian: Current CEO of Burning Man and formerly with the Regional Network. She is known as a friend of the LGBT community but has never shown outward support for the Gayborhood.
- Andie Grace/Action Girl: Formerly on the Regional Network Team and left in 2012/13. While known as a popular figure in the community at large has a hazy relationship with the Gayborhood/Queer Burners Project/Women’s Issues on the playa.
It should be noted that the Queer Burners Project / Toaster has worked hard to build a positive relationship with the regional team and it was very cold until 2014 when Megs and Sauce extended an important olive branch at the Global Leadership Summit. While there is this refusal to consider that LGBTQ burners need a Regional Contact of their own the need of such a thing is blurry to begin with.
Where ever you are you should explore your Regional Network and Regional Contact (R.C.’s) and be their partner in building your community.