Let’s Talk About … IT

Starting somewhere around 2006 an active member of the community named Mario Cisneros started a gay pride parade event that would begin at the foot of the man and wind into the city. It was usually a well turned out event because politically there was a lot still going on in the United States and in some other parts of the world where LGBT and other sexual self identifying people were struggling for rights and not to forget Mario’s flare for getting people together.

Burning Man Gay Pride
Mario: Left Side of Screen

Mario was part of Moonbow camp. It was, at least for a period of time, usually found near 3:00 and C in Black Rock City and was where the original Official Queer Burner Meet & Greet was before it moved over to the Down Low Club. All of this was done, at least through 2016, in Mario’s memory thanks to several members of the community struggling to keep it alive.

Mario Cisneros
Mario Cisneros

In 2014 the popularity and attendance started to wain and the organizer tried to update the concept to make it more interesting to the community at large but it never really caught fire. Mario passed in 2012 so from 2012 to 2015 Toaster from the Sun Guardians Village tried mastering it with a more pub crawl / parade vibe. Justin from Camp Proper took over in 2016 and had about the same, perhaps slightly better success than what Toaster finished with.

What Happen to LGBT Pride at Burning Man?

When talking about LGBT Pride in Black Rock City there was a dichotomy that was grossly apparent even in a part of the city that has been traditionally called the Gayborhood (to Rainbow Road for inclusivity). On one hand there was a thought that ALL burners were playing on the same field and there was no more us versus them. In fact, the powers that be at Burning Man Headquarters have stated they want to see queer camps dispersed through the city.

On the other hand, there are a lot of Queer Burners who have asked the Burning Man Organization to keep the queer neighborhood in tact for reasons of safety and security which has already been discussed in previous posts on this site. There was a theory that LGBTQAI feel threatened physically and emotionally on various levels; specifically female and non-conforming gender identities based on a recent survey (May 2016 by the Queer Burner Leadership Network); that the close quarters of Queer Camps help created a layer of safety and refuge for vulnerable queers and women.

The various positions on Pride at Burning Man made even a seasoned queer pause and doubt the importance of celebrating ones social/sexual self as opposed to others. The drive behind pride, at least within the fence around Black Rock City, became lost in the dust at some point.

Why Pride?

Why to Burning Man of all places? Most people think of Burning Man as the adult playground of love and harmony. EVERYONE loves each other and free hugs abound. This is the story that touches every soul who is compelled back annually and let nothing get in their way. All of that is absolutely true.

The dark underbelly of that has been physical and sexual assault that has resulted in a powerful and present campaign by great organizations like BED (Bureau of Erotic Discourse) and Safe Place.

But back to pride… there are a lot of old queerdos that go to Burning Man who are 80 years old and there are a lot of young people who never saw those battles in the streets for equality. To some Stonewall was an honorable mention in a history book (maybe) or something written on a rainbow flag they saw in June (gay pride month).

  • In our lifetime, even today, a person can be killed – loose their job – be thrown out of their home – all just for being LGBT. It does not matter what your age is. This happens today.
  • In our lives we queers are often forced by survival to choose our own faemily (spelling intentional) because the ones we were raised with cannot relate.
  • Queer teens are, as long as records have been kept, have the highest rates of suicide.

Pride, even if YOU as an individual don’t need it in the moment, that you know you have a softer place to go to if your other system fails. It is a light, rainbow colored, that will embrace.

Pride has FAILED some people who feel shamed or ostracized by their contemporaries or elders. As much as we try and sweep up the wreckage and want to heal that soul sometimes we cannot.

Pride and self worth is something we as a community embrace on our own terms, but as a community stand together to be that soft cushion for those in need where we can. The key word: Community. No matter how many people who cannot understand that history and vulnerability that are out there, the rest of us have to stand strong and bright so darkness does not win.

LGBT Pride and Burning Man

It has always seemed clear that the 10 Principles written by Larry Harvey for Burning Man were things that would resonate with LGBT people, specifically because it already represents what we have been trying to do our whole lives. It would seem the white-hetero-heavy board of directors for Burning Man were looking for the same exact thing as Queer Burners and people residing in the Rainbow Road section of the city.

According to the 2015 census 1/3rd of the citizens of Black Rock City are LGBT self identified. In 2016 the questions on the survey changed somewhat thanks to input from members of the Gender Blender camp to the powers that be that included more definitive terms people can self identify in the 2016 census. Look up #demographics on this site to see past census data.

The 10 Principles draw some parallel lines to basic needs from Burning Man participants to Queer Burners as a substructure of that community as a whole.

Out of the 70,000 people of Black Rock City only a small percentage actively engage in the Rainbow Road sector comparatively. However, the energy generated by queer camps has attracted mixed and mostly straight camps to the same sector for the same benefits queer camps have asked for. Camps like Orphan Endorphine identify as queer friendly and have been great community partners who want to be near us.

2017 Pride

There is yet new blood working on a 2017 event at Burning Man with new management. It is with great hope and anticipation we will see more of the community drawing together under the 2017 pride banner. We have a responsibility to represent the best qualities of ourselves and our community.

There have been some true champions in this story over the years. Many are shown in the #Queer Burners People hashtag who have contributed to this effort over time. Collectively Gender Blender, Beaverton and Glamcocks have made great strides in building bridges in and out of the queer neighborhood.

There is a vital need for LGBT Pride! Our fight is not over. All the rights bestowed upon us in the USA could vanish in a month, a week, or any amount of time. Even at Burning Man, there is still a chance that Placement will dismantle the queer camps in spite of our arguments to the contrary. The truth is there are more arguments against it out there than for it. We need to keep pride, community, and being present for those that need a hand always in mind.

If you are the one who needs that hand then talk to people… but a hand is different than a handout and radical self reliance is a scary road.

And finally: Placement has not taken a position to dismantle the queer neighborhood completely but it is a reality we might soon need to face. There was talk about breaking it in half at a 2016 meeting attended by your community leaders. Use your voice for good and together we will be a stronger community. Be engaged and help us promote a better united and supportive hug to embrace those when they need it.

10 Principles Lost: Dissolution of our Foundation

Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey wrote the Ten Principles in 2004 as guidelines for the newly-formed Regional Network. They were crafted not as a dictate of how people should be and act, but as a reflection of the community’s ethos and culture as it had organically developed since the event’s inception.

The 10 Principles were drilled into me when I first came into the community and I adopted them whole-heartedly. As a camp and community leader it is vital I embody these, but is the meaning of these being diluted with the ever growing commercial access of TTITD?

Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

  • QB: exclusion is something we as a community know well as being excluded and a large part of the LGBTQAI population consider themselves MARGINALIZED in society. This is one of the Principles that holds an extremely important characteristic we  value and are attracted to.

Gifting
Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

  • QB: Gifting is not Bartering. Accepting a gift with kindness and appreciation without expectation of exchange is also a key part of this Principle.

Decommodification
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

  • QB: This is about taking the commercial and mass marketed part of products out of the experience.

Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

  • QB: Do not be a “Sparkle Pony” – come to the burn prepared to survive long enough to not die.
Join the conversation in the 10 Principles blog series.
Join the conversation in the 10 Principles blog series.

Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

  • QB: “Don’t dream it, be it…” – Dr Frankenfurter

Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

  • QB: Some camps have this down like a fine art, some camps seem to be struggling with getting people rallied to make a camp happen. It seems that the larger the event gets, the more accessible by the bucket list crowd, the more attendees are looking at theme camps as hotels for the weekend where everything is set up for their pleasure. Getting some people engaged is a struggle while some get very motivated participants.

Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

  • QB: Part of this is the responsibility of the camp to provide an attraction for the city residents. It includes making sure that our spaces and streets are safe and clean. In fact there is a lot that falls under this umbrella. I think some camps are not evolving and working on making their presentations fresh for the years as they progress.

Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

  • QB: Pack it in and Pack it out… if you bring it with you take it with you when you leave. LNT is vital for camps and individuals and is perhaps one of the most abused and bruised Principles on the list. e.g.:
    • ever see the trash left along the side of the road on your way out of burning man?
    • campers who dump their excess on follow campers and leave without taking any trash with them?

Participation
Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

  • QB: We have layers of community and it is important that each one supports the other with near seamless lines. From our group of friends, our camps, our queer neighborhood and the city at large.

Immediacy
Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

  • QB: That means now. Your team needs to get a goal accomplished that means that people are needed to spring into action.

EVERYTHING IN RED IS  a copy / paste from http://burningman.org/culture/philosophical-center/10-principles/

EVERYTHING in Gray is written by the author/presenter: Toaster

Depending on where you are in this community of Burning Man participants you might see the 10 Principles and how they can be applied. As camp leaders, community leaders or individual participants perspective is perhaps very different.

I think we are in trouble of loosing some very important ties to the 10 Principles in the wake of a tourist/festival mentality that is filtering into a culture that many of us have really opted into. As a camp builder and community leader, I personally see a lot of holes that participants are not filling in while leaders scramble to make up the difference.

Some leaders are really good at reaching into the assets of the community and asking for, selecting people, that are perfect for filling those spaces where someone is needed. On one hand it might seem like a lack of immediacy and civic responsibility when that volunteer is asked for, but on the other hand I hear participants say “I’ve done my share.”

Another area I think we are loosing ground is in the area of LNT. Leave No Trace is a case for the environment and the ability of our community to show we are reducing our impact on the very precious land we gather upon. This is something that has a point of view as well.

As a camp leader and community leader we often see participants unconsciously leaving their footprint on people in those roles. While it is not seen as a direct assault on the idea of LNT the importance of a camp leader is to get that green and hopefully the entire camp can feel proud about getting that green on the MOOP map.

Campers departing from the event often abandon furniture, food or other items with the assumption that someone else will take care of it. This is the biggest complain heard by camp leaders year after year. It takes the community minded collective to see the project from built to breakdown and leaving the space clean upon departure.

The real answer is Acculturation Training. While it will come from a variety of perspectives having a clear understanding of the 10 Principles and how they apply to the burn experience on and off the playa is the key to success in the culture.

Burning Man and Turnkey Culture

After the 2014 Burning Man event, turnkey (a.k.a. “plug and play”, a.k.a. concierge) camping in Black Rock City rightfully became a hot-button issue in our community. We share the concerns that turnkey camping, left unchecked, could undermine Burning Man’s principles, and we’ve taken measures to ensure that doesn’t happen.

In her keynote address at the 2015 Burning Man Global Leadership Conference, Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell put it plainly: “We are absolutely committed to ceasing the plug and play culture.”

We are doing this in three ways:

  1. All theme camps must go through the same process and meet the same standard (including being interactive, open to all citizens of Black Rock City, successfully Leaving No Trace, etc.) to be considered for placement.
  2. Our updated Outside Services (OSS) contracts make it extraordinarily difficult for concierge service operators and potential organizers of turnkey camps to order necessary equipment to successfully build a turnkey camp without showing up on our radar.
  3. A new ‘Statement of Values’ on gifting has been developed to guide our actions and relationships with individuals and groups that provide financial and other forms of support to the nonprofit Burning Man Project.

TO READ THE REST GO TO THE VOICE OF BURNING MAN

2015 Burning Man: Global Leadership Conference

The Burning Man Global Leadership Conference happened again this year and Toaster went representing QueerBurners.Com. There were a lot of other LGBTQ++ burners there working the event as well as participating.

Toaster, Jim Taflinger the Georgia Regional, and Bobby (aka Poohbear) from the New York Community
Toaster, Jim Taflinger the Georgia Regional, and Bobby (aka Poohbear) from the New York Community

The 9th Annual Global Leadership Conference runs Thursday, April 9th through Sunday, April 12th, 2015. Each day will be action-packed with incredible workshops, presentations, and fun gatherings. The 2015 Burning Man Global Leadership Conference will take place in the San Francisco Bay Area. The conference theme is “The Next Creative Renaissance: Buildin’ it up, Bustin’ it Out, and Bringin’ it Home” aimed at inspiring civic engagement through art and community. We want participants to return home full of ideas about how to make a meaningful impact in their hometowns, cities, and regions. Featured speakers and programming will address and explore activating and nurturing Burning Man culture and communities across the world.

– taken from the conference web site page

There were queer burner leaders in attendance, but only one wore the badge that said “QueerBurners.Com” LGBT Burners; that was your very own Toaster.

Scope

This was a weekend full of amazing dialog and communication building for the “Carnival of Mirrors” event, but the scope of the Leadership Conference is developing community and the Burning Man ideology (brand, projects and identity protection). One thing is definitely sure, what Burning Man IS has changed. The up and coming leaders (in the community, not necessarily employees) have changed.

Burning Man is a business and the many limbs of Burning Man are wrapping around themselves building a stronger core by collapsing those ancillary entities into the whole. In recent months: the Black Rock Arts Foundation and Burners Without Borders are now internal elements of the Burning Man Project instead of satellites. Those employees are now Burning Man employees and they now have the resources that Burning Man has developed as well as the influence.

Politics and Wrangling Not Your Thing?

This ‘thing’ has grown and is still growing. Burning Man is not just Burning Man (in the desert) anymore. It is a corporation that works hard to maintain it’s identity. It seems to work hard from being too mega and from being marginalized.

  1. It fights to maintain representation of the 10 Principles and the gray area surrounding them while increasing its ability to give the people who are a part of the culture a chance to really have a piece through community effort.
  2. It also fights to be seen as something more than a rave-like festival in the deep Nevada desert filled with cracked out naked hippies.

Burning Man is in that wide field in-between all that. While this is all an opinion being shared here as a participant, it became clear to me that some of the ugly parts of Burning Man are being matured away from by a generation that does not accept the snark, sexually aggressive, community destructive ideas. But at the same time while the community as a whole is growing into new shoes the struggle to really maintain the 10 Principles every day has also been a struggle.

10 Principles

See the 10 Principles here… CLICK. One of the questions that came up was: What is Radical Inclusion … Really? Here are two scenarios:

  • Creepy individual in camp stalking or pushing themselves on other members of the camp; does this person have the right to be a part of the camp under the Radical Inclusion umbrella or not? Most say no, but those that do not have to deal with the consequences say maybe or yes.
  • A camp of people with a certain “body type” or an “aesthetic” with an age limit or gender requirement is approached by someone that does not meet that standard; do they have the right to say no? Many would say no, but we have the right to choose who we camp with. The value of that individual is not known until we get to know that person.

Both these were discussed at the summit and in one case a unsolicited comment was made by one of the Gayborhood camps in a session of leaders. Most had never heard of the camp before, but as a member of the community behind this camp I was stunned and reeled.

the 11th Principle

There was a lot of talk about an eleventh principle. Seems like communities all over have developed something with the word “radical” put in front of it and found meaning with it. Among them, for a long while anyway, was the word Gratitude.

  • Radical Vulnerability: among leaders needing permission to look for a support team/system when working/building/launching events.

(See our post on this that started this conversation at the GLC: CLICK)

Conclusion

BMGLS2015 attendeesAll those leaders who went to this event (400 of them) should be bringing these tools back to their communities. It should be a trickle down idea and it will hopefully see some people be inspired and step up to help make leadership better. To all Queer Burners… I give this site to you. I present this whole project to you. Only you can take the baton and raise the bar for the future and yourselves and your communities.

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

The last word on Plug n Play (PnP) Camps

Burning Man posted 2 items on this subject this week giving us the defining and final decision on the subject. It is something that many members of the community have been up in arms about because to many – the existence of these camps appeared to be in direct opposition to the 10 Principles we all hold dear.

On December 3rd two blogs were released on the blog.burningman.org “Voices of Burning Man” page; one form legendary Larry Harvey and one from the Borg.

founder Larry HarveyIn the midst of the current controversy about Plug and Play camps, there has been a great deal of talk about equality, but I think that much of this misses the mark. Scan Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and you will not find radical equality among them. This is because our city has always been a place where old and young, and rich and poor, can live on common ground. The word for this is fellowship, as in the fellowship of a club or lodge whose members, however diverse, are united by common values and a sense of shared experience. But common ground is not a level playing field, and should not be interpreted as mandating equal living conditions.” – Larry Harvey [Link to the entire piece]

However, the real meat and potatoes came from a much more definitive post listed as from Burning Man that followed Lord Larry’s post. Together these releases provide the Burning Man COMMUNITY the final answer when it comes to the Commodified and #turnkeycamps; basically setting the standard back to the level any theme camp applying for placement needs to meet.

Below is from the Burning Man Blog: [Link to the entire article]

  • Camps should be visually stimulating, have an inviting design and a plan for bike parking and crowd management.
  • Camps must be interactive. They should include activities, events or services within their camps and they must be available to the entire Burning Man community.
  • Camps must be neighborly. This includes keeping sound within set limits, controlling where camp generators vent exhaust, and easily resolving any boundary disputes that arise.
  • Camps must have a good previous MOOP record 
(for returning camps).
  • Camps must follow safety protocols designed by the organization (this includes traffic management on the streets, proper handling of fuels, and any other areas defined by the organization’s production team).

end quote

Basically, we are interpreting that Turn Key Camps have to meet the same standards as Theme camps for placement. And we seemed to have received an apology in the end as well as a set of changes we can live with moving forward for the betterment of the community.

It therefore follows that the best reform we can enact is to stop placing these Plug and Play camps in a category that sets them apart from others. This was done informally, it was not fully thought out, and we apologize for this mistake.” – Larry Harvey [Link to the entire piece]

MOOP: the word of the week

Burning Man calls out a camp on one of the first renditions of the MOOP Map published on their blog and it is spawning a lot of discussions that are very important for the future of Burning Man. Is Burning Man devolving into a Coachella? Oh, that there is still icing for that cake!

MOOP: Matter Out Of Place: LNT: Leave No Trace: 1 of the 10 Principles

It does not happen very often, especially in these later Burner years, when the Borg calls someone out for their ultimate fail. Gypsy Flower Camp run by John Moonshine (whose profile says he is from Gerlach but it looks like he was from San Francisco?) left behind one of the largest messes seen on the playa.

Not only with MOOP, but it seems there was some unseemly behavior by the camp coordinator for his bad

Gypsy Flower Power abandoned moop, Burning Man 2014
Gypsy Flower Power abandoned moop, Burning Man 2014

attempt to create a plug and play (pnp) style camp that fell way short of it’s promise to people who bought into the camp.

Failure of the plug and play scenario seemed to be the permission needed for people who ended up camping there to leave the trash and other items behind. Read the comments on the September 19th post from The Hun (a member of the Playa Restoration Team) because there were people who made sincere efforts to make up for the failure of camp leadership but there is a stink going on here that is not just trash.

Poo? Human Poo? In bags left to be picked up by other people? Yes… shocking as hell to think about it. We have used pee-bottles casually enough and a whole new level has been reached.

Burning Man 2014 Highway CleanupThe article posted today sites trends of found items. They track these things in order to address them in future conversations:

  • bags of poop. That’s human feces, in bags, undoubtedly left behind by the people who were forced to camp along the embankments [quote]
  • arge numbers of broken hexayurt panels wound up littering the highway, scattering little bits of styrofoam through the sage. [quote]

180 miles of Deluge

garbage_final1Leaving the Burn every year there was clearly abandoned bundles of garbage left all along 447 heading into Wadsworth, running through Gerlach, Empire, Nixon that made one’s stomach turn. In our minds we may chose to believe that these were accidental, but the deluge was shocking.

Highway cleanup reports picking up “24 pickup beds’ worth of roadside detritus”. While the blogs give out props to some people for making strong efforts the results of humans invading the desert are creating an impact that is disastrous.

“My truck alone picked up 64 contractor bags of trash, 30 tires, 20 yurt panels and a bunch of miscellaneous stuff,” Ninjalina says.

~ Leaving No Trace ~
The Burning Man community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Conclusion

Leave No Trace is one of the fundamentals that allow us access to the Black Rock Desert and if it were not for the playa restoration team our access would have been withdrawn a long time ago. Seems like in 2014 patience was running thin, at least according to the Sept 20th blog post by The Hun, when “Highway Cleanup began out of respect for local communities, who were tired of their environment being littered with Burner detritus” and with good reason.

The argument of PnP camps impact on the community is an argument for another post. The failures at Gypsy Flower Camp is not especially shocking in the scope of things though the September 19th blog post seems to imply it was the most shocking ever seen. Witnesses in the comments section share similar failings of other camps, but anyone who stayed late on the playa will tell you (including this author) that Leave No Trace and self responsibility is waning.

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.

Why Burning Man?

Photos by Dot

Going on 27 years, the Burning Man spirit has evolved so much over the years and grew from something quite intimate to a space where one gets lost in a sea of nearly 70,000 people. Yet we Why we do it....still manage to find one another and discover relationships /  friendships that maintenance on social media for 50 weeks a year but shine bright at our annual reunion. In the time we reconnect on the playa it is always fresh and like we were always there.

Why do we do it?

If this is your first year of Burning Man and the culture you are likely that person who is drunk on the kool-aide and carrying the shield of the 10 principles for all 4975816313_2b15a74de8they represent. Many newbs tend to loose some perspective in their early years depending on their adaptation to the culture. We tend to forget there are gray areas around those lines.

Why do we do it? Well, it could be all those sexy people? It could be that kinetic creative force out there that is intoxicating. Is it the drugs? The booze? The hugs? naked people… or maybe a little bit of everything.

All we know that by Labor Day all of us come away from TTITD changed.

History

While we will soon have a whole section on queer-story on QB [dot] Com it is important to reflect on where it came from to where it is in the modern day. There are some great articles out there on the

Larry Harvey - 1986
Larry Harvey – 1986

origin of Burning Man on Baker Beach, San Francisco 27 years ago. What started out with 20 people is hovering around 70,000 people. According to Burning Man’s census now almost a full third of those people are LGBTQ++ (lots of blurry lines out there).

Not bad for an event started by three heterosexual white males brooding over a lost girlfriends and decided to burn a ‘wicker man’ in effigy to drown their woes. What does that have to do with us queers?

sexually-attracted-toAll the Radical this-and-that are something we homos have been doing since the edge of time. It naturally appeals to our basic instincts while hetero men are snicker over putting on their mom’s skirt, we are looking for the right accessories and eye makeup – hunty.

Burning Queers

So when and how did so many queers get involved in this little shin-dig in the desert over all these years? While BMorg (Burning Man’s head quarters) has a lot of utopian ideals when it comes to

Photos by Dot
Photo by Dot

population all fitting together  like some kind of tapestry that tells a profitable story, the reality is that its not all puppies and unicorn farts. Homophobia does exist out there. There are dangers and that brings us to the Gayborhood.

The Gayborhood first evolved as queer camp started coalescing and it created an oasis that became a safety zone for LGBTQ++ members of the community. Safety and familiarity are the corner stones of the Gayborhood.

Do you remember?

There are some famous moment in Burning Man history and some of those have been featured in various video produced over time.

Only the last three were specific to the Queer population. Although some things some people might want to forget they were important growing points in the community.

Impact

The LGBTQ++ part of Burning Man is growing but our impact is sometimes glossed over, but we still take a lot of pride in what our community brings to the event and the culture.

Balance

It had occurred to me that there is at times a lack of balance with some of the things we involve ourselves within the community (Burner community). As a blogger here on this site and others I have been very critical of BMorg on those occasions; they do make it so very easy. I will explain this a little more later.

Balance is a key to life in many areas of our existence and finding it ideally brings harmony. At least that is what some spiritual good feeling stuff tells us. While we can be critical of BMorg and it’s operators true analysis comes in examining the whole picture.

BMP-Board-of-Directors
Burning Man Project Board of Directors

The Scales of Thought

The ticket fiasco in 2012 is one of the best examples of finding balance in a difficult situation that hit the community and affected all of us. As most know, the ticket lottery in 2012 was a solid brown poo on the heads of many of us who have been engaged in the community. Many seasoned burners were so pissed off from it they walked away and never looked back. While these extreme reactions are not un-typical here is something as an example:

– ticket lottery | + expanded ticket dispersal for theme camps /  artists
– BMorgs initial reaction | + acknowledgement of problem (though late)

Albeit extremely simplistic in its context you kinda get the idea with the handy +’s and -‘s, right?

Balance comes in other areas too, which we recently explored in another article where this author reflected within the Queer Burner community. Camp leadership needs to be present and have their heads in the game, especially when they have multiple souls under their roof. Much of Comfort & Joy has learned to master this balance and will hopefully be sharing that wisdom at the 2014 Queer Burner Leadership Summit.

lead camp | find personal time
setup, build and breakdown camp | enjoy the fruits of labor
get people doing their chores | enjoy the kinship formed

Courage Under Fire

The community and the leadership are always up to whatever challenge is laid at their feet. Recently in Burners.Me an argument was made about the long existing Burner Man Project leadership stepping down. While rolling into a non-profit was a solution for protecting the cohesion and brand of Burning Man with a clever legal structure with the facade of bringing more to the community what has it really done?

So who is under fire more? BMorg leadership or the community? While the house of the BMorg is made of glass the villagers are too stoned to really grasp the complexity of this relationship. Balance often comes late from the people held so highly and balance gets mired down in the expectations of the people who consider themselves devotees to the cause.

Many members of the community demand a drama free zone without concern or focus on the leaders of this community. Being held to the light of the flames the people driving Burning Man bear the cross when the gray lines of the 10 principles are being applied ___ like they were scripture.

Burning Man Leaders

Let’s go back in time to “Green Man” in 2007 where for the first and last time ever the people who brought you Burning Man allowed sandwiches to be sold at center camp and ‘green vendors’ showing their wares. The green_manramifications of allowing these elements into an event that talked about Decommodification was loud. But, who can fault the organizers for trying something new?

Selling coffee was new once, but these days no one could imagine center camp not having coffee or the amazing people selling it.

Going back one last time to the 2012 Ticket Fiasco the leadership recovered very well in the end, but their proximity to the issue seems to have clouded their ability to revel in their success. The SPARK movie was an unnecessary revisit to that mess, but a win with giving me a visit to the playa while in the default world; see it’s all about balance.

Burning Man Participants

2012 made a lot of people fall off the fence with the obscene growth of the attendance at TTITD. For reasons of their own, the days of HELLCO and FrogBat (in their glory days) are gone, and some people have moved on in their journey.

Has Burning Man jumped the shark with the numbers swelling? Who is still adding Burning Man to their bucket lists? And… are the people who made it what it is still going?

  • 1st Year attendees never shut up about Burning Man
  • 2nd Year your new Mega-Theme Camp is destiny
  • 3rd Year you are a seasoned veteran and are living the dream
  • 6th Year you’re so old school burner
  • 7th Year, you think Burning Man has sold out
  • 12th Year, Burning Man sucks but you keep going….

Look, we’re all basically insane for doing this year after year. Anyone we know outside of the community thinks we’re out there fornicating endlessly and tripping out on drugs anyway. This ki-ki is cra-cra… (yeah, I thought that right after typing it too…. I already regret not editing it out).

Can we be critical of the BMorg without destroying the people that make this elaborate event happen every year? We are the people who pay for the ticket and they are the engineers who make fantasy land reality.

As long as we keep going things will continue to evolve and whether we choose to believe it or not, I think the BMorg Board is willing to meet us along the way. Keeping the community happy is in their benefit, so we think, but to keep this going we cannot be afraid of change.

WTF?

As mentioned above, Burning Man leadership has made it incredibly easy to take a pie in the face when it comes to criticism. Over the many years some decisions were made and their presentation was so mired in arrogance that it was dumbfounding. Arrogance? Maybe ignorance is the better example, because this nest of heterosexual white hippies are so busy defending their ideology that they often forget the emotional and fiscal needs of the people who have pledged loyalty.

One of the latest controversies was Rape Kits on the playa. At the 2012 Burning Man Regional Conference and Leadership Summit in San Francisco I brought some very real issues to the table in a forum attended by community leaders, board members and Regional Contacts from around the world. Because of the projected (at the time) 70% of expected attendees who were unfamiliar with our 10 Principals we were concerned for people vulnerable to physical attack including women and fae queers.

While we have the Gayborhood where ANYONE can find safety (a promise made by Queer Camp leaders at the 2012 Queer Burner Leadership Summit) we were worried that given the expanse of the attendees was not being matched to assure education and safety of people in attendance; particularly women and fae.

Andie Grace (aka Action Girl, formerly with the communications team with Burning Man) very confrontationally stated in the public forum said that people were responsible for their own safety. Well, that year sexual assaults were on the rise AND there was a very publicized rape behind the Emerald City just off the Esplanade. There were others too and Burning Man was moot.

However, it appears that in 2013 Rape Kits did make it to the playa but how they were implemented is not clear. The fact is that a Rape Kit is a very complicated thing to implement and the balance is that Burning Man simply cannot have a hand in it. But, an official agency can.

While the short sighted reactions to things much like Angie Grace’s comments make the leadership look very dull in their ability to respond to their community.

Tearing Down the Man

There are not shortage of critics. There is also no shortage of people with glitter in their eyes when it comes to how we see Burning Man leadership at the BMorg. It is so easy to find holes in the thinking, but this event and this community is really doing a lot of very positive things. The hypocrisy of BMorg is second to the results. And, the future of  Burning Man itself is unclear.

In an article that came out today (update 1/6/15: the following url ceased to exist and was unlinked: http://www.groundedmedianetwork.com/fuck-burning-man/) the above video was attached. You can see here where there is a lot of holes in thinking and what this is all about, but maybe this is being take too seriously?

Conclusion

When we criticize are we looking at destroying Burning Man? Are we demanding they see reality from our perspective? Do we not give them the gay area to make mistakes and come back with a solution? Do we consider balance? While almost everyone who has gone says that this has changed their lives or made an impact that in itself is the big win.

This pre-season rhetoric has seen so much criticism lest we forget the gift of evolution. Yes, the environmental impact of the event might be questionable. The motivation of the BMorg might be questionable. We can find holes in anything, but if Burning Man were to throw their hands in the air and say “fuck it, we’re fucking done” we would all feel the world got a little more darker that day.

Let’s face it. The BMorg has made some stupid decisions. So have we as individuals. Yes, ticket prices are obscene and becoming more and more out of reach for the average person. The cost of going is less for the accessible for the average person and more so for the privileged. YET, many of us without much cash still manage to get out there (myself included).

Balance is the key. Knowing the difference between attacking windmills versus standing up for a real issue impacting the community is key, too. Right now we have Regional Contacts (R.C.) (except for San Francsico) who represent BMorg to their regional communities and R.C.’s who have a voice back to Burning Man. Hold your Regional to the fire, because he or she is like your state senator for Burning Man.

——————————————————-

BMorg – Burning Man Organization usually referring to the home office in San Francisco, CA.

TTITD –  That Thing In The Desert aka Burning Man

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