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.
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.
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.
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!
Well, after a long wait the Borg released ticket information. As it turns out the Nevada Entertainment Tax does not seem to apply to Burning Man, but some genius somewhere is charging $80 / car pass now. That blows balls! Anyhoo, at least we finally have word.
Burning Man just updated info on its 2016 Ticket Sales:
-Directed Group Sale tix and Main Sale tix will remain $390
-Low Income Sale tix will remain $190
-2 levels of limited Pre-Sale tix increase to $990 and $1290
-The new mandatory Nevada “Live Entertainment Tax” of 9% will be collected from you at the time you purchase a tix
-Nevada still hasn’t answered Burning Man’s inquiry as to if/why the 9% tax applies to Burning Man
-If Nevada sees it Burning Man’s way (“Hello, Hell? Is that snow?”) the 9% collected will be refunded
-Vehicle Passes increase to $80 for 2016 yet are not subject to the 9% tax
-See tix sale info on BurningMan.org at http://bit.ly/1PiXeNj
-See tix sale 2016 Important Dates at tickets.burningman.org
-You must register to participate in any tix sale
-To register, you must have created or updated your Burner profile in order to buy tickets. Do that NOW at profiles.burningman.org
What is really ruining Burning Man? Is it being ruined at all? Every year there is a new source to blame. The position from this Admin (Toaster) is that Plug-n-Play camps are bad for burner culture. It is Commondification and those people cannot seem to grasp 10 Principles thinking. Yes, this is a blanket statement but the statement is against the general concept.
When famous voice-box WillPants gets it twisted in an official Burning Blog he uses typical media spin to stir people away from the real issues at hand. He tried to use Virgins as the scapegoat… it is the dangling of the carrot off to the side to distract from the fact that Plug-n-Play camps are a bigger problem for the event theology than wallets are willing to admit.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not apologizing for Turnkey Camps and virgins who may have mis-stepped … nor are we sweeping anything under the carpet. – original post by Will Pants
But that’s not all. We are not out to poo on the event or the people running it. Frankly the work being done by the Borg is a symphony. It is art unto itself. To manage and maintain something that has grown so much over all these years is magnificent. But willful disinformation just makes them look bad and while a lot of leader have progressed over time some are still in the 90’s Borg thinking.
We’ve been hearing and reading a lot about Turnkey Camps over the past couple months (haven’t we all?) and I have to say, I’m a little confused by people’s apparent willingness to make or buy into blanket statements and generalizations about Turnkey Camps, virgins, who should be allowed into Black Rock City, etc. – original post by Will Pants
There is well-enough naysayers out there. The embittered trolled on the Facebook Group to the fundamentally angry Burners.Me posts. Not a space we on Queer Burners want to participate in. We are looking for the Borg for leadership to help this culture stronger and better. We’re asking for more transparency and engagement on some levels. But truthfully we have something amazing.
Burning Man Global Leadership Summit #bmglc14 happened April 3rd-6th in San Francisco and could 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
I 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.
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.
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 there 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.
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.
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.
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?
Queer 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.
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
A new system to help the community at-large in personal safety
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
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.
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!
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.
While the discussion is heating up for the upcoming Queer Burner Leadership Summit (QBLS) and Community Building Conference (Facebook / Eventbrite) there is another event that this
one is designed to bleed into. Burning Man will be hosting their Global Leadership Conference (GLC) the following week.
In attendance representing the Gayborhood and the LGBTQ++ Queer Burners will be your Toaster and the new Mayor of Camp Beaverton Home for Wayward Girls – Glo.
The Burning Man (Burning Man Project formerly Burning Man, LLC) has had this conference for years. It used to be called the Regional Conference, but in/about 2011 they started including local leaders who are actively engaged in the community. That was when Toaster was first invited.
What we are bringing:
In the past we have brought what the overwhelming voices of leaders at the QBLS to the GLC have noted as community issues. This has been about safety and viability of the Gayborhood; especially in the wake of the 2012 ticket fiasco where we expected an outpouring of tourists who could not appreciate burner ideology.
We have set to face the misrepresentations of the Gayborhood as a space where LGBTQ++ persons have made a place to separate themselves away from the rest of the city. AND! That the reality that there is homophobia and danger to our people because of gender and other physical differences.
we will bring what / if any items from the GBLS
we will talk about LGBTQ++ history in Burning Man
*we is in the royal sense as Toaster plans on doing the usual networking and chatting people up through the GLC hoping to get people more on board with seeing the Gayborhood as an important part of Black Rock City as much as a Castro is in San Francisco.
QBLS & CBC
When considering if you are a fit for the conference for the community consider how much people have walked away with every year. There is a refreshing and amazing network of people who typically attend. It is:
A gathering of leaders who share and learn from others
The net step to taking your idea or project from launch to spring board
Community Town Hall
In the past
2011 was this Toaster’s first year at the GLC and it was an amazing experience.
2012 your Toaster went to the event as a voice/set of ears for the Queer Burner community realizing we were not really a voice. The result was a really ugly reality that official leadership of Burning Man had a distinctively low opinion of LGBTQ++ participants who dared to celebrate our own voice within the scope of the Gayborhood.
the Regional Chat private message board had a destructive message string that was outwardly abusive (unfortunately I only have the word of queer participants on the message system who passed on the information verbally and it was confirmed by multiple people at the 2012 event)
the Regional Contact board manager Meghan/Mega equated LGBTQ++ needs with lifestyle groups like the BDSM community and summarily dismissed any concerns brought to the table relating to the Gayborhood
2013 Toaster skipped the GLS to focus on the QBLS.
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 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 they 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.
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
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?
All 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.
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
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.
1996 HELLCO on BurnCast and seen on the Spark Movie
In my last post I talked about balance. Although I was talking about one person who was posting some very strong opinions on Burners.Me it has since come to light that this one voice was not alone. The tone of some blogs has been quite strong while it seems most burners want nothing but happiness and joy.
While even I have been critical in various posts of BMorg (Burning Man Organization) I have always driven myself to see the big picture. That is to say there is never a black and white in burner-land, I have learned there is a lot of gray area.
Burning Man Blogs of Note
There are tons of burning-blogs out there and many are worth following including burners.me but within context. No one wants to listen to someone ranting about the negative.
Now, the previously mentioned naysayer has also been a friend to the LGBTQ Queer Burner population and posts under the pseudonym “Grant Hitchcock” but on his site as “Whatsblem the Pro”; all aka M. Otis Beard and more.
He was recently under attack by prominent members of our community. He earned a few red rashes from people who took exception to his posts (seen on his new blog site www.BurnerNews.com).
Otis was fired from Burners.Me and it ended up a very public mess, but he moved on to other ventures; hence burnernews.com.
in the end each of the sites listed above carry a different tone and all are worth following. Burners.Me was founded following the ticket fiasco of 2012 and carried a critical torch on BMorg since. The only thing is, even with the dismissal of Whatsblem the Pro (aka Otis) it still carried a negative tone.
BAR (Burn After Reading) has been a generally balanced and positive view into our Burner community.
BurnCast is run by daBomb (her playa name) and features some great coverage of the community.
We all take away from these blogs what works for us. The king of Burner Blogs is the P.R. machine at Burning Man (BMorg) itself. Take a look at the Burning Blog here.
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.
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?
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 ramifications 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.
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?
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.
One side of the coin: Not everyone at Burning Man is in touch with their desire to be part of the LGBT community in Burning Man or out… and the variety of gray lines in between. Some choose simply to not put any kind of rainbow flag on their experience whatsoever.
Other side of the coin: Some actively engage in queer events, sex and other LGBT offerings.
In 2013 this author met a participant of Burning Man who at 33 years of age, 14 years of Burning Man, had come out of the closet that year AND was going to his first Queer event at Burning Man. It seemed I discovered a purple unicorn in the crowd, but as my experience grew with people in 2013 I met more just like him.
The company that runs Burning Man is called The Burning Man Project (formerly Burning Man, LLC) and have asked participants to complete an anonymous census every year and published it on their web site, but in 2013 they started an online census that provided great live information on attendees. Queer Burners is not affiliated with any official channel to Burning Man.
Much of the data is selectively compiled and presented significantly down-playing the LGBTQ role in the city. While we have been attacked in the past by some of the regional community (Regional Contacts and other members of the community – this story was already told in older posts – so refer to those) for having a Gayborhood, The impact of LGBTQ on the event itself, whether mainstreaming or not, is very significant.
The data above shows a full 3rd of the populace LGBTQ or blurry lines at least during the time of the event as of 9/2013. This includes a collective number of burners who were willing to answer the census randomly. The data does get updated on the link provided for 2013 and as of this date is still taking information.
Well, outside of this project (this web site) we can clearly see there are a lot of Burners out there who are LGBTQ++ even if they are partaking in their own way and not with the Gayborhood or any other gay, lesbian or other camps/events/whatever. Blurring into the mainstream is a comfortable place for a lot of people.
It is the dream of some that we all mesh into one society anyway, which I believe is what the creators of Burning Man dreamed of with no lines for orientation, race or gender. It seems so Utopian until you point out this ideology was created by three white, heterosexual males* and then it sounds a little aryan nation. It’s not, just idealistic.
Embracing our ideological and social differences is as important as embracing our radical self expression. If that means you mainstream or engage other LGBTQ people that is an individual call.
While this project (QueerBurners [dot] Com) will continue to cater to LGBTQ++ Burners this includes mainstreamers, people who have their sexuality as part of their experience, and our friends who do not fit the cookie cutter shapes (straight and otherwise).
We are not fighting the BMorg (The Burning Man Project leadership) but we are fighting not to be marginalized. The existence of the Gayborhood has a very important purpose. There are people within the BMorg that are our friends and understand why the Gayborhood has an important role at Burning Man.
Everyone uses the space for their own needs temporary or not. This is Radical Inclusion at it’s best and we plan on keeping it that way.
*Original Founders: Larry Harvey, Micheal Mikel and John Law