The Burning Global Leadership Conference (#bmglc2017) (GLC) was last weekend and one question has been on my mind: will Placement be breaking up the Gayborhood / Rainbow Road / Queer Neighborhood? We do not know. But there were people who approached me saying the same thing:
The Rumor Patrol was running around the event and reported:
“…there was a placer in one of my sessions who confirmed that the Gayborhood was being broken up”
Burning Man Placement is about to undergo some major changes in that Answergirl is leaving her role as the head of Placement; a role she held for about a year. She has been and acted as a advocate for LGBT needs and the needs of the citizens of our community. On top of that a favorite Placer for Burning Man who had traditionally handled the Gayborhood is leaving Burning Man altogether; Hepkitten is moving on.
When asked for an official statement about the breakup of the Gaybohood; e.g. where Placement is on the issue Answergirl had a very defensive posture and reaction that took me back. I assured Answergirl I was not an adversary but I should be looked at as a tool for communicating to the community as a whole.
Per Answergirl: (paraphrased quotes)
we have 350 applications for a space that holds 250
the theme camp application form is still open we do not know how many are asking
we included a part of the form about lgbt allies and will group people accordingly…
Burning Man’s official position from Answergirl is that they try and meet everyones needs in the scope of the application process. They do their best to meet everyone’s needs. There is no official Gayborhood to consider breaking up, because it is not officially recognized. So, asking if Placement is breaking up the Gayborhood is not the right question.
All that is certainly true within the scope of how Burning Man looks at it’s community and placement. Queer camps are not acknowledged differently than non-queer camps. The Gayborhood has existed since the late 1990’s and has only come together because of the way people filled out their applications and with some support with placers like Hepkitten.
How do we keep the BMorg from dividing us? Do we care if they do. It is my opinion that placement in 2016 did splatter us on the map. With the shooting at the Pulse night Club in June 2016 was the idea to break things up pushed back?
And what about safety for vulnerable LGBT burners on playa? Check out that information and more on this page under the tag: #controversy
Answergirl went on to say in a way that was heartfelt, that it breaks her heart to know that some people go to Burning Man who do not feel safe there. It is not just LGBT people who struggle with safety, but a lot of women and other ethnic people in a world dominated by:
a steady loss of burners bringing the burner ethos & life style
The answer is… we don’t know. Answergirl had no answer other than a few bullet points on official policy but would not say there is any plan officially. Bravo Placer is likely to be her replacement and though we met him at the May 2016 meeting with Queer Camp leaders, we really do not know him. No matter what, I think we can be best to be prepared for something different in 2017. One thing I know is for certain, we have people who know how to roll with the punches and bounce back strong.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
This has been a topic that has come up quite often in the community lately in many forms. During a meeting last year at the Red Lightening camp hosted by the Burning Man Theme Camp Organizers admins and Placement where it was a seriously addressed issue by the head of Placement/DMV “Retro” making it clear that sound in the city limits was being taken seriously.
If you know Red Lightening they are a venue with performances and education series usually positioned on the Esplanade and are a relatively quiet, if not busy, camp with a lot of foot traffic. As we held our meetup at 11pm on a Wednesday night the camp next door started playing death metal and we could barely hear each other talking. In the not so far distance we could hear the Mayan Warrior on it’s way out of the city with the trademark drums beating announcing it’s arrival.
The look on Retro’s face was awestruck but he understood campers point of view, as he and a placer who was with him at the time, explained they were working on creating new policies to address those issues.
Within our Queer Burner community there were some issues as well. The new sound policy felt like it was getting it’s legs in 2015 but already in 2016 we can feel the full force of these new policies. In 2015 BAAAHS was placed at 7 & D kitty corner from Camp Conception which both played amplified music. And across from both was Sun Guardians that holds yoga and meditation classes during the day. As mayor of SG I found both BAAAHS and Camp Conception amiable in helping me limit the amplified sound when I went to talk to them about it for our day-time classes.
Yet other neighbors complained for various reasons, but asking two sound entities placed in the city was like asking a cheetah not to run.
In another case that came up, Disco Château was not placed this year because of a sound battle they had with their neighbors AEZ (Alternative Energy Zone) and possibly others in 2015. Not being good neighbors, especially to a long established camp, earned them a serious black mark from Placement.
We can do better and are working to do better. BAAAHS did everything they could to be compliant and tried to meet the needs of officials who gave them feedback. Disco Château on the other hand had some renegades who really ended up digging a deep hole that pulled a few people down with them; forcing a change in leadership for 2016.
It is not up to us to confront people over issues that cannot be resolved with a polite neighborly discussion. I found our neighbors helpful from my point of view when I explained we needed the volume down between certain hours in the middle of the day which was pretty reasonable.
If you are not getting a response then seek out a Ranger for conflict mediation. Black Rock City Rangers are trained for that very purpose. When these occurrences happen they are being recorded in a blotter that is reported back to Placement and will / could affect your placement in the coming year.
The old fashion term “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is still the standard. The “Fuck yer Burn” mentality of the past is slowly fading out with troll attitudes and crotchety veteran burners giving way to the flood of festival candy ravers who are flooding into the event.
If Rangers in the field cannot help, then go to the closest Ranger station and make a case for some escalated help calmly and probably with a bottle of booze. There is a strong desire to enforce sound policies this year and going forward that will support you. And if you are the one not complying, then you are inviting unwanted attention.
There was a post in the Burning Man Group that inspired today’s posting (link here) that inspored today’s post. The issues discussed with the named camps above were also issues I was mostly directly/indirectly involved with on some level. We need to have an open dialog with camps in violation of policies so they are not surprised with a denial of Placement the following year. While it may be assumed there should be no surprise, camps need feedback! While we have the benefit of the MOOP map for our cleanliness, we really need a report from Placement / Earth Guardians or others if there are things we need to improve on.
There is a blacklist that exists that camps and participants do not have access to, nor the feedback necessary to make improvements with, that is a one-sided conversation and is hallmark of a very needed transparency with a department that makes huge decisions. Camps are putting out 10 – 20 – 30 thousand dollars a year to help build the city not to mention the price of a ticket only to be blackballed anonymously by a system rigged against its self.
It is an awful thing to consider. But we have learned to take these things in stride so far and move forward with what we can in spite of the odds. Volunteers make up most of the Burning Man troops and we appreciate their amazing work every year for something so many of us really believe is as close to Utopian ideals as we can imagine.
We all can do better with some effort. Be better humans. Be better neighbors. Be better participants. Be more accessible.
The creator of the Time to Burn App has provided one of the most widely used online tools for the playa for your smart phone. While many people argue that devices like that are one of the reasons TTITD is in the middle of the desert, it is also more useful that the What Where When booklet because it holds a lot more events than are listed in it.
The What Where When booklet you get upon arrival, with the official sticker inside, can only hold approximately 15000 entries while there are a lot more than that on playa. Apps like Time to Burn and iBurn utilize the whole playaevents database. The more value added side of Time to Burn is that he has been able to ferret out many of the LGBTQ camps/events and associate the #lgbt hashtag that makes it more useful to our community.
The Gay Pride Parade started more than a decade ago under Mario Cisneros (formerly Moonbow Camp / RIP) whom we lost in 2012. Since then Toaster took over the Pride event, but in 2015 participation was at an all time low and the thought was that it needed new imagination, new eyes and new ideas.
Burner Buddies has been the other end of that event and have generously invited attendees to their camp with Nacho Daddies and others to an after party in their camp.
The pride parade is still done in honor of the memory of Mario and is driven by community support. This is really important to people who knew and felt the loving support and brotherhood with Mario in his day.
This is important to rally and support this project. If everyone would commit to giving a couple hours to Justin and help make this a success it would be a great way of helping build community.
When listening to old Larry Harvey speeches COMMUNITY is the same reason Burning Man was founded and allowed to evolve. We build a city every year with a gift based economy and sew the seeds of love that inspire almost super-human creations; then we burn it all down and come back the following year. It is the life cycle of a phoenix over and over again.
“Community is the result of a group of people
striving for a common purpose.” – unknown
Most of us strive for a diverse and interesting population we are welcoming guests into our camps for various functions on the playa better than we do in the default world sometimes. We find comfort in out cliques and forget through the glass bubble that people on the outside can just as easily see in. For the Queer Burner population we have been challenged at an even higher standard from within and out to make ourselves accessible and escapable. That is the Gayborhood has been unfairly accused of being a wall keeping people in and out. Some camps have been accused of the same, but many of us have worked hard to show them they have no foundation for that claim.
“Well it seems to me, that all real communities grow out of a
shared confrontation with survival.Communities are not produced by sentiment or mere goodwill. They
grow out of a shared struggle. Our situation in
the desert is an incubator for community.”
– Larry Harvey
In the comfort of our camps and social groups the unintentional barriers based on looks, social similarities and basic needs exclude some people. Again, some camps have worked very hard to turn that image around with tremendous success. Others have been less willing to forgive and others have enjoyed the bounty of more mature and less synical memories of the past and looked to a shining bright future.
The Gayburbs out at 4:30 & I:
This space developed as queer camps began
coalescing with the familiar for neighbors who
made the experience safer.
As leaders in the community we have a responsibility to our people. Radical self reliance is a good principle to live by, BUT watching your team-mate’s back is also important to solid. We have those camp mates that do not use self-care and sometimes it is by choice or reaction to the new world around them. The weather and the fervor of the TTITD event can be overwhelming. By watching out for a fellow beings we further strengthen the bonds of our foundation.
What defines community?
The people behind the common goal. It really takes those who can see the vision of a unified force to speak up and stand out and then show the leadership qualities that create the wake that others follow in. We have our leadership and we have our participants. The ties that bind us are the thin string of individual faith and unspoken desire to be safe and secure that we rally behind. Sometimes, as we have seen time and time again, is merely proximity. Sometimes safety and community develops out of something greater. But we do it together.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All 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.
One of our claims is an audience of 5000 on our network. While many have opted in and signed up in one form or another many are accessing the free resources on the web site on a daily basis. That number is a wide reaching number based on the engagement of our social networking and web site numbers.
Above are stats provided by software on the site / Below is from Google Analytics. See how they compare.
While it is not clear which is more reliable for data, they are showing very similar algorithms happening. It’s clear there is a lot of activity and people are seeking out information we have on the site. 1400+ sessions in the last 30 days and 1200 visitors with 80% being unique and new as far as software tracking can determine.
Social Networking Links
Queer Burners [dot] Com Web Site : 600 Members
Queer Burners Facebook Page : Link : 2009 Followers
Queer Burners Facebook Group : Link : 1373 Followers
DC – MA- VA Brothers of the Man : Link : 27 Followers
What are they looking for?
An overwhelming number of people coming to the site are looking for Queer Camp and networking information for their planned expedition to Burning Man in 2015. They are looking at:
Pictures from previous burn years (mostly 2014 right now) : Link
Queer Camps on the 2015 List : Link
There is a clear sense they are looking for more and are not exploring some of the more interactive features on the site like the Groups and Forums. If we can get the site to allow a more robust social networking feed, better than what the RSS page offers, then I think on these accounts the site will be more than just a spot to check of static information.
The 2015 Fund Raising Campaign
The first goal of the campaign is to improve the site. We can do that by paying someone to help or having someone in the community volunteer. This is a Buddypress driven site and if worked more like a Facebook feed then it would make the project a lot happier:
cleaner feed on what is now called the RSS Page
Greater personalization of the profiles
Easier to communicate between members
Better way to share projects and events
Then we will focus on the Queer Burner Leadership Summit for the late Spring and/or a structured campout for Queer Burners.
The message that Burning Man started off with, the 10 Principles, are the same thing the LGBTQ community has sought from the world at-large as long as many of us have been alive. When a group of San Francisco based hippies are screaming it we believe it because the bay area has been the voice of independence and personal liberties for many years. But since June 28, 1969 we started fighting back for it. The messages attracting queers is:
Everyone is welcome
No money needed, give from the heart expect nothing back
Let’s get rid of the corporate bullshit
Stand strong on your own
Express yourself freely and honestly
Stand strong on your own but a community is stronger
Your community is stronger when it is responsible to itself and the environment
See the data for 2013 and 2014 where we can clearly see a surge in fluid sexuality out numbering the self identifying heterosexual attendees.
“The largest percentages for the overall, male, and female samplings represented heterosexual Burners, however, for the group identifying as fluid/neither gender, only 17% of them chose heterosexual as their orientation. The overall data depicts the Playa as a largely hetero, but bicurious environment. The same was true for females Burners. However, the male population was largely hetero with the second-most reported orientation as gay, while the fluid/neither Burners were mostly bisexual and refused labels”. [quote]
The 2014 data was presented in much more detail than in previous years and put the details in a well written presentation. #demographics
This space along the 7:30 corridor since 2013 is an attraction at Burning Man and an impact on the event itself. There has been a lot of information posted over the years under the category #gayborhood. It is huge! It’s a huge leap from the beginnings back in the late 90’s detailed here and on the Mudskippers web site.
What people are saying…
While the culture of Burning Man is that all their kids should be able to play nicely in the same sandbox many of us know homophobia on the playa in spite of the glitter in our eyes. But we have a huge gulf between ourselves and how we approach the culture we are a part of. While snarky queers look down their nose at the Gayborhood there are still others exploring it for the first time even with a lot of playa time behind them.
Burning Man is not a gay event. No, it is not. There is an undeniable effect on identity and orientation as people selectively explore the boundaries of their sexuality at the burn. There are more and more stories of gay men having self-identified straight boyfriends while out there.
While the diversity in our approach to our sexual orientation, lives and sexual identity are as diverse as our heterosexual community, snark and
all, tearing ourselves down or putting others down for who they are – is self destruction.
The demographics from Burning Man are amazing. We are a strong presence and more than what the census says. One simply cannot turn around without running into people who would be under the LGBTQ banner whether they accept the label or not.
One of our projects for 2014 pre-burn was to write a detailed history about LGBT Burners and how the Gayborhood came into creation. Along with it is some sordid history with the BMorg. It is all very illuminating and we find that some of those people who started the earliest incarnations of the Gayborhood in 1993 are still going.
Have something to add?
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