Nathan Recounts His Burner History

Group organizing at Burning Man is a
big topic of discussion this year, and it has led to some very
interesting recounting of how various communities have participated
at the event over the years. This
article
, for instance, has some really great insights into the
organizing of raving at Burning Man since 1992. This History of the
Gayborhood is an effort to update the timeline of Queer participation
on the Playa over the years.

1993 – Early Days

In 1993, Burning Man was an event of
about 2000 people and there was no annual ‘theme’ for the
event, there were no organized streets, or registered theme camps. It
was much less governed by rules because it was such a small event,
there wasn’t really a need for rules. Plus, the gathering in
the desert was to make art with fire, and so the anarchist spirit
didn’t really lend itself to rules.

While the event was ‘anarchistic’,
it also was perceived at first by many early gay participants as a
‘straight event’ that was supportive of gay people, but
in the early days, appeared to not be a space where other gay people
were easily found.

Queer San Francisco Experience in
the Early 1990’s

Like the ravers and the San Francisco
Cacophony Society, queer creativity and participation on the Playa
had its roots off the Playa. The context of the early 1990’s
was very shaped by AIDS activism that was very visible at fundraisers
and parties, and these events had an edge that reflected the times.
Queer artists and event promoters who were helping create a wild
queer party scene in San Francisco during the 1990’s helped
create the context for Burning Man participation on the Playa.




Picture Left and Middle – Club
Uranus San Francisco 1991. Pictured Right, Ggreg Deborah Taylor, AKA,
Nambla the Clown. The early 90’s San Francisco “Club
Kids” brought their own style of creativity to the Playa in the
early years of the event. Photos by Mark Geller.

Queer activism and culture in the
1990’s generated from San Francisco sometimes took the form of
performance art and road trip adventures. Queer Nation’s “Mall
Zaps” and the “Lavender Tortoise” road trips to
Reno of the early 90’s organized by art and event promoter
Ggreg Taylor were examples.



Left: The first
Lavender Tortoise road trip to Reno with Roderick McFarland, Leigh
Crow, Jade, Kent Victor Schuelke, Becky Slane, Jim Provenzano, Jim
Rudoff, Jason El Diablo. The Lavender Tortoise trips eventually
became the model for the Trannyshack road trips to Reno. Photos by
Mark Geller.

Right: Veronica Klaus
and Ggreg Taylor at a mall “Zap” organized by Taylor as
the first of its kind in the 1990’s.

In addition to the 1990’s
activist and “Club Kid” culture, many other queer
cultural scenes were happening, such as the Radical
Fairies
, Sisters of
Perpetual Indulgence
, and others. Like fire performance and other
kinds of radical art and entertainment happening in San Francisco,
the desert became a new place to celebrate radical culture of every
kind that was becoming more regulated in the city of San Francisco as
the 90’s advanced.

Left 1993 Sean Bumgarner and Ggreg
Taylor at club Product.

Right 1993 David Lowe, Nathan
Purkiss and Steven Murphy at club Product.

Queer Club Kids go to the Playa

In 1993, three queer San Franciscans
named Gabriel, Bart and Graham went with a car, a tent, and very
limited supplies to check out Burning Man. They were regulars at
Radical Faerie events, SF clubs etc. and had heard about Burning Man
as an arts event, but didn’t know any friends who were going.
So they went. They didn’t notice any other gay people at the
time, but when they came home, they told all their friends, and
started a tradition of coming home and telling everyone’s
friends about Burning Man. This group eventually grew into the
200-300 person queer Avalon village at the event for many years.
(More on that below…)


The Burning Man event in 1993 was
smaller and followed a rhythm that was possible with roughly 2000
people that is different than with 50,000+ people today. The entire
community could see when anything happened like the start of a
procession with fire breathers, dancers and drums that could be heard
from far away.

Left
photo – the Burning Man raised in 1993 (no elevated platform or
theme these days…).

Center
photo – The Monkey Bean coffee car. This coffee car was
effectively “center camp” in the early days. The only
place you could buy coffee or anything out on the Playa.

Right
Photo – Black Rock Gazette, 1993 edition on the right. It was a
2-sided paper issued Friday and Saturday.

1993 Black Rock
Gazette. Events were listed from Friday to Monday. Below are 1993
Saturday-Sunday events.

From 1993 – 1995, the
event was mostly a Friday to Monday event with some rituals that
happened pretty routinely. During the day people would drive to Fly
Hot Springs or Gerlach for food. At night, random parties would
happen at different camps, but Saturday night there was a procession
of dancers and performers, and a series of art installations being
burned; Sunday night was the Burning of the Man himself. The rave
camp was placed a mile outside of the rest of the camping area, and
after all the fire events finished, everyone would head out to the
raves to dance until sunrise.

YOU
TUBE VIDEO of 1994 Priscilla Queen of the Desert Party
with
Stan Christenson, Jim Rudolph, Gabriel Plumlee and others

link
here.
(Scott,
I have 4
hours of video from 1994 and 1995, but it takes a while to select
sections and convert to digital. Can upload more if you want…)

By 1996, the event grew in size
and some of these routines started to turn into bigger traditions.
The Saturday night procession turned into a full scale opera. The
raves grew from small-ish sound system events to huge parties with
fire performers and a much bigger scale. The whole event adopted an
Inferno “Hell-Co” theme of sorts, which wasn’t
expressed as an official theme, but functioned as an art theme that
was the first time the idea of a theme really came into being.

Left,
Early Avalon Village/Mudskipper community at Fly Hot Springs in
1994.Right the 1994 DayGloasis art project created at the Rave Area
by queer artist Graham Cruickshank with the group that would later
organize the Avalon Village community.

In this period of 1993-1996, Queer
participation was as anarchistic as the rest of the event. There were
no theme camps or very organized anything, but queer people
participated in the event and began building small communities within
the event that would later become larger village communities.

\

1994
Early queer community at Fly Hot Springs left/midle. Nathan Purkiss &
Brian Mays right & Santiago Salsido far right, 1995.





Left
– Nambla the Clown 1996. Middle – Fly Hot Springs 1996. Right –
1995 Saturday Night Procession

1996-1998
Burning Man Transitions to a more organized event

In 1996 Burning Man grew in size to
8000 people and had a series of accidents that required changing the
event. A person drove through a tent and ran over another
participant, and organizers for the event made efforts to maintain
the anarchistic spirit of the event while creating rules to also
promote safety. A map was created for the event and driving (unless
driving a permitted art car) was no longer allowed. Theme camps and
organized participation developed out of this, and the event theme
itself seemed to become an organizing tool. In 1997, the official
theme of “fertility – the living land” seemed
designed as a calming theme after the 1996 inferno.

Left:
1997 poster for the Burning Man Opera; Right: 1997 “fertility”
art

1997 – Is Burning Man Over?

Many 1997 participants wondered if
Burning Man could continue given that it adopted new rules,
especially the rule to ban driving, as it would prevent one of the
best features of the event, driving to Fly Hot Springs to soak for
the day. People also wondered if the organized road map and camps
would kill the anarchistic feeling of the event. But the event
continued to inspire people and work through these changes.

Queer Camps begin to organize on the
Playa

Some of the earliest queer camps began
to organize with the new theme camp system. Early camps that got
started were Jiffy Lube (which became M*A*S*Hcara
for a time), the Black Rock Gym and Beauty Bar (which later became
Avalon Village), and others.

Jiffy Lube & M*A*S*Hcara

While Jiffy Lube had been around since
1995 as a sex-positive space, it registered in 1997 as a theme camp
with a different name – M*A*S*Hcara.
Using its historic “M*A*S*H style tent as an event area, Ggreg
Taylor worked with camp organizers to add a raised backroom entry
into the back of a semi-truck as a sex space with Wizard of Oz
footage playing. Very queer and fun. M*A*S*Hcara lasted a couple
years as a mixed performance art and sex space, until it renamed
itself “Jiffylube” and went back to becoming a mostly
sex-oriented tent. While M*A*S*Hcara had a very short time on the
Playa, it was a concept that was very similar to what would
eventually become Comfort and Joy in later years – a highly
creative space also celebrating sex-positive culture.


M*A*S*Hcara
1998 crew top left. Ggreg Taylor, AKA Nambla the Clown, Top Right
(organizer of M*A*S*Hcara) Camp Jiffy Lube 2000.

2000 The Black Rock Gym and Beauty
Bar

In 2000 the BM theme was “The
Body”, and that year the
Black Rock Gym and Beauty Bar was formed by Gabriel Plumlee, Nathan
Purkiss, Scott Barney, Huck Worden, Victor Torres, John Cordaro,
Patrick Schiller, and others who had been attending Burning Man since
the early 1990’s. The gym included a fully functional dry sauna
to and the beauty bar featured drag artists sharing beauty tips for
anyone who trusted them with makeovers.

Top
Left Black Rock Gym and Beauty Bar. Top Right E-L Wire Black Rock Gym
Sign. Bottom Left – Black Rock Gym fully functional dry sauna.
Bottom Right Spencer Day and Adam Shevel working out at the gym.



Left, Victor Torres
manning the Beauty Bar.

Center, Brian Mays at
the Gym

Right, Gabriel Plumlee
using the Black Rock Gym tanning facilities.

The
Black Rock Gym and Beauty Bar was a first-time theme camp that would
eventually become Avalon Village.

2000 Wind Sock & Tie-die cloth
Installation

In 2000 queer artists Jeff Kennedy and
Xavier Caylor (and others who would later be involved in creating
Audrey’s cabaret), created Playa art installations using
black-light radiant fabric art:


2000
tie-dye windsock art by Xavier Caylor, Jeff Kennedy and others

The giant “wind sock”
fabric art piece included a tie-die tunnel that you could walk
through, as well as other cloth art installations on the playa. Jeff
also later organized a registered theme camp called “Audrey’s
Cabaret” that performed show tunes on the playa for several
years.

Top Left –
Jeff and others walking through the “wind sock”. Top
Middle Jeff Kennedy in 2000. Top right and bottom left – more tie-die
cloth art installations. Bottom Right – Audrey’s cabaret
campmates (photo from Jim Orr).

Jeff had worked with Xavier Caylor
and others to create tie-die fabric art off the Playa for years and
helped organize “Flagging
in the Park” in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park
before they used their fabric art work to create the wind sock fabric
art installation on the Playa.



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Left and Middle –
Flagging in San Francisco golden gate park. Right giant ball of
tie-dye art for dance party. Cloth art from queer San Francisco
events was brought to the playa in 2000 as the wind sock
installation.

2002 – Avalon Village


After creating the Black Rock Gym and
Beauty Bar of 2000 and 2001, many of the Gym / Beauty Bar campmates
wanted to start their own projects. Scott Barney wanted to create a
fairy-wing making factory camp called “Fairyland”, and
Huck Worden wanted to create a lush lounge called the Sacrafactory,
Jim Rudolf wanted to create a mobile café to serve Vietnamese
Iced Coffee, and Nathan Purkiss and Gabriel Plumlee wanted to bring
the gym and sauna back again. Instead of breaking up into several
camps, the groups returned in 2002 as Avalon Village.

Left:
Avalon Village plaza 2002,
Center:
Avalon Village 2003 with Huck Worden on stilts;
Right
Avalon Village Sacrafactory, 2003

Avalon Village formed a community from
2002-2008 joined by several theme camps with about 200-300 people
camping at the village each year, (but about 500 people connected on
lists of the various camps attended on alternating years). The camp
was envisioned as a space for queer people to find other queer
people, and a highly interactive village of artists, performers and
queer / queer friendly community. Activities at the village included
poi spinning classes, fairy wing and tutu making, wrestling matches,
fire dancing, massage workshops, drag performance, queer discussion
groups, parties, daily sober meetings, serving Vitnamese Iced Coffee
daily, and many other activities.

Avalon Village was first
conceived as “the Isle of Avalon” for the Floating World
theme of 2002, but each year a variation on Avalon was decided for
the community, often using acronym A.S.S. for the years when the
community took the name Avalon Space Station and Avalon Synapse
Station, etc.





Left:
Avalon Village art towers on the plaza were lit up at night in blue
LED lights. Pictured here was Astro Pups camp tower.

Right:
Fairyland Wing & Tutu making crafts workshop with art panels and
2
nd
story viewing area.

What
was exciting for most of the organizers of Avalon Village was that it
was created by people who were not club promoters or professional
artists in the default world.
 They
started the Black Rock Gym and Beauty Bar partly because they had
enjoyed Burning Man for so many years without contributing an art
installation or theme camp. So the group felt like they needed to
‘step it up’ and create something.
 
Once the group made their first theme camp, everyone was hooked and
wanted to do more. It turned into a very committed community for many
years, and many of the community still participate through a camp
that would be formed later called “the Mudskippers”.

Far
Left: Bart Broome attending Burning Man since 1993. Mid Left: Nathan
Purkiss, Adam Shevel and Anthony Ramirez.

Mid
Right: Bryan Hughes DJ’ing. Far Right: Scott Barney and Scott
Stauffer of Fairyland & Avalon Village.





Avalon
Village People:

Far
left: Chris Dayson; 2
nd
Left: Viva; Mid-Right: The Plaza in a dust storm. Far right: Rahul
during the post-dust storm rainbow.

Fairyland –
Avalon Village Theme Camp 2002-2008

Fairyland
theme camp organizer Scott Barney in the middle.

Scott
Barney who brought a panoply of craft materials for the Black Rock
Beauty Bar went on at Avalon Village to organize a much larger craft
factory project: Fairyland. Building a beautiful wood frame structure
(one year two stories high) with wall panels that illuminated fairy
murals as the environment, Fairyland hosted an enormously popular
fairy-wing and Tutu-making factory. Wing-making materials made out of
recycled materials (wire hangers et.) and instructions on how to make
fairy wings awaited Burners who came, and people spent hours each day
crafting beautiful fairy wings and tutus of every kind to wear out on
the Playa.





Fairyland
participants John Cordaro (top left) and Steve Heist (bottom left).

Inside
the Fairyland structure (with ladder to 2
nd
floor) in the center photos.


Astropups –
Avalon Village Theme Camp from 2003-2008



Left:
Astropup theme camp at Avalon Village; Right: the first Astropups to
arrive in 2000.

In
2003 the Astropups theme camp joined Avalon Village. Organized as a
camp on the Plays since 2000, the Astropups have brought a fun,
frisky, and fabulous nature to the Burning Man Playa in the form of
events, costumes, and personalities. They regularly held wrestling
matches, prom dances, parties and all kinds of good fun for many
years. Like many of the Avalon camps, first and foremost, the camp
was organized to foster a spirit of community and companionship.
Astropups are still
an active camp and their website is:
http://www.astropups.com/

Left:
AstroPups David Millard and David Lai at the Gay Prom;
Center
left:
AstroPup
wrestling match;

Center
Right:

AstroPups organizer Paul Carey;
Far
Right:

Brian Maier and other pups at the gay prom.

Superhero
Rendering of Astropups one year (date and artist unknown):













AstSacrafactory
and Thin Air – Avalon Theme Camps 2002-2003

After
making a fully functional dry sauna for the Black Rock Gym, Huck
Worden created two different theme camps for Avalon Village in 2002
and 2003: Sacrafactory and the “Thin Air” lounge.

Left
Photo:

2003 Avalon Village Theme Camp the Thin Air Lounge, was a 1960’s
classic airport lounge with drag hostesses serving cocktails

Right
Photo:

2002 Avalon Village Sacrafactory theme camp. Photo of the entryway
into the SacraFactory, a deep purple lounge reminiscent of an opium
den where participants could invent new sacraments.

Quixotes
Cabaret – Avalon Village Theme Camp 2005-2008

Quixotes Cabaret
is a troupe of performers mostly from the UK who travel to the playa
each year to build a theater with performances both by campmates, and
any participants from the playa who wants to join in their stage
events. They have always been more of a “straight friendly”
group, but they made their home in the queer-friendly Avalon village
for many years. Brit actors are fabulous and fun, and Avalon
Villagers loved that Quixotes chose their home at Avalon for so many
years.

Quixotes are
still active and their current website is here:
http://qccb.org/

Photos
of Quixotes Cabaret setting up.

Vietnamese
Iced Coffee Camp – Avalon Village Theme Camp 2002-2008

Avalon
also had a mobile cart that would serve Vietnamese Iced Coffee daily
at the camp, then move out onto the Playa to serve VICC at night!

Ranger
Leaf (Ken Bonnin) left in both; and Sparky (Jim Rudolph) right in
both.

Camp
Montage – Avalon Village Theme Camp 2006-2008

Left
photo:

Nathan Purkiss and RJ Merck.
Right
photo:

photographer Wendell Delano.

Camp
Montage formed as an Avalon Village theme camp in 2006 and was the
brainchild of RJ. Merck working with photographer Wendell Delano.
Merck worked with Delano on building his photos into illuminated
montages on large wooden boxes. The montage boxes were
extraordinarily beautiful art pieces recounting images from years of
Burning Man past.


Above
is a collection of Camp Montage photos featured at Avalon Village, as
well as Comfort and Joy and the Afterburn San Francisco events.

Camp Stella –
Avalon Village Theme Camp 2005-2008

Camp
Stella first became a theme camp at Burning Man in 2003 but joined
Avalon Village in 2005. The camp offered a clean and sober space and
daily meetings for Burners.

Emo
(left) and Jefferson (right) Camp Stella Founders John, Bart &
Friend at Celestial Bodies

Other
Camps at Avalon – Celestial Bodies, Temple of Poi & IDC

Over
the years several other theme camps joined Avalon for 1-year stints,
such as Temple of Poi, the Interplanetary Dance Commandos (IDC) and
Celestial Bodies. Temple of Poi hosted fire performances, IDC hosted
a dance space, and Celestial Bodies featured their famous saloon as
part of Avalon Village in 2009.

Avalon Village
“Uncharted Territories” – The Mudskippers

The Uncharted Territories was the community organized by
Nathan Purkiss, Anthony Ramirez, Don Raber, John Marasagan, John
Kisha, Anthony Williams, Gabriel Plumlee, Bart Broome, and others
that provided logistical support for Avalon Village. They built the
Avalon Village sign, lighted the village with solar powered blue
lights, did all of the administrative organizing for the village, and
some years built the Avalon Village Tower in the main plaza of the
village. They also created a “Sunken Pirate Ship”
environment within the village for camp mates to have a community
space within the village.

Left:
Psycho Bunny and Puck hanging out in the sunken pirate ship at
Uncharted Territories

Center:
Cookie Dough hanging out in the Sunken Pirate Ship.

Right:
Uncharted Territories Crew under the Rainbow. (Sean Niles, John
Kisha, John Marasagan, Jody Stevens, Gary Weisler, Nakhter Ahad, Don
Raber at the far right.

Avalon created a
learning opportunity at the Uncharted Territories that can’t be
offered at Burning Man very easily today. Avalon offered for people
who decided at the last minute they wanted to go to Burning Man to
join the Uncharted Territories camp and help work for the village.
Some of our favorite campmates were people who are by nature
spontaneous, and they don’t plan their lives a year in advance
– we wanted them to participate in the creativity of the
community.

Participating in
the Uncharted Territories provided a way to share cultural
information, not only stories of how to promote safety etc., but also
sharing how participants could became active creators of art and
community. This is partly how Camp Montage got its start at Avalon –
RJ Merck came to our village as a newcomer, never coming to Burning
Man before, but after a very inspiring year at Avalon, he came back
to the Playa ready to create one of the most beautiful theme camps of
the village – Camp Montage.







Left:
Daniel and Anthony;
Center:
Bart, Nathan and Gabriel;
Right:
Rahul

Avalon comes
to a close:

Avalon Village last organized on the
Playa as a village in 2008. The year before, 2007 had been a peak
year with dynamic theme camps, art, a beautiful plaza with multiple
towers lit up with twinkling blue lights, and great energy. By 2008,
many of the campmates were starting to feel burnt out about pulling
together the village for many years. It also seemed that Burning Man
was encouraging the village to break up into theme camps, as we had
feedback from them that the size of our village was unwieldy. Plus,
the American Dream theme turned off some of the queer campmates who
were very angry with George Bush at the time and decided not to go.
Those that did in 2008 still reported having a fantastic time that
year. But times were changing. We wanted something new again.



Puck, Mayor of Avalon Village in
2002

The Mudskippers are Born!

In 2009 the Mudskipper Cafe grew out of the huge
collective “Avalon Village” from what was the camp known
as UT or “Uncharted Territories”. The 2009 Burning Man
theme of “Evolution” was appropriate for the change, and
the name “Mudskippers” represented the fun little
creatures that evolved from water to land roamers. So like the
Mudskipper taking its first step onto land from water, the Mudskipper
cafe took its first step to being an entity in itself.





Mudskipper People

Gayborhood Boom after 2009

In addition to Mudskippers, many other queer camps that
used to participate in Avalon continued to participate on the Playa
as well. Camp Stella, Quixotes Cabaret, Astro Pups and campmates from
all of the Avalon theme camps are still Burners participating at
various levels. In addition to those, other queer camps that had
never participated with Avalon (although were all friends) began to
explode with creativity and participation. Comfort and Joy became a
huge presence on the Playa. And later, the Queer Burners network
became something that Avalon always had tried to do, which was to
develop a catalyst for queer Burners to find each other on and off
the Playa.

Many changes happened that were improvements. New camps
expanded diversity even further adding new creative options on the
Playa. Avalon was a great project, but what used to be a registered
neighborhood during the Avalon years has now exploded into an organic
neighborhood, and that is a big new evolution.

Is Burning Man getting too Gay?

Burning Man Gay Pride

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:

  1. 08282012_burn-303Everyone is welcome
  2. No money needed, give from the heart expect nothing back
  3. Let’s get rid of the corporate bullshit
  4. Stand strong on your own
  5. Express yourself freely and honestly
  6. Stand strong on your own but a community is stronger
  7. Your community is stronger when it is responsible to itself and the environment
  8. Keep our world clean
  9. Get involved and no sitting on the sidelines
  10. …and act. Act now. Act up.

While these are interpretations of the official 10 Principles from the Burning Man web site the words are the dream of many LGBTQ++.

Demographics

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

The Gayborhood

3This 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.

Burning Man Gay Pride

Conclusion

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.

Queer Burner History Updated

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?

Feel free to contact the admins of this site through the contact form with your updates. Of course information with be verified and as soon as we can we will publish it.

Follow this link for the whole article!

Queer Burner History : 1993 to Present

History is important. Yes, knowing the past and what came before is the launching platform for the future. No, this is not based on Stonewall. No, this is not a freedom march up- Market Street.

No, this is about Burning Man and the queers of Burning Man. Today we have something called the Gayborhood, but how long has that been around?

burningManQBHThis project page so far goes back to 1993, but if you have any more info you can share please let us know. Contact the site admin.

Anyway, check out the article and comment you little hearts out… xo

5 Years of Queer Burners

One of the best pieces of advice I got when in the first half of this project came from Kitten was that the posts and so forth from this site were not written in “I” statements. This project is not about me. It is about a community of people inside a community in side… etc. Why is this project to important to me and what am I asking people to do with it? This is more of an “I” entry…

Here I come!My name is Scott. On playa I am known as Toaster. I am a queer male who loves people of all genders and joined the Burning Man community to grow and I did. One of my early specific goals was to improve my relationship with women. I since then learned to accept and relate to people of all gender identities and am so blessed for it.

2008/2009: the beginning

When I became involved with my first Burning Man collective it was the Las Vegas Burning Man group. I arrived on a beach on Lake Meade one night and met Debbie and Mike; older wild ass couple you would fall in love with immediately. The Vegas community was in a huge transition at the Me and the girlstime with identity and base. I quickly became deeply involved and at some point along the way was being considered for a Regional Contact (R.C.) role.

At the time Cameron Grant was the core R.C. and his girlfriend Melissa were real heroes in keeping the community on track. Captain Bill and his wife Amber were also strong leaders in the community and I did great things will all of them.

  • Fact: there was a true embrace of people from all walks of life in this community. The lines between LGBTQ++ and other burners was never an issue. There were a lot of blurry lines.

So Why?

It became clear after my first year to Burning Man in 2009 that there was a huge presence of LGBTQ++ people. The Gayborhood was established and Comfort & Joy was the jewel of the crown. There was the last ember of “Stiffy Lube” in the shadow (history). I met a shining star under the mylar rain out front… and I wondered how could it be possible to make this amazing feeling last.

While queer burners had their own camps, clicks and factions there was no single unifying presence that understood LGBTQ++ needs. And, there was something clearly missing from the burner culture at large. There was direct and indirect homophobia. Not to mention on the onslaught of trolls on message boards; ePlaya etc….

This project is designed to provide safe space for people to network from. This is the space to get camp information and general information from the community within and without the LGBTQ part of it.

The web site

It started off as Gay Burners [dot] Com. An accident by a member who called it Queer Burners got me wondering… “who is looking at this site and who is the audience?” After all, this is for every person regardless of gender of orientation with a focus on the LGBTQ++ population.

It is about a place for community. While Burning Man [dot] Com is the premiere source for all things Burning Man there is a bevvy of sites out there for the pockets of communities out there. This is just another one. This speaks to the fastest growing segment of the Burning Man demographic.

Burning Man is not a gay event and many LGBTQ people who attend never go near the Gayborhood. But, the Gayborhood is so vital and important as an entity. Why? If you cannot see that now it simply cannot be explained any more than explaining Burning Man to normal people.

Keywords to note: safety, security, sanctuary, familiarity.

Bottom Line

I hope with all my heart that people see the value in this project and embrace it. We have groups to make us feel safe. Many of us queers have CHOSEN our families and made new and unconventional ones. We have our queer neighborhoods at home cities. We have groups of friends. We have so much and asking you to see the pride and community that blooms from queer burners inspires passion and more. It’s about community. It’s about a pocket of light that wants to shine back on all of you.

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.

Stiffy Lube 1

Talked with Tim Bates today ~ an old Stiffylube team leader who helped deal with media inquires as far back as 2001 (projects include media liaison about the infamous nude assfucking mural censorship drama from

Tim Bates sports a classic playa Fyerfli original embroidery vest.
Tim Bates sports a classic Fyerfli original embroidery vest.

Comfort & Joy’s first year that you can read about here). He’s volunteered at Touch (for me directly, he was great with some surprise errands, very constructive/low-drama, independent do-er, etc.)

Fun Facts: When Comfort & Joy was throwing our first series of “play plus” dance parties like Afterglow at Antler’s, many of our group attended Stiffylube events organized by Sister Porn to learn about how playparty dynamics work.

Now Tim lives in Wisconsin but is driving to Reno a week prior to construction to visit friends. He’ll meet the Comfort & Joy Opening Crew on Monday & werque the full construction week (IF we can get him an Early Arrival pass from one of our sister camps that had to cancel, which I’m 70% sure will happen). Tim is a trained former chef & bringing 400 pds of food so I’m hoping he can connect with Mona about integrating this into our supplies. I also encouraged him to prepare his tray offerings when his faerie senses tingle as Guest Services tra in the main tent.
Tim Bates on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tim.bates.370

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