GLC: What about it?

The Global Leadership Conference hosted by Burning Man in Oakland at the beginning of the month was an amazing experience. This was my 5th or 6th one. When one starts forgetting those details then it feels like maybe it’s time to slow down? IDK… but I was super grateful to see so many people there.

People have since asked regarding the last post: “GLC: Gayborhood Broken Up?” questions like where is the queer representation at BMorg? With the Census showing an LGBTQ population hovering about 30% [2016 Report] of Black Rock City are we represented in the org the same way? When it comes to Ethnic Diversity and other populations anyone can ask the same question.

After my experience at the GLC and my interactions with BMorg there is a resounding yes (regarding representation), but there are some consistent problems with the BMorg as far as being able to react to Sexual Identity and Ethnic needs in the community that are slowly getting the recognition they have sorely needed over the years.

This is my 9th year in the community and when I tell you I have seen some real shit hit the fan, I have. BUT, I have also seen certain bodies of the BMorg really bounce right back to save the moment. There are some heroes up there.

The Conference

Let’s focus on some of the positives. This year there were more community leaders brought into the fold than ever before. This also included Theme Camp leaders and more diverse community leaders with various agendas. While some of these agendas were Ethnic, some were about Disability Access, and others were about creating new space to commune and make community.

Not to harp on myself, but my first GLC was as a Community Leader for the Las Vegas community and then each year following I went to talk about the Gayborhood. I also talked vigorously about safety for queers and women which is already documented well in the scope of this site.

There were queer leaders from all over the country. Many of whom lead Queer Burner regional message boards listed here on this site. It is also fair to say, without outing anyone who is not ready to be outed, that there are top level people who identify as LGBTQ.

We have many many allies, but that does not mean we have a free pass. Queer Burners as a community has to toil and resolve issues like everyone else in the community. There are issues we have to fight against but that is minutia compared to the scope of what we do for a week out of the year and how we bring Burning Man ideology to our communities.

And that is the key! Burning Man mission statement has been pared down to something very simple about bringing the 10 Principles to the world and creating community with that. Burners Without Boards and the Burning Man Project have been the pivot point on all that.

Us v. Them

Thinking there is an ‘us versus them mentality’ is not really conducive to a positive outcome. There is no such thing. If we want something from this community, we have to ask or demand it. If it happens through our Theme Camp Applications or where we spend our money then those are strong voices.

  • Going back to the Gayborhood question: Radical Self Reliance means we have to put in our applications who we want to be camped near and where.
  • If queers feel unsafe at Burning Man because of dangers growing out of a surging tourist culture then there are other places to spend and get value from that $425 dollar ticket.
  • If the dissolution of 10 Principles ideology is making it hard to be part of the burn, then become an activist and use Immediacy to start your own – thing.

As with any institution there are ways to work within the scope of the community or with our freedom; we can make our own. For many of us Burning Man is something we cherish. We might see some scars but the bigger picture is the value of those few days a year we get to create something amazing.

Schedules

The GLC had a lot of sessions that were very valuable. If you can go next year then by all means go. As this was my 5th or 6th year it has become almost a 2nd Burning Man trip for me… without the dust. I have allies that are there as well as people who would see my work torn apart.

I will post about the workshops and some feedback about them in my next post.

Conclusion

Sorry about the brevity and lack of content in this post. I wanted to share some thoughts about what I perceive as our individual responsibilities in this community to our goals in the Burning Man Community. Queer Burners comes in behind that somewhere as well as your Theme Camp and Yourself in any order that works for you.

We get what we petition for. If this is a chorus rather than one guy shouting like a crazy guy in the street that is very different. If we want the Gayborhood then we have to ask for it. We have to find our strategic partner camps and unite with them and put that in the application.

As far as who is representing us at Burning Man we have a lot of strong voices. For every twenty people there is maybe 1 neigh-sayer. We really do have more allies than not. The only thing I would like to discourage is letting other people be your voice… be your own voice and be heard.

Burning Man GLC: Toaster Trip Report

This was my fourth or fifth GLC. The Global Leadership Conference focuses on Regional Contacts and Community Leaders out there in the world making Burning Man style events happen, This includes Burners Without Borders, Black Rock Solar, and Black Rock Arts among many entities.

A lot of people ask me how they can go, too. This was the first year they let me bring someone I nominated. One usually has to be nominated by a Regional Contact, but then of course San Francisco (where I live) does not have an R.C.. The facility where this was held was packed with people and there were people I knew who said were there on Facebook whom I never got a chance to see the whole weekend.

“The 10th annual Burning Man Global Leadership Conference (GLC) is an annual conference of Burning Man community leadership that happens each spring in San Francisco. From humble beginnings in 2007, where 70 Regional Contacts joined us at Burning Man HQ, the GLC has since grown to include over 400 participants from around the world.

These highly-energized folks are Burning Man’s global representatives and community leaders, ambassadors of Burning Man culture in their regions who throw any of 65 Regional events in 20 countries. They participate in the GLC to share ideas, best practices and inspiration, and to make the invaluable face-to-face connections that may just lead to the next big thing.

The conference is for organizers and community leaders in the Burning Man Regional Network, and space is limited, so attendance isn’t open to the public, BUT … we’re going to be covering key sessions that are of interest to the larger Burning Man community on the Burning Man Journal, as well as on Twitter.”

Burning Man [dot] Org (linked)

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On @queer_burners on Twitter right from this conversation we tweeted a quote right from Larry Harvey in this Q&A where he talked about funding the arts. He said “Lots of hungry puppies only so many tits.” In fact the word “Money” was bandied about a lot for a corporation always faced with someone eager for a taste of the pie; e.g. the new Nevada tax that added $50+ to our ticket prices this year.

The Burning Man Global Leadership Conference

It happen April 1st to the 3rd at the Marines Memorial Theater / Hotel at 609 Sutter Ave here in San Francisco. Myself and Foxy (of Beaverton fame) went representing the Queer Burner community and a voice that was only about LGBTQ++ burning man participants. There are a lot of Queer leaders in the community whose missions are more specific to the geographic community than a “lifestyle” or “sexual orientation”. Regional Contacts are the primary focus, as well as future leaders, who also do projects in the long cast shadow of what Burning Man is.

Burning Man often looks and complains about a lack of diversity in their culture; specifically in skin color in the United States. There have been efforts to improve the variety of racial demographics. However, with the launching of Burning Man culture into different parts of the world the racial concerns seem to have wained as burns in Africa, Asia, South America, Central America and Europe have brought in a hungry and exciting rush of fresh blood making the 10 Principles their own.

Finally, the misogyny of the culture took more dents with the on-going delivery of messages about consent and personal responsibility. Over recent years these have been strongly related messages to leaders with tools to bring back to their communities. A champion in this area has been North Caroline burners.

The BMOrg is a corporation run by women (and Charlie and the odd board member) which has also sent a whole new set of messages to the community. A lot of Queer people work for the org as well but there is still this lingering blind disregard for a system to help queers, in many cases, and women who are venerable in a sexually charged and space where people have often lowered their defenses. This is still changing.

Some of our biggest concerns about Queer burners also came out of the South with a NC burner talking about degrading behavior toward Trans and queer people at South eastern events; but there are voices that are strong enough to let their peers know that such behavior was unacceptable. It was also refreshing to hear that a Radical Faery group USED TO go to the NC event but sadly they faded away. There was a subtle wake up call that LGBTQ burners are STILL not safe at all Burner events.

So we ask about what kind of diversity is Burning Man really looking for?It starts at the root level and has to grow. Almost anything meaningful has started with members of the community taking action which is why Queer Burners is here without any – ANY official support or injection from the BMOrg. If anything else, it has been clear that events are being driven toward family friendly and diverse audiences by Stephen Ra$pa and his team with less on adult activities. Yet, believe it or not anything with an LGBT label on it is still lumped into the ‘adults only’ category.

Why this summary?

There were leaders all over the world at the Conference (GLC) and for those interested in taking official status with the BMOrg the message was pretty clear what those steps needed were. Queer Burners is and will remain a grass roots project with it’s mission centered on Queer Burning Man participants and community builders.

I listened to everything there and talked to people at the best GLC I had ever been to. I do not know if it was the venue, the improved range of speakers or the delivery. Queer Burners (the project since 2008) has felt like the black sheep of the family year after year. But this year felt more like we were a part of the conversation and we had something to add for a variety of reasons.

If only I could figure out why there is a strong sense of opposition of our presence from a couple key people in the Borg. That is a conversation for another day, though.

Content

The GLC was mostly all business. The workshops followed key tracks:

  • Civic Activation
  • Community Events
  • Leadership Skills
  • Organizational Development
  • Foundation Skills

This year my focus was mostly on Financial and Event related tracks because of the many things Queer Burners is doing with events and planning. This included risk management and working on a better system of transparency. Queer Burners is launching events and making money; all of which will go right back into the community.

Foxy wrote a report on her experience here if you would like to see it. Being a Green Dot Ranger and in Ranger leadership she had a special spin on her experience. As Ranger Torchwood she wants to see more Queers who are a good fit into the Ranger culture. She will be presenting at the Queer Burner Retreat with 4 other Rangers.

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A famous Science Fiction writer was the key note speaker. His Playa name is/was Mez and had the theme camp the Church of Mez. Ramez Naam (Twitter: @ramez) wrote the award winning book APEX (part of a trilogy) and talked a lot about the future through the past. He talked about the possibility of Science Fiction versus reality. And interesting enough he talked about Stonewall and the gay rights movement a lot which I was taken by.

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Marian Goodell (the CEO of Burning Man) welcomed everyone. While she was genuinely excited to have people there she seemed unprepared for her presentation. She complained about her position as ‘having drawn the short straw’ for a role she is perfectly suited for. She took over from Larry though he remains the face of Burning Man. Marian used to run the Regional Network (of Regional Contacts) when I first joined the community less than a decade ago and I got to know her when she interviewed me as a potential R.C. way back then. But what did I do, I did what burners are supposed to do I went out and developed community without the approving nod of the BMOrg.

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There were a lot of people there presenting a lot of impressive projects. Above are two Chicago leaders reporting their event called the Chididerod. It’s decorated shopping carts racing through the city but raise a serious-butt-load of food for food banks in the area there; like – literally tons of food. While these folks had a ton to be proud of the self congratulating with so thickly layered on it was stifling. The ego landed on stage and waved a big flag all the way form Chicago. But they were not the only ones which I will cover soon.

The projects were impressive and part of the content was how to do stuff like this and not get sued, arrested or hurt. It was also about building communication with the local authorities and officials as needed to get the right people on board with your projects so you can find success. Nothing ends a great project faster than one that is misunderstood. How many times have you mentioned Burning Man to someone only to be judged as a hippie, druggie, pervert before the next word came out of your mouth?

We learned a lot about protecting the reputation as much as the people making and benefiting from whatever project a leader is putting out there.

There were so many people patting themselves on the backs or waving their arms around to say how they were doing it better. On the other hand, there were a lot of broken people who were crushed under failed projects like Apogea in Colorado. Pride and Envy are ugly demons and we all hope not to be run over by them.

I learned a lot and hope others learned too because some of the problems people were having seemed to have such obvious solutions, yet so many seemed to be resolvable by setting expectations for oneself and for their communities.

The picture gallery below will depict a lot of the content as it was presented, but maybe one day more leaders will be able to go to the GLC.

Queer Burners Presentation

On a lark, I decided to submit a suggestion for the UNconference. The unconference was a user generated pool of breakout sessions where we could put subject on the table and see if there was interest. We would get 45 minutes to bring the subject to the table and see what happened.

“LGBT issues in the Burner Community”: Foxy called me when I was waiting to get my hair cut on Saturday night after I left and told me I was presenting. I was shocked and excited and when her and I talked I realized I had no idea what I was going to really say.

– who was the audience?
– what if this goes in a completely wrong direction?

We asked ourselves a ton of questions and naturally I asked Foxy to co-facilitate it with me and help me with it no matter what direction it went.

We were originally scheduled to share a HUGE room with the Chididerod people but they asked us to leave because they needed the whole theater. We found space in a public area and managed with the half dozen people that joined us. We learned a lot about LGBT issues in other regions, too. Some feedback  is already contained in the content of this page.

It really felt good to contribute and bring this subject to the table.

What were the issues you ask? In the above section where we talked about the North Carolina regional event, that came from this discussion. Essentially for a lot of queers in various regions there is no “problem” but the emphasis was that out, queer people just want to feel welcome and safe. Perception of safety, even a glimpse, means a lot.

We only had 45 minutes and it went fast, but the topics were amazing. Talking about the regions that were present might make some people feel on the spot, but the NC information was really important and that prejudice still exists in the community; even at Black Rock City.

Personal Note

I got hit by a seriously bad cold on Saturday and I was a soppy wet mess. While this report is not about Toaster the point is that I missed out on some of the best networking time because of it. I missed all the evening events which was a disappointment but thank goodness Foxy was there.

In Conclusion

When these things come up and are offered by BMOrg people in the community should jump in. Whether it is GLC, Placement meeting, or event the amazing stuff offered in the various regions. These resources are a tremendous value. The GLC is really good for the communities when leaders are bringing back what are learned.

People: Jessica Allred

b4503fe267951df4bd4662c63770591c-bpfullJessica was one of the first women from Camp Beaverton to reach out to the Queer Burner community at large in an effort to make Camp Beaverton more accessible to any and all genders. She served as camp mayor a few years ago when the Queer Burners project was really getting it’s legs and was one of the community members who helped make it successful.

Around her time as mayor and following the camp began instituting a concierge program that spread through other camps that invited other people into the Beaverton camp.

While Beaverton was founded by a heterosexual white male it became synonymous with being a camp primarily of lesbians. But what some might not know, they provide education for people of all kinds. Jessica was one of the curators of this awesome educational series.

11990607_10204645507006568_2656276238302964434_nLiving in Massachusetts she is one of the many that makes the big trek to Black Rock City and helps keep Camp Beaverton Home for Wayward Girls going. Her support for Queer Burner projects has also been greatly appreciated and among those who helped build bridges between their camp and the many others who love the Beavers so much throughout the community.

Ruining Burning Man? WTF?

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.

Will Pants (Right) Burning Man's voice
Will Pants (Right) Burning Man’s voice

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.

 

QB Leadership

Our community is expansive. We are part of the Burning Man community and by the latest numbers it appears to be somewhere around 66,000 people who show up in the desert and up to 200,000 around the world.

Where does leadership come into play with these numbers

  1. The Borg : The Burning Man Organization who are based out of San Francisco
    There is an annual event called the Burning Man Global Leadership Conference / Regional Contact Conference that focuses on major projects and community leaders.
  2. Regional Contacts : R.C.’s are official representatives of Burning Man who are volunteers who help guide communities all over the world and help protect the brand.
  3. Community Leaders : also voluntary roles where people take on various Burning Man related projects that are on all kinds of scales. They often are a source of leadership for groups.
  4. Camp / Project / Art Leaders : often involved in smaller groups but are engaged on some level with any of the above.

Queer Burner Leadership

There is no one in charge of anything related to the Queer Burner Community. The work through the Queer Burners pages is also voluntary and many of the people who are self identifies leaders in the LGBTQ Burning Man scene have also gone to the Global Leadership Conference in order to better engage our community.

Since 2012 (3 years) Queer Burners host Toaster has held a leadership conference in San Francisco. The Queer Burner Leadership Network operates under handle Quire : Queer and Fire. We have had great success at these events and hope to see them continue in whatever form they take in the future.

Who’s Who in Queer Burner Realness

Several people have been very responsible for helping make this successful. We have leadership throughout the LBGTQ who have great successes in their own areas but occasionally amazing people reach out past that.

Mario CisnerosA personal note from Toaster: While I have many people to thank it cannot go without mentioning Mario Cisneros of Moonbow camp who left us in 2012. He called me on the phone days before he left the earth and gave me the most amazing pep-talk.

He started the Gay Pride parade at Burning Man and was the host of the Offcial Queer Burner Meet & Greet which I took over for now at least until the mantel is taken over by someone else.

Kitten CaffeeOne of the earliest people on the queer burner train was Kitten from Comfort & Joy. He has been a fantastic ally in many of the projects initiated by this group.

08282012_burn-3033 of the Mayors of Camp Beaverton have also been fantastic partners in this process and that includes Bucket, Foxy and Glo. It was hard getting in and meeting this amazing group of people but what fantastic people.

Scott BeardetteScott Beardette from camp Conception has also been a huge asset and partner over the years. His ability to network, troubleshoot and respond to community issues is amazing.

1959620_614030481983786_1056781635_nCyndi Vee and Pink Pants from Gender Blender have been  rock stars in this community. Running the largest trans/fluid sexual identity camp at Burning Man. Not only that, has really brought it to San Francisco Decom and have been a great ambassadors for Trans issues in our culture.

A lot of thanks and love out to many many others as well. Catcher and Red from the Down Low Club have allowed us to host the Official Meet & Greet at the Down Low Club the last 3 years and were strategic partners with Mario too.

Ranger Sirius from BloAsis who has been a great asset to the community and has also been helping Toaster on some additional projects beyond the QB banner.

manAndEdAnd Ed Edmond and all his amazing people out of Burner Buddies who have also hosted the after party for the Gay Pride parade for… more years than I can count. The also hand out the official Gay Cards!

It is more than a handful of people. Because voices make up a chorus and that is what Quire is all about either directly or indirectly. Kelly Kidd from Mudskippers, Matty from Yes,Please, Tom and Matt from Camp Stella, Turtle from Coffee Camp and more more more.

When Brian from Crisco Disco, Chickpea – Cody – Blitzy – Coop – Poohbear … oh so many from Comfort & Joy … all these people are more engage they are bringing something amazing.

So what about it?

The people talked about here have been real givers. They believe in this community and are engaged and always willing to give to their communities; not just queer burners but their regional and social communities.

THANK YOU!!!

Leadership in the Community

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

2012 Global Leadership Summit at the Kabuki Hotel
2012 Global Leadership Summit at the Kabuki Hotel

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.

qbls2We 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

by Mark DemmaWhen 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.

See all past details here:

Queer Burner Leadership: Announcement

Today we announced the 2014 Queer Burner Leadership Summit and Community Building Conference to be held at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco March 30th, 2014.

This is the 3rd annual event and will celebrate 5 years of Queer Burners [dot] Com as a service working to network the LGBTQ++ (LGBTQS and more) members of the Burning Man community that identity as Queer Burners. We are also greatly focused on the health and well being of the Gayborhood as an important presence at Burning Man.

The Leadership Summit is:

QBLS: The Queer Burner Leadership Network linking leaders / project managers / do’ers to others of the same ilk to network and supportive. Talking to each other in an open forum and carrying that connection away is invaluable.

Community Building Conference: Team building and inspiring people to carry the health, well-being and success of the camp / project /  community (Gayborhood) / city (BRC).

Join us March 30th in San Francisco. Tickets on sale soon, sliding scale, NOTAFLOF*.

————————————-

*NOTAFLOF: No one turned away for lack of funds is a philosophy inspired by the Radical Faery community to assure that all people in our community have a chance to participate.

Balance

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

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

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

The Scales of Thought

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

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

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

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

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

Courage Under Fire

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

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

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

Burning Man Leaders

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

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

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

Burning Man Participants

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

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

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

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

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

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

WTF?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tearing Down the Man

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

——————————————————-

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

TTITD –  That Thing In The Desert aka Burning Man

Community Care in the Big Tent

(x-post from Comfort & Joy mailing list)

As many of us prepare to leave for the Playa in a few days, I wanted to bring up a subject that I feel very strongly about —- caring for our community in our big tent (and our camp in general).

We are not anybody’s mothers, but we need to keep in mind that for some of our guests our big tent is a completely new (and hopefully magical) experience. They may NOT be ready/able to fully practice self-care, and may need us to look out for them.

If you see anybody who looks out of it, lost, or freaked out, it is always good to politely ask “are you OK?, “Do you need some water?”, or “Can I help?”. If needed, find out if they are here with friends and get them. If you need to wake somebody up because you think they may be out of it, then do it. If you feel someone needs medical attention, then insist on it. Someone passing out is a medical problem and should be handled (with love and without judgement).

Part of the magic of C&J is our sex-positive energy. This can be abused (especially against people experiencing it for the first time). Excess alcohol/etc can cause people to lose the ability to provide consent. This loss of consent can result in unwanted sexual advances or non-consensual unsafe sex. If something doesn’t look right, you are empowered to step in and investigate. If you feel that someone is out of it and unable to consent then end it. You may make someone unhappy or cause a scene, but this is our camp and we need to care for our guests. If you can’t do this, then find another camp member who can.

I’d love to hear any discussion from others of how to best keep ourselves and our guests safe while we are in Comfort & Joy.

Dot

Queer Burner Leadership Summit (QBLS)

We did it. I could not do it alone. Although I did put a lot of effort into this event it could not have happen if a few people had stepped up and lend a hand here and there. Whatever their efforts were I am grateful. Some of the people I would like to specifically thank is:

Bernadette Bohan | Kd Calfee aka Kitten |
Jean-Jaques | DJ Momme aka Fathom

This was our 2nd year and believe it or not year 3 is already somewhat on the calendar, but no real planning will go on until after the beginning of the year (September).

The expenses in 2012 for the event was $1200 and that may not sound like a lot, but it is when this is a non-money making operation. In 2013 we spent almost 50% of that to bring a stronger overall event.

Check out the reports and please make comments. If you can, please join us next year!

My eyeballs were falling out of my head the Friday night before. I was hoping to get out to First Friday in Oakland, but it was not meant to be. Alas, we had such an amazing day in the end.

We had attendees that traveled in from Georgia, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

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