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.

Burning Man GLC: Foxy Trip Report

4 days of great sessions, based on tracks such as Civic Activation, Community Events, Leadership Skills, and Organizational Development.

I attended: Effective Leadership Skills in the Burnerverse, Creating a Culture of Consent, Danger Ranger’s (the founder of the Rangers) talk ‘Coyote goes to Burning Man’, Cultivating Strong Regional Rangers, plus the closing Plenary.

What struck me personally was the idea of the ‘grey area’, not only in leadership, but also with consent.

Leadership

Many of you have been in situations where you are asked to make a decision as a community leader on something that does not have a black or white answer. Looking at both sides of the equation, might not garner enough information. What I took from the session, is that we as leaders should exercise good judgement, be empathetic, listen, give and get advice, look at what is good for the community as a whole, and then make a decision based as best you can. If you do your due diligence for those grey area situations, and be open to revisiting the situation if new information arises, you may not make everyone happy, but you have led in an ethical and thoughtful way. Embrace the grey area, you can learn a lot from it.

Consent

Creating a culture of consent is top of mind for many of us, which is awesome. Again, that grey area came up, and I heard an interesting concept, that of Consent Mistakes. Verbal, sober consent should be the norm, but what if you thought you had consent and you actually didn’t. What if you consented to something, but for reasons such as peer pressure, you weren’t actually consenting. I think we can all take a deeper look into what it means to really have and give consent. Even just acknowledging a Consent Mistake, can be empowering if you had an experience that just didn’t sit right with you. You are then able to take steps, have conversations, or get help if you need it.

Regional Rangers

In this session, a lot was discussed about the different cultures of the regionals. Did you know Rangers have to deal with issues with Whales in Victoria BC.? There are many Regional Rangers, that don’t go to TTITD, they just do the Regionals. Perhaps that is something some of you might be interested in doing, if you aren’t set on becoming a Black Rock City Ranger. If so, let me know and I can start the ball rolling for you.

Coyote Goes to Burning Man

This was an amazing, insightful, inspiring, wander through the history of pranksters in San Francisco which ultimately led us to Burning Man and it’s culture. The Coyote as a symbol of pranksterism in Native American culture, was fascinating. In England, the Fox is our prankster, this made me very happy. If you have a chance to listen to this talk, it’s well worth it.

I learnt a great many things, met wonderful people, and heard amazing stories from Burners without Borders, makers, and community leaders. We Queer Burners have an amazing culture, let’s share it!

Changes to Theme Camp Thinking

What makes a theme camp? What gives some of these staying power while others fade? Who is really making a mark on the culture, while who is just producing a glorified camp with friends? Truth is Burning Man is demanding camps innovate and change. Camps that are not evolving are getting placed less and less.

There are 5 standards for present and future camps need to meet (from April 2014 news letter from Placement)

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

Gayborhood camps might think they have a better chance of placement without innovation or evolution because they are a staple of the area. Some camps have been really setting the bar in their presentation. Another area of note is the friendly nature of the camp; is that is inviting – engaging – interactive? Some camps have made remarkable steps in that area as well.

“Community is the successful result of people coming together for a common goal”**

comfort__joy_2006Comfort & Joy has been the epicenter of the Gayborhood for a number of years now. Their neon courtyard created by Chickpea and art pieces by Neon suck people into their space and do not require a lot of direct engagement to make people feel welcome when visiting. They do have fluffers who keep their space refreshed which is an additional welcoming factor of their space.

Over the last few years the camps that have made strong presentations:

  • Comfort & Joy – Glamcocks – BloAsis – Barbie Death Camp – Paradise Motel – Celestial Bodies – Mystopia

Most improved process of making people feel welcome in their camps:

  • Glamcocks – Camp Beaverton  – Gender Blender

Camps to watch grow in recent years:

  • Hanging Gardens – Disco Chateau – Peterson’s Pink Pagoda – Sun Guardians

Exciting new camps that brought a lot of fun to the playa:

  • Cub House -Gaylactic Village (now including Homojitoville)

Gone are the days when the Borg are willing to let camps stay the same. Theme camps have to become more interactive or provide services that make the city more inviting. They can come in many forms from Snow Cones, to Super Hero Parties to Oil Wresting (3 camps had this in 2015).

There are some new subjects coming to light in the 2016 season that have yet to officially be directed, but you can look forward to seeing:

  • Frontage lighting for camps including day oriented camps
  • More rules on sound: sound camps in the city
  • … and more I am sure

Want some help with your camp infrastructure or plans for 2016. Well, we have news! There is going to be a Camp Creator summit coming to the Bay Area in 2016 where camp leaders, vendors and builders can get together. It will be called LiSP 2016: Leadership in Silly Places. Stay tuned for announcements and ticket sales.

Working together and networking is a good way to up your game for 2016. The baseline is higher now. The good thing is that Placement is keeping us all on the ball with their mailing list. Get on it by contacting Placement through the web site or emailing placment@burningman.org. You will be automatically added if you submit your Placement Application in April 2016.

**source quote unknown
Banneer Image from Toaster
2nd inset image for Comfort & Joy unknown

2015 Burning Man: Global Leadership Conference

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

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

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

– taken from the conference web site page

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

Scope

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

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

Politics and Wrangling Not Your Thing?

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

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

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

10 Principles

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

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

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

the 11th Principle

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

What’s up with Queer Burners?

We are gearing up for some new changes and also trying to make the site more dynamic and interactive for the 2015 season moving forward. We are so excited about the Carnival of Mirrors theme and what Burning Man has predicted with the upcoming event. The new Midway… if it is anything like the Souk from 2014 …wow.

How things happen?

We are looking for people to invest in a few ways: 1. Fund Raising which is starting mid January and ending March 30th that will provide us funds for the following 3 things: improve the web site, prepare and set the Leadership Summit for 2015, and then create a meetup for Queer Burners, 2. Get more people writing on the site, 3. …and finally give more people the tools to engage each other and promote and create an unbelievable kinetic energy for the upcoming season.

IndiGogo

The fund raising campaign will begin in mid January and we are looking for up to $4000.

It is time to take the project up to another level. This has been a strictly grass roots level project managed by a single person with occasional help from committed leaders in various regions elsewhere geographically.

  1. Upgrade the web site with more user friendly features and a better social networking strata; upgrade software, upgrade hosting, buy and install applications to make it more independent and user focused. About $500.
  2. Originate a Queer Burner Campout on private land that we can get campers to and from easily so we can get maximum attendance; deposit for land, insurance, a fund to help artists and performers, and just enough to get started as the rest and a bank will be created by charging a fee for the event. About $2500.
  3. Create a more intense and focused Leadership Summit for 2015 with  sound principles that will fulfill and help camp, project and community leaders with LGBTQ++ (all inclusive) in our community forge ahead strong. Provide programs that might require outside speakers. About $1000.

While more details will appear below, above are the bullets of what this funding is requesting. The goal is to provide a strong resource for LGBTQ burners that stands on its own since it is a project that is not associated with or connected to Burning Man, LLC or the Burning Man Project TM; this is a project created for the community and strength of the Gayborhood* that is not for profit and not a private entity.

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

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.

Leadership in Queer Burners

We held the first Queer Burner Leadership Summit (QBLS) in 2012 as the pre-step before the internationally attended Burning Man Regional Summit now called the Burning Man Leadership Summit (BMLS) and Regional Conference. There was a very important notable difference from this year to that is that there were some genuine issues that needed to be brought from one to the other; safety. [Link to the 2012 Summary]

In 2012 there was a nutty result of the way tickets were managed that was exposing Burning Man to an influx of people who were never part of the culture before or knowledgeable about the basic tenants of Burning Man (10 Principals) and have problems with personal and physical boundaries. The discussion was brought to the BMLS and we received a dicey reaction at first (the Org looked pretty bad as a result) but in the end Burning Man / the Org really came through! [report]

This year in 2013, we are focusing on the internal forces that make our community stronger. Yes, we Queer Burners are a community that is another chink in the mesh that makes us a stronger fabric of the whole quilt that makes us part of the Burning Man Community/Culture.

Leadership comes from a handful of people who are part of the unit. Successful leadership seeks out those others who are willing to help them grow into whatever wings they have. Do we have successful leadership under the banner of Queer Burners? I say yes.

In the above video there is something that is very prolific in how we are looking at the people around us and help raise people to get them to be a functioning part of our communities and units. What tribe does your camp members belong to. See how many are part of the 2nd Tribe versus the first. I dare say there are few in our culture that could survive as the 1st one. Check out this TED video and see what I mean.

Do these exist among leaders in this community? While we, as leaders, are looked to carrying the flag we need people who are self motivated to follow it. Often they cannot do it on their own and need a boost psychologically or by shifting priorities to help them get there

“The greatest road to enlightenment is
helping someone else get there first.”

The above quote comes from the Dahli Lama and plays over and over in my head when I think of success. Please check out the video and add your comments below.

Register today to attend the Queer Burner Leadership Summit through Eventbrite. Events on the weekend of April 6th include but are not limited to: [RSVP for QBLS on this link]

 

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