Queer Caucus

I am so excited to see that leaders in this community have taken up a torch for the benefit of the 7:30 sector for the Queerborhood (formerly the Gayborhood). Over the years Placement (a burning man office that oversees the way the city is populated by placing camps) has threatened to break up and separate the Gayborhood time and time again. It was originally something that came together because camps made it happen organically and out of a need (see link: refer to 1997 date).  In 2015 (link to details) we had our first Rainbow Road where queer camps were generally placed along “D” road between 7:00 and 8:30 under the influence of a staunch community ally in Placement named Hepkitten.

Former head of Placement Answergirl called us all in around May 2016 under the assumption that LGBTQ camps were the reason the sector received an unusually high amount of applications. Was this queer camps setting the scales off? I think in the end the real truth was that queer camps were bringing something very special to the sector and that ally camps and camps with some LGBTQ wanted to be part of that vibe.

The thing is, I have visited other sectors of Black Rock City, and each has it’s own special feel. Breaking the Gayborhood into 2 pieces will not solve the high number of applications for the 7:30 sector. 4:00 has it’s own energy. 2:00 and 10:00 as well as 9:00 have a flavor, culture and consciousness of its own.

New head of Placement is Trippi Longstalking who has seem to shown she is an advocate for the culture and creative energy we as LGBTQ people bring to the table. Us, along with ally camps, work hard to build something special out there. But even as late as Burning Man: iRobot 2018 we were still peppered through the sector in clumps and just like the map from 2016 showed (along with the notes Dare: Glamcocks made on a photo graphic of the official map). In the beginning of the 2018 season this year the Placement newsletter gave foreboding information about a sector shakeup that sent a wave of nervousness through the community given our extremely uncertain place in it.

We seem to be fighting for several things that some people have lost sight of: the right to radically represent LGBTQ culture in the most positive way possible. We are fighting to make sure that people represented in those letters are not further marginalized and taken advantage of  by assault, rape, gay bashing and trans-phobia. They happen out there today. They happen at Burning Man, Regional Events and IRL. Safety was the primary concern for people who were surveyed: Results 2016 P1 and Results 2016 P2 [Pending review]

Yet there are those dismissing voices who call for the Queerborhood to be dismantled and dismiss it with prejudice as the Gay Ghetto. They also claim that the Gayborhood keeps people locked in the bubble and others out. See the results of the on-playa Placement meeting with camps from 2016 where voices determined to squash queer camps showed up and hijacked the meeting for their own agenda.

Why do requests of LGBTQ camps to be placed closer together go unheeded even with all the information given to them? Not everyone is going to want to be in the cluster, but those asking for it should. Some would say they were already doing that, but smaller clusters. And why should they do that and not for anyone else? Well, they do for Kidsville but that was a whole other bag of bees. And do they think by spreading us out more this will resolve anything more for them or us?

It seems like Placement is evolving and we have yet to see how we are fitting into the discussion. The conversation in 2016 with Answergirl left more confusion that results especially for me when she said: “Imagine the Gayborhood [changes or goes away or something like that]…” and used the eraser to remove it from the whiteboard and then back peddle wildly to clarify.

It is time for Placement to acknowledge the Queerborhood as it has been present at Burning Man in one form or another for 15+ years. Answergirl told myself and Cyndi NoPants with a wave of her hand at the 2017 GLC that the Gayborhood does not exist so there is no reason to talk about it going away or not. Trippi Longstalking was in the room preparing to take over Placement quietly observing and I looked at her. I looked at Trippi who had the most interesting expression on her face because it said something to me I have yet to understand. Was it the hope that a new sheriff was in town or was she considering how she might have handled that discussion. I have yet to know. And this whole post is my own interpretation of the events.

I know we have allies in the BMorg. I know that BM fundamentals that have built the city do not want to group camps by specialty. No more red light district? Kidville is in tact. This year a lot of food driven camps were clustered closely. Musician camps like Rootpile camp have started consolidating. When Placement talks about the future what exactly are they getting to? And when will they acknowledge our progress?

See the following links for more information on this subject:

Action Events Taking Place:

Let’s Talk About … IT

Starting somewhere around 2006 an active member of the community named Mario Cisneros started a gay pride parade event that would begin at the foot of the man and wind into the city. It was usually a well turned out event because politically there was a lot still going on in the United States and in some other parts of the world where LGBT and other sexual self identifying people were struggling for rights and not to forget Mario’s flare for getting people together.

Burning Man Gay Pride
Mario: Left Side of Screen

Mario was part of Moonbow camp. It was, at least for a period of time, usually found near 3:00 and C in Black Rock City and was where the original Official Queer Burner Meet & Greet was before it moved over to the Down Low Club. All of this was done, at least through 2016, in Mario’s memory thanks to several members of the community struggling to keep it alive.

Mario Cisneros
Mario Cisneros

In 2014 the popularity and attendance started to wain and the organizer tried to update the concept to make it more interesting to the community at large but it never really caught fire. Mario passed in 2012 so from 2012 to 2015 Toaster from the Sun Guardians Village tried mastering it with a more pub crawl / parade vibe. Justin from Camp Proper took over in 2016 and had about the same, perhaps slightly better success than what Toaster finished with.

What Happen to LGBT Pride at Burning Man?

When talking about LGBT Pride in Black Rock City there was a dichotomy that was grossly apparent even in a part of the city that has been traditionally called the Gayborhood (to Rainbow Road for inclusivity). On one hand there was a thought that ALL burners were playing on the same field and there was no more us versus them. In fact, the powers that be at Burning Man Headquarters have stated they want to see queer camps dispersed through the city.

On the other hand, there are a lot of Queer Burners who have asked the Burning Man Organization to keep the queer neighborhood in tact for reasons of safety and security which has already been discussed in previous posts on this site. There was a theory that LGBTQAI feel threatened physically and emotionally on various levels; specifically female and non-conforming gender identities based on a recent survey (May 2016 by the Queer Burner Leadership Network); that the close quarters of Queer Camps help created a layer of safety and refuge for vulnerable queers and women.

The various positions on Pride at Burning Man made even a seasoned queer pause and doubt the importance of celebrating ones social/sexual self as opposed to others. The drive behind pride, at least within the fence around Black Rock City, became lost in the dust at some point.

Why Pride?

Why to Burning Man of all places? Most people think of Burning Man as the adult playground of love and harmony. EVERYONE loves each other and free hugs abound. This is the story that touches every soul who is compelled back annually and let nothing get in their way. All of that is absolutely true.

The dark underbelly of that has been physical and sexual assault that has resulted in a powerful and present campaign by great organizations like BED (Bureau of Erotic Discourse) and Safe Place.

But back to pride… there are a lot of old queerdos that go to Burning Man who are 80 years old and there are a lot of young people who never saw those battles in the streets for equality. To some Stonewall was an honorable mention in a history book (maybe) or something written on a rainbow flag they saw in June (gay pride month).

  • In our lifetime, even today, a person can be killed – loose their job – be thrown out of their home – all just for being LGBT. It does not matter what your age is. This happens today.
  • In our lives we queers are often forced by survival to choose our own faemily (spelling intentional) because the ones we were raised with cannot relate.
  • Queer teens are, as long as records have been kept, have the highest rates of suicide.

Pride, even if YOU as an individual don’t need it in the moment, that you know you have a softer place to go to if your other system fails. It is a light, rainbow colored, that will embrace.

Pride has FAILED some people who feel shamed or ostracized by their contemporaries or elders. As much as we try and sweep up the wreckage and want to heal that soul sometimes we cannot.

Pride and self worth is something we as a community embrace on our own terms, but as a community stand together to be that soft cushion for those in need where we can. The key word: Community. No matter how many people who cannot understand that history and vulnerability that are out there, the rest of us have to stand strong and bright so darkness does not win.

LGBT Pride and Burning Man

It has always seemed clear that the 10 Principles written by Larry Harvey for Burning Man were things that would resonate with LGBT people, specifically because it already represents what we have been trying to do our whole lives. It would seem the white-hetero-heavy board of directors for Burning Man were looking for the same exact thing as Queer Burners and people residing in the Rainbow Road section of the city.

According to the 2015 census 1/3rd of the citizens of Black Rock City are LGBT self identified. In 2016 the questions on the survey changed somewhat thanks to input from members of the Gender Blender camp to the powers that be that included more definitive terms people can self identify in the 2016 census. Look up #demographics on this site to see past census data.

The 10 Principles draw some parallel lines to basic needs from Burning Man participants to Queer Burners as a substructure of that community as a whole.

Out of the 70,000 people of Black Rock City only a small percentage actively engage in the Rainbow Road sector comparatively. However, the energy generated by queer camps has attracted mixed and mostly straight camps to the same sector for the same benefits queer camps have asked for. Camps like Orphan Endorphine identify as queer friendly and have been great community partners who want to be near us.

2017 Pride

There is yet new blood working on a 2017 event at Burning Man with new management. It is with great hope and anticipation we will see more of the community drawing together under the 2017 pride banner. We have a responsibility to represent the best qualities of ourselves and our community.

There have been some true champions in this story over the years. Many are shown in the #Queer Burners People hashtag who have contributed to this effort over time. Collectively Gender Blender, Beaverton and Glamcocks have made great strides in building bridges in and out of the queer neighborhood.

There is a vital need for LGBT Pride! Our fight is not over. All the rights bestowed upon us in the USA could vanish in a month, a week, or any amount of time. Even at Burning Man, there is still a chance that Placement will dismantle the queer camps in spite of our arguments to the contrary. The truth is there are more arguments against it out there than for it. We need to keep pride, community, and being present for those that need a hand always in mind.

If you are the one who needs that hand then talk to people… but a hand is different than a handout and radical self reliance is a scary road.

And finally: Placement has not taken a position to dismantle the queer neighborhood completely but it is a reality we might soon need to face. There was talk about breaking it in half at a 2016 meeting attended by your community leaders. Use your voice for good and together we will be a stronger community. Be engaged and help us promote a better united and supportive hug to embrace those when they need it.

Trip Report: Burning Man Placement

On Saturday the 29th Burning Man called in the troops and passed out a mega-ton of information about camps preparing for the playa. That also means preparing people and resources.

It can’t be emphasized any more that this: get your shit together. If you are planning on requesting placement you will be working with the most gregarious team at Burning Man and they want your experience to be the best possible. However, your project has to be thought out and complete and submitted by July!

Hot Button Issues

You have to see the right pages for the right thing. There is no single source for all your questions. Just remember this, deadlines matter and getting your documentation in early counts.

  • Theme Camp FAQ
  • Outside Services: Thinks have changed: Linked Here
  • Vehicle Passes: MUST HAVE: Recommended Blog Post
    (Note: this is still very confusing. How do people who need vehicle passes get them if they are not purchased at the time of the ticket purchase? Who thought of this? How do low-income ticket purchasers get passes…)
    – Alternatives: The Burner Express

This tiny blog cannot answer all the important questions, but radical self-reliance means a guuurl has got to take action with immediacy. Wurkit.

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