Trip Report: 2014 QBLS

This was the third year for the QBLS and it was amazing. See details on previous years, including trip reports at the library of links below. Special thanks to all who came and those who traveled to be a part of it.

2012 | 2013 | 2014

The event was held at The Box Factory in San Francisco; the Box Factory is run by Bernadette Bohan who is a great friend to the community and has been very generous about letting projects use her art/living space.

Who is Queer Burners?

2014 QBLSQueer Burners is a 5 year old project designed to provide a network for LGBTQ++ burners a means of communicating and is also dedicated to promoting the Gayborhood at Black Rock City,  Nevada. We are not political and we are not a whipping post. This is a 10 principles based idea system who seeks to promote those idea on and off the playa.

Starting off…

There was a lot to be said and a lot of feeling expressed at this year’s event the spun off the agenda items and started right out of the gate when everyone introduced themselves and talks about their individual projects. A couple highlights included:

  • Terry Goodman’s Time To Burn App on Android and iPhone
  • Camp Beaverton & Gender Blender’s amicable separation
  • A new system to help the community at-large in personal safety

The Past

Toaster went over some of the key items from previous QBLS including a break down of ways of getting people motivated to be part of camp activities; see the who story from the 2012 QBLS and the amazing TED video posted there.

We also highlighted past discussions of the Gayborhood  and why we feel it is a very important service to the community; safety, awareness, and it has become an attraction.

Social Networking / Fund Raising

Cam Brochu cam in from EBB asking about social networking while Glo from Beaverton was asking about fund raising. While we talked about a lot of things here were the quick highlights:

  • Social Networking: Facebook is the media of choice right now that can networking with twitter.com, pintertrest.com, tumblr.com and more. SnapChat is popular but not always ideal. Always embed, use #tags, call out partners using @name (name or twitter name). More
  • Fund Raising: Few people have the remarkable success of C&J. We all need to find the right niche for those goals. C&J has a captive audience; who is your audience? With that, is crowd fund the right channel for you: kickstarter.com, indiegogo.com and more. More

Intense Feelings

There were a lot of intense feelings over various issues including, but not limited to, what is perceived to be BMorg’s general view of the LGBTQ++ community; which very much seems to be a hands over the eyes approach. Keeping something very important in mind: BMorg ideology as best as we can interpret seems to be that we are all part on one melting pot.

LGBTQ Issues: Theoretically: So, women issues, racial issues, spiritual issues, sexual orientation issues don’t fall on their radar because those are personal and not community issues.

Personal Safety: while the Regional Team has emphasized personal responsibility (as stated on the back of the ticket as an agreement); sexual assault, homophobia and other issues like that still fall on community members for their individual choices.

  • Self Care: Someone asked why these were BMorg problems they had to deal with. What do we as a community do to combat it? A project was discussed called Secure Sanctuary that is in the first stages of development answering all the above.

Feelings were frequently intense as people share beliefs that came from deeply felt positions on the above mentioned items.

Tension Relief

Special thanks to some people who really shined:

  • Theo (aka Turtle) for coming and talking to us about the Cafe in Center Camp. Who also helped out with a lot of history information that will be seen on this site soon.
  • Jean-Jaques who was our chief volunteer and who helped everything around the summit work smoothly.
  • Bradley (aka Badger) for making an amazing lunch!

And on a special note! There was an energizing surprise set up for the late afternoon that would allow us to start shutting down for the day. SF CHEER camp to liven up the scene and wow, did they!

Final Session

After SF Cheer left the scene we were all blown away and excited! The video will tell all. But we managed to get back on track and jump back into the agenda where we hit on Queer Burner History. A page was on this site with a short chronology that was pulled down until a lot of information could be changed or updated.

What was different this year?

Not a whole lot, but it was also very different. We had a lot of new people who came out to play and be involved. We had some strong personalities but our focus was making what we do better and helping each other in the process.

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*.

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*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.

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

TTITD –  That Thing In The Desert aka Burning Man

Admin Notice: Membership and a Toaster

Membership is back open now that Burning Man 2013 is finished. This Toaster is back and while I was there in the desert I was working it. Yes, I  talk to people and I try to continue build on this idea that this is an important community.

manAndEdQueer Burners is a project I started at the end of 2008 / beginning of 2009 as a static web site as a place for LGBTQ burners to connect. It had nothing to do with the Gayborhood or creating leadership.

I explained my actions to a camp mate and their reactions was, ‘wow, you are mister popular‘. It’s not about that. I talk about Queer Burners because it is important that we stay united. I am forced to defend my belief that the Gayborhood is vital and that uniting camps and people in the community is as important as community leaders in the Castro, Boys Town or any other community inside a city.

The QBLN: Queer Burner Leadership Network is just the next level in this project and has resulted in the Queer Burner Leadership Summit over the last 2 years. These have been very inspiring and community strengthening exercises.

Nobody appointed me to do this just as much as no one tells you to do the right thing when you know it is what should be done. I do not do this for ego or to be the coolest kid on the block. I would gladly have someone just as committed to this community right there helping out. So far there has been limited inspiration from anyone to help manage this project, but I am getting help and I appreciate it.

For all the people who have thanked me for this work, I cannot share enough appreciation in return. The important thing to remember is that this is community driven.

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]

 

Queer Burner Community

There has been a lot of talk from Queer Burners: Toaster (me) about what this web site is meant to accomplish. There is a mission statement that anchors its meaning. At the 2012: Queer Burner Leadership Summit where there was a deliberate attempt to get Queer identified and Queer friendly camps to work together and support each other.

To rally our culture inside a community inside a city of like minded (BRC) to strengthen our participation by uniting and overcoming challenges that might come our way. Uniting Queer Burners for their creative and proactive efforts in the BRC and beyond the trash fence.

Our community does not end at a blue flag at the end of a dirt patch in the Black Rock desert. We are layers and layers of titles, identities and passions and aspirations that put something like this somewhere in the wide matrix of our individual lives.

That was the intent and at the beginning of 2012 there was an effort to start taking that a step further with Quire.

The Leadership Summit (QBLS)

In it’s first year there was a degree of success getting leaders to talk to each other and on some levels has sustained. Not everyone has opted into this network an no official membership has emerged to keep leaders active with each other with the exception of the Facebook page. That does get a lot of the cross-posting.

There is no reason why a bunch of people who are camping in the desert 7 days a year should sustain a network that:

  • helps cross-promote community service events
  • fund raisers
  • member support
  • individual and groups special projects

We are not those people. We have adopted a lifestyle based around the 10 principles and have merged that into a life of self expression that in some ways is different than many of our counterparts out there. (I will explain more about this, but trust me it is a perception*)

Quire

In the agenda for the QBLS this subject was listed as the “Queer Burner Fund, llc” and presented to the attendees as a proposal to create a legal entity that will let Queer Burners [dot] Com do new things. Those ‘things’ continue the points made above but also:

  • create a window for funding artists connected to the community
  • create a channel for a financed civic project
  • sponsor and insure our own events
  • create an emergency fund

Why do we need something like Quire for the above points? We can do all of these things without it, but creating a legal entity named Quire provides the community the ability to produce using a limited liability structure and a financial format that does not put an individual or persons at risk while working to do those things.

Quire also lives beyond an individual like me who would be trying to manage people, money and resources while hoping to avoid being sued if someone got hurt on any endeavor. That could have included the QBLS!!! If someone got hurt or food poisoning over lunch I could have been sued and there would have been nothing I could have done about it.

Quire, beyond the legal crap, is a good platform for Queer Burner leadership to engage. Use the web site (linked to Queer Burners [dot Com) to help cross promote and seek resources. Leaders will have a private registration with a lot of control on the data exchanged on the site.

Conclusion

There has been some (SOME) criticism against what this site is. It usually comes from people in the burner community that have not bothered to really engage what is here – OR – have no use for it. We invest in what we think is missing. From my point of view we have this world or amazing queer people unlike any other demographic that talk to each other 7 days a year.

At the Burning Man Leadership Summit this year I met three queer Regional Contacts with very different points of view on this project (queerburners.com). One was supportive but had a hard time grasping why this was ‘needed’. Another gave me the impression that I was just off the mark. The third was extremely supportive.

Fact is there are many queers who are burners; they blend in and engage the community as a whole feeling no different than the others. There are burners that are queers, loud and proud, and project life through EXTREME radical self expression.

Queer Burners Project (queerburners.com) is not unlike it’s own theme camp with a lot of couches and a posting board in the desert. We have leaders and followers. Since we are all over the world (literally!) and have leaders in all these places, let’s help each other along the way.

Quire allows for a network inside the Queer Burner structure to help with all those lovely points above and protects those who do. We as a community are still leaves on the branches of another community to the trunk of another.

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