(NOTE: The comments below are an opinion and not official policy of Queerburners. This is not in anyway officially connected to the Burning Man Project)
Recently, with the impetus of the camp directory, I wanted to clarify what it means to be an ally for LGBTQ Burners. I might have been a bit “stern” in my feedback. This is because we live in a time where LGBT people are being demonized by conservatives to deflect from a problematic agenda. It is more important than ever to know who our community partners actually are. It is also important to know what allyship can mean. Granted, it can be very different for various people. Maybe there are layers?
Flag waiving was one of the comments made. We see that kind of shit all the time with corporations and businesses who are trying to attract LGBT dollars. Or, the blow back on their Allyship has caused their business’ to reel backward fearing a loss of revenue as a result. Even individuals have claimed an allyship and been shamed into stepping back. A true ally will stand through the storm, because all storms pass.
Here is a great example of Allyship in a statement I found from Summa Health:
Anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can support the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) community. But being an ally of this population takes action. Allies work to stay informed on current LGBT issues and events. They speak up for what’s right and they support equality by fighting for policies that protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination.
Allies are important and welcomed supporters of the LGBTQ movement, as they have one of the most powerful, influential voices. They help create a platform for activism to fight homophobia and transphobia, and they personally advocate for equal treatment for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Love this… I came back to it several times as I explored the subject. Visit their website to see employee statements that are truly touching. (Also Check out Reachout Australia)
How does this apply to Burning Man or Black Rock City?
The battle to get the Queerborhood secured for LGBTQ camps has been a climb. The last great battle came in 2016 when we met with Placement when it was headed by Answergirl. We were able to drive home the point the purpose of the neighborhood is the safety and security of queer people who are vulnerable at the event. Maybe you are one of those people that does not believe things like that happen at Burning Man, and you would be wrong. (2016 Survey)
No matter how you cut it, Burning Man is a very heteronormative environment with a hard focus on being CIS and white and privileged and able bodied. Any regional event you attend is clearly a hetero focused event with some gay people, which is why I feel it is important to have our own Queer Regional Events and we invite our hetero allies. We had 4 years of success in that area from 2015 to 2018, but not since. However, events like Something Queer and BAAAHS have made really strong efforts in that area. And Comfort & Joy have been doing it a long time.
In 2023 with all the anti LGBT agendas in the United States, even Burning Man has dropped the ball. With something as simple as dropping the LGBT category from on-playa events it has reverberated in how we make our presence known. So, we are producing our own What Where When.
Maybe you are asking: Well, we have the Queeborhood! What else do you want?
- LGBT Burners are still a very marginalized group and there are fae, GNC, and Trans people (more specific: anyone not CIS and white and male and masc) and safety and community are still top priority and those things get lost in heavy environments.
What is RIDE?
Burning Man RIDE can be found linked here. There is a huge push in Burning Man on RIDE initiatives with a specific focus on BIPOC participants. In the 7/22/2023 meeting there was an announcement about a new effort for Blind as well as Deaf Burners in the community. The support for LGBT Burners over time has been a real roller coaster. IMO with only 13% of burners going to Black Rock City identifying as BIPOC the real problem is CIS white leadership of BMorg need to prove to the world they are really Diverse by forcing the conversation instead of dealing with the people that make up the entire rainbow of loyal participants.
- Take a look at the Burning Man RIDE resources page and how they are all about everything BUT LGBT burners. Queerburners in one form or another has been active in the community for 15 Years and still have yet to be given an ounce of respect from the Org.
I am not saying that BIPOC efforts should be reduced or impeded in anyway. Having more representation from all cultural backgrounds is super important to the DNA of the Burning Man idea.
Burning Man RIDE is only about POC (People of Color), which is great. However, the BIGGEST and most participatory segment of the marginalized population of this phenomena called Burning Man is LGBTQ burners and we are routinely kicked to the curb in spite of many LGBTQ staff at BMorg headquarters and leadership.
Burning Man RIDE lets the leadership of Burning Man point into a crowd and say: Look we have POCs here. LGBTQ people rarely stand out on group photos. We need to be able to point to the pictures and see more than Instagram models and TechBros and Celebrities.
This is the hardest part, because I have let Burning Man and the LGBT Burner world become a part of who I am and to think I could lose that is like losing a parent or family member. I have been a strong advocate for Queerburners behind the scenes as well as by writing cheerful blogs like this (sarcasm). I have let myself be involved in our leadership on Alabama Street in San Francisco (BMorg HQ) and have played in a lot of different ponds.
I have seen Burning Man Leadership fall down and then get up even stronger over and over in these fifteen years. I think accountability is vital.
When I hear important leadership like Maid Marian, Level, Answergirl, and Andie Grace using language that lessens us as a presence of this community, it really hurts. These are people who I thought were allies, and in some cases actual queer burners, get lost in the politics of the office. Where are our real allies? Who is advocating for the LGBTQ PARTICIPANTS OF THIS COMMUNITY?
Following the meeting on 7/22 and after listening to Level, there was a part of me ready to give up entirely on leadership on Alabama Avenue. Seeing the things I am seeing on the RIDE official pages for Burning Man really makes me see how they DO NOT SEE US. The world is heading in the wrong direction and to me it seems Burning Man is a reflection of that. Burning Man has always been a reflection of the world.
Truth be told… a lot of feedback is that LGBTQ leaders are glad not to get officially involved with the BMorg, and I understand why. This is my last post on this subject, take it or leave it. Comments welcome below.