Being a Community Ally

Reachout Australia Image

(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.  

Summa Health

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Radical Inclusion

glamcocks9Radical Inclusion: Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

A. Very new and different from the usual, ordinary or traditional
B. Favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions.
C. Very basic and important

What is so radical about being inclusive? I feel like it should be second nature to us. We are a diverse community with extremes in ever direction. How is this new and different? Probably because growing up gay has left some of us frail, cautious and weary. I have been raised as a gay man very differently than you, just as you have been raised differently as a gay man, woman, trans, etc. I use the word ‘raised’ loosely. I’m personally speaking in terms of when I started to live my life as a gay man. Who raised me? Who raised you?

I was raised as a gay man in Omaha, Nebraska. There, it was “Oh, he’s so fun! Let’s go dancing!” type of attitude from my straight friends, being gay was like a fairy tale. From my gay community it was a little more intricate. I was the new gay out of the closet and I was curious and others were curious about me. I hooked up carelessly. I fell in love. My heart was broken. I drank a lot. I danced a lot. I was challenged with drugs. I was learning a lot and I lived curiously within my means. I made best friends, met some mean characters and connected with everyone in between.

“Oh, he’s a whore.” whispers the sexually frustrated gay.
“Let’s do shots and make-out with strangers!” cheers the vivacious gay.
“He’s got HIV, be careful” ignorantly says one gay.
“He’s cute, kiss him. Then let’s go to Flixx for girls night” encouraged the lesbian.
“You think you’re better than me because you’re cuter than me?” shouts the just as cute gay.
“You’re fun, let’s dance on the speaker” flirts the queer.
“Stick with me kid, you won’t have any problems” winks the drag queen.
“Hi, I’m Mike.” says my future lover.

Those are just a few examples of statements I would hear any given night about me and/or other people in a bar. Even at a young age, I thought I knew what was right and what was wrong. I can proudly say that I frequently challenged my fellow gays, and it often lead to either a change in behavior or the loss of an acquaintance. I too have been challenged by my fellow gay man and woman, and have grown from my ignorances. I say “gays” because I didn’t feel a strong connection with the word “queer” at that time in my life. I was obviously in the wrong city.

Many people had a positive impact on my life as well. Chris, for example, is the happiest gay man I have ever met. He is 40-something… eh, he will always be 40 years old to me. I swear he grows younger every year. He has this joie de vivre that transcends to everyone he encounters. He could be talking about his bankruptcy, his heart attack, his crazy sister or the death of a drag queen and yet all of his stories have this warm and light tone. He never undermines the seriousness of any situation, but he simply embraces the reality for what it is. I’ve held him when he cried. He has held me in his arms while I cried, once when my heart was broken and another when I shared with him that I was HIV positive. No matter who you are, what you wear, where you are from, how long you’ve been out of the closet, your religion, body type, your sexual drive…you always feel like you belong in his presence. Chris is one of the many who raised me as a gay man.

So to me radical inclusion is about accepting our differences, and most importantly embracing myself so I am not my own stranger. “Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community”. Anyone may be a part of our Queer Community. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community. To be radical is to challenge and change ordinary and traditional ways, especially about what is very basic and important, such as a sense of belonging. It’s important for me as a human to respect myself in order to embrace another. As a Queer man, it is important for me to embrace my life style for me to truly respect another’s life style.

No one is perfect, yet we are all beautiful. Shall we challenge how we may have been raised and shed the bad and embrace the good?

The Man burns in 6 months and 30 days.

[I encourage comments and discussion, as I have no expectations with this post, other than challenging thought]


Originally posted on Faceboook w/ comments here