Burning Man 2023 – A trip report from the Future Turtles

Editors note: This afterburn report was written by Jetpack from the Future Turtles and reflects their experience alone. If you participated in Burning Man and would like to add your trip report to this blog, we’d love to publish it! Just email us at info@queerburners.org.

We went home!

For the 36 turtles who came to Black Rock City this year, it was an incredible year.

The conditions were… hard. Burning Man is always hard, but this year was worse than usual. The weather was hotter. There were more dust storms and whiteouts, which always seemed to be at the least convenient times (the build team put up most of the camp in super windy whiteout conditions). The things that we depend on the Burning Man organization to get right (roads, ice, fuel, gate and exodus) … were not right.

As a camp, we had doubled in size, and a majority of us (24) had never been to Burning Man before. We were way more ambitious in terms of the camp we built, the interactive programs we put on, the quality of the food we made, and a lot more.

There was a ton of work, but we were ready for it, and we got it all done. Everybody pitched in, even the sparkly newbies, so, thank you, sparkly newbies.

Advance Work

One of the things that made Burning Man easy this year was a large amount of work that was done in advance to get ready. We had two work weekends in Reno getting all our gear cleaned, sorted, and ready to go. Our San Francisco turtles built a beautiful wood bar and DJ booth that will serve us for years to come.

Early Build Week

The early build team converged in Reno a full week before the start of the event. We loaded trucks and unboxed new gear, and bought a lot of supplies, before heading to playa and arriving at a city that was still mostly empty. We could see the Man from our tents because the entire area from Esplanade to D was unbuilt.

For the first night, our priority was just to build our own tents so we had a place to sleep. Unfortunately, at about 2am, a major wind storm swept through our little camp. We had built a minimal shade structure without side tarps, which became something of a sail in the wind. Unprotected by tarps, the Shiftpods started to blow away. 

After a few minutes we realized that we had to wake up, find masks and goggles, and rebuild the entire camp, in the midst of an incredible windstorm and whiteout conditions, and make it much stronger so we could go to sleep again. Which is what we did.

The whiteout and windy conditions continued for much of build week. There were some breaks, but most of the week was incredibly difficult. Try to imagine spreading out a 14 x 48 canvas tarp on the ground in 20mph winds and getting it nailed down to the playa smoothly… now do that six times.

By the third evening on playa we had assembled enough infrastructure to shower off (with a garden hose and kiddie pool), finally, which was probably the highlight of build week. Even though we got dusty again 20 seconds later, it was nice to get clean for a minute.

Late Build Week

Deliveries started arriving at our camp site: a big generator shared with Gender Blender and 8-bit Bunny, the two trailers with all our gear, an insane amount of produce which we stuffed into our limited refrigerators, ten cases of corn on the cob we never ordered, a big tank of water that we used up in two days, a big empty tank for grey water, and two porto-potties. The camp started to take shape.

Meanwhile more turtles were arriving in Reno trying to gather up and pack the rest of the gear we needed: huge amounts of food and groceries, an insane amount of liquor, an annoying trailer with three dozen bicycles, and every other little thing that could not be obtained on playa.

Arrivals

Most turtles take the Burner Bus Express… we love this because you don’t have to wait in huge lines to enter and exit the event. People trickled in on Saturday, Sunday, and as late as Monday, but everyone made it in time for our big kick-off party Monday night.

Our location, in the middle of a block, did not have much traffic walking by, so our events were for the most part attended by neighbors who noticed our incredible DJs and our attractive camp, or people who had heard about the legendary turtles and who came to see what everyone was talking about.

Desert HiiT Workouts

It seems unlikely when the temperatures are in the upper 90s, but we had plenty of takers for our daily 11:00am high intensity interval training workouts. We took this a lot more seriously than some of you may remember from 2019. All the exercises were done in pairs which added a nice social element. People got a real workout, and a lot of them kept coming back throughout the week; on some days our space was at capacity.

A real music program

With two great resident DJs, several guest DJs, and even a couple of newbies learning the ropes, we always had great music. Our sound system with six big speakers sounded amazing in the clear desert air.

It’s always hard to find and play the kind of music that everyone likes, bur our DJs did it. I was pretty astonished to have multiple people come up to me and say that they love, love, loved all the music … including several people whose musical tastes I know to be completely non-overlapping.

We had a very specific vibe in mind at the Future Turtles: cheerful, progressive, melodic house, one strict rule (“no pop!”) and the intent that you should never hear anything that you’ve heard in the real world before—the idea was that you should never hear a “song” that you recognized that reminded you of the default world, because Burning Man is most powerful when you can get absorbed in the alien world and never get yanked back to the default.

Great Food

With so many burners subsisting on granola bars and gifted pickles, we actually got a huge delivery of fresh produce and produced two amazing, nutritious hot meals a day, with options for vegans and unlimited snacks available 24/7. Our team of designated chefs (with the assistance of literally everyone, who did one or two kitchen shifts) produced food that was consistently healthy and tasty and really kind of astonishing given the conditions in which it was produced.

Bar

We had an organized bar with a full drinks program including premixed alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails every evening. We were surprised to find how popular the non-alcoholic options were. 

Everything was super tasty. We even had everything we needed to make custom drinks for people (if we liked them enough, of course). Another huge highlight of the drinks program was Jorge’s cold brew coffee every morning.

Oh man, that Pillow Fort

Thanks the creative design of Oscar with tons of help from Andre and other turtles, we created what was probably the most magical space on the entire playa, a quiet, soft, air-conditioned underwater aquarium space that was dedicated to naps during the day (to catch up on sleep) and adult activities during the night. With magical dayglo decorations, Arduino-controlled black light animations creating a “wave” effect, magical music and even a scent program, the pillow fort was truly a spectacular new feature of the camp.

I’ve been talking about a lot of stuff. Burning Man is about the People.

To be honest it’s easy to get wrapped up in describing our infrastructure, but the whole camp would have sucked if we didn’t have such great people. And there’s no way to sum up the life-transforming experiences of 36 lovely turtles—heck, there’s no way even to convey the insane experiences we all had.

We saw a glimpse of the greatest work of collaborative art ever created in the history of mankind, an artwork created in the audacious medium of a civilization, cooperatively created by 70,000 untrained artists.

We danced, and we slept through dances.

We explored, and we missed 95% of what there was to find.

We faffed, but we got there.

We learned how much more we are capable of than we thought, and we also learned how to ask our neighbors for help.

We fucked up massively, but we always got our shit together.

We were together. We had moments of insanely painful loneliness.

We apologized for past mistakes, and made new ones.

We felt the greatest joy we had ever felt, but also cried our hearts out.

We found love, and lost love.

We were transformed.

The Future Turtles can be found on the Internet at futureturtles.com.

Rainbow Leadership Series Ep.2: Queerborhoods

Where: Online only
When: April 21, from 8pm to 9pm or later as needed
How: Register for direct access on Eventbrite
Who: As of 4/10 leads from BAAAHS, C&J, GlamCocks, Camp Beaverton, Gender Blender (Queerdome)

I invited select leaders in the community from some of the most known camps to speak about the Queerborhood in recent history and share ideas for the new age we have entered post covid (an assumption and maybe an unrealistic view). How can we help open a path to better collaboration and presentation without curating ourselves into a corner away from intrinsically inspired content that is spontaneous and inviting.

The Queerborhood in 7:30 has gone through a lot of evolution over time and continues to shapeshift. The splitting of Queerborhoods in 2019 was the first major change. 

The 4:30 Queerborhood anchored by BAAAHS was not the only Queerborhood that emerged over the years. Users have often generated spaces grown and fostered out of a need for safety and community. This includes Burner Buddies and others over time. 

On Thursday on April 21 8pm, I am inviting a panel to talk about Burning Man 2022. What are the needs of th Queer community and how do leaders in those sectors want to inspire, enrich and mentor our community into more enriching and accountable space. 

The New Theme Camp Directory

Hey guys and gals and nonbinary pals! Joel here. Long time burner since way back in…. 2018.

A screen shot of the Queer Burners Directory showing some of the LGBTQ+ theme camps from 2019

This site has had an annual list of LGBTQ+ theme camps for many years. It has been a great way to connect the community: there were almost 70 camps (including Allies) on that list for Burning Man 2019.

Well, I thought it was about time to make it a little bit spiffier.

Over the last couple of months I used my time stuck at home to build queerburnersdirectory.com. It’s shiny and has pretty pictures. It allows any theme camp owner to update their own camp, provide pictures and listings, and recruit new members.

Yeah, I know, there’s no Black Rock City in 2020, but I had a ton of fun looking up last years’ camps and finding public pictures of each one. Y’all have some really cool camps there and I wish I could visit them in person. In the meantime check out queerburnersdirectory.com for a taste of last year. And if you’re a theme camp owner, please update your listing (or submit a new one for 2021, why not?) and send us all your feedback!

Queer Caucus: Community Meeting

LGBTQ leadership from the Queerborhood met at The Box Factory on Wednesday the 28th of November. There were about 50 attendees in person and between 6 to 10 approximately on the remote connection via ZOOM. We received an outline from BMorg (Placement) as the meeting was part of a larger initiative that Placement is taking on for 2019: Black Rock City Cultural Direction Setting. 

As a group, we decided to add to the outline in order to stay connected to our previous meeting with Placement (in 2016) where we addressed our concerns and needs as LGBTQ. We were facilitated by Ariel from Gender Blender and Pickle from Camp Beaverton. Out note taker was Ultra from Comfort & Joy. he list of attendees and camps represented were many.

By the end of the meeting when it was close to 9:30 pm this is who was left for the final image. Wish everyone could have stayed for it. What amazing people!!!!

We were charged with answering 3 questions as per the Conversation Kit supplied by BMorg. We did add one.

  1. What are the most impactful ways a theme camp can contribute to Black Rock City? Define impactful and why that matters to you.
  2. What are the characteristics and traits of theme camps that you would want to
    1. encourage and
    2. discourage? Why?
  3. Do you notice any divisions in residential Black Rock City that you are concerned about and if so what are they? How do you think about the balance between Radical Inclusion and any divisions in residential BRC?
  4. Extra: What is the most important part of the Queer Agenda?

 

While the results of the meeting are still being put together the final bits will be released depending on the consensus of the participants. I want to stress that the scope of this meeting was not limited to this group. The top 3 questions were being addressed by a lot of regional communities all around the world.

We’re doing it…

We are blessed and we are working to make this magic every year. As queer people going to the playa we have a specific goal : let’s do it again next year but better. Some of us the execution of those ideas is easier than others. Find the right people around that are the right “coo” to your coo.

Queer Burners [dot] Com

Is getting a redo right now, if you have not noticed all the changes slowly taking shape on it. This should be a resource for you. This is not political, but there are some discussions and notes about some shitty things. But mostly it is about great things and doing super cool things to make Burning Man better for you, your friends and your community.

LAWeekly Article
Tom and Pretzel are genius (click to see better)

Tom and Pretzel are FAMOUS!

Both boys hail out of the Glamcocks now. Tom used to be more with BAAAHS but I think he has gone full poly-camping. Both are vivacious and spirited young men who I have seen work themselves into a stupor to make a project go well whether it was their own or helping with someone else’s success.

They got a nice pat and on the tushie from www.LAWeekly.com this week because of a piece of art they created at Burning Man. The art piece will also be seen at the upcoming San Francisco Decompression at Pier 70 where, thanks to the same two wunderkinds there will be a recreation of the Gayborhood at this usually very hetero-centric event.

Decom 2017 in San Francisco

Several camps have banded together to create a mini Gaybohood at the event in San Francsico with BAAAHS (the Big Ass Awesome Amazing Homosexual Sheep) or better Pearl (the bus that is the shaven version of the sheep, will be the center of the attraction. camps participating include but not limited to:

  • BAAAHS
  • Glamcocks
  • Sun Guardians
  • Mystopia
  • Camp Beaverton/Gender Blender
  • AstroPups
  • Vietnamese Iced Coffee Experience
  • Paradise Motel

Come join us at Pier 70 on October 14th. Link to Facebook spiel. (link) Ticket prices are kinda high but they are at a new venue that sounds very exciting.

Mediation and Neighborly Behavior

This has been a topic that has come up quite often in the community lately in many forms. During a meeting last year at the Red Lightening camp hosted by the Burning Man Theme Camp Organizers admins and Placement where it was a seriously addressed issue by the head of Placement/DMV “Retro” making it clear that sound in the city limits was being taken seriously.

If you know Red Lightening they are a venue with performances and education series usually positioned on the Esplanade and are a relatively quiet, if not busy, camp with a lot of foot traffic. As we held our meetup at 11pm on a Wednesday night the camp next door started playing death metal and we could barely hear each other talking. In the not so far distance we could hear the Mayan Warrior on it’s way out of the city with the trademark drums beating announcing it’s arrival.

The look on Retro’s face was awestruck but he understood campers point of view, as he and a placer who was with him at the time, explained they were working on creating new policies to address those issues.

Within our Queer Burner community there were some issues as well. The new sound policy felt like it was getting it’s legs in 2015 but already in 2016 we can feel the full force of these new policies. In 2015 BAAAHS was placed at 7 & D kitty corner from Camp Conception which both played amplified music. And across from both was Sun Guardians that holds yoga and meditation classes during the day. As mayor of SG I found both BAAAHS and Camp Conception amiable in helping me limit the amplified sound when I went to talk to them about it for our day-time classes.

Yet other neighbors complained for various reasons, but asking two sound entities placed in the city was like asking a cheetah not to run.

In another case that came up, Disco Château was not placed this year because of a sound battle they had with their neighbors AEZ (Alternative Energy Zone) and possibly others in 2015. Not being good neighbors, especially to a long established camp, earned them a serious black mark from Placement.

We can do better and are working to do better. BAAAHS did everything they could to be compliant and tried to meet the needs of officials who gave them feedback. Disco Château on the other hand had some renegades who really ended up digging a deep hole that pulled a few people down with them; forcing a change in leadership for 2016.

stole this from the Facebook post

Solution

It is not up to us to confront people over issues that cannot be resolved with a polite neighborly discussion. I found our neighbors helpful from my point of view when I explained we needed the volume down between certain hours in the middle of the day which was pretty reasonable.

If you are not getting a response then seek out a Ranger for conflict mediation. Black Rock City Rangers are trained for that very purpose. When these occurrences happen they are being recorded in a blotter that is reported back to Placement and will / could affect your placement in the coming year.

The old fashion term “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is still the standard. The “Fuck yer Burn” mentality of the past is slowly fading out with troll attitudes and crotchety veteran burners giving way to the flood of festival candy ravers who are flooding into the event.

If Rangers in the field cannot help, then go to the closest Ranger station and make a case for some escalated help calmly and probably with a bottle of booze. There is a strong desire to enforce sound policies this year and going forward that will support you. And if you are the one not complying, then you are inviting unwanted attention.

Conclusion

There was a post in the Burning Man Group that inspired today’s posting (link here) that inspored today’s post. The issues discussed with the named camps above were also issues I was mostly directly/indirectly involved with on some level. We need to have an open dialog with camps in violation of policies so they are not surprised with a denial of Placement the following year. While it may be assumed there should be no surprise, camps need feedback! While we have the benefit of the MOOP map for our cleanliness, we really need a report from Placement / Earth Guardians  or others if there are things we need to improve on.

There is a blacklist that exists that camps and participants do not have access to, nor the feedback necessary to make improvements with, that is a one-sided conversation and is hallmark of a very needed transparency with a department that makes huge decisions. Camps are putting out 10 – 20 – 30 thousand dollars a year to help build the city not to mention the price of a ticket only to be blackballed anonymously by a system rigged against its self.

It is an awful thing to consider. But we have learned to take these things in stride so far and move forward with what we can in spite of the odds. Volunteers make up most of the Burning Man troops and we appreciate their amazing work every year for something so many of us really believe is as close to Utopian ideals as we can imagine.

We all can do better with some effort. Be better humans. Be better neighbors. Be better participants. Be more accessible.

URGENT: Changes to the Gayborhood

Placement @ Burning Man wants to hear from the community about the role of the Gayborhood. We need feedback from the community NOW as we are meeting with the BMorg on June 1st. Please complete this Survey Monkey post right away and give us your feedback. [link here to survey – UPDATED]

Some of the collective leaders of queer camps are being asked to communicate with Placement @ Burning Man about the logistics and purpose of The Gayborhood. The Gayborhood has become a huge presence. Now Burning Man is asking us questions about HOW to manage requests to camp in the 7:30 sector and HOW to fit the concept of the Gayborhood into their current policies.

Toaster reached out to some of the most active leaders he knew about creating a survey so we can come to the meeting better prepared with data. What we have surmised from the Queer Burner Leadership Summit discussions is that there are clear and compelling reasons for the gayborhoods that have appeared on playa.

Did you know there are 2 annual Gayborhoods? One is the Gayborhood usually falling in the 7:30 sector most people seem familiar with. Another is the 4:30 and J self placed camps like Burner Buddies and Nacho Daddies that have made that area their own space. In 2010 there was also a Gay Ghetto. (Yes, they called it that) It appeared over on the entire block of 3:00 & C. A group of campers independently made that happen.

[link here to survey – UPDATED

Safe Place: You will see reference to the term “safe place” in the questionnaire. This is not the same things as the project “Safe Place.” Some camps are going to be implementing a project called Safe Place for people under duress to retreat to while at the burn where they can be safe from predators or the effects of “too much.” A meeting about “Safe Place” the project will occur on June 8th if you would like to learn more. [Facebook Event]

The HIVE mind behind the survey includes: Toaster (Sun Guardians / Queer Burners Admin) Foxy (Beaverton / Ranger Torchwood) Cyndi Vee & Ariel (Gender Blender) Terry Grossman (Gaylactic Village / Time to Burn) John Pacheco (GlamCocks) Russ Smith (AstroPups) Ed Edmond (Burner Buddies) and there were others included in the discussion who may or may not have added but were included in the conversation: Yogen Kushi (GlamCocks) Jered Floyd (HIVE Boston) Micheal Cooper (Comfort & Joy) Brian Busta (Comfort & Joy) and Zach Bunker (BloAsis)

 

Queer Camps Directory

The AstroPups in front of BAAAHS 2014
The AstroPups in front of BAAAHS 2014

The Queer Camps list have been updated. With some reservation there are things about it that I struggled with when making it. The camps listed were from any list of any year I made in the past, BUT the landscape changes quite a bit:

  • not all the camps listed identify as queer
  • I know very little about some
  • and some are brand new

check out the new listing here at this link

If you have a camp you would like to have listed please use the contact form. Please include the name of your camp, some details and your social networking links.

2014 Updates

So much is going on and it is hard to keep up with everything. A majority of things seem to get updates on the Facebook over the site. The good thing is that the Facebook Page feed the Twitter which feed to the web site. That’s good news!!

About Facebook

The name of the Facebook Page has changed to reflect the web site. The link to it is still the same, because it is likely linked on more sites than I can count. What was formerly Gay Burners is now Queer Burners at facebook.com/gayburners.

We also have the Facebook Group: called Queer Burners. Seem confusing? Well, it was not meant to go that way, just got twisted a little is all. Facebook policies made this hard to fix.

About the Web Site

With Burning Man a month away there are a lot of updates made. Seems a lot of Queer Camps have appeared out of no where. With the Gayborhood becoming such an attraction in the city it is no shock that we are growing.

If you need anything added to either of these pages add in the comments or use the contact form in the menu bar.

Queer Burner History : 1993 to Present

History is important. Yes, knowing the past and what came before is the launching platform for the future. No, this is not based on Stonewall. No, this is not a freedom march up- Market Street.

No, this is about Burning Man and the queers of Burning Man. Today we have something called the Gayborhood, but how long has that been around?

burningManQBHThis project page so far goes back to 1993, but if you have any more info you can share please let us know. Contact the site admin.

Anyway, check out the article and comment you little hearts out… xo