Burning Man & an LGBT+ Sector of Black Rock City

As of 2020 the official position of Burning Man Placement is there is no area officially sanctioned as a Gayborhood, Queerborhood or other names for an area of Queer Camps. However, since 1993, through self organization most LGBTQ identified camps have collected in the 7:30 sector of the city. Placement has resisted the idea of official acknowledgement based on the idea we are all one city of citizens and they do not place camps based on group dynamics. While that sounds like politics and noise to some there are still a lot of LGBTQ people in our community that do not want it either. We are as diverse and opinionated as anyone else.

Black Rock City, Nevada is the 3rd largest city in the State of Nevada for about 9 days a year. It is where Burning Man is hosted. It has no government, but it has law because it is federal land and is policed by the Bureau of Land Management at minimum. The Placement Team at Burning Man (1) maps the city with a lot of volunteers annually and places camps with the idea they are curating culture and community. The city is modeled after a clock face with avenues and streets that link it all together.

What is in a name?

For a long time there was a space at Burning Man that was self organized called Avalon Village. It was the OG queer space at Burning Man detailed well in our history section. It was a important point in the history of our community because many camps that were created then are still appearing on the playa today.

The 7:30 sector of the city has had an area that was most widely referred to as the Gayborhood, once upon a time, and has since been referred to in many different ways. Most recently is was being called the Queerborhood so it would be more inclusive. Some BRC citizens have referred to it as the Gay Ghetto, but these were usually laced with micro-regressions with people dismissive of queer space from a perspective not always informed.

In 2016 community leadership banded together and demonstrated to Placement through survey data and dialog that the “Gayborhood” had a very important function is that it was a safe space for queer people who, even at Burning Man, were faced with physical threats that were part of the real world. A majority of women, trans men and trans women, people of color, gender nonconforming and other marginalized people shared a sense of vulnerability inside the venue. Or they knew someone or experienced first hand assault. On the other hand nearly 100% if CIS gendered gay men did not have the same concerns showing a chasm even within our community.

Since that meeting new leadership in Placement has worked a lot more closely with the LGBT community to roughly place camps in close proximity or in clusters with other camps squeezed in between. Some of our community is not convinced it is enough, but that conversation continues on.

2020: What’s new?

While everyone knows the event where we build Black Rock City for 2020 has been cancelled. It has morphed into a virtual burn because of Covid-19. Burning Man is not just an event, it is a community and a culture. We are 10 Principles.

In 2019 Placement created a new “Queerborhood” in the 4:30 sector that they treated very much like the original in recent years with BAAAHS as the anchor camp. Many camps went over from the 7:30 sector to help support that new space. It seemed to be a huge success to many and leaders reported after that they are already planning and making it bigger and more engaging in 2021.

It has been proposed to give these neighborhood new names. East Village and West Village was proposed and we will see how that takes flight as the future of the community unfolds. This will take us away from words like Gay… Queer… which have various connotations to some people. The names were not derived to placate or break free of our identities, but to enhance our pride by emulating a city like New York City.

(The city map is IP of Burning Man, LLC so while it appears here in these graphics it is a consession from the owner of the IP since we are not using it for profit or financial gain.)

This willingness for Placement in it’s current form to work with the LGBT community at the burn is a good sign. Regretfully in the shadow of the big event being cancelled we are watching BMorg struggle for its own survival right now. Even greater changes could be coming.

Based on criteria submitted by camps, prior to the actual event, Toaster created this graphic as he had done in previous years. It was by no means accurate exactly, but just an idea to see where camps were placed that identified as Queer or Queer Allie