Over the years that I have been doing things under the banner of Queer Burner (formerly Gay Burners) it has taken many forms. As the primary voice on this project it has been my chief goal to unite queer burners and make a fun play space for all those who would like to play in this amazing sand box.
Like on any playground, there are bullies. There are people who would thrust their point of view on other around them in spite of facts or truths. We do live in an age where there is “truthiness” and “alt-truths” and revisionist history that seek to drive a narrative that is increasingly questioned by some and ignored by others.
In the scope of that, calling out white privilege has been a big subject. At the Burning Man Global Leadership Conference this April 2017 in Oakland, California there was a 2 hour discussion from a black woman to a widely mixed audience. The smartest thing a white male could do was to listen and observe, but that was too much for some of us. You can imagine the results.
This week we put a survey on one of our Facebook Groups : Queer Burners Global Social Network :
- Patience. Calm. Honesty. Maybe reflect a moment before answering. There is a reasonable expectation that the Gayborhood / Rainbow Road is going to be very different in 2017. If the Queer Neighborhood is decentralized will this effect your burn?
The feedback has been amazing. The ability to answer in the scope of the poll was limited. Read through the comments and see some of what happen, because it is awesome. However, a lot of people had no problem with the dissolution of the Gayborhood. BTW: they were mostly white and male (as of last check).
Some battles have been strange and interesting. If you read the trip report from the 2016 Burn there was a meeting with Placement at a queer camp (Sun Guardians) where in mostly queer camps came to meet with Placement and have a conversation about being neighborly: this was not a meeting about Queer Camps.
There were two attendees that highjacked the meeting and tried to make it about the merits of the Gayborhood, but we were able to steer it away. Among them was a person with a complex and strong voice from the White Ocean camp who clearly was dealing with his own demons.
The second person was a member of the temple crew whose partner wanted nothing to do with the direction of the conversation.
This week someone named Tom Steward posted publicly his feelings about the Gayborhood and this submission was an echo of sentiment from other voices in the minority about the Gayborhood:
- “Gays are in no more danger than anyone else at burning man. No need for a gayborhood unless you want easy cruising. Gays should be sprinkled lightly over the entire city. We are a gay camp and have never felt threatened and dislike that gays are segregated.” – Tom posted this with his email address and IP. It was a public submission through the feedback form and he had some feelings to share.
Tom reflects the feelings of some other burners; most often it is a voice of people who feel rejected by the Gayborhood and it’s residents. In my 9 years burning I have seen an amazing evolution of queer camps who have worked very very very hard to make their camps and residents more inclusive and welcoming. We have evolved and ask to see if your perception can evolve with us.
Even if the Gayborhood is broken into 2, if it is dissolute, it will evolve and survive. But with that, people who find a sense of safety with it are the people Burning Man is trying to reach. It’s not just an ethnic loss, it’s the loss of diversity on another level.
E very person I have seen asking for the breakup of the Gayborhood was a gay white male sharing a point of view that excluded anyone else in the scope of what they proposed to be destroyed. Objectively these people are missing a lot of facts.
- we conducted surveys of the community and found clear data that there were significant threats to personal safety against gender ambiguous, trans and specifically female identified people in the scope of the survey sent to Queer Burner members. The results are on this site from last year.
- his expression of “we” seems to be limited to his white, gay camp mates of a mysterious camp yet unidentified.
Queers and people of color do not move through community like everyone. We (they) are usually aware of their environments for specific safety reasons. We do not walk through a neighborhood assuming safety. It is the same in the world and the same at Burning Man. With the commercialization of Burning Man, with the Bucket List thinking, we have to step up our game for safety and community support more and more.