Burning Man: Struggles with Identity

My journey with Burning Man over the last fifteen years has been awesome. There have been a lot of very problematic moments along the way. Often, those moments were less important than the beauty of creating community. But, these problems keep happening and get bigger and the sweetness of what I felt Burning Man stood for has really lost its shine. This is why I find myself pulling back here and there. 

On so many levels, an organization like Burning Man Project and Burning Man LLC, promoting something as huge as what Burning Man had become, is walking on eggshells all the time and has to be mindful of the different tentacles and what they represent. The 10 Principles that define the spine of the community is extremely attractive to all kinds for a variety of reasons. As a Queer CIS Man myself I was attracted to the radical inclusion and community aspect most of all. But, Burning Man is forcing a new series of narratives that are simply not cool:

  • Their RIDE (Radical Inclusion Diversity and Equity) has never really landed IMHO as a queer man, speaking again, about the lack of support from the org for LGBTQAI burners. Right now, when looking at the RIDE pages on BurningMan.Org, there is a hard focus on BIPOC burners and it was verbally stated in a meeting about a focus on deal and blind burners. I wrote about this on Blog.Queerburners.Org and will not labor the whole conversation here. However, it seems clear to me that Burning Man is trying to Commodify BIPOC Burners because they show up better on posters and pictures to prove Burning Man is diverse, where it is definitely not. – My Blog on Queerburners
  • Having joined the Black Rock Rangers in 2022 I was in love with the idea of being a ranger. There is a lot of good to be part of that element. However, even many of those in that community are aware of toxic people acting as rangers and in the last few months I have run into a lot of seriously shitty people working as rangers. I did not ever really do a lot of rangering in the dirt. Circumstances were against me in that area, but shitty attitudes and misogyny have really put me back on the subject. I can focus on the good parts, but there is a part of my soul that reacts with inequity and being a jerk to other people. I wrote about rangering here too: MY Blog on Rangers on Queerburners

My identity has been tied up in my burner life for almost fifteen years now. It will not go away. But, any connection to the BMorg and the event in the Black Rock Desert may be past me at this point. It’s been very hard for a long time. However, this is might be a good time to change what the future looks like. 

Burning Man

This week I decided it was time to declare I was not going to go to Burning Man. Fifteen years into this, I am starting to feel a lot of things about my involvement with the organization and see where it is a really unhealthy relationship. If I were to focus just on being a BRC Ranger, ignoring all the b.s., I would likely be fine. But, that is not how I roll. I hate injustice and hypocrisy so I cannot understand why so many of my fellow humans continue to support an organization that really forget that we (participants) are funding their jobs. They tell us what we need to know and feel and we gladly go along with it. 

And that – ladies and gentlepersons – is why it is time to take a big fat pause and evaluate the organization and decide if this is worth my time and energy.

I bitched about some of these things already, so no reason to rehash that. Go to www.queerburners.org and check out the blog there! I have to step away, because it has been an up hill battle for more years than it should be. Personal safety, discrimination, and commodification of BIPOC participants is just a lo of heavy shit. 

AND, I cannot really afford to go on a lot of levels. The new house, the dog, no job right now, blah blah blah… all reasons not to go and prevent a divorce. So… I leave it at that to let my own needs and wants figure out a better future for myself with the choice of healthier living. Healthier mind, wants, and people. And there ya go. It’s a toxic relationships as it is today. 

The Last Word on BM2022

This will hopefully be my final post following up my journey to Burning Man 2022. I left the burn early because I was not doing well physically or mentally. I did not take great care of myself and I am too stubborn to let others help me, unless they do. Radical self reliance is not always a healthy perspective (it is one of our community founding principles). 

Physically I may have ended up causing serious harm to my feet and legs. It started with my job, being on my feet all the time, and was exacerbated by shitty shoes, stubbornness, and commitment to doing things I promised even though it was killing me. Good news, I lost some weight while out there…but not nearly enough to make it matter. Now the goal is to be focused on my health and what I can do to be better at that.

Mentally – no one can deny that being in the desert in those circumstances is not stressful. The heat, the exhaustion, and then the crazy shit we do can tear a person down. This is a good thing, but bring the boards you need to build a foundation that can help lift you up when you are broken. Sleep, nutrition, medications… all those things! I tried and did not do as great as I thought.

By Friday, I was seeing my mortality. By the time I decided to leave, I was certain that it would not take much to break me beyond repair. I seriously kept thinking (obsessing) over a friend of a friend who ended his own life fearing I would want to do the same. But, the idea of leaving any pain in the wake of my passing is/was more than I could bare. 

Leave this world better than when you came in to it. Leave people with good memories. Some of those people will never be happy, but leave on the best terms you can… my brain-song.

Getting back to the flow… or a new flow

Last night’s post was very liberating for me because there was a sense of catharsis. Also, people coming out of Burning Man have been messaging me about the exodus. It was six hours for most people. Gratefully, I drove straight out with nothing in the way. I think there were 2 cars on the road when I left. Thank goodness.

Still putting things away from my week at Burning Man. But, most of it is away. The deep and dark feelings have been getting some attention and hopefully not pity. It was hard to open up on those things and I am still feeling a bit raw about it. I feel changed to my core, but hopefully changed in a good way. There is still enough broken glass in here that I am managing. 

My days home have gone to good use. Working on feeling better and healing. My feet are much better. My knee is a cunt. My back is … a pain. Achy, distant, stressed and worried about going back to work tomorrow. My brain is still a rotten cabbage. 

So I also decided to dive into a sewing project. This is a kilt (overkilt) I have been planning on for a while. Stay tuned updates.

Burning Man 2022 – Waking Dreams

I thought I might do a better job at recalling all the details, but as I reflected back writing this I know I missed a lot. Without a lot of unnecessary jabber, there were good days and bad days. The bad ones were intensely hard and did my head in, in spite of some of the great things that happened. 

Would I go back to Burning Man again? I am less confident than ever right now. I have 2 ideas about the future. Either bring CMonster (aka Kimchee) with me in a camping situation with a camper or RV? Or, stick to regionals and more basic, local community events. 

So, the future is unclear. 

Day 1: Leaving the Bay Area – Friday, August 27th

It seemed like nothing was going to go right. I left Oakland before 11am and drove out. Traffic was okay and I stopped for food, some last minute supplies and then out to Burning Man. It was a real struggle, but nothing to keep me from moving ahead. 

  • Going to Walmart was an abject failure. In the past the company really stocked up on stuff Burners needed but they really dropped the ball.
    • Reno: out of almost everything I needed.
    • Fernley: Had a bike I could buy but not much more outside of food. The folks in Fernley, NV are so nice. 

Day 2: Arriving on Playa in Black Rock City – Saturday, August 28th

Got through the gates in 2 hours (a miracle) and got to my camp by 2am. The gate team was really rocking it out. I was camping with Scooter (Coffee Cup) and Kickstand (Propeller) + his bf Theo whom I barely got to know through the week. I was in a tent, Scooter slept in his Honda and Kickstand + Theo slept in their very comfy, a/c filled RV. 

Day 3: Sunday

I was genuinely anticipating this day like crazy, because I was working to get certified as a Black Rock City Ranger – and I was successful. I was elated, thrilled, and felt very blessed. I honestly did not think I would make it, but they welcomed me in. It was a 10+ hour shift working with 3 mentors walking through the city and just being there to help people

What is a Black Rock City Ranger? They are a representative of the city that essentially works like a host at a party to keep people happy. Not cops. Not authorities. But, given the wrong circumstances there is problem solving techniques that have authority. I hope to never employ those, because I really enjoyed answering questions from people and helping them help themselves. 

  • Certified as a Black Rock City Ranger after a 10+ hour shift with 3 mentors! 
  • Went out after and had a great evening with my L.A. Boys

Day 4: Monday

Hard, hot day, which was going to be the theme for the rest of the week. 

Got to catch up with a lot of people this day, which I really needed. Still, missed a lot of people I wanted to see. 

Caught up with Raul and Dago after they arrived and visited them over at Comfort & Joy for a while

  • Santa & Zebra at the HOTD which filled me with joy
  • Matt, the rest of Land of Monkey – meeting up and hanging out for a while 
  • The guys from Dickstracted Camp – Estaban & Leo
  • Over to  Beardhaus to see Fireball and saw Migelitoo (a one time serious crush) 
  • Jill and Ron at Orphan Endorphin
  • Megan at Spanky’s (never saw Jonathan at any time I went by)

Day 5: Tuesday

Planned a day with Raul and Dago which did not go as planned. There were a few things that went really verkakte and I might have 2 full blown anxiety attacks over it. It was rough… like rough. It was my first night feeling overwhelmingly defeated and to the point in my head that was truly dark. It was going to happen again later in the week, but I did not handle it well and made some really bad decisions with where and how I spent my time. This might have been a huge breaking point for me. 

Day 6: Wednesday – my favorite night

Me standing over a piece I was excited to visit with Nico on Wednesday

My schedule for Wednesday was super booked. I went over to my old camp (Land of Monkey) to hang out, and as I started out I realized the boots I was wearing were cutting into my foot. So I turned around to change shoes. Ignoring how sore my feet were to begin with, I changed and went on. 

By later afternoon my feet were screaming at me for several reasons. The cut, the soreness of my bottom of my feet, and my knee kept going out. I walked back from Monkey in spite of it. 

Ra and Dago and Dimitri

However I had plans with the boys that evening. My bike had broken down. My feet were all I had. But I was bemoaning how sore I was and the lovely Ra (Raul and Dago) along with Rico managed to get a gold cart that 9 of us could ride on and tour the playa together enhanced to the max and have a great evening. This was the best night I have known in so long. I was so happy, filled with love, filled with pure joy. I sore feet.

Because I was working the next day (starting at 6pm), I bowed out on the kids at 2am and went to bed and got a good night sleep. 

Day 7: Thursday

My first duty night as a Black Rock City Ranger with a 6+ hour shift. I was sooooo worried I was going to end up with some kind of jerk, homophobe, agro-jerk that I had to prepare myself for anything. I did get partnered with a person named Ranger Group Hug. If a Care Bear and a Rastafarian had a baby you might recognize “Group Hug”. She was super amazing. 

On the other hand, my feet hurt so bad I was dissolving on the inside. I was not 100% there, but I pushed through it because I really wanted “Group Hug” to see me as someone fun and a good partner. She was infectious. When I got off my shift,  had to walk back to camp at a super slow pace. I ate something and went right to bed. 

Day 8: Friday – when it spiraled out

I was taking a day off between Thursday and Friday because I wanted to. I considered working another day, but I was at Burning Man to have more fun than work. Maybe that was where I was going wrong, because I woke up with the weight of the world on my shoulders. The pain from the previous 3 days was breaking me inside. 

Bonus! I was given a meal on the commissary from Burning Man for my Thursday work-shift. So, Scooter and I went down and I had real food – with meat in it! I ate chicken, I’m not that into meat but I did it. And it was tasty. With lots of veggies and iced tea!!! Yeah!!!!! 

On the way over, Scooter managed to get my bike “functioning”, but it was a problem most of the way. I had to step 5x to catch my breath. I was unable to control my breathing. It was crushing. SO, I told him at lunch I was thinking about leaving. It was the last straw and I was dying inside. 

My suite at Circus Circus

To tell you I was in a dark place in my head, would be an understatement. 

If I drove directly home I would have arrived about 1am, and I was already flamed out. So, I stopped at the Circus Circus after using Hotels.Com to find a place… ended up in a 1 bedroom suite that cost a pretty penny. Fuck. Ate at a buger place and slept like a baby in a large king sized bed alone. 

Day 9: Saturday -Circus Circus Hotel and driving home

The night before, I washed some of my clothes in the sink at the hotel because I could not find anything in the car after I parked. I got up, bailed on Reno, and went home to my honey-bunny. 


I have to learn about what brings me joy and what brings me down – in more ways than one. It would seem as plain as the nose on my face, but the mind, heart and id all seem to speak different languages. 

My own personal health issues took over at some point, be they mental or physical. I was not taking care of myself very good and I made it impossible for anyone around me to see how much I was struggling. Anyone who is reading this, any friend of mine who might dismiss this as drama, please unfriend me now and move on. I was in a deep, dark, bad place.

Friends of mine from Orphan Endorphin were dealing with a loss of a campmate, and that impact kept playing over and over in my head. I would never want to leave people I cared about in a wake of pain. Mostly, and seriously CMonster who matters to me a lot. 

I was right there. I could understand why he chose to leave. They… because there were others too. I heard about 2 people that week that planned their end and I was seriously trying to figure out if it was my turn. 

But that did not happen. I chose to leave BM because of the choices I made that were wrong for me. To find myself a better place to ponder my future… I left. 

I am going to Burning Man once again… because I got a ticket

 I was blessed with a Burning Man ticket out of no-where. I knew one would come my way, but this one came as a gift based on some of my volunteer work in the community. This is the first time out of all these years where it was gifted to me. The cool thing is that it came to me so unexpected, I am still wondering when the other shoe will drop. 

So, the plan for my return to Black Rock City is already in motion. This year is different from any other year. That is because I was going as a tourist, but then again I was lying about that, too. I signed up to volunteer as a ranger and went through some training in the last couple of months. I have a big test, then I get to play dressup for Burning Man. 

To be honest, I am considering another theme camp for 2023. But, it seems like a mistake to try and start over again. I am no spring chicken anymore. With all these sucky health problems that keep coming up… planning on on-going relationship with Burning Man might be an over estimation. 

Fuck, I am tired tonight. I cannot focus on anything… so I am going to make this short and rough. 

I have neglected you. I’m sorry.

2009: Me in Center Camp

There was a turn of events that began somewhere around 2016 or 2017 that started changing how and the ways I was interacting and engaging the Burning Man community. I slowly was becoming more and more of an outsider. I have questioned myself if it was my own doing or was I reacting to something else. I got involved in community leadership too fast and took on more responsibility and ownership than I ever needed or should have. That’s on me.

My last posts were around 2015. At least here and not so much on my personal blog.

What I would like to do is fall in love with Burning Man as an event again. Because, right now, the idea of wading into the community at something I did not create gives me such a sense of anxiety it is paralyzing. Covid may have added to that manifest, but it was there before.

What I need to do is feel trust within the Burning Man Organization. So much has happened over the last 14 years. As much as I have tried to be a force for good, some people have put me in a different bucket or just do not see me at all. I have tried to do the good fight with standing up for people who were not being heard, and have not lived up to my own standards; which might have been skewed anyway. I have seen and heard terrible things from them. And I need to learn to let it go and move forward.

I have missed the last 2 years at Black Rock City. I needed a break in 2020 which was planned. But that turned into 2021. And if you saw the things that happened in 2021, then you have to know it looked amazing. Now I am waiting for the aftermath.

  • Covid infections?
  • LEO blowback
  • MOOP recovery… who is cleaning up after this?

But, I just stared at the live cams that were there and was in awe. I nearly backed up the car last week and just left.

My future in this community is still some very soft clay. I am sitting at the wheel waiting to see what life I can make with it. Thank you for reading this if you did…

Our relationship is complicated

It has been a while since I cared for this blog. This one or the layer above it which is just personal stuff. I have slowly started trying to test the layers and start looking at it again. There was a cathartic release in the past, especially for someone like me who feels more and more focused on what is good for me and what is not.

Me at the last Burning Man Global Leadership Summit in 2016.

Clearly to me, starting in 2019, I started seeing my relationship with Burning Man as complicated and unhealthy. I was ready to walk away cold 100% and not look back. But I was invited to participate in something profound for the future of the community and jumped back in.

I have actively been someone who stood in front of the room, or spoke up, or volunteered, or created for the community over the years. Leadership was a natural part of who I was my whole life, but never have I been in a place with so many people willing to strip a person down who dared to do.

Burning Man Global Leadership Summit 2015

And the willingness of people to take my successes and try and make it their own has astonished me. People I trusted and felt I could count on just gutted me with their own ambitions they could never have carried out on their own.

And finally the lack of guts in Burning Man organizational leadership. Survival of the org was all important, but evolution was so hard. Any change in the culture was at the end of a sharp stick.

Then when I was asked to be part of Burning Man Culture Direction Setting as a project, coming in at Phase 2, I thought I was going to get a chance for magic. The leaders in the community wanted the same thing, BMorg was listening!

Me leading a Burning Man gathering called Theme Camp Speed Dating

We finished Phase 2 in April this year and when we did I saw some great changes on paper, but I left feeling like this cooling off period to the fall and seeing these changes implemented is still in the air.

The voices of people from the Org were still the same on some levels and I finished the last meeting by leaving a little early and feeling defeated.

There are people, including the CEO, whom I have had a lot of belief in. There were some members of the founders whom I knew were never going to evolve. It was part of being gay at Burning Man and being seen the way we were that made me sad.

There is a part of Burning Man in Black Rock City like in a lot of cities where LGBTQ people accumulated. In this case it used to be called the Gayborhood. We really had to fight to get some recognition that the Gayborhood was more than a collection point, it was a zone of safety for the vulnerable.

I tried to start a new relationship with Burning Man with this program and I am feeling like it may have been a mistake. While some important changes will be coming, if implemented, it is merely a scratch on the surface. In the end there was little culture rescued. There was no real change.

Burning Man was not cancelled for 2020, but Black Rock City IRL was. The culture is fairly sound. It involves putting a lot of heads in the sand. It involves a lot of self-negotiation. Figure out what you can live with and what you can’t. And there I am.

2014 Back from the Burn

10659432_1472233903001438_2054450576133015670_nMy Burn this year was kind of a breaking point for me where I think I had a chance to do better but I kinda fell apart. I went sick… sicker than I thought… with bronchitis brought on by mold in the house I was living in. When I got back it manifested into severe bronchitis and asthma. So you can imagine, even as I write this, that I am still in recover.

2014 Burning Man Experience

10538414_10203869561392025_7813978811161735816_nI did it again this year. I ran my theme camp Sun Guardians again and it went off well. I write a Sun Guardians Trip Report that was pretty technical and avoided any feelings. That was the thing… I felt really run over by a couple people, disappointed by a couple people, but mostly everyone was pretty damn awesome.

The camp happened and it was awesome. So that got me all wound up and I started working on all the plans for Sun Guardians 2015. Yes, and the plan has jumped the shark a little because the plan looks pretty freaking amazing. It’s huger!

As for Queer Burners I wrote Queer Burner Trip Report too. I kept it short and to the point because it is as if no one is really interested in criticism. It does not matter if it is critical or not. Douche baggery is permeating the mainstream burner events and it really sucks. The problem is the bitter old burners being invaded are being jerks while the wanna-be’s are also being jerks. Neither win and a majority of people are trapped in the middle.

My Own Take

1383415_10152714461856197_4876025989973729117_nI got to spend Burning Man with my partner for the fist time ever. That cynical, it’s always a joke, sarcastic Chinese/Combodian I share a bed with every night seemed to grow with the experience. Although my time was largely taken away with events and camp issues, he found his own being there with friends he will hopefully carry with him for the future.

As usual I did a lot of projects and commitments but the icing on the cake came in a couple forms: We had a date night Saturday on top of the Crisco Disco art car where I brought us crackers, hummus, and cheese – plus a box of his wine 10649910_1472234139668081_1443901505286901655_nwhich we never got into which was fine. We had an amazing night. Next, when we left Burning Man we had a nice hotel moment – sexy sexy.

It was a weird week. I felt very depressed a lot through this week and lonely… of all things. Most of the week I found myself completely left behind because things needed to get done and it sucked. I had some good support and one of my leads completely fell down on me and failed to do his job. Thank goodness others stepped up.

The loneliness in the middle of a crowd of 66,000 people just completely sucked. The high points made it all worth while. I had some fears that never came to light and was hit in the face by things I did not see coming. I lost two friends this year … that sucked.

My camp… did it surpass 2013? In many ways it did but in other ways it fell apart. So… all the work I did since coming back will hopefully name 2015 strong. There is more in the Pictures Page.