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Gay Ghetto in Black Rock City?
by Sister Dana Van Iquity, LSS (Licensed Shit Stirrer)

Editor's note: As a seasoned Burning Man veteran, it seemed kind of ridiculous to me when suddenly, out of nowhere two years ago, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence showed up, ultimately creating a theme camp that they proclaimed was a "safe-ish space for queers." Uh, I thought that all of Black Rock City was a safe-ish space for queers. I mean, I'm queer, and part of the appeal of Burning Man was that out here, nobody gave a toss.

I have nothing against the Sisters, but at the time, I thought÷rather naively, I might add÷that by creating a "queer camp," the Sisters were being rather exclusionary, creating in effect a gay ghetto. Confessing these sinful thoughts to Sister Dana Van Iquity, I asked him to write something on why Black Rock City needs queer visibility and awareness. This is his reply...

Why in the world do we need Camp Camp Village Quarter, well known as a safe-ish space for queers, at this lovable love-fest we call Burning Man? Well, I could answer that in two different ways. Here's the first:

Because we need to feel safe from all those scary, hopped-up hets and flipped-out frat-boys who find a special, perverted joy in harassing homos. Get a few beers under their belt and these bad bozos are suddenly on the prowl for fags. And while they may not actually physically bash their targets like they would on their home turf, they may feel free to inflict verbal bashing, and to make a queer feel unsafe and unwelcome in a place where he or she expected to find a kind of nirvana or utopia. That would be one answer.

And it would be totally exaggerating to the extreme, because Burning Man is, for the most part, a safe space for everyone÷queers, freaks, geeks, and yes, even Republicans. I just wrote that second paragraph with the unabashed and purposeful intention of inciting a whole lotta incendiary comments about my supposed blatant homo-centrism (which this nun does not have, "bi" the way).

Yes, I confess÷my dear PC (that's Piss Clear, not Politically Correct) editor Adrian asked me to write something controversial÷and damn but I do love some of that there controversy! So I decided with malice and forethought to open with that particularly inflammatory paragraph÷but nevertheless, there is some truth to it. Read on, dear reader. The plot sickens.

My first year at Burning Man was a time of total uncertainty. Who else would be there? Would they accept guys running around in nun's habits? Would there be homophobia?

First question: all kinds of way kewl people were there. Second question: yes, for the most part, everyone got off on the nun drag. Third question: yes, some. My first year (one of the Dark Years, see Adrian's Rant, this issue ÷ Ed.) my queer pals and I did encounter little fag-bashy verbal assaults and felt a bit uncomfortable at times. Once, a beer can was hurled at me. I wouldn't mind if it were full, but they were not offering me a free cocktail.Ę

So, having experienced that bit of unpleasant anti-gay stuff, and having heard from fellow fags and dykes that they also noticed some homophobia, we decided the following year to set up a special area, Camp Camp, where queers and their friends could have a haven away from all that creepy crap. And as it turned out, we ran into absolutely no homophobia at all last year, so Camp Camp simply turned into a great spot to entertain friends, gay and non-gay, alike.

This year, so many people requested Camp Camp again that we had to give in. And it's not a gay ghetto at all÷there are many hetty hotties camping with us too, just because they enjoy our twisted humor. Camp Camp is a place where family can gather÷and "family" can be interpreted any way you want. After all, in a city of over 10,000 occupants you can't expect to be welcome in all quarters.

Is there a need for special camps? Well, duh! Burning Man is all about various camps and their special themes. I have heard that there is a Smoking Lounge Camp, where you can only be there if you are puffing on a ciggie. There is probably a Vegan Camp, where herbivores can gather far from the stench of carnivores. Likewise, there is a Camp Camp, where you can feel free to be campy. It's not necessarily a bad thing to clump together people with common interests. For instance, I will be on the lookout for S&M Camp, if it exists. Is there a Martini Camp where gin and vermouth is shaken, not stirred? Is there a Naked Camp where clothing is not optional? There's a Clean & Sober Camp, where I am certainly not welcome. But everyone is welcome at Camp Camp, especially if they're carrying liquor! Just don't be offended by the queen screams and nellie spells that will be occurring there with frequency. Stop by and visit, and flame on!

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