May. 1st, 2015

1st principle of Burning Man- Radical Inclusion- Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Radical- Thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms

Inclusivity -an intention or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized

Nothing about Flipside has wounded me more that the misapplication of this as dogma. As someone who wanted to always be a "good burner" and who's identity was wrapped up in being part of this community, this lead to a dangerous erosion of boundaries and basic protection of my safety and others. This was the unintentional consequences of good ideas that built something amazing but handicapped us from protecting ourselves.

Most people know about the extreme example of a sociopath who repeatedly had nonconsensual unprotected sex while HIV positive with women at Flipside, who had several warrants against him for violating restraining orders, and still took 5 years! 5 fucking years! to be excluded from the community due to the dogmatic application of Radical Inclusion. I don't want to get into details of that process or any of you who had to go through that. I know it sucked for everyone and we were dealing with extremely unprecedented circumstances which would divide any community. I honor all the people that fought for both our ideals and our community and themselves. If you don't know what I am talking about be grateful. I think the community has trauma to this day that is often thrown around on Facebook which is a shitty place to work that out.

So my experience with it is I was the first to say NO. He had crossed some boundaries with me at a party at my house when I lived at the Pink Palace. I tried to remove him. He pulled the "why are you doing this to me?" victim shit. I had to escalate to getting a ranger to throw him out of my house. This was the right thing for me to do both to protect my housemates and myself.

This boundary was not respected. People in the community that didn't live there thought that since I lived at the Palace (which was mostly non-burners at the time), I didn't have the right to ban him from the house since they viewed it as a community space and banning him from my home was exclusivity. I threw him out each time he showed up and it caused me so much grief and stress and disruption and drama. It was a betrayal of me by my community to place dogma over my safety and defense of my home. This was not Flipside, this was in my own home.  It set the tone for the rest of my experience with the Flipside community. This was 2002.

I still don't feel totally safe at Flipside because how I interpreted that experience. While the main trauma is gone, the layers of how I twisted that in my head are still coming to the surface.  I feel like I must interact with everyone regardless of my preference. I must make eye contact, I must allow hugs, I must be available for interaction. I can't be a "good burner" if I don't try to get along with everyone.  I make camps partially so I have somewhere I will feel safe because I do have to power to exclude someone there or someone will defend me. I built a god damned Empire! This is deeply embedded in my relationship with Flipside. HE didn't do anything to me, the community did the betrayal and I was ignored or challenged for 5 years. The Radical Inclusivity principle became a weapon of his defenders. I learned that I wasn't "allowed" to defend myself withing the paradigm of the Flipside community.

I often fight my way through that and do kick people out of my space and exclude people. Actually If you ever want to kick someone out I will totally do it for you. But I still have it in my head and it is still a conflict that I didn't realize was so deeply embedded. There are sometimes people I just don't want to fucking see or talk to. Or there are people that I haven't had an interesting interaction in 10 years so maybe I could do without more small talk at the port-a-potties. Or "I don't even know you, so don't fucking touch me."  Or maybe I don't want to talk to anyone right now cause I am miserable at Flipside. Those kinds of boundary settings are an existential threat to my identity as a "Burner". Other people can tell people to Fuck Off and it doesn't make them less of a Burner, but for some reason I got it in my head that I just can't do it. I am "not allowed".

So if I have someone in my life that I don't want to see, I get stuck in my head. Are they dangerous? are they a threat to others? Do you have a good enough reason? Did they mean it? Have you done enough? Can you explain it? Do they deserve it? have you tried hard enough? Why aren't you ready? Why can't you just get over it so you can be "good" and "inclusive"? and on and on like that. I wasn't sure why I couldn't stop until I figured out that I felt like I couldn't reconcile my Burner identity with my legitimate boundaries. So my relationship to that identity has to be severed for me to stop it and to own my boundaries.

In the "default world" I can tell you to Fuck Off for no reason at all if I need to. I don't need to prove to someone else that it is a "good enough" reason. The default to all invitations isn't "yes".  I don't have to include people. You are not entitled to access to me just because you attend an event. Inclusivity is a gift, not an expectation or a rule. Demanding inclusivity in a person's life outside of an event is wrong. I am "allowed" to say no.



May 2015


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