[personal profile] reinaness
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.

Date: 2015-05-01 09:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eyeruh.livejournal.com
"Nothing about Flipside has wounded me more that the misapplication of this as dogma."

Yes yes yes! This is also what turned me away from the burner community in general. I've ranted in the past about encountering anti-semitism in the community but I think most people missed what I was really upset about. It wasn't that a few losers I've never met are anti-semitic...it's that people in lead positions defended the behavior on grounds of radical inclusion (or just said "whatever"). My reply was and is a very firm "fuck that shit". The fact that we've seen this play out time and time again (racism, appropriation, etc) has encouraged me to spend my time elsewhere.

ps. Viva la Livejournal!

Date: 2015-05-01 09:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ms-marrilee.livejournal.com
God damnit, he was manipulative.

Date: 2015-05-01 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] reinaness.livejournal.com
and I didn't even get close to the worst of it.

Date: 2015-05-01 10:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ms-marrilee.livejournal.com
I know...I remember all too well....he stole from us after I defended him....god damn, just the overt gall.... what lessons he taught me....

Date: 2015-05-01 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] reinaness.livejournal.com
You couldn't have known how bad he was. The problem was the I DID know intuitively but had no voice or authority to just ban him and be done. I cried every time I heard of another person he hurt. I yelled at so many people and still couldn't defend my friends. Dozens of us confronted him and he never changed. He is why societies banish people. All the burner communities have dealt with someone that needed to be removed, but he was just a whole new level of evil and no one was prepared.

Date: 2015-05-02 06:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zuleikhajami.livejournal.com
I don't know how much has changed since I moved, but at the time I move, the Austin Burner community (definitely including me!) was in desperate need of education about positive/enthusiastic consent concepts. I hope that change has now been made.

I don't think it was just something you got in your head that you weren't allowed to enforce your boundaries. That pressure was real. I felt it, too. That's why I stopped skinny dipping in the creek and only went topless in certain camps. Flipside wasn't safe. There were plenty of people in the Burner community who acted entitled to sexually expressive women, and that attitude gives predators license to operate.

He is why societies banish people, and he is why communities that foster an ideal of sexual openness need to also support a yes means yes approach to sexuality rather than a no means no approach.

Date: 2015-05-02 05:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nobodobodon.livejournal.com
He's one of the reasons I very rarely spend in cash. Paying with a card establishes an alibi.

Date: 2015-05-02 04:59 pm (UTC)
xtingu: (Burning Man 2005)
From: [personal profile] xtingu
Jeeezus. I'm far enough removed that I have no idea what/who you're talking about, but I am so sorry that this happened, and I'm mortified and appalled that it did.

It reminds me of a situation I experienced in high school (and sadly many times since then, but this is the easiest example):

I grew up in a predominantly Catholic town, and our Catholic church had a weekend retreat a few times a year, and the thrust was "everyone is equal" and it wanted to break down social cliques/barriers. It gave the uncool kids a voice, it brought the cool kids down a notch, and everyone hugged. It was a VERY huggy group. Uncool kids who had shit social skills (and hygiene) were now able to hug anyone they liked and the hug-ee had to take it, like it, and pretend it was some great profound thing.

This one kid Chris was a social outcast and for good reason... he was creepy. And at these weekends he would hug all the girls, pop a boner, and hug a little (or a lot) too long. I HATED IT. Every time he'd come near I'd head to the bathroom or pretend to have a cold so I wouldn't get "the pel" -- which stood for "the pelvic grind" he's give everyone. I got tired of having to pretend it was OK.

In the 80s we really didn't have a voice, where now I feel like kids today can (hopefully) speak up more and get these dudes to change their ways, or get banned.

Similarly, my band has a fan who *expects* a hug every time he sees us. He's got Aspbergers, so he kinda doesn't understand how to read the social/physical cues of "today I will hug you" vs. "I'm not feeling huggy right now." I'm able to be clear with him and tell him "I'm not hugging you today" and he gets hurt and doesn't understand what he did wrong to "not deserve a hug," but I don't give a shit. I don't owe anyone a hug, and it's not my fault or problem that their neuro-atypical brain can't wrap around it. I do my best to make accommodations, but sometimes it's tiring, and it's just easier to say I have a cold because he understands that "cold = no hug" and it's no fault of his. But then he tells me I should go see a doctor... which I know is his way of "caring for me," but I don't want his care, even though I know it comes from a place of sweetness and kindness.

ANYWAY, the upshot is... the Burner community attracts good-communicator people who make awesome things happen and build community, but it also attracts people with zero social skills because they see it as perhaps their only opportunity to touch/see titties.

I'm so, so, so sorry this happened. I love and respect you endlessly, and am SO grateful for the empire you built and was so kind to me.


(and yes: viva le Live Journal!)

(edit: punctuation.)
Edited Date: 2015-05-02 05:02 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-05-03 03:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrlich.livejournal.com
To quote [livejournal.com profile] xtingu: "Jeeezus. I'm far enough removed that I have no idea what/who you're talking about, but I am so sorry that this happened, and I'm mortified and appalled that it did."

Yup. That pretty much sums it up.

(Edited because my LJ Fu is ruuusty.)
Edited Date: 2015-05-03 03:06 am (UTC)

Date: 2015-05-03 01:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moboid.livejournal.com
I remember and still appreciate your repeated efforts to keep the Palace safe for us back then!

What I'm personally figuring out lately is no surprise at all: that doubt of the appropriateness of my own boundaries was taught to me in childhood, especially since I'm female (and perhaps even more so that I'm Southern?) And that holds true in the default world as well. If we want to have these boundaries now, we have to grow them ourselves, and it takes time. Piece by piece we establish them, with individual acts of self-protection.

The upside of the process is that the people who look up to you (including but not exclusively the ones you created) will see this strength and learn more readily how to have their own.

Date: 2015-05-05 06:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tiarasaurus.livejournal.com
Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I've seen this topic come up again and again at the BM leadership conferences (substitute different city and individual names) and it continues to stump people. Your account is one of the best I've read concerning the harm suffered by communities and their members.



May 2015


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