LGBT and Burning Man

Men wearing tutus at Burning Man

Photo by David Newkirk. Men wearing tutus at Burning Man

In the documentary, Spark: A Burning Man Story, Play)A(Skool theme camp founder Jon La Grace says he came out after going to Burning Man. I wonder how many others share this story?

For the LGBTQ community, particularly those who live in more conservative places, Burning Man’s open, welcoming environment offers a sense of real freedom that you don’t experience on an average Monday morning on Main Street in your home town. In Black Rock City, you can wear whatever you want, talk however you want, and fall in love with whomever you want.

Women hugging at Burning Man's Camp Beaverton

Photo by Ana Grillo,
Women hugging at Burning Man's Camp Beaverton

Straight or gay, burners make the most of the self-expression and radical inclusion Burning Man principles. That’s why you see so many cross-dressing straight males on the playa. When men know they’ll be accepted no matter what they wear, it’s amazing to see how many of them choose pink tutus.

Plus, there are plenty of LGBTQ theme camps and art cars. Each camp is different, but you can expect them to provide some combination of imagination, fantasy, education, dancing, drinks, fun and space to meet people.

Photo by Palmer Stevens. Gay pride at Burning Man 2012

The Gayborhood: Gay or Queer-Friendly Burning Man Camps

  • AstroPups: For 12 years, the Astropups have been known for providing a cool (and
    furry)oasis on the playa where countless queer (and just queer-friendly) Burners have crossed paths and met new friends. The Astropups camp has always been hub of daytime and nighttime activity, whether it's one of our many queer proms, scavenger hunts, wrestling tournaments, cocktail mixers, tantric workshops, project runway-type competitions or crafternoons.

  • Camp Beaverton: Burning Man camp for wayward girls. Camp Beaverton is an intentional, experimental, and experiential Burning Man community theme camp. Our goal is to provide a safe space for queer women on and off-Playa. We encourage education, participation, inquiry, conversation, and self-reflection on what it means to be “a Beaver”. We extend our goals to the greater Black Rock community by hosting workshops and social events.

  • Celestial Bodies: A fun-loving, straight-friendly theme camp in the Gayborhood. They serve up a delicious and refreshingly-iced Playa Cosmo every day in their comfy lounge. With an average of 50 camp members, Celestial Bodies is a radically inclusive camp with campers of all ages, genders and from diverse backgrounds.

  • Comfort & Joy: Comfort & Joy is a “radical faerie” collective dedicated to promoting queer culture, expression, self-actualization and community by acting as a mutual-support society for our members, producing art installations & organizing special events. They are active year-round in the San Francisco Bay Area, frequently remembered for their “theme camp village” at Burning Man, and active supporters of the thriving national Radical Faerie spiritual network. Various Comfort & Joy group projects benefit faerie sanctuaries & publications in Tennessee, Oregon, Vermont and New Mexico.

  • Down Low Club: Provides the adult 18+ Gay, Bi & Curious men of the Playa a discreet, enclosed, air-cooled tent that's away-from-home, away-from-prying-eyes.

  • GlamCocks: GlamCocks builds towers, throws parties, puts on shows, and invites you to be part of their fabulous, unique, talented, exciting, creative, and amazing gay family!

  • Pink Mammoth: Pink Mammoth is a San Francisco-based music/arts collective dedicated to providing unforgettable parties with House music and a deep vibe.

Love Sculpture at Burning Man

Love, by Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg, Photo: Getty Images

All that and there’ s a Black Rock City Gay Pride Parade, too.

While we’re talking about sex and theme camps at Burning Man, everyone – gay and straight – should know about Black Rock City’s Bureau of Erotic Discourse (BED). BED is a team of volunteers who gather each year at Burning Man to provide information and education regarding sexual assault on the playa. They hold workshops, and they challenge every theme camp on the playa to embrace sexual assault education. Their purpose is to promote a sex positive environment where responsibility, safety, consent and communication are priorities. BED is always looking for volunteers if you’re interested in contributing to the Burning Man community in this way.

What are your stories from the Gayborhood? Please share them with us in the comments section below!

By Kimbriel Dean


1. Chris

September 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM

I think Burning Man has a bad reputation for needless reasons. I'm not going to lie and say that there is not drug use happening on and off the playa, frequently. However, contrary to popular belief, that's not all it's about. You did a nice job of presenting in this article, as it's also a very accepting, community oriented event.

Though, one problem I had is the purpose of this article seems vague at best. Is it purely information about Burning Man? LGBT Camps? Is it meant to be supporting the LGBT movement? It's hard to tell and seems undefined.

2. Presto3

September 14, 2013 at 5:47 AM

I thought this article was refreshing. I had never heard of Burning Man before, and I was happy to hear that something like this existed. I am straight, but one of my oldest and dearest friends is gay. It was through him that I learned how much more painful adolescence and early adulthood can be for LGBT people. I saw firsthand how painful it can be to come out and accept yourself if you are gay. No adolescent wants to be different, especially if you are part of a group that is marginalized and/or ostracized. In fact, it's not uncommon for LGBT adolescents to be angry and to feel like they have been dealt an unfair hand. I have been with my friend when someone yelled at him in public for holding his boyfriend's hand. I'm glad that camps like this exist where LGBT people can feel safe and be themselves. Everyone should get that chance and should be able to find acceptance.

3. Chowski

September 17, 2013 at 8:09 PM

I hate to be the first comment on this, but here goes. I'm a veteran burner since 2009, and normally camp near the gayborhood of 7:30 Plaza. I find the Gay theme camps to be boring if I have to tell the truth. Granted, I live in San Francisco, so any day I want I can go get drunk and dance with gay people in ridiculous clothing. That part is not new to me. Why I have started to avoid the Gayborhood in my recent years is this: they never seem to offer anything OTHER than drinks, dancing and gay people. No significant art or interaction other than drinking with drunk dancing gays (in tutus, in underwear, naked). I love my gay brothers and sisters, but Burning Man is more than a party - at least it is when you do it right - but the gayborhood seems only to cater to one demographic (gay men), with one activity (drunk dancing as a portal to sex with strangers). Okay, that's enough. Start the flaming hatred at me....NOW!

4. Toaster

September 18, 2013 at 5:04 PM

So excited to see this posting. I was the organizer for the gay pride parade shown in one of the pictures and run the LGBTQ++ network for Queer Burners on Facebook and the Queer Burners website where we hope to keep our queer culture at Burning Man strong and available for the community at large.

So awesome and a cool article!

5. Dave

September 18, 2013 at 5:31 PM

And in the outer burbs, there is Burner Buddies, a group of guys that provide camaraderie, but choose to live outside of the downtown gayborhood. They hand out "gay card" and hosted the cocktail party after the Pride March.

6. Brittany

September 19, 2013 at 3:57 PM

I really liked this article, especially how the straight men would realize that they are in such an accepting environment that they would ditch the social norms and opt for pink tutus! My fiance and I are not your average couple, actually I am a young mother of three from a horribly abusive previous relationship. My fiance is a woman as well and we used to get so much talk for my being a mother. We have proved over time, (we have been together now for three years) that it is not about the sex of the people in the relationships or your past mistakes. Love is non prejudice and has not one discriminatory aspect to it. We I have never been so close to a person in my whole life. She loves my children and respects me for everything I am. This place sounds amazing to break free from society if even for a couple hours and just celebrate our bond in complete peace with other and with others just like us around.

7. Courtney

September 19, 2013 at 4:17 PM

Two of my friends met at Burning Man a year ago and got engaged this year. Their story is incredibly inspiring and romantic, mostly because of the unlikelihood of their meeting and subsequently falling in love at an event that draws so many people. This year, their proposal involved dozens of people who came together to celebrate love. The fact that they are both men and now able to get married makes it even more special! Burning Man is great for bringing together like-minded individuals of all orientations and is a perfect place to enjoy life, freedom and expression!

8. Ashley

January 9, 2014 at 3:30 PM

I hope this doesn't sound rude, but I feel like these type of events are unnecessary. It's like lgbt people are always doing these kind of events looking for validation and (most of the time) attention. They hold gay parades, but If we were to hold an straight parade they would be up in arms and ready to get out the signs and pitchforks. I feel that they are trying to MAKE us accept their lifestyles and that's not okay. They look for any opportunity to seek attention and it's getting old really fast.

9. Kimberly

January 9, 2014 at 5:41 PM

Hi Ashley, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts on this topic. With all due respect, I personally disagree with your viewpoint: I do not see any expression of gay pride as trying to 'make' people accept this lifestyle, or looking for validation; rather, I see events such as these as much-needed celebrations of a lifestyle that is, in general, shunned and discounted by our society.

While gay rights are making progress, we have a very long way to go before gay people are given, by default, the same respect, appreciation, and rights as straight people. Likewise, the reason we don't see straight people throwing parades about their sexual preference is because we don't need to: everyday is like a parade for heterosexuals! Heterosexuality is promoted in mainstream media; is granted rights -- such as marriage -- in all countries; and is appreciated, recognized, and respected as a form of love.

As heterosexuals, we take this for granted all the time. No straight kid was ever beaten up, bullied, or murdered because of their sexual preference. No straight kid was ever taunted endlessly into feeling shame about their authentic feelings. No straight kid was ever disowned by their family for their sexual preference. In my opinion, gay people (or people who are bisexual, asexual, transgender, simply undecided, or anything else that makes them a minority) show great courage whenever they stand up for their innate rights to be respected; to marry the love of their life; to display their love publicly; to love themselves; and to celebrate their love -- after all, isn't that what life is about? Celebrating our immense capacity to love one another, and ourselves?