Serendipity in Tennessee is Not a Burn

Update: I have just learned that Serendipity will be an all ages event this year, 2013. I am pleased and excited. Joshua, Dylan, and I will be there, along with other burners we know who were not allowed to attend last year and their parents. Yay!

Coming off the high of Euphoria, I’m brought low again by thoughts of Serendipity.

Serendipity is a new event in my home state of Tennessee. I was so excited when I found out a new burn was starting here. I heard about a work weekend for the event, but I couldn’t go since it was the same day I was volunteering for the Imagination Library. But more work opportunities would come, I was sure. There’s so much work that has to be done to get a burn off the ground!

And then, BAM. They declared the event ages 18 and over.

Talk about a slap in the face.

The first of the Burning Man 10 Principles is Radical Inclusion, which states, “Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”

Many of the discussions I’ve had with people about Radical Inclusion center on that “stranger” bit – questions of membership, in-group and out-group, cool kids, and whatnot.

Other discussions have centered around the various types of people who make their way in the burn community – hippies, Pagans, punks, beer guzzlers, playa bunnies. When I wrote here on LoveLiveGrow about Radical Inclusion, I also focused on all these various types and the interplay between them. I claimed that the big categories of age, race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation weren’t as interesting to talk about because they were the “easy bits” as far as inclusion goes.

Turns out I was wrong.

I wrote that post 3 years ago, and it would read much differently if I wrote it today. I no longer think any of those things are really easy bits when when it comes to including people in the burn community. Race is a huge fail, leaving burns as white people magnets teeming with unabashed cultural appropriation. There’s a lot lacking in the areas of heteronormativity, gender policing, and sexism, too.

And now Serendipity, a hoped-for burn here in my own state, has put a sign on the metaphorical door saying that a certain class of people is just not allowed. Forget making the event friendly to them, including them in the planning, reaching out to their communities, really making space for them in the burn social fabric. No. They are simply not invited.

I’m so angry about this. So impotently angry. It’s not even about my own child. Transformus, another wanna-be burn, went 18 and up a few years ago, long before I had a child, and I haven’t been back since then, even though Transformus was my first burn and is near and dear to my heart.

And it’s not about non-kid events in their entirety. Whether or not I think kids belong in bars is anther topic for another day.

But I don’t think burns are bars or dance clubs or swingers parties. They are experiments in radical community; they are about art and creation and destruction and magic and power tools.

And I refuse to participate if 20% of the population is expressly prohibited from attending.

Burns aren’t a vacation for me. They are real life.

I was really looking forward to another burn. I’m so sad that the organizers of Serendipity have decided that their event is just an adult club, instead.