Who we are
We are, mostly, happy mutants: nerds, engineers, programmers, gaymers, creators and artists, scientists and philosophers. A lot of us know our way around Python, Monty Python, LED circuits, and computer science. Debates about tabs vs. spaces turn us on.
We are a male gay camp. Everyone is welcome, but we work actively to create a safe gay haven in a heteronormative world.
We're burners. We try very hard not to be one of those camps that hosts parties at Burning Man that are indistinguishable from parties in San Francisco. Time on playa is too short to waste it by sipping vodka sodas, bopping slowly to some pop diva disco music, and getting judgy looks from tall men with perfect abs. We are at Burning Man to get lost in dust storms, to jury-rig elaborate outdoor social showers, to fall asleep in a geodesic dome while somebody explains how to manifest aligned consciousness, to watch frat boys swinging from trapezes while removing their own shorts, and to chase sharks across the desert in a whaling ship.
Participation is our number one value. We don't have spectators, tourists, or sparkle-ponies. We don't pay people to build our camp for us. Everyone helps build and strike the camp. Everyone can expect to do shifts preparing meals, cleaning up, fetching ice, whatever needs to be done.
Our first year
In 2018, I went with sixteen friends to Burning Man for the first time. None of us had been before. We called our camp GTM - the Gay Turtle Makeout. I had some idea of what to expect from videos, pictures, and descriptions on the Internet, but the minute I arrived I was completely blown away.
The first time I realized that there was something extra going on was on my very first bike ride, travelling across the city on the bike I had borrowed for the week, and I noticed that, despite the dust and dirt, I was actually in the cleanest city I had ever been to in the world. There was literally not a single piece of garbage to be seen. If you've ever been to a music festival and waded knee-deep in litter you might think that this kind of urban cleanliness is not something that the human race is capable of pulling off.
The next weird thing was that I literally did not see a single item that I might have recognized from a normal city. There were no banks, shops, crazy people, Starbucks, 7-11s, or traffic. Instead there was art, fabulous mutant vehicles, tent villages, and parades of beautiful people of all ages in every imaginable form of dress.
And then I noticed that everyone was extremely friendly and was delighted to engage me in conversation. The operating system of this city was different than anything I had ever encountered before: more like a picnic with friends, but with 70,000 friends.
By the end of the day, my mind was fully blown. I had had several amazing experiences that were literally beyond the realm of anything I thought an amazing experience could be. On a scale of, say, 1-100, I kept having experiences that were well above 300 and made me feel that my personal "how awesome is this?" scale was broken and I had just never encountered anything like this before.
And finally, I just had to think to myself, "holy shit, this is the future." Black Rock City, a temporary city in the desert, is actually a giant, collaborative artwork created by 70,000 people every single year. It is an artwork in the form of a civilization that is unique to the world, and, as such, it is the largest single collaborative work of art in the history of the human race.
The Future Turtles
That camp of 16 friends came back the next year as The Gay Turtles. This time, though, we knew a lot more about what we were doing and had better shade, better logistics, some gifts for our neighbors, and all around a better idea of how to survive the week in the Black Rock Desert. We introduced the idea of a high intensity workout in the desert which proved to be popular.
In 2020 and 2021, the "official" Burning Man did not happen due to the global pandemic (although there was an amazing renegade burn in 2021).
The Turtles finally returned to Black Rock City in force in 2022, with 36 awesome members. We did everything bigger and better than before. You can read a complete report of our 2022 burn here.