Category Archives: Events
My day has been pleasantly quiet, generally.
I had a late breakfast with a submissive male who is a friend, too, and is always interesting. We chatted about art, about the current political debates, and compartmentalization in our respective lives.
After that, I came home and spent the rest of the afternoon going through email, answering emails in my normal account and my Fetlife account, making some reservations for upcoming events, and working on my Bluegrass Leather Pride contest.
Then I joined a group of friends to celebrate a birthday, which was fun.
Working on Bluegrass Leather and some on Great Lakes Leather Alliance is going to be my day tomorrow, too, and I hope to have many of the details ironed out tomorrow.
This is, then, going to be short and not that exciting, because I need to pop back to that.
I also want to thank everyone for the nice comments regarding the passing of my half brother, they have meant a great deal to me. I’ll have some time over the next few days to catch up on comments, too, so I’ll respond individually, but I did see them, and thank you all for them.
Ever have one of those days?
It began with a LARGE dog mess that had to be cleaned up. A mess that spanned two rooms. First thing.
I’ve worked on laundry all day, which I honestly don’t mind, but it’s been a lot of steps up and down stairs, since the laundry is in the basement. There has also been moving the clean clothes up to the upstairs, another flight.
I feel as though I’ve been doing a stair master all day, and while that’s not bad, my joints are beginning to protest.
I had another mess to clean up when the big plastic container of liquid laundry detergent somehow fell off the dryer, breaking the screw top, and spewing a certain amount of soap over the dryer, the washer, and some of the clean clothes.
Then there was the large pool of detergent on the floor.
I got it cleaned up, and now I have washcloths that are going to function as laundry drop-ins, since they are saturated with soap.
It has rained. ALL DAY. I know, I know, we’re getting rain and I should shut the fuck up and be grateful, but it’s rained ALL day. Drizzled. Steady, drippy, boring rain. Gray day, not a ray of sunshine to be seen.
Dogs can’t go out, or when they do, they track in astonishing amounts of mud. There are puppy footprints on the floor where I swept up the puppy footprints yesterday from the rain yesterday.
I don’t know how much rain we’ve had over the last few days, but it’s been a lot. The pool that we’ve never gotten around to draining for the winter because we’ve barely HAD a winter is about to overflow.
And for those of you who know about sub drop, let me tell you, event drop is just as real.
One is on and being all charismatic and upbeat and everything and it went well, but there’s a price one pays, too, in terms of the internal batteries, as well as external.
I’ve not done some of the things I wanted to do, and that’s ok, there’s time, but I feel unproductive, and that is never a feeling I like. Bluegrass Leather Pride looms, GLLA is on the horizon, and Fringe Elements is always there.
I have had to do some bottoming for the community lately, and that’s not my favorite thing. Sometimes we do things we find repugnant because it’s what’s required for the better of the community, and those are never the things that anyone notices. One throws oneself on the sword at times.
I’m tired and probably hungry – dinner is bean soup I thankfully started this morning, and frozen biscuits. I’ll survive, it’s not anything serious, but I would be much happier if tomorrow were a sunny day and the dogs could stay out longer than five minutes without bringing in so much mess that it feels like mud wrestling preliminaries.
I hope your Sunday is more cheerful than mine.
Last night was the January Saturday Munch, the first munch of 2013, the first month of our 16th year.
That alone still seems amazing.
Both Friday and Saturday munch were large ones, which is usually the case.
I think the reason is at least two-fold.
On one hand, I think people by January have gotten through the work parties and the family parties and all the holiday festivities.
Families are not always easy for kinky people. We often feel as though we don’t fit in, as though we’re aliens at the table, or at least I do, and I doubt I’m alone there.
We spend time trying to blend and when we can stop it’s a relief and we go back to being who we are with the people we want to be.
Secondly, I think it has a lot to do with resolutions.
I think for a lot of people, one of the resolutions they make is to explore kink in a new year. They’re tired of missing out, or feeling like they’re missing out on something.
They’ve spent a long time, decades sometimes, thinking about things they might want to experience, and now it’s a new year and all the talk about resolutions and life changes get to them.
Some people join a gym, some people come to a munch.
There were, then, not unexpectedly a lot of new people at both munches. Traditionally February was always the biggest munch, for all the reasons listed above, plus the fact that I figured it took January for people to work up their courage to actually walk through the door.
It was a pleasant enough munch, though I did have to address something I’d have been happier not to, but that is not always the case.
There had been, apparently, some gossip that there had been differences between the Munch and Fringe Elements, which is preposterous, which is what I had to speak about.
I reminded people how close the Munch has always been to my heart, and how important it is to me. I also invited anyone who believed there was a problem to bring it to me directly, and look me in the eye to tell me about it.
I doubt there will be anyone who will do it, because there rarely is, but I think I made my position clear, and that was the point of it.
Sometimes making it clear that you’re inviting people to confront you directly is the best way to ensure that they won’t.
So, today was the first day of 2013, and I made a good start to it, and I am happy about that.
slave drew and I had some left over lasagne I made last night, which was quite good. We also realized that between about 4pm and 8pm, he ate:
Two veggie dogs with bread.
His LARGE serving of lasagne, and about a third of my more reasonable portion.
A good sized salad.
Five muffins. Yes, that’s right, five. These were not little gem muffins, these were full-size muffins I made this evening, and they were pretty good.
So, I fed slave drew, which is not a small thing.
I uploaded some photos for drew to his Facebook account.
I also responded with a long email to something, and I added nine new events for my BDSM Basics series, with class descriptions for each month, which is a good part of the whole work of putting a class together. Once I know what the class is ABOUT, then it’s easy to present it.
In addition to getting the events created and written, I got my online calendar updated for the year. A lot of things are continuing items – munches and SIG’s and meetings. Then there are the big events, like GLLA that need to be added.
I keep a paper calendar, too, because I need that visual, too, sometimes. And now, on the first day, I feel as though I’m a bit more ready for the coming year. I have added enough of drew’s calendar to keep me aware of what he’s doing, too, and that’s important as well.
So, in the glow of New Year organization, I will toddle myself off to bed.
I’ve not felt very well for a couple of days, a stomach thing that was minor but didn’t feel minor, but I’m feeling closer to myself now, though still not 100%.
I’ve had a quiet couple of days, not doing much, not going anywhere, other than slave drew and I going out today to the mall. He wanted to look for something and I went along. I found a couple of things at good after-Christmas prices, so it was worthwhile.
We made a quick grocery run, too, and now we’re home until we head to see slave drew’s brother, his wife, and their two children tomorrow evening. Then we have one more gathering
Other than that, I’ve spent the day at home, and I have no complaints about that, either.
It snowed last night, so I got up to a very pretty world, the kind with a couple of inches of very wet snow stuck to every horizontal surface, and some that aren’t so horizontal, either.
The dogs were delighted. Snow must do something to the scents out there, because the dogs love little as much as fresh snow. It’s not so cold as to be overly unpleasant, but cold enough that the snow’s not melted, so it’s still pretty.
It was funny to watch people out and about today. I wore a turtleneck, a long-sleeve t-shirt and a zippered sweater over it, but no coat.
I hate coats.
I hate being cold, too, but I most of the time hate coats more, so I will nearly always just deal with being cold between car and building rather than have to wear a coat. There’s one in the car if I break down, but I rarely do.
There were people out today in mukluks and parkas, hats and earmuffs. It was about 34 degrees.
I went to college in upstate New York, and lived there for six years all told.
I used to walk regularly to jobs, to classes, from one bus stop to another and back again.
If you breathed through your mouth, your jaw ached because your fillings got so cold.
You didn’t go anywhere without coat and hat and gloves and boots and that includes to take out the garbage.
I remember sitting around in our apartment with friends. The radiator in the living room worked so little that we kept our television on it.
What we routinely wore, in each other’s houses in winter, was long underwear, tops and bottoms, jeans, socks, shoes or slippers, a flannel shirt, a wool sweater and a down vest.
To see people in 34 degree temperatures dressed us as if they are delivering the serum to Nome always amuses me.
Really, sir, I swear, you don’t need earmuffs in your car. Honest.
And if someone would like to explain the concept of sequined mukluks to me, I will listen and try and maintain a straight face, but seriously. Sequined mukluks? I think not.
We’ve spent our evening watching Project Runway and various British murder mysteries. Our Christmas gift for us this year was a new television – nothing wild, I think it’s 32″, and it was a very good price – a $500 TV for $200.
The sound, however, was less than stunning, so when I noticed a sound bar that was regularly about $180 for $40, so we added that to the system, and I spent a few minutes last night setting it up, so we’ve been enjoying sound we can hear again.
I started writing a presentation for South Plains on the concept of transparency, specifically in M/s relationships. It will require a lot more work, but it’s at least started, which makes me feel good.
I got the rest of the dividers I needed for my presentation binder, too, and set them up. That makes me feel much more organized.
Eventually I’d like to move them all to Power Point presentations, too, but I haven’t gotten that far. I’ve also spent a bit of time trying to go through my files on my computer and organizing them. They’re not a terrible mess, but it’s hard to have 15 – really – years worth of files that have been on four or five computers, and have them all as tidy as one might like.
Over the spring, I’d like to get that done, get my files sorted, get the programs migrated to Power Point as well as the notes I already have.
I suppose that while I rarely make resolutions, I do like to have plans, and those are probably the same thing. I’ll set up some other goals for myself over the next few weeks.
For the moment, my goal is an early bedtime.
If some of your goals are less than lofty, you have a better chance of meeting them.
So, when last I left, we were at the Bizarre Bazaar and the party was about to start.
Actually, before it started, I took the opportunity to have the fabulous Sir Markos take some photos of me with slave drew for our Christmas picture.
He did a wonderful job and we ended up with at least three contenders for the position. I think it will end up being the one I posted last night, which I am referring to as “Peekaboo,” since I seem to be leaning to one side.
Later in the evening I had him take a few absolutely priceless photos with Elf Devon, one of which I posted here yesterday, too.
One of the things that has been important to me over the last few years is the bringing back of the tradition of earned Leather. At the Great Lakes Leather Alliance weekend every year we give earned Leather during the brunch.
One of the things that matters to me about that tradition is that your Leather is earned, that it’s not just something you necessarily go buy, but something that you earn through your work in the community.
Traditionally, earned Leather can only be given by someone who has earned three pieces themselves. It’s rather like being vested, in a manner of speaking. You can’t give Leather until you have earned your own.
I’ve given Leather to ten people over the years. One was, in retrospect, a mistake, but not of such magnitude that I would take it back. I’ve given thought to it, but always decided against it.
In 2010 and 2011, I gave Leather at the Louisville Munches, but wasn’t offered that option this year, so the ceremony was moved to the event itself.
Giving someone Leather also makes them a part of my Leather family, in a formal sort of way. Or, as those members tend to joke – I think it’s a joke, anyway – one of Ms Constance’s bitches.
Because of that, it’s not a quick decision, or one I make lightly, although I do already know who will probably be given Leather next year, unless something happens between now and then to make me change my mind.
I look at who works in the community, first. I pay attention to who devotes time and energy, at who volunteers, and maybe more importantly, at who doesn’t wait to be asked to volunteer.
I like to have two other people speak about the people to whom I give Leather, in addition to my speaking. Sometimes I say more, sometimes I say less. One thing I do, too, each time is pass the piece of Leather itself among the people there. I like the concept of each of them adding a trace of themselves to the Leather.
One thing I do each time I give Leather is read the same thing. Part of it is what is read at Great Lakes, too, a piece that was written by slave ziggy, from whom I have permission. slave ziggy and his Mistress, Suzan, share the titles of International Master and slave 2006.
The first part is a short paragraph I wrote. The part that I read each time is this:
The Leather community is a tribe. We come from many different perspectives and backgrounds, but we come together as a group to honor those among us who have, through their dedication to and work within that community, earned a piece of Leather.
As an elder in this tribe, I have the right and the privilege of presenting that earned Leather tonight. You are our tribe, and you are, then, also our witnesses. Because you are our witnesses, the Leather we will be presenting tonight is being passed among you.
This is the last time it will be appropriate for you to touch these pieces without the permission of the owners, but as part of the tribe, it is entirely appropriate for you to touch them now, to add a trace of yourself to the Leather.
At Great Lakes Leather weekend, we read these words before we present earned Leather. They were written by slave ziggy.
“Beginning with a condensed version of what I understand to be a rudimentary history of Leathermen:
Servicemen in wartime had experienced the stress of war and the company of other servicemen for long periods. Upon returning, they sought each other out as a way to find support, to fit in, and to try to make sense of their shared experiences. The life they lived in the military was one of discipline and hard work. They often found it hard to assimilate back into a society that simply would not understand.
Those experiences did not translate into a new lifestyle, once outside the military structure. Tightly knit groups of men formed, and they developed a language and specific practices that only one who was “on the inside” or had been in military service would understand.
Most of these groups remained highly exclusive out of necessity. It was only through someone on the inside, that another was allowed access. There may have been hundreds-perhaps thousands-of these groups throughout the country. Each had their own twist on protocols and practices, yet many adhered to what had been taught to them in the military. Although there were varying degrees of discipline and order, a few concepts were consistent in each of these groups.
1. Honor: The way one interacts with others, maintaining a good name and reputation.
2. Integrity: The way in which one handles one’s affairs and one’s adherence to accepted ethical codes.
3. Trust: Due to the nature of their practices, both socially and sexually, trusting a fellow Leatherman was as important as the trust one had in another when in combat. Their lives and their practices depended on it.
4. Respect: In the military, these men developed a mutual respect not only for each other, but also for authority. Seniority in rank and experience took a front seat in combat, and in these groups.
5. Loyalty: As in the military, these men developed strong alliances to the groups they were involved in, sometimes to the point of exclusivity. Outsiders were outsiders. Anyone wanting in would have to gain admittance through an insider, who then became responsible for him. People who wanted in were subject to testing just as one is tested in the military through boot camp. If they didn’t cut it, they were pushed back out on the fringes of the group where they stayed.
As with the military, everything one has is EARNED. This is what formed the tradition of earning one’s Leathers. Regardless of where one ended up on the Dominant or submissive scale, nearly everyone started out at the bottom and earned their way up. I also suspect that a Dominant could take the fast track through earning His Leathers, but not the respect of His fellow Leathermen.
Now, folks profess their Mastery with words from a keyboard, or clothing from the local Leather shop. Sadly, it has lost its original meaning of longevity of service or knowledge. Thankfully, there are people who still value the idea of earning what you are given. There are people within the community that value this symbol and are working to bring the tradition back.”
This year, I gave two pieces of Leather, one to Cerrin, and one to Shane. Normally, I end the ceremony in exactly the same way, too, though I made a slight change this year.
Once the other two people who speak for the one being presented Leather are done, I bring up the person who is to be given their Leather. Usually they don’t know until the first time their name is used during the presentation.
I say the same words to them, normally, every time, though this year I did make some changes. What I normally say at the end is this:
“By presenting you this piece of Leather, which you have earned through your service to this community, you become a formal part of my Leather family. I know that you will make me proud by continuing to earn it. Do you promise to continue working for others and for your community? Will you continue to do something nice for someone else every single day of your life?”
Some of the Leather I have given over the years has been new, sometimes made specifically for the person, and some has been used.
When it’s possible and appropriate to do so, I like giving Leather that belonged to others. This year I gave an apron, which was made specifically for Cerrin, and a vest, which I actually bought at the silent auction at the International Transgender Leather Person contest in Atlanta. The organizers, Wayne Brawner and his slave, Keith, had donated the vest, and the fact that it carried some of those Leather men, too, is appealing to me.
Once I’d finished the Leather presentation, I realized that all but three of the people I have ever given Leather to were there, so I asked all of them to join me. In addition, I had slave drew join me, because he is clearly part of my family, and Ms Tammy. I was involved in presenting Ms Tammy her first piece of Leather, too, and she is also family.
Interestingly, and meaningfully, the person who presented me my first piece of Leather on behalf of the community, back in 2003, was also there, and I asked him to join us, too. Master David presented me my Master’s cover shortly before we headed off to Dallas to compete for the International Master and slave title, saying, “We wouldn’t send you to Dallas bare-headed.”
The final part of the presentation was for me.
Sandy “Mama” Reinhardt is a fixture in the Leather community. You can read about her here.
If you go to events much, you’ll notice lots of people wearing small brass pins that say, “Mama’s XXXXX.” There are something over 1600 members of Mama’s Family. Often at events, there will be a moment when they do a photo shoot of Mama’s Family attendees.
One of the primary requirements for being part of Mama’s Family is working for the community and for charity both. When I was at an event in Lexington a month or two ago, Mama approached me to ask me to be part of her family. She also asked Ms Tammy, too.
You have to choose your name, of course. I suggested Mama’s Bear Hunter to Ms Tammy, since she is so fond of bears, and I’d settled on Mama’s Party Dominatrix, since that’s what I’ve called myself for years at GLLA. Ms Tammy had been pinned by Mama at a recent Lexington event which I didn’t make, and Mama had given her my pin.
Ms Tammy spoke briefly about what being part of Mama’s Family meant, and then she pinned me, which Mama always does right over your heart, allowing you to place it on your leather where you’d like.
In vest protocol, your club pins, the things that show your affiliations and your memberships, go on the left, the same side as your heart. The pins for places you’ve been, your “run pins,” go on the right. Traditionally club colors or leather patches go on the back.
It was meaningful to me to have all those people there, and I’m glad I was given the pin in front of my community.
So, yet again, my family grows.
So now we’re about half way through Friday night. I haven’t even TALKED about the appearance of Santa on his sleigh pulled by Gypsy, the red-nosed rein… pony?
More to come tomorrow.
I’ve talked before about my first event, which was Black Rose 10, in November of 1997.
It was called Black Rose 10 because it was a party to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Black Rose organization, out of Washington, D.C.
My submissive at the time was Bill, who lived outside Chicago and was some minor Republican elected official, one that sent him to Washington on a fairly regular basis.
Who knows, maybe he wasn’t so minor of an official. If I could only remember anything other than Bill, I might be able to find out, but then, I’d have to be particularly interested, too, and I’m not, so there’s that.
Anyway, Bill spent enough time in D.C. that he knew about BR and knew about the party, and wanted to go and wanted me to go with him.
I don’t know what I expected, or what I knew about events. I’d been to some local play parties, which I should talk about next, maybe, but anyway, I had some idea, I imagine, what was going to happen, what to expect, but only a vague idea.
So, we drove to D.C. Bill took me to some expensive and lovely seafood restaurant on the bay. I remember having some lovely lobster bisque, and craw fish, which Bill peeled for me.
It was the first time I’d been to D.C., so we did some of the things one does in D.C. I remember going to the Lincoln Memorial and being really awed by the size of it and the grandeur.
We went to the FDR memorial, of course, because there’s a statue of Fala there. It’s the only Presidential pet so honored. Fala, of course, was a Scottish Terrier, and we know that I think it’s appropriate that a Scottish Terrier should have that distinction.
What I remember most, though, was going to the Vietnam Memorial and walking down along the wall, seeing the names, the trinkets and tokens tucked into the wall or left on the path beside it, people taking pencil etchings of names.
Bill was about 15 years older than I, I think, meaning he both remembered Vietnam well and had lost friends in it. I remember he walked along the wall with me but didn’t really look at it, and he had tears on his face by the time we reached the end.
It was a gray, rainy day, and we walked over to the Vietnam Nurses Memorial, too, which was still fairly newly installed. The picture I took there is one of my favorites that I’ve taken.
So, anyway, that was the D.C. portion of our tour.
Then we went to Black Rose.
It was, I think, in a Ramada, though over the years the hotels blur.
I remember I went to all the classes I could, and they were, almost without exception, really good classes.
I went to Sarah Lash’s Flogging Class.
I went to a panel on Edge/Fear play, that had sitting on it Joseph Bean, a lawyer named, I think, Rose, and a couple other people.
I went to a class by a guy who went by Big Mark on online presence that I found so unpleasant I walked out, but I took a class of his later, I think at a later Black Rose, on caning that was very very good.
I remember watching the S&M Olympics, and a Pet Tricks contest.
In the Pet Contest, what I remember was seeing some very cute girl who was a puppy. She had her hair in what Beth always called “puppy ear” pigtails, and had a nose and some whiskers painted on her face.
I remember riding with her and her Owner on the elevator and she was totally in character, sniffing my feet and wagging her “tail” at me quite fetchingly.
There was, I think, some kind of agility contest and some obedience exercises, but then each pet – I think there were two or three – showed off their “special skill.”
Her skill was painting a self portrait, and it was so entertainingly done.
Her master gave her a paint brush, which she held in her mouth, and there was a palette on the ground. He had put a little beret on her, as well, and she had a mirror into which she could look.
She “painted” with the brush in her mouth, dipping it into the palette, cocking her head, really hamming it up in the most charming way possible. Finally, she was done and her master held up the finished work, an eight by ten photograph of the girl in her puppy persona, wearing a beret.
It was really adorable.
I saw the same girl later that night being suspended by Midori, in a sort of arabesque position, laughing and having a wonderful time.
There was a Bondage in a Bag contest, wherein each couple got a bag with the same random items, like 50 feet or rope, a 3″ wooden dowel, a set of chopsticks, a pair of shoelaces and a leather belt, all of which had to be used in a bondage rigging that the riggee could stand to remain in for a half hour or so.
There was a nipple clamp contest for who could take the most weight on, I assume, alligator clamps, the kind that tighten as you pull on them, and one for weight on balls. There was a clothespin contest for who could stand the most on their body.
I met some people there, or at the next three Black Roses that are still around. I met Joansie, I think, at one of the Black Roses, and just saw her in Chicago last month.
I met Mark, who wrote something I worked on editing, a piece I heard him read called, “Biker Nick.”
I met Greg, whom I have met perhaps a dozen times since, though each time he looks at me blankly and if there’s a reason to speak, he says it’s nice to meet me.
I met Frazier, who runs The Crucible public dungeon in D.C., and is an expert with a single tail. He at least took part in the S&M Olympics, maybe won.
I met Midori there, or at least saw her the first time, though I likely didn’t meet her, really, until a few years later. I certainly remember her, and I’ve had dinner with her in a group of people a few times, but we’re certainly no more than acquaintances.
I think I met Lolita Wolf there, too, or at least first ran into her there, another person with whom I have an acquaintance.
I met Goddess Lakshimi, and her slave, limey. limey was drew’s best man at our wedding, and Goddess did a reading there, too. Goddess dresses gorgeously always, and always wears jewelry.
I remember on our wedding day, she was wearing some dangling crystal earrings, which she took off and handed to me, saying, “You should be the only Goddess in the house today.”
I do remember walking into the dungeon the first time.
It was ENORMOUS.
They had taken over a parking garage, and my memory recalls that there were 113 pieces of equipment.
In retrospect, having arranged events myself now, that seems nearly impossible, but then, it was D.C., and it was a BIG event, something like a couple thousand people, I think.
I do have the program somewhere, I imagine, in a file cabinet in the basement, I should really look for it one of these days.
Anyway, I remember the first thing I saw was a person suspended via a LOT of fishhooks.
It’s one of the few times I have ever been shocked, honestly, at an event.
I have been surprised, been impressed, been sure something wasn’t for me, but I have rarely been shocked. I don’t think I can honestly remember another time, in fact.
But part of it is, I don’t like needles, they are something that squicks me and always has, though I am less squicked now than I used to be, but still.
And this was 15 years ago.
But I remember looking up and seeing this and thinking, “Oh. My. God. These people are *crazy!*
I am sure we played, because I like public play, and so did Bill, but I don’t remember that. I do know it was certainly the biggest space in which I had ever played and the most people, too.
I do remember hearing all the people around me and the music, I remember that being a very intoxicating kind of environment, and it was still very new to me. Events in general were still pretty new, though Black Rose 10 was not the first event ever, certainly.
I went to three more Black Rose events, 1998, 1999 and 2000, but none sense. I had an opportunity to present there six or seven years ago, and that’s one place that I would have liked to present at, particularly at that time, but we couldn’t work out the various details, and then Black Rose had some issues mostly with locations, and they took a hiatus and their weekends kind of swapped around and I lost track, really, of which years it was held and when, October or November?
Since then, I’ve been to close to 100 events, large and small, and organized some all on my own, but that was the first event, and it was, as my mother would have said, a doozy.
(Sorry for the weird photo spacing, one of these days I’ll actually bother to learn the software here…)
I just got an invitation this week to present at Kinky Kollege in Chicago in October. An old friend, Jack Rinella, asked me to do a 101 sort of class for them, as well as a couple more. I don’t know what else I’ll present for him, I sent him a long list of classes I have available.
I will also be presenting with my friend Ms Tammy at Mr. Georgia Leather in Atlanta in September, and of course I’ll be presenting at GLLA in August in Indianapolis. I presented last month at Corn Con in Bloomington, Illinois, and in April at Beyond Leather, in Florida.
I also do local classes once a month at least, too.
I like presenting. I’m a dominant, what’s better than standing in front of a bunch of people, all of who are gazing at me with rapt attention, hanging on every word I say. Or so I tell myself.
One of my favorite classes to present is a communication class. It talks a lot about the differences in the ways women communicate versus men. While I always preface it by noting that it is, indeed, stereotypical and there are men and women who don’t behave in those ways, I find that it is substantially true.
I do a class on rituals that’s always fun, because I get a lot of audience participation. I ask people what rituals they use, what works for them, what doesn’t.
I do a lot of classes for novices, 101-type classes. I find that often the easiest thing is to give them some general information, and then let them ask questions about whatever they’d like. I need to start the class because they’re too shy in the beginning to just speak up, but once I get them started, they’re fine.
I started presenting a dozen years ago now, mostly as a way to offset the expense of going to events. It got me a free registration, or two. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve either moved up the ranks enough or the times have changed enough that the deals are better now, but sometimes I get a night or two in a hotel and once in a great while, expenses as well. Kinky Kollege is a good gig, free hotel, two registrations and expenses.
I don’t know how many classes I’ve offered at how many events. I’d guess that I’ve been to an average of six events a year for the last nearly 15 years. Some years it’s been fewer, but many years it’s been more. If nothing else is added to my schedule before the end of the year, I will have been to or presented at about eight events in a year’s time.
So, at a half dozen events a year for 15 years, that’s about 90 events, probably more. I’ve been to 10 GLLA’s. I think I was at six or seven Vicious Valentines, and a couple of Malicious Masquerades. I’ve been to four Black Roses, including the first one.
I’ve been to Leather Retreat and Dark Odyssey and Thunder in the Mountains and Northwest Leather Conference and South Plains Leather Fest and South East Leather Fest. I went to six or eight Ohio Leather Fests, and eight or nine Anything for Loves.
I’ve been to Beat Me in St. Louis at least four or five times, and Beyond Leather four times. I’ve been to Leather Leadership Converence three times.
I’ve been to Smart Fest and Pheer Fest and Beat My Valentines. I’ve been to Corn Con and Evening in Leather and Master’s Retreat.
I have produced my own events, too, two Derby City Fetish Balls and two Bluegrass Leather Pride Festivals.
I’ve been to more smaller events than I can remember – in Indiana and Kentucky and Ohio, Leather contests and bar nights and Pride Celebrations.
And now I feel as though I should have set this to the music of the old Johnny Cash song, “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
Not so much, actually.
I am not really a forgive and forget kind of girl. I can forgive mistakes; flaws in character, however, are another thing.
Other people seem to be far more fickle than I am. I don’t usually burn bridges until I am absolutely positive that there is nothing on the other side I will truly miss before I set ablaze the only means by which to reach it.
I do have a temper, but it rarely flares. I am more an Ice Princess type than a Drama Queen. Revenge is a dish best served cold, after all.
It takes a lot for me to write someone off. It’s not a whim thing, it’s a considered decision. I have to believe you to be essentially dishonest, obstructionist, untrustworthy and/or singularly unreliable.
I have never made the decision to sever ties with someone based on one incident. I’m sure there are actions that would bring that about, but I’ve never had that happen.
It’s a series of incidents, observations, reactions. I also don’t take people’s words, without a lot of corroboration. If someone I trust implicitly tells me something, it weighs as heavily as my having direct knowledge, but even in those situations I would weigh what I was told with what my experience with someone was.
In other words, I don’t make opinions based on general gossip, at least not without considering the source and the potential motive of those carrying the tale, compared to whether the gossip is something my experience tells me is plausible.
But when I am done, I am done.
There are people with whom I have had mild dust-ups over the years who I have learned to like, respect, or even tolerate well. In all the cases I can think of, though, I never believed they were intentionally malicious. I think that’s the factor for me, did you MEAN for this to not only hurt me or a person, but did you intend to hurt the community or group. That’s pretty unforgivable for me.
So, anyway, the real item of interest to me, what spurred this, is how fickle others seem to be.
I did write someone off years back. I sent them an email that said very clearly what they had done that I knew about, that told them I did not want to have any contact with them again in the future, that they were, for all intents and purposes, dead to me. I also said that if the person continued to spread the lies I knew for a fact were lies, I would make sure the rest of the things I knew had been done over the years were made very public.
When I am done, I am done.
I have seen this person relatively recently and heard from another person who had occasion to spend time in the same place, and it is clear this person wants to make up, straighten out this “misunderstanding” between us.
The problem to me, of course, is that there was no misunderstanding. I know what I know, I saw what I saw, I witnessed what I witnessed, and they were not mistakes in perception or judgement, they were lack of character.
I don’t do anything to try and sabotage this person. I have been asked about events in which the person has been involved and have said that while my personal relationship with them was not good, I had never heard anything bad about the event.
I simply don’t want to have contact with them, ever. I don’t want to be their friend, I don’t want to make up, I don’t want to pretend that what was done wasn’t intentional and malicious, to behave as though the patina of the years has dulled my memory or my reaction.
When I am done, I am done.
If I say, I do not want to speak to you again, see you again, or have contact with you again, I promise, I will not be knocking on your door a month later. I thought about what that meant before I said it.
I also don’t make threats I can’t or won’t keep. It’s a bad practice, and makes such things much less effective.
So, I went to a high Leather dinner many years ago, nearly a decade now, I think, maybe more. In any case, there was that person there whom I had said that.
In entering the room to be seated, I was on the arm of a friend, Kevin, a black gay male top who also went by the name of Demon. I did everything I could to avoid the issue, but still managed to have the boy who was seating people try and seat me to the left of the person with whom I had cut ties.
I still think of the poor boy. We walked in, in high whore leather, dressed to the nines. There were some fairly well-known people there. Tristan Taoramino, Jack Rinella, Master Steve Sampson, Master Taino, Master Roy, Master Dean, and more. The boy seating us indicated the seat he expected me to take, to the immediate left of the person I had tried so hard to avoid.
I shook my head and said, “No.”
I didn’t say it loudly, to be clear, and I genuinely had tried to avoid the confrontation entirely, but because of whatever manner they were using to seat us, though I’d waited for several other people to go in between us, the seating still worked out initially just as I was hoping to avoid.
The boy had clearly not been told what to do when a woman in leather fucks up your carefully planned seating. He looked like a deer in headlights, then gestured to the chair again, nervously.
Again, I shook my head and again said, quietly, “No, I’m sorry, that won’t do.”
The boy clearly didn’t know what to do next, but about that time a single gentleman came in behind us, and I simply stepped back, indicated with a nod of the head to the boy that he should go ahead in seat the newly-arrived gentleman, and the problem was solved for the evening.
Master Steve Samson that night was the keynote speaker and he made me cry, something I do rarely and not easily, and even more rarely in public.
He read passages from the Little Prince and The Velveteen Rabbit.
From the Little Prince, he read this passage:
“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the colour of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…”
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
“Please– tame me!” he said.
From The Velveteen Rabbit, he read:
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
So, this started out about not forgiving and forgetting, and ended with passage sthat still makes my eyes tear up, and which will always and forever remind me of Master Steve and that dinner, long ago.
I was just asked to judge the International Master and slave contest in March in Dallas. That lead me to remember something I wrote a while back, which I am again going to retread, about judging a Leather contest:
I spent last weekend in the rather strange position of judging other members of our community.
Let me clarify, since to some extent, we judge others all the time in all kinds of ways. I was officially judging them. It wasn’t just the usual passing of a yay or a nay about someone and the choices they made in partner or wardrobe.
I was one of eight judges on a panel to pick a Leather Sir, a Leather boy and a Bootblack, all of whom would go on to the International Leather Sir/Leather boy and Community Bootblack Contest.
It’s an interesting thing to come into a room as a sort of designated “expert” on the Leather community. By my informal estimate, I would guess that the eight people on the panel have a combined length of experience in the public Leather community of about 150 years.
I know, from having been on the other side of the judging table, that we might well have seemed very intimidating. I went into it knowing three or four of the other judges, though none of them particularly well. Interestingly, judging together does tend to create a bond between you.
The next time I see any of them, we’ll meet as at least acquaintances; some I’ll meet as friends.
The goal of a judging panel is to choose those who will represent our community, those who will carry a title that says, I am verified, I’ve been tried and tested by a worthy panel of judges and they have set their seal of approval on me. They agree that I am what I say I am, and that what I am is what they agree a Leather Sir, or a Leather boy, or a Bootblack should be.
And what did we, as judges, think they should be? The first thing we believed they should be is qualified to hold the title.
Like most Leather contests, this one has a couple of requirements for contestants. There are two primary and inviolate rules to hold the Sir or boy title. One is that the contestants must identify as male legally. Until recently, only those who were genetically male were allowed to compete, but that was changed to allow transsexuals as well.
The other inflexible requirement is that you must self identify as being gay.
The Leather Sir and Leather boy titles describe themselves as the bad boys of Leather titles, because the titles are considered “player” titles, created with a focus on S&M as opposed to relationships. It’s expected that those who compete will be interested and experienced in different activities, which might include flogging, singletails, needles, mummification, bondage, electrical play, etc.
The title is the successor to the Drummer title, which was retired early in this decade, but it still maintains the Drummer credo. It’s a quote from Henry David Thoreau: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
The Bootblack title, like many Bootblack titles, does not have gender or sexuality requirements. The Bootblack title focuses on your skills at caring for leather, as well as your interaction with those who own the leather for which they care.
It is expected that they will be technically skilled, and that their personality will be engaging and appealing. We were very lucky to have two excellent contestants for that title, both of whom could have won and represented us well.
It was interesting to see what was important to each of us in judging another person to determine if they should represent those titles, and by that, ourselves. It seemed as though each of us had different interests, different kinds of questions we wanted answered.
One of the panel asked about the connection, for them, between sex and S&M.
One of us asked about their community service, another expectation for the title, that they will be visible in the community and working for charitable causes, both lifestyle and non-lifestyle related.
One of us asked about the kinds of S&M activities each one of them liked, while another asked about the current and former holders of the titles for which they were competing, and for which they would compete if they won that contest.
One of us asked the Sir and boy contestants what had happened in June of 1969, and in June of 1981. The answers, for those of you who are interested, are that in June of 1969 the Stonewall riots occurred in New York City, which is marked as the beginning of the gay liberation movement, and the AIDS epidemic is considered to have officially begun in June of 1981.
Most of the contestants could answer the first; none of them could answer the second.
My questions were primarily about the leather they wore, how they’d acquired it, and what it meant to them.
The judge’s interviews are probably the hardest part of a contest for those who are running for a title, but it’s not the only area on which they are judged. We judge them on a speech, on their “Leather Image,” and on a fantasy they present on stage.
The Bootblacks are judged on a speech, their image and grooming, and how well they are able to care for leather. One of the ways that’s judged is by giving contestants a boot that has seen far better days and a set amount of time in which to “rescue” it, condition it, repair it, and polish it.
Each time, as you watch them, observe how they speak, what they say, how comfortable they are in their own skins, you then translate that into a number.
If the total points they could earn is 60, how well did they do? Was it a 90% effort? Or was it an 85% effort? Should I award them a 50, or a 55?
What if you think they did very poorly? What’s the worst you can legitimately score them? Is it ever fair to say a zero is appropriate, for someone who was willing to put themselves on the line, so to speak, to compete?
It’s a challenge to decide how well someone did, from one’s own personal perspective. Suppose I think their community involvement is really great, but they don’t know anything about their own Leather history?
Suppose they seem very comfortable in their own skins, but very uncomfortable in the leather clothing they wear? Should that matter?
It’s somewhat of a comfort to know it’s an Olympic scoring system which throws out the highest and lowest score for each category, so if you mark them much higher or lower than others, that anomaly in scoring won’t cost a worthwhile competitor the title or award it to an undeserving one.
In the end, we crowned a Leather Sir, a Leather boy, and a Bootblack, and I’m comfortable with all the winners we chose. Some have more work to do to prepare for the next stage than others, but I don’t think any of them will represent us poorly, will make me wonder if I made the right decision, if I should have been more conservative in the scores I gave, more demanding in what I expect from someone who will represent me.
I am confident, too, that each of them will grow personally in their representation of our community, and that the people I see in six months competing for the next level will be more prepared and even more comfortable in their skins and their roles than they are at this moment.
On the other hand, I’m back to wondering what it is that makes me qualified to judge someone else.
Some of it, certainly, is my time served, so to speak. I have been around in one way or another closing in on a decade and a half. I’ve proved that I can walk the walk as well as talk the talk, both in terms of play and in terms of work in the community.
I’ve made it clear by the way I live that I’m not just a tourist, here to look around, then heading off for the next edgy community, for the next thrill. This is where I live, the community with which I identify.
I’ve run for titles myself, won a title, lost another, produced contests and titleholders myself. I’ve seen any number of contests, and this isn’t the first time I’ve judged.
On one hand, we tell each other that we shouldn’t judge others, that we can’t effectively judge anyone until we have walked in their shoes, seen their lives from their perspective and felt what they feel.
I think perhaps we should look at Leather contests and those who compete in the same way dogs are judged in dog shows.
In a dog show, the judge walks down the row of beagles, or dachshunds, or Scottish terriers, and looks at each of them, one by one. If you don’t know better, you assume he’s comparing each of them against all the others, asking if this is the BEST beagle of that group, or the prettiest dachshund, the most perfect Scottie of all the Scotties he sees in front of him, but he’s not.
What a judge is charged with doing is comparing each dog he sees to the perfect representation of the breed, what is called the breed standard. That standard describes very clearly what the judge is to look for, what is acceptable and what is not.
It says, for instance, that the beagle’s eyes will be “large, set well apart with a soft and houndlike-expression, gentle and pleading; of a brown or hazel color.”
It says that the dachshund must appear “neither crippled, awkward, nor cramped in his capacity for movement,” and adds that “inasmuch as the Dachshund is a hunting dog, scars from honorable wounds shall not be considered a fault.” Notice that even they consider that the wound should be honorably gained.
There are qualities for which the standard tells a judge that he must disqualify the dog, too.
In a Scottie, it insists, in capital letters that the American Kennel Club itself has chosen, “NO JUDGE SHOULD PUT TO WINNERS OR BEST OF BREED ANY SCOTTISH TERRIER NOT SHOWING REAL TERRIER CHARACTER IN THE RING.”
If the dog doesn’t behave as a Scottie should behave, if it appears timid or frightened, even if he finds it perfect in body, he cannot name the dog as a winner, even if that means no winner is chosen. Better to have no winner than to have one who is not what he should be, who does not behave as he should behave.
The judge is expected to carry a mental image of the perfect representation of that breed and superimpose it on the animal he is judging.
So, perhaps we should be doing the same thing as a judge.
We should be envisioning our perfect Leather Sir, or boy, or Bootblack, and measuring this contestant against that standard. Where does he fall short, where does he meet or even exceed what we might expect?
Is his capacity for movement awkward or crippled?
Are his scars those that have been gained honorably, and should therefore add to his value, not detract from it?
Does he show, perhaps most importantly, the true temperament of a Leather man or woman, of a Bootblack?
Perhaps in the end, that’s the single most important quality a judge should be looking for – a true titleholder temperament, one which will serve us well and represent us in a way in which we can be proud of the choices we made.
Perhaps the next time, that’s what I’ll focus on myself.