IL Leather Pride weekend congrats and thoughts

From both myself and slave angie, we’d like to congratulate the winners of the IL Leather Pride weekend contests

* Master Peter/slave evangeline – IL Master/slave 2012
* CherriesJubilee – IL Ms. Leather Pride 2012
* Justin – IL Leather Sir 2012
* pup pedro – IL Community Bootblack 2012

You all worked hard and competed hard and congratulations. It’s our sincerest wish you bring pride and honor to the IL titles and that you have a successful title year.

We’d also like to acknowledge the judges who came – thank you for your work and the opportunity to engage in a dialog with you.

Finally, we have to thank and congratulate Sir Bear and Ron for a very successful first time at producing the IL title contests. You guys rocked the house and have set a high bar for the years to come.

On a personal note, we are grateful to our brothers and sisters in the Chicago Leather Club, the LRA and the Chicago community for their support and well-wishes. We are very touched and honored by your love and friendship.

On a final note, there are a ton of vendors who contributed to the silent auction: IML, Shel-don Chicago Leather, Leather Archives & Museum, Early 2 Bed, Blue Havana, Bound-To-Please, Blue Diamond, Ginny, Cherries Jubilee, Slave Kelly and private donations. Thank you for your support and donations.

This is very difficult for us, as we poured our hearts and souls into demonstrating what we feel are the positive aspects of our Master/slave relationship and experiences. We have learned a lot and naturally nobody likes to not win, so if there are a few tears and stiff upper lips, please understand that’s just us trying to learn the lessons that we need to learn from this experience.

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Separate communities? Not so fast…

Recently, on Fetlife, I saw a question about how the “BDSM/kink” communities and “leather” communities seem closely aligned in some places, but separate in others. This question led to “how does one explain leather.” My answer to that is below.

So why do we find BDSM and Leather communities separate? How does one explain leather?

I think the answer to the first depends on the definition a person has about leather as much as the region. There are places where you may not see as much difference, and places where it’s very obvious what the differences are. You will find places where one “circle of the Venn” dominates/overshadows the other, or places where they are more tightly linked.

black-72926_640(The original poster on Fetlife) asked “They see the leather life style as being just a Gay thing!!. It confusing to many as how someone who is heterosexual could be in the leather life style and not gay. Many have no understanding of the life style at all. In many ways I myself am at a loss when it comes to the leather lifestyle/community. ”

Being Leather is not just a gay thing, but it did start in the gay community and it does owe its traditions and lessons to what was found in the gay community. The lesbian, queer and hets who followed the Leather path do so in the footsteps (figuratively speaking) of the gay men who lived (and died) in an environment that they claimed as their own.

(There were lesbians, trans and straights who found their way to the leather bars or inspired by the leather M/c’s, but by and large, it seems from my research they were very few and far between until the late 60s and 70s. I’m always eager to learn more about those times.)

That last bit, to me, helps to explain why there is a great deal of grumbling about the “pan leather community.” Since the 1950s, gay men, lesbian women and a few from the queer and het population lived in the dark bars and close-knit world of runs and private parties. In the close-knit Leather community, you did “earn your way” by service to your brothers/sisters, by proving yourself and being a part of your region’s leather tribe. Now, it seems like every Tom, Dick and Harry is claiming to be “old guard trained” and a member of some “leather house.”

I’d also caution against underestimating how much AIDS and the AIDS crisis in the 1980s not only devestated a vibrant gay leather community, but forever shaped it. Many gay leathermen/women from that era do feel a kinship that I believe we cannot be a part of – only honor and respect it. There were straight and trans folks who stood alongside the gay community in those dark times, but the reaction of the overall world to what was first caustically known as “GRID” (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) cannot be ignored in context.

I believe the identity formed by that life is why there’s resentment from some who identify as leather at the greater kink/BDSM world “discovering” leather and absorbing it – with all the ramifications that brings. Some geographical areas deal with that differently. Some leatherfolk have kept to their own, others have seen that the genie is out of the bottle and they are dealing with a new world. That discussion going on in the Dallas newspaper and panels like Race Bannon’s “Is Leather Dead” are ongoing – there’s a sense of “who are we REALLY and where do we want to go” in many leatherman/women, no matter what your identification is.

Originally, I wrote the following in my Fetlife response:
Learning what “hetleather” is will be up to us who identify as het to make our space, in respect to those who came before, those who want their own space, but in search of the bridges we can build between each other. That last bit is what I hope to see… so that “yes, there are separate communities, but they are in harmony and respect of each other” could be your answer to that question the person asked you.

However, Lady Justice’s comments about “straight leather” in her Leatherati interview hit me like a clue-by-four to the head:
There’s been much talk lately from some those people of forming a ‘straight leather community’ and every time I hear or read it I cringe. There IS a leather community. It IS alive and well. Why reinvent the wheel? To those people I say, if you want to join the leather community, DO IT. If you are not bio-gay male gender normative, you’re going to have to work twice as hard to receive half the respect. But, it will be worth it.

So maybe I shouldn’t take those dismissive words I’ve heard to heart… maybe that’s just part of my own learning process.

So this discussion continues, among all of us as well as inside my own head and heart.

Earning your leathers

black-72926_640At this year’s GLLA, as is customary at that event, Ms. Kendra publicly awarded leathers to those that she felt had earned them. This reminded me of my own acquisition of leather, both earned and – yes/gasp – bought.

When I first came out into the kink/BDSM community, I had no idea what I was doing. My initial forays were to find straight people who were doing these wonderful things that I’d fantasized about for so long, but I didn’t find a traditional leather community. I found spankos, swingers who crossed into the kink, people who seemed to be living weekdays in one world, weekends in a different world, and I saw a few mysterious folks. These folks seemed to have an aura about them, a type of attitude that spoke of having forbidden or private knowledge. The way they acted, spoke and conducted themselves made an impression on me.

What impressed me about these people was their emphasis on learning, on having an approach that you earned things, that you weren’t entitled to be Grand Master Poobah just because you could fit that title into the Username text field on the account registration screen, but that you had to earn your way into the community. So, I didn’t call myself Master of anything, except I identified myself as on the Master/slave path about 6 years after I first came out. It took me that long to be sure this was a path I could walk! Little did I know how much I didn’t know!  No, I was going to do it the hard way, but the right way. If the leather community that I was trying to become a part of felt that I had earned the title, then and only then would I accept it.

My first leather was not earned, mainly because in the het/straight world that I was aware of at the time, there weren’t the traditions of doing so. So my first leather was an FMC leather vest I bought at the Alley on Belmont and Clark in Chicago. My first boots were also self bought – OK, both pairs of boots that I own are self bought. My leather belt – self obtained. My second (and current vest) also was self bought. It wasn’t that I was thumbing my nose at anyone – it was simply that I wasn’t a part of a community where these things weren’t occurring. Yet.

It wasn’t until we became full members of the Chicago Leather Club in 2010, when slave angie and I were presented to the attendees of the Annual General Meeting as new full members, that I finally received a piece of earned leather – and that ended up being my Master’s cover. Mistress Joanne Gaddy and slave angie had gotten together to make it happen. Mistress Gaddy, Daddy T and Master Rick S all three presented it to me. I not ashamed to tell you that I cried, this had been a moment that I’d wanted to be a part of, to be the recipient of. Over the 15 years I’d been a part of the Chicago community, both underground and public, I’d given what needed to be given to help support my circle and my tribe and now I was recognized.

Since then, I’ve started seeing a lot more pansexual awarding of leathers, in Chicago and around the region. The nice thing is that this awarding is following the same thought patterns I had seen 15 years earlier… it’s given to people who’ve earned it. We don’t have the tradition of a person needing three pieces of earned leather in order to start awarding earned leather, but that’s not a bad tradition to look to the elders and those who’ve put in the time to get your leathers from.

If there was anything I would pass on as a lesson, it’s that sure, you can buy your leather gear, but to really feel it, to really have earned the titles and earned what is given to you, that’s a completely different thing – and it’s necessary to the growth and journey of a leatherman/woman. I feel really strongly that when you earn leathers, when you earn titles, it “entitles” you to more responsibility, more duties and more on your shoulders to continue earning those leathers, even though you wear them.

Writing this blog post is hard because I still feel a “twitch” that I shouldn’t buy more leather, that those leather pants that I see that would look so hot on me… I should keep my credit card in my wallet. Should I wait for all leather to be earned?

Now, though, I have people I can bounce these questions off of.  People that are part of my community, people who are part of the leather family that I hold dear. For that, for being given a chance to earn my place and my leather, I am continually grateful and hope that I continue to earn my place each day.

Leather and protocol – not what you think

cairn-60006_640This is not the same leather protocol post you might see elsewhere.

Last night, I saw what I consider the foundation of leather and protocol on display. A bunch of us who care deeply about something came together to work hard and do something about it. Sure, we had big letter types and small letter types there, but everyone sweated the same, worked hard the same and worked together the same. Someone needed help, others chipped in. There was good natured joking, a bit of teasing but we were together.

Protocol is contextual and about the rules of interaction for a given situation. Leather is a specific tilt to our kink, one that includes leather (and levi’s – ty to bensonboy for that great post on that subject), leathersex and TRIBE – people who gather close to protect and help.

The protocol last night was “pitch in and get it done. Fuck the letter types, if you have strong back and willing arms, you’re in.” Perfect.

The leather last night was a group coming together to do something that needed done, small, but not caring how little we were because the shared space is big. Perfect.

That’s all the leather and protocol definitions and examples I need in order to know I’m on the path I need to be on.

Love in M/s – the glue that binds us in the hard times

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” – John F. Kennedy

A subject that has come up recently prompted a lot of subsequent discussion between my slave and I, a hallmark of a good subject. It centered around the concept of emotion and “love” in the Master/slave relationship – does it enhance or hinder the relationship. As these things are wont to do, the subject wandered far and wide and became very challenging for me especially, to be able to phrase what have become key concepts in our (my girl and I) journey along this path. I find myself with a desire to write down some things, more as a touchstone for myself – something that I can look back on, continue to refine and explore and define as I and we journey along.

Our M/s is not a space or role that we switch into. Our M/s is as much a part of who we are together as our gender is. At the same time, our M/s dynamic isn’t centered around addressing a specific “need”, rather it is a calling and we find that call and answer within each other. Woven into that fabric is also the concept of two people who have chosen to live their lives together in all ways – family-wise, financial, goals, outlooks and romantically/intimately. We’ve taken these threads over the years and created a quilt that reflects who we are … but it is a never ending weaving. Sometimes threads come undone, sometimes whole panels come out and we look at them and see where we are at and decide if they go back in or not.

The other side of weaving this together is that objectifying her is extremely easy when we never come out of that place to being with. It’s rare that I can’t look at her and see the slave at the same time I see a vibrant human being that I’m in love with. I have no problem being cruel to her in the ways we want – that involve our S/m – nor do I have a problem giving her an order to do something that she clearly doesn’t like, doesn’t want to do, throws up the pouts and grumblings in the most respectful and quiet (but clearly visible to someone who’s live with someone else this long) and that doesn’t affect me. I love this woman, but if she’s unhappy because I told her to get downstairs and do XYZ, that’s the way it is. Her “ya ya” of being of service, of being taken in hand and of being dominated is fulfilled (and we’ll get to the equitable stuff in a moment).

We do not have an easy life and our M/s dynamic reflects that as well as influenced by that. We have a great many kids (and now grandkids) with various issues and responsibilities that with that. My slave suffers from lupus and it does affect at times how she can serve and what she can do. Its one of those diseases where things can go downhill really fast; there is a constant reminder of just how fragile and mortal we all are. We have all of the things that real life brings to us and, these days, those stresses can be huge. We also live in the closet in some sense – the more we bring ourselves out to the public, the more there is a chance we could find ourselves in the news as the next “freaks” to lose our kids. The real world is always present.

pacific-ocean-172370_640We also have dealt with ebbs and flows in our activities and active attention to the M/s dynamic, as well as our S/m play. There have been long periods of inactivity, a lot of that has to do with my own interests and how my Aspergers plays out with laser focus on one thing – all the time. These ebbs and flows were a first very difficult for us to get through, but we did and this is where the “love” and our M/s being woven throughout our lives came into play.

For me, even during those ebbs, I never lost faith in our dynamic, nor did I stop seeing my girl as my slave. She never stopped seeing me as her Master. What had to develop was the faith and trust that after the ebbs would come the flows. Spring and Summer always follow Fall and Winter and so it is with us. Our M/s dynamic isn’t just based on S/m or power dynamic, but also include the love and “in love” feelings we have for each other that nurture us through the ebbs and difficult times. It’s the glue that holds the various bits together and adds to the faith.

That ties into another concept that we have… that life isn’t easy, it’s hard. Life isn’t about all ups, rather life is about many struggles and the few successes and high points are to be cherished, remembered and added to our foundation so that when we hit the hard times, we have that to nurture us.

We both read Vi Johnson’s book “To Love To Obey To Serve” and we both read a very similar theme from her words – that consensual slavery is not easy, it’s not about always being “fun”, it will be a struggle and it’s nowhere near fair or equal — but it can be EQUITABLE. That’s a phrase I use a lot with her – equitable. She does have to live up to a lot of expectations with regards to her conduct and service. She does have to suffer when I don’t give her the S/m’s for a period of time because I’ve gone off on another tangent that’s taken my focus. It does suck.

The thing that helps us both get thru these times is faith and “love” and the understanding that this isn’t all about “wee fun” but it is – for us – about being true to who we are. At the end of the day, she serves me to make my life more comfortable and to be of use to me. I take care of her, I provide for her and even though I may not address her “wants” in the manner of which she would prefer, she has learned through that faith and love to be patient, that all in good time she will be equitably rewarded for her service.

The suckage does extend to the top side as well, in different ways. Consider that being her Master has meant that I take on a lot of responsibilities that probably in a vanilla relationship, I might not have done so. Her well being and the well being of her family has become my job. Taking care of her with her lupus is my job, and I have to watch a woman struggle with just the day to day jobs of taking care of normal things, much less engage in serious M/s dynamic that I might prefer. No, it’s not fair that I have to work long hours to take care of these things, then come home to have to do additional work because her illness robs her of her strength and the kids sap up so much of our time, but that’s just the way life is. It’s not fair and I have the faith and love that at the end of the day, I’ll be rewarded equitably for owning her and taking care of my responsibilities.

So at the end of the day, “love” and being “in love” hasn’t been a detriment to our M/s dynamic, rather it has provided the “glue” that helps us to keep our scaffolding of what’s important together. Our M/s dynamic isn’t centered around one thing, it’s all encompassing, woven into our lives and held together by respect, love and wanting the same things out of life. It doesn’t stop me from seeing the slave in this woman, it doesn’t keep me from being able to discipline or have the equanimity of dealing with M/s issues that need to be dealt with. it has taken time and a lot of communication and a great deal of understanding that life isn’t going to be easy, that our M/s lives together aren’t going to be easy, but we get thru them together with that love as a binding force.

(Edit a couple of years later) – If you read Guy Baldwin’s “Slavecraft”, he uses the word ‘affection’ and ‘respect’ and the anonymous slave also uses the phrase ‘love’. We’re not the only ones, and that makes me happy to know.