My mouth was moving, and my brain was sitting back, listening. That’s always an abrupt realization, that I’m speaking and those words are coming from SOMEWHERE, but I have no idea where.
“The kids will be ok.”
I’m at Master/slave Conference this weekend with slave Angie and I was teaching a class on M/s and Leadership. A fun class, one that I never know how it’s going to go, so each time I teach it, I’m a nervous bundle. This time, the class was wonderful. The vibe was open, people were sharing and I was in a great place. Then came the question… “These young so-called Masters and stepping out when they’re early 20s and thinking they know everything..”
That’s when something in me started speaking .. The kids are going to be OK. They’re going to figure it out.
Look, I was 20something once and I was trying to fuck ALL the things. I knew it all, the world was completely open to me and it was amazing! I was invincible, I was hot, I had all the answers!
Then I was 30something, and that was the point I was busy trying to still be 20something. It wasn’t until I hit late 30s/early 40s that I finally pulled my head out of my ass and started learning and listening. I realized that the things I had seen in my late 20s/early 30s… they left an impression. They made a difference. I had learned something from them, even if I didn’t act like it.
Oh gods, I made all the mistakes of y0uth though. I was arrogant. I did dumb things. I didn’t listen. I broke hearts and got into things I shouldn’t have and on and on… but I was OK.
“Well, what about that damn Internet?!”
Well, what about it? OK, the Internet is a vast pool of information, where facts and fantasy live together. Context is hard. Critical thinking is very much needed. But is that any different in magnitude from what I had to go through as a kinkling? No. I could barely find information, what little there was. That was our hurdle. Lack of information. Lack of safety. Lack of understanding the fire we were playing with. But you know what? Those mistakes made me who I am today.
So yes, the kids of today, they have tons of information but the hurdle of context and figuring out what is good information and what is bullshit. But they’ll be OK. They’ll learn. They’ll grow. They’ll make mistakes and it will make them into wonderful leaders and teachers and really hot, authentic kinky folks.
Just like we did.
My job is to do what those old farts before me did… be there. Share the information, watch the mistakes happen, indulge in one or two knowing smiles/nods, but always accept that they’re going to be OK.
After all… I’m 50sometihng and I’m still having fun and learning, and making mistakes. Just don’t tell my body that I’m not still 20something…
This past weekend, slave Angie was honored to be asked to judge at the Mr. Chicago Leather contest. This is a “bar title” contest, run by Touché of Chicago. The man who wins this contest goes on to the International Mr. Leather contest on Memorial Day weekend to compete for the title of of the same name. The contest has become a weekend event and a big deal for our local community. Angie being asked to judge was a huge thrill for her.
There is a well-known and very … hmm… how to describe the “Heart ‘O’ Chicago” motel? It’s a throwback to the 1950s and 60s for sure. It’s on the border of the Edgewater and Rogers Park neighborhoods. It’s at the connecting point of several major side street arteries into Chicago. It has a reputation for being a trashy place and you might think that when you walk by, but the both times slave Angie and I have stayed there, it’s been decent. It’s not five star, but it’ll do. We decided to stay there, as it’s very convenient to Touche. Many leather folks have spent the weekend at “the Heart” so it’s a bit of a tradition. And, compared to other prices, it’s not that bad of a deal.
Slave Angie was nervous about judging for this contest. It’s a very different sort of title than what we are involved in. Where the M/s title is about education and community, the bar contests are, by and large, about sex. About the hottest man or woman. About the contestant who impresses the judges most on the criteria that the bar title is about. In Chicago, the MCL title has become a very active and well-represented title, by the efforts of the past few titleholders. Nick Zuko and Miguel Torres have been the past two MCLs that slave Angie and I have known and worked with. They are passionate about the Chicago men’s leather community and about outreach, inclusiveness and education. We’ve loved getting to know them and help them out whenever we could. They’ve done the same in spades for us. It has really felt like a family in Chicago with these two wonderful men. And hello… hot as well too.
So the festivities started on Friday night at Touché with a packed bar and introductions of the judges and contestants. There were a lot of folks from around the country (and world) at the bar. John Pendal, holder of the 2003 International Mr. Leather title was the MC and kept the crowd quiet and entertained (which is hard to do in a packed bar!) Anytime you have these sorts of meet and greets, it feels like a big family reunion. People who haven’t seen each other in awhile get to reconnect. And… of course… the cruising and checking out and date making. The contestants for the contest are supposed to use the time to meet the judges and make a good first impression – always important! The judges are also watching the contestants and although they may not be officially judging, it’s a great time to see how the contestants interact with the crowd. The evening ended with a roast of the outgoing MCL, Miguel, done by Thib Guicherd-Callin (Mr. SCCL 2012… and say that name 3 times fast!)
Mr. Chicago Leather has become a weekend event, instead of just contest nights. During the day on Saturday, the Titans of the Midwest – a new group that huge on education from Des Moines Iowa – hosted 3 “KinkU” classes. At the same time, a small vendor mart was held in the front room of Touche. During this time, the contestants were grilled by the judges in private interviews, held at the new Gerber Hart Library & Archives – a library for LGBT history. The classes were very well attended, with subjects of Wax Play, Rope Bondage and one other that I’m forgetting.
Saturday night’s contest was another homecoming of sorts. Chuck Renslow, “The Godfather of Chicago Leather” (OK, an exaggeration, but one of the men who paved the way for US Leather and created Internationl Mr. Leather contest.) was there. It’s always a treat to see him out and about – he still has an energy about him. Lots of hot, sexy leatherwomen and leathermen filled the seats at the Leather Archives & Museum and there was an electric buzz in the air, as well as a warm feeling of family.
I had the pleasure of being asked to help with the judges, making sure they had everything they needed. Not a problem, I love being able to help and fill needs where they may be. I was able to be there at the interviews and be involved with the running of the contest. There is a hard working group of folks behind every event. The people who work their asses off and don’t see the spotlight, but they are what makes the thing go. There are former MCLs who are very passionate about making this contest and event as a celebration of the leather bar, the leather experience and the sex that results and the bonds that form from shared experience, whether as a contestant, judge, volunteer or attendee. I was really honored to be a part of that, and I am hoping to be able to help again next year.
There were tons of laughs, a gross story that was delivered in the most dead-pan fashion that had the audience ON THE FLOOR both gasping in horror and laughing. There were the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence giving their blessing to the crowd, in the way that only the Sisters can do it. There was John Pendal – he’s from London and delivers his jokes in that dry British way that leaves you laughing and wondering “wait.. did I just get nailed?” There was free candy for the volunteers, there was Ramien Pierre with a wonderful talk about reinvigorating the leather bar, and there was the contest, and eventual winner – Luis Tipantasig.
Angie and I had a blast getting to spend some time with our friends and the folks who’ve been with us during 2014 as we traveled the country. That’s the thing that Angie spoke to me about as we drove our tired butts home on Sunday… that when people travel to the many events, they start forming a bond between the other people they see at the events. People we might have never had the chance to meet, but have discovered wonderful friendships and bonds through working, presenting or competing. If I listed them all, we’d be here till next week, but at an event like this, it’s a chance to see them again, make that connection again, maybe flirt a little, cruise a little, maybe … if we’re all not exhausted and secretly heading back to our room to have pizza-TV-sweatpants night … maybe have a little sexy time.
It was a great weekend. I can’t wait till next year.
With a title like that, I’m sure you’re raising eyebrows and wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Well, reading a few blogs and KinkyNet posts on “what is Leather” and hearing about “truth, justice, honor” and all those wonderful Boy Scout values that we would like to see in our fellow man… but do they really have anything to do with Leather?
To answer that, I’d like to point you to four articles/speeches/writings that share the thoughts of folks who were there in the 60s/70s/80s during the “Ye Olde Guarde” period that gets mythologized so much, and see what they say about the Boy Scout values…
It’s been my experience (both for myself and in observation of others) that most people, they will take bits and pieces of what they’ve been through and make it of importance to themselves. That’s WONDERFUL. However, that’s a personalization or regionalization of something – not the be-all, end-all, one-true-way. Nor is leather particularly about the Boy Scout values – gay leather was (and is) about fucking and hot dirty, nasty, rough sex.
What happened, and this is partially my opinion and partially from elements from the articles above and being around those folks, is that LGBT women/men had to form collectives, form families, form close bonds and ties with others of like mind. Call it clubs, gangs, what-have-you, but that in those elements, a code of conduct naturally had to form. We see it in any society. Those rules, those codes of conduct, they get passed along and in translation over the years they get idealized, both by a sense of nostalgia and a sense of something we all do – “it was better back in the Good Old Days.”
What we see today as honor and respect was true in some part, but it also reflected that leather men/women stuck together and for each other. It wasn’t as much Boy Scout American Apple Pie as much as it was “I’ve got your back, you’ve got mine.”
So that today, when I see folks throw those terms around, I mentally check myself – we (those alive now who are inspired by leather and called to fuck/live in consonant fashion) are the “settlers” and we’re going to take what went before and interpret it, but let’s not mistake our interpretations of what we want out of a “leather lifestyle” as a reality of what it used to be like. Rather we should know that those gay men and women were fucking hard and forming support networks that were ravaged in the 80s, and today, we have a far different viewpoint because we have come after, and we stand on the shoulders of giants. Giants who were fucking rough and hard. God love ’em all.
When Master and I met in September 2003 we had spent our initial years together learning our Master / slave relationship first.
I had started off in the kink community, playing with others, but I had never seen anything about “leather” until I met Master. I had been invited to join him at dinner which would feature an “exchange of colors” between the Chicago Leather Club (CLC) and the Knights of Leather from Minneapolis. When I saw this happen, when I saw the brotherhood and how much these people felt it there, I felt something.
It sat in me for awhile, because as Master and I started our relationship, we were focused on ourselves, making our home, merging our families, figuring out what this all meant. Master had taken a break from the community and so I let it set. After awhile, I started to ask Master about it, I had kept watching CLC on the website, and I wanted to know more. We talked about “leather” and he said “it was hard to explain, you have to find what it means to you.” He said that our interpretations, how leather speaks to us may not end up being the same. He said he wasn’t going to make me get involved if “it didn’t speak to me.”
So eventually, when Master decided to pledge to CLC, I didn’t know if I should join with Master, but then i thought only way I’ll know to see what it is. So I went with him and found that what I wanted to do was contribute to the community in a worthwhile way. I did that as part of my pledge project and I was welcomed and supported. So that gave me the courage to get more involved and I did – by getting involved in our local playspace, the LRA Chicago, and by becoming a bootblack.
In the beginning I met two wonderful people through CLC – Daddy T and Nat – they both have made a huge impact on me in my learning about leather and my place – they have always had a way of mentoring me without making me feel bad like I was doing it wrong, that it was ok to make mistakes, and learn how to do things better.
As part of the LRA board and working my butt off there, I learned how to stand on my two feet and stand up for myself within the leather community, that I did have a voice.
With bootblacking, I learned to have a love of leather (both community and the fabric) and the preservation of the items and the history. I had started into my bootblacking by doing Master’s leathers and learning about how to do it from other bootblacks got me interested in doing it as a bootblack. I liked it because it was service, it was hotness, it was art. Watching bootblacks at the LRA Chicago, like Riley, Rachel, Leslie Anderson and Pony (IMsBB 2009). I came to love bootblacking because of the connections with the person in the chair. I love the experience, the look on their face. I learned about the common ground between leather people.
The weekend for me was full of many blessings. I’m reminded again how Lucky i am to have wonderful friends in 0ur Leather family. As a femme bootblack whose location of choice to black since losing my chair at LRA when they closed is at our Leather Bar. I haven’t had a lot of hardships too often except for the shoulder shoves which isn’t all that uncommon for me when not standing next to Master, usually always by people we do not know. Being used to it at 5′ 3″ i can still hold my footing. ‘The last bar night before this last friday i didn’t happen to be so lucky. Shoved over kit in hand i went backwards into someone and then was shoved back with a barstool. I was a bit shocked and didn’t say anything and kept walking out the door. This past friday night driving in i found myself increasingly anxious. I was nervous to go back into the back of the bar again. That evening i found myself never alone and surrounded by one person after another sent back to make sure i was ok, That is the feeling i carry along with me any time i think i might not measure up.