Friday, December 28, 2001

Whatever!

(Item for “Whatever!” column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #172, December 28, 2001)

How much have things changed since Sept. 11? Enough that this year’s Ballet of the Dolls Nutcracker (Not So) Suite, while still outrageous and campy, included two red-white-and-blue patriotic segments. A rousing march/ballet choreographed to “The Stars and Stripes Forever” was followed by a second ballet number accompanied by Whitney Houston singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” The Dolls were completely and appropriately respectful, which seemed to take many members of the audience by surprise—the night we were there, choreographer Myron Johnson had to gently remind the audience to stand for the playing of the national anthem.

Atons Holiday Fundraiser

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #172, December 28, 2001)

On December 9 there was holiday spirit in abundance as The Saloon hosted the Atons’ third annual Holiday Fundraiser and Silent Auction. Over 50 items were auctioned off including leatherwear, rubberwear, toys, original art, books, collectibles, and gift certificates to local businesses.

Leather barber Vince spent the evening cutting hair and two bootblacks spent the evening shining boots. Once the hair was cut and the boots were shined, one could have one’s picture taken with Leather Santa (Saloon manager Walter McLean) by Portfolio Studios. Videographer Chrys Zaglifa documented it all with on-camera help from Lavender editor Timothy Lee.

Over 700 lbs. of food were collected for the Aliveness Project’s Holiday Basket program, while donations at the door and auction proceeds raised over $3,750, again for the benefit of the Aliveness Project.

PHOTO ATFX-01, ATFX-02: Lavender editor Timothy Lee, left, was the roving on-camera reporter helping Chrys Zaglifa, right, videotape the event.

PHOTO ATFX-03: Atons member Paul Rozendaal gives Atons president Sam Carlisle a big bear hug.

PHOTO ATFX-04: Some of the silent-auction merchandise.

PHOTO ATFX-05, ATFX-06: Left to right: Toby Trevis, Mark Hall and Frank Bohlander.

PHOTO ATFX-07: Left to right: Atons members B.D. Chambers, Brian Spence, Tom Burger and president Sam Carlisle. Spence’s shirt reads “Be Naughty—Save Santa the Trip.”

PHOTO ATFX-08: Bootblack David Page polishes Sherman Ford’s boots.

PHOTO ATFX-09, ATFX-10: Paul Honigs, right, gets a trim from leather barber Vince, left.

PHOTO ATFX-13: Joy and Michelle—some of their best friends are leathermen and leatherwomen.

PHOTO ATFX-16: Left to right: Mike Welton and Atons members Jim Courtney and Mark Ludwig.

PHOTO ATFX-17: Some of the food collected for the Aliveness Project.

PHOTO ATFX-21: Members of the Black Guard of Minneapolis. Left to right: (unidentified), Tom Weiland, Black Guard president Ric Stokes, Mike Delorme, Bruce Gohr, Pat Duffy.

PHOTO ATFX-22: Russ Helbig, right, gets a bootshine from bootblack Brian Preston, left.

SANTA WALTER.TIF: This year’s Leather Santa was Saloon manager Walter McLean.

Friday, December 14, 2001

Leather Carols

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #171, December 14, 2001)

As the song says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” What would the holidays be without Christmas carols? And what would they be without Christmas carol parodies circling the globe, riding on an e-mail sleigh and delivering mirth and joy to millions of good little girls and boys?

But although I’ve seen versions of Christmas carols (and rewrites of “The Night Before Christmas,” too) that could be termed bawdy and/or lewd, I’ve never seen any leather Christmas carols. So, in the spirit of the season, I have written some and present them here for your holiday entertainment.

Master Claus is Coming to Town

Get ready to groan, get ready to sigh
Get ready to moan, I’m telling you why
Master Claus is coming to town.

With little tin cuffs, little toy clips,
Flogger-tog-togs and whippie-tip-tips,
Master Claus is coming to town.

He knows what you’ve been craving
And how much you can take.
He knows sometimes what’s bad is good,
And he’s good—for goodness sake!

So, you’re gonna be black, gonna be blue
Gonna be flying when Santa is through,
Master Claus is coming to town!

I Saw Mommy Topping Santa Claus

I saw Mommy topping Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night
She took off his red suit
And said, “Gee, you sure look cute!”
And then she got him warmed up
With a flogger made of jute.
Then I saw Mommy paddle Santa Claus,
Swatting at his butt so snowy white.
Oh what a shame Dad didn’t see
(He would have watched with glee)
Mommy topping Santa Claus last night!

Santa Daddy

Santa Daddy
Slip some leather under the tree
For me
Like a jacket and chaps, Santa Daddy,
And hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa Daddy
Something that will show off my chest—
A vest!
I’d just think you’re the best! Santa Daddy,
And hurry down the chimney tonight.

Think of all the fun we’ve had
Think of just how good I’ve been when I’ve been bad
Haven’t I earned a nice return
For all that dungeon fun-time, Dad?

(Of course I have!) Santa Daddy
Forgot to mention one little thing—
A ring!
—I don’t mean for my hand! Santa Daddy,
And hurry down the chimney tonight.

Jingle Bells

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jing-a-ling-a-ling!
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sling!

If you enjoyed these, try creating some of your own—it’s actually not as difficult as you might think. Consider that one of the main symbols of the holiday is your basic Bear-type guy who wears big black leather boots and never goes anywhere without his toybag—and a riding crop to use on Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer. (What exactly do you suppose those “reindeer games” were, anyway?)

Happy Holidays, God Bless Us Every One, and To All A Good Night.

Two Holiday Gift Guide items

for Lavender Magazine Holiday Gift Guide issue

So you want to give a gift of leather to someone, but a) you’re not sure of their size or b) their leather wardrobe is complete and their toybag is bursting at the seams already. Local artist/fashion designer/leathercrafter Sean Doyle (www.seandoyle.com) has the answer: a pair of black leather goblets. The foot and stem feature a gothic-fantasy thorn motif, and the goblet’s leather bowl surrounds a glass insert that holds the libation of your choice. Price: $125 for the pair. For more information visit the website.

Here’s a gift he’ll appreciate all year long: The 2002 South of Market Bare Chest Calendar. Every year, San Francisco’s hottest leathermen compete in a series of contests, with the winners of each contest becoming calendar men for the following year. The calendar is put together by SMMILE, the same folks who present the Folsom Street Fair, and all proceeds benefit San Francisco’s AIDS Emergency Fund and Positive Resource Center. To purchase a calendar (and see a preview of this year’s calendar men) visit www.folsomstreetfair.com or send a check for $20 ($17 plus $3 shipping) to SMMILE, San Francisco CA.

Friday, November 30, 2001

The Fascination of Fireplay

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #170, November 30, 2001)

“How about a little fire, Scarecrow?” Anyone who has seen The Wizard of Oz remembers that scene—it’s almost like the Wicked Witch is coming at you with that fiery broom. Fire induces panic and fear, yet it can be fascinating at the same time. Fire seems to take on a life of its own as the flames jump and dance capriciously. And then there’s the romance of sitting in front of a roaring fire, safely contained in a fireplace.

Panic, fear, fascination and romance—no wonder fireplay is attractive to folks into BDSM. Local pansexual BDSM group MSDB recently presented “Baby, Light My Fire,” a fireplay workshop attended by an audience of about 35. In addtion to learning about the passion and spectacle of fireplay, audience members also heard useful information about fire safety, first aid for burns, and the scientific aspects of fire. The workshop was conducted by a top wearing jeans and a t-shirt with nine fire-breathing dragons on it, and a bottom who spent most of the workshop naked—a sensible way to avoid setting clothes on fire.

The workshop started with some safety precautions—here are just a few of the caveats discussed at the seminar:

• Fireplay SHOULD NOT be done on the face, around hairy areas (head, armpits, genital area, hairy chests or backs), on cut or infected skin, or around moles.

• Avoid fireplay on inappropriate surfaces, such as carpets or mattresses. Beware of clothing and long hair.

• Mood-altering substances and fireplay DO NOT mix. In the words of the demonstrating top, “You need a clear head and undiminished reaction time.”

• In a fire situation, do your best to remain calm. Panic only makes the situation worse.

• Have a wool blanket handy to snuff out fires. Wool does not support combustion at normal levels of oxygen and temperature. Wet towels are an alternative, but they can be messy.

Disclaimer: The descriptions of fireplay that follow are for illustrative purposes only; they are not complete instructions on how to do fireplay safely. Fireplay is edgeplay, and injury or death is possible. Do not play with fire unless you have had proper training and supervision from a fireplay expert.

Now that the disclaimers have been presented, here’s what the audience saw during the demonstration portion of the workshop:

After a warm-up session in which the top caressed his bottom’s skin with a burning, fragrant stick of incense (to her obvious delight), we moved on to flash cotton, which is simply cotton that has been treated to make it highly flammable. The top placed multiple bits of flash cotton of varied sizes all over the bottom’s back. Then, at irregular intervals, he used a small butane torch to ignite the pieces one by one, each time causing a bright, quick burst of flame. The cotton was so light that the bottom couldn’t feel it lying on her skin; she never knew where, when, or how big the next flash would be.

What did it feel like for the bottom? She explained that when the flash cotton was ignited the heat was brief, intense, and localized. Often the sudden intense heat was immediately followed by a chill. She also said that the element of surprise made the sudden combustion of the cotton feel almost like an impact.

To demonstrate alcohol play at the seminar, the bottom leaned against a stepladder so that she was bent slightly forward. With his hand, the top applied isopropyl alcohol (other kinds of alcohol don’t work for this) to the bottom’s back. Then he literally set his hand on fire (drawing gasps from the audience), and used his human-torch hand to ignite the alcohol stripe on the bottom’s back. There were more gasps as we watched blue streaks of flame run from the bottom’s waist to her shoulders. For the bottom, the sensation was the cool feeling of the alcohol on her skin, followed by the intense heat from the fire, followed again by a comparatively cool sensation when the flame burned out.

As with other forms of edgeplay, fireplay is not for everyone. Even though fireplay done correctly does not cause burns or other injury, a person who cannot overcome their fear of being burned is not a good candidate for fireplay because they won’t enjoy it. For those who think they might enjoy it, however, let me stress again that the best first step is finding a mentor who will show you how to properly and safely play with fire.

First Aid for Burns

Here’s some information from MSDB’s fireplay seminar about first aid for burns. This is good to know even if you never intend to do fireplay.

• First, remove the person from the burning situation, either by putting out the fire or getting the person away from the fire.

• Second, cool the burn with cool water until it feels better. Don’t use ice or ice water, which can contribute to shock.

• Third, bandage the burn loosely with sterile dressings.

• “Critical burns” are burns which must receive attention as soon as possible from medical personnel. These include second- and third-degree burns (marked by blistering or charring), burns to the face, hands or feet, burns over more than 10% of the body, or burns sustained by infants, children or elderly people. Do not apply ointments, salves, or anything other than cool water and sterile dressings to a critical burn, and do not try to remove burned or charred skin from the wound.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Holiday Fundraiser and Silent Auction
December 9, 2001, 6-10 P.M., The Saloon
What would the holidays be without friends and traditions? The Atons present their traditional holiday fundraiser, food drive and silent auction, which this year benefits the Aliveness Project. Come bid on the fascinating and useful items that have been donated to the Silent Auction. (Call or e-mail if you have something to donate.) Admission is $5 plus 3 lbs. of food (or $10 without food donation).

Friday, November 16, 2001

Five Local GLBT Music Groups Combine For “In Remembrance” Concert

(Article published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #169, November 16, 2001)

Over 250 performers from five Twin Cities queer music groups recently collaborated in an unprecedented combined concert. Titled “In Remembrance,” it was billed as “a response from the GLBT Performing Arts Community to the events of September 11, 2001.” The concert was presented in St. Paul on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 11, two months to the day after the attacks in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. No admission was charged, but donations were accepted to benefit GLBT victims of the Sept. 11 attacks as well as the women and children of Afghanistan.

The weather that afternoon was perfect—it was hard to believe it was mid-November. The warm sun streamed through the stained-glass windows of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, which donated the use of its building for the concert so that all funds collected could be donated to the concert’s beneficiaries. The concert was performed in the church’s acoustically-excellent sanctuary, while the rest of the building functioned as rehearsal space for the five performing arts groups. While pride was very much in evidence, the dominant theme of the afternoon was compassion, reaching out to help people who were suffering.

After opening remarks by special guest speakers Rabbi Stacy Offner of Shir Tikvah Congregation and Reverend Anita Hill of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, the Minnesota Freedom Band performed “The Star Spangled Banner” in honor of those who died in the attacks. Conductor Beth Smith poignantly noted that people of many nationalities were victims on Sept. 11 but that there was “not enough time to play all 80 national anthems.” The band then played “Imagine” by John Lennon, inviting the audience to sing along.

The Calliope Women’s Chorus was the second group to perform. Guest-conducted by Jane Ramseyer Miller, they sang “Love Will Guide Us” (“On the road from greed to giving/Love will guide us/Through the dark night”) and a charming wordless rendition, pure sound and pure harmony, of the Largo from Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

One Voice Mixed Chorus, conducted by Camilla J. Horne, sang a musical setting of the Latin words dona nobis pacem (“Grant us peace”) entitled “Song for World Peace.” This was followed by “In Remembrance” from Eleanor Daley’s Requiem, a musical setting of the anonymously-authored poem “Do not stand at my grave and weep.”

The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, conducted by Dr. Stan Hill, opened their segment of the program very appropriately with their signature song, “Walk Hand In Hand With Me” (“Walk hand in hand with me/That is our destiny”), and followed that with a powerful rendition of “America the Beautiful.”

The final group to perform was the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra (according to Dr. Stan Hill, “the only GLBT orchestra in the world”). Honorary Guest Conductor Mary Bussman led the group in a performance of Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” that was narrated by the orchestra’s conductor-emeritus, James Touchi-Peters.

Then, completely filling the front of the church and lining both sides of the sanctuary as well, all five groups combined in stirring renditions of “Freedom is Coming,” a traditional South African freedom song conducted by Jane Ramseyer Miller, and “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” conducted by Jackie Dubbe.

All proceeds from the concert (over $3,500) were divided equally among three beneficiaries:

• The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Disaster Relief Fund, established by the Stonewall Community Foundation (www.stonewallfoundation.org) to help GLBT New Yorkers directly impacted by the World Trade Center disaster.

• Help the Afghan Children, Inc. (HTACI, www.htaci.com), a U.S.-based, grassroots, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to helping Afghan children.

• Revoluntionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA, www.rawa.fancymarketing.net), an independent political/social organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and social justice in Afghanistan.

This event marked the first time that all five of these Twin Cities GLBT performing arts groups have given a joint concert. (The Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra has never been part of the annual Festival of Pride concert performed at the Lake Harriet Bandshell.) A sixth local group, the Rainbow Family Children’s Chorus, supported the idea of the concert but does not have autumn rehearsals and therefore could not participate.

A concert involving five performing arts groups made up of a total of 250 performers presents a formidable logistics challenge. That it happened at all is noteworthy, but that it started on time and went very smoothly, with seamless transitions from one performing group to another, is almost unheard of. One big factor in the success of the concert was the Queer Music Consortium, which provides a structure of monthly meetings for communication and cooperation between representatives from the various local GLBT music-performance groups. According to Dr. Hill, “This type of cooperation is unique to the Twin Cities, and it says a lot about the cohesion of this community.”

Audience reaction to the concert was overwhelmingly enthusiastic—one audience member said, as he left the church, “They should do this more than once a year—and it shouldn’t take a tragedy to pull it all together!”

Whatever!

(Item for “Whatever!” column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #169, November 16, 2001)

Does anybody besides us think it’s a waste to trash the soon-to-be-former Guthrie Theater? Does anybody else think the Guthrie will be losing a large and irreplaceable chunk of its history? Does anybody besides us see a certain hypocrisy on the part of the Walker Art Center? They’ll champion modern art and architecture unless it inconveniently happens to be part of their own building—then they want to tear it down.

Seriously, with all the theater and music in this town how can the present Guthrie building have “no future purpose”? Aren’t there plenty of other performance groups around that would give various assorted body parts to be able to have that space for their performances?

But then, don’t mind us—first of all, we’re queer, so what would you expect, and secondly, we still haven’t forgiven the city of Minneapolis for allowing the demolition of the Metropolitan Building in the early 1960’s. Some people never learn.

If you think it’s a crime to tear down the Guthrie, visit www.savetheguthrie.org (founded by local musician Paul Metsa) and get involved.

One’s Kinky, The Other One Isn’t

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #169, November 16, 2001)

Can This Relationship Be Saved?

Dear Mr. Leather Columnist, Sir: I’ve just fallen head-over-heels for a real dreamboat. He’s charming, intelligent, and kind, and I think he’s equally smitten with me. But as far as I can determine he’s completely, relentlessly vanilla. I, on the other hand, have a closetful of leather and a bulging toy bag. Oh, and they sing “Hello, Dolly” when I walk into the Eagle.

Should I tell him about my interest in leather? If so, how? Or should I even be pursuing a relationship with him? Is it possible to make a relationship work when one member of a couple is into leather and the other isn’t? Do leather and vanilla mix?

Should you tell this seemingly vanilla person that you’re kinky? Suppose you do, and the other person is horrified; it’s probably better that you discover this incompatibility before investing a great deal of time and energy in a relationship that might be derailed when your interests come to light. On the other hand, the other person might say something like “Oh, thank goodness, so am I! I was wondering how I was going to tell you.” (In that case, you can take the discussion to the next stage: “Are you a top, bottom, or switch?”)

A third possible response, of course, is an even-handed “I’m not into that, but it’s not a problem if you are.” Before you let your hopes be dashed because the other person doesn’t share your leather interests, consider that they may have an interest that you don’t share—opera, for example. If the rest of the ingredients for a relationship are there, what’s to say it can’t work? Maybe they wouldn’t be averse to at least seeing what goes on in a dungeon, and you might actually enjoy “Carmen.”

On the other hand, not being honest with the other person—about kinkiness or anything else—pretty much dooms any relationship that evolves. As I said in another column recently, it’s the secrets we keep that get us in trouble. You’ll be living in fear that your secret will someday come out, and sooner or later it probably will. Whether or not the relationship survives the disclosure, the situation probably won’t be pretty.

Sometimes, though, it’s not a matter of keeping secrets at the start—it’s a matter of self-discovery along the way. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily make things any easier:

Dear Mr. Leather Columnist, Sir: I really love my partner. We’ve been a happy lesbian couple for many years and have been through a lot together. But I am becoming more and more aware that we’ve grown apart, sexually speaking. After years of denying my interest in BDSM, lately I’ve been feeling like it’s something I need to at least explore. When I confided in my partner, however, she told me that in her opinion BDSM was all about the degradation of women (obviously I don’t share her opinion) and she gave me an ultimatum: BDSM or her. I don’t want to lose her, but I’m afraid if I let her control me I’ll grow to resent her for keeping me from exploring this aspect of myself. And I don’t want to sneak around behind her back. What do I do now?

First of all, you are to be commended for your honesty (and perhaps courage) in telling your partner about your discovery of this aspect of yourself. You are also to be commended for your integrity in not wanting to sneak around behind her back, and for your insight about the possibility of developing resentments if you let her control you.

It seems to me that your partner, on the other hand, is being rather inflexible about the situation and inconsiderate of you and your feelings.

There are many parallels between this situation and a married couple in which one partner can no longer ignore their homosexual tendencies. The couple may stay together or may break apart, but if they stay together “arrangements” are usually made as the relationship is restructured in some fashion. Couples in which one partner is interested in kink and the other isn’t must face and negotiate the same types of issues: If the relationship is to be opened up, how open should it be? What constitutes fidelity or infidelity, monogamy or non-monogamy? (To illustrate just one possible example, is the relationship to be sexually open but emotionally monogamous?) What’s considered sexual play and what’s considered non-sexual? How much or how little does the non-kinky partner want to hear about the kinky partner’s adventures and discoveries?

There’s nothing wrong with being kinky. There’s nothing wrong with not being kinky, either—it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. As long as everyone involved can accept both those tenets and respect the other person’s point of view, even if they don’t share it, there’s no problem. Problems happen when someone expects everyone else to be kinky (just like them) or not kinky (just like them).

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

MSDB Fireplay Workshop
November 17, 2001, 2-5 P.M., Mpls.
Local BDSM group MSDB presents a workshop on the sizzling, intense art and craft of setting fire to a willing partner’s skin. Safety, materials, and more will be discussed. Cost: $7.50 for MSDB members, $15 for non-members. (Tickets must be purchased in advance.) Details at www.msdb-mn.org or write MSDB, Minneapolis, MN.

Friday, November 2, 2001

Whatever!

(Item for “Whatever!” column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #168, November 2, 2001)

Another Barbie “Nutcracker”? The holidays just wouldn’t be complete without Ballet of the Dolls’ annual presentation of their delightfully twisted Barbie-and-Ken version of “Nutcracker?!” Now Mattel, aided by Disney, presents “Barbie in The Nutcracker,” her first full-length, motion-capture, computer-animated direct-to-video feature, available in VHS and DVD. Is it just coincidence that people from both Mattel and Disney have been seen in the audience at the Dolls’ annual presentations? And is Mattel now working on their own version of the Ballet of the Dolls’ “Naughty Nutcracker”? The answer to both questions is: Probably not.

Atons and Black Guard Join Forces for “Hellion”

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #168, November 2, 2001)

On Sunday, October 14 at the Saloon Bar, Minneapolis leather clubs the Black Guard and the Atons teamed up to present “Hellion,” their first joint event in recent memory. A fundraiser for New York AIDS charities, it featured a special guest appearance by porn star Clay Maverick. Saloon manager Walter even commissioned a fabulously decorated cake (from Wuollet’s, no less) to celebrate the occasion.

PHOTOS:

Black Guard president Rick Stokes and Atons present Sam Carlisle display the cake. Don’t drop it, guys.

A close-up of the cake—the icing artist at Wuollet’s did a great job.

Bootblacks for the evening were Matt Vold (left) and David Page (right).

Visiting porn star Clay Maverick, center, is flanked by Black Guard representative Bruce Gohr, left, and Atons representative Tom Burger, right.

Seen at “Hellion,” left to right: Mark Holmberg, Scott Ullom and Robert Kerr.

Seen at “Hellion,” left to right: Richard and Handy Randy.

Friday, October 19, 2001

“A Time for Re-Commitment”

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #167, October 19, 2001)

NCSF Policy Statement discusses “Sexual Minorities in the Post-September 11, 2001 World”

I recently received the following Policy Statement written by Judy Guerin, the Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, Inc. (www.ncsfreedom.org), an organization about which I have written many times before. I believe it says some relevant and important things of which we all need to be aware.

“The tragic events of September 11, 2001 have profoundly changed the lives of all Americans. Nowhere is this more true than for sexual minorities, especially the gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, SM-Leather-Fetish and various alternative sexual expression communities. Accordingly, it is essential that our communities undertake a serious reassessment of, and a recommitment to, the work we have all been doing toward greater tolerance, freedom and respect.

“The intense impact on our communities is apparent when one considers the following facts:

“First and foremost, Americans may have to find ways to resist or deal with greater governmental intrusions into our liberties and privacy. Airport searches, national identity cards, increased authority for law enforcement wiretaps and other intrusive measures are likely to be implemented at Federal, State and local levels. While these intrusions will affect all Americans, they are of particular concern to our communities, for whom privacy and freedom of assembly are such central issues.

“Second, there is a very real risk that these intrusions into privacy and increased powers for law enforcement officials could become intertwined with latent hostilities to sexual minorities. Once public and political hostility toward certain groups who are “different, not like us” begins, there is a risk it will spread to other non-conforming groups, of which we are a prime example in the minds of certain right-wing groups. I suspect that many of you have seen the reports of a television show dialogue between Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, in which the September 11 tragedy was depicted as divine retribution for America’s so-called moral decay, with gays and lesbians given as prime examples of that decay for which we are all now being punished. What was so disturbing about this was not that these conservative zealots expressed that view, but that there was so little shock or outcry against the utterance of such vile sentiments.

“Third, on a national level our communities were just beginning the difficult task of building credibility and working relationships with a new Administration whose social policy inclinations are very different from that of the Clinton Administration. That uphill battle will be even more difficult now, both because it will be more difficult to get policymakers to focus on our issues and because, as noted above, one effect of this tragedy may be to bring out some of the more unfortunate conservative attitudes—“toughness,” emphasis on “traditional American values”—in a way hostile to alternative lifestyles. We believe our messages will need to be modified to address this new “hostile climate.”

“Finally, the tangible economic effects of the tragedy will have particularly adverse consequences for our communities in a number of ways:

“• Our communities depend on member participation and on contributions of time and effort by individuals. All of that suffers in economic hard times, and in times of increased nervousness about governmental hostility.

“• We depend on events to a substantial extent as means of generating both funding and participation. With everyone more nervous about travel and less able to afford trips, the big events—such as the Creating Change conference and Black Rose 2001—are likely to suffer and smaller events may even be canceled.

“• Contributions are the lifeblood of our activism. With few exceptions, we don’t have huge grants from corporations or foundations. The economic slowdown threatens deep declines in personal contributions that could greatly reduce our efforts and might even force some organizations to shut down entirely.

“• And it must always be remembered that our communities have an economic aspect that essentially consists of many small businesses: GLBT-oriented bookstores, fetish clothing stores and small mail-order operations, alternative theatre groups, bars and night clubs, etc. These small businesses are uniquely vulnerable to the combined effects of our economic downturn and increased concerns by community members at public scrutiny of their lifestyles.

“For all of these reasons, now is the time for recommitment to our goals and ideals, for resistance to the natural tendency to recede from activism and from public activities and instead to “tend one’s own garden,” as Voltaire put it. We at NCSF, along with other GLBT and freedom of expression groups, must increase our outreach activities and our efforts to maximize and broaden the involvement of individuals, especially at the local level.

“All of you in our communities must also rededicate yourself to our cause. By this I do not just mean that you should contribute effort—and money, of course—to national organizations such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other effective national organizations and to your local community groups. That is extremely important, but is only a part of what we all must do to keep our movement alive and to prevent the slide back into more intolerance, more discrimination and less freedom.

“More fundamentally, I urge all of us to rededicate ourselves to participation in the daily-life activities that are the core of our communities’ growing strength. Attend GLBT, SM-Leather-Fetish and other alternative sexual expression and freedom of expression events, both locally and regionally. Support relief efforts that focus on our communities—the New York City Anti-Violence Project is a good example. Patronize the small businesses—merchants, theaters, galleries—that help our lifestyles thrive. Above all, do not retreat into isolation and inactivity. We have made great strides in recent years. Our momentum, acceptance, economic strength and political effectiveness have grown exponentially. Now is the time for all of us to vow that we will not allow that progress to be reversed, that instead we will redouble our efforts to achieve the further gains that we all know are both essential and possible.”

Friday, October 5, 2001

The Secrets We Keep: Why I Came Out—Twice

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #166, October 5, 2001)

I came out as a gay man at the age of 19, and had my second coming-out as a leatherman at age 37. Although certain aspects of the two experiences were the same, there were some significant differences between them.

First, some history: In homosexual culture at the dawn of the twentieth century, the words “coming out” were not automatically followed by “of the closet.” The notion of the closet did not yet exist, and “coming out” was used to connote initiation and celebration as one embraced one’s homosexual aspects and the homosexual community. Just as debutantes of the era were introduced to high society at “coming-out” balls, so too young men of a certain bent were mentored by their “aunties” before “coming out” at extravagant drag balls.

Somewhere in the middle of the last century, the notion of the closet was born as society told homosexual men and women in no uncertain terms that their sexuality was not okay and would not be tolerated. By the time of Stonewall, coming out of the closet had become more of a political statement, an act seen more as courageous and defiant than as joyous and celebratory.

Today the significant rite of passage and the claiming of one’s place in the GLBT community is more likely to happen at a March On Washington or an HRC dinner than at a drag ball—celebratory, yes, but also very political. I’m not saying this is necessarily bad, I’m just commenting on how things have changed over the course of a century.

By contrast, a modern-day leather coming-out is less political and still retains some sense of celebration and initiation, perhaps partly due to the more tribal and less political structuring of the leather/SM community. People are in a dungeon or playspace to enjoy themselves and each other, and therefore tend to check their politics at the door. Also, because of the nature of the way we play, I see much more mentoring going on in the leather/SM community than I do in the wider GLBT community.

What did my two coming-out experiences have in common? Before each of them I had to deal with the same issues. Before I came out at age 19 I had to deal with feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment, and fears of ridicule, non-acceptance, disapproval and violence. I knew society wasn’t terribly accepting of homosexuals back then, but what would my family think? If I actually did come out, what kind of a life would I have? Why would I want to identify as part of this hated minority?

In spite of my doubts, fears, and trepidations, I came out anyway because I had to. The alternative was to live a life of dishonesty with myself and others about who I was. I would be sentencing myself to a life of just existing, a joyless life of continual fear, shame, and worrying about being found out. A line from Clare Boothe Luce’s play “The Women” describes it perfectly: “the seasonless world; where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”

Before I came out as a leatherman at age 37 I had to deal with the exact same feelings and fears. I knew that society—including parts of the GLBT community to which I comfortably felt I belonged—weren’t terribly accepting of the leather community. Why would I want to identify with this less-than-popular minority within a minority? I have heard the same worries expressed by others contemplating a leather coming-out: What will people think? What will they say? What kind of a life will I have?

Again, for me the answer was clear: I had ignored this part of myself for too long; I wanted to experience it. And I didn’t want to experience it skulking around in guilty shadows. It’s hard to enjoy something fully (and, from a practical standpoint, it’s hard to be safe) when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder because you’re afraid someone might see you.

There’s a saying that’s popular with the Twelve Step recovery community: “It’s the secrets we keep that get us in trouble.” The converse is also true: living without secrets is living free.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

“HELLION” Joint Leather-Club Charity Fund Raiser
Sunday, Oct. 14, 6-10 PM, The Saloon
Jointly sponsored by The Atons and The Black Guard of Minneapolis, this event features food, door prizes, beer and soda specials and an appearance by porn star Clay Maverick (who will also be appearing at The Saloon on Saturday, Oct. 13). $5 donation at the door.

Friday, September 21, 2001

Dispatches from the Future: The Leather Summer of ’28

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #165, September 21, 2001)

With autumn fast approaching it’s time for a look back at some of this summer’s leather activities. And what a summer it’s been! But with a kick-off event like the 50th International Mr. Leather (IML) contest, how could it not be? The event was held over Memorial Day weekend, as always. And for that weekend, Chicago’s McCormick Place became the world’s largest leather bar—filled to capacity with leatherfolk of all genders, ages and descriptions.

A capacity crowd jammed the McCormick Place auditorium to watch the contest, and estimates placed the number of viewers who watched the contest via the internet in the millions. The evening’s most unforgettable moment: first-ever IML titleholder David Kloss (all these years and he still looks good!) received a standing ovation from the crowd after reading the list of next year’s judges. New IML Lik Tinghe (from Antarctica—it’s only the second year they’ve sent a contestant) won’t be spending much time at home this year as he fulfills his titleholder duties.

In contrast to IML, which is firmly rooted in Chicago, the International Ms. Leather (IMsL) contest in recent years has never been in the same city twice in a row. This year they returned to Las Vegas, Nevada, where Mary Kay Khali, Ms. Leather Dakota, was chosen from a field of 64 contestants as the new International Ms. Leather. The last time they were there was back in 1999, and what a difference the intervening years have made! This year’s host resort was Las Vegas’ newest and kinkiest showplace, The Charenton. Named for the insane asylum where the Marquis de Sade spent his last years, it was a perfect backdrop for the weekend’s activities. Imagine—a hotel where every one of the 5,000 rooms is a fully-equipped dungeon. Only in Vegas, folks.

The excitement of IMsL had barely subsided when it was time for another competition of a different sort: the Summer Olympics, this year returning to Greece. Several new competitive events have been added this year; after much campaigning and lobbying by members of the leather community we will finally get to witness both Tag Team Fisting and Competitive Bullwhip. (Tag Team Fisting was first proposed as an Olympic event by a contestant in International Mr. Leather 2001—that’s how long it has taken to get that event added to the Olympic lineup.)

The leather/SM community also continued to influence the world of entertainment. Last year’s Broadway smash “Fantasy: The Musical,” an all-singing, all-dancing revue of breathtaking leather fantasy performances, is still packing them in (you’ll be lucky if you can get tickets for 2031). Building on the success of the musical, “Fantasy On Ice” has been touring major metropolitan ice arenas this summer, and from the crowds lining up at box offices across the land it looks like Disney has another winner. (But how they can skate and flog at the same time is beyond me—after the show in Minneapolis one of the cast members got me on the ice and I tried it, but even with his coaching I just couldn’t make it work.) By the way, plans are in the works to make “Fantasy: The Musical” the permanent show at The Charenton in Las Vegas.

And now, a look ahead: The Leather Summer of ’28 will officially close with another milestone, the 50th annual International Mr. Drummer contest. This year it finally returns to San Francisco (as the song says, right back where it started from) to be held in conjunction with the Folsom Street Fair—which outgrew Folsom Street years ago and now stretches along Market Street from downtown to the reclaimed and revitalized Castro. Drummer and Folsom in the same city on the same weekend—all’s right with the world again.

Romano-Blas takes Ms. World Leather title

PHOTO: Annie Romano-Blas and Mindy Chateauvert

PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Hernandez

From a field of nine leatherwomen/activists Annie Romano-Blas was chosen the first-ever Ms. World Leather on September 2. Romano-Blas is a health advocate and is the domestic partner of former International Ms. Leather Jo Blas.

Runner-up honors went to Mindy Chateauvert, a college professor from the Washington D.C. area. The contest weekend was held in Dallas, TX. (Thanks to Marcus Hernandez, leather columnist for San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter, for contest details and photograph.)

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)


Leather Fashion Show
Sunday, September 23 (doors open at 7PM, show starts at 8PM), Quest Nightclub
Featuring the work of designer Sean Doyle in his first-ever solo fashion show. Eye-popping leather fantasywear for women and the unveiling of the designer’s line for men. He also has some fun accessories that might appeal to anyone who’s into leather. General admission $10 at the door, VIP admission $25. For a preview visit www.seandoyle.com.

Friday, September 7, 2001

Woof! A Dog’s Life

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #164, September 7, 2001, special pet section)

It’s a charming scene: A dog and his master return from their evening walk. While the master sits in his easy chair by the fireplace, the dog dutifully fetches the master’s slippers. Then the dog lies down by the fire and lays his head on his master’s lap. His master lovingly pats the dog’s head and they both drift off to sleep. Next morning, his master fills the dog dish, the dog eats breakfast and then heads for his job as a corporate-events planner.

Welcome to the “dog play” or “puppy play” section of the leather/BDSM community, where studded leather collars and leashes take on whole new dimensions.

If the idea of getting into the role and headspace of a dog doesn’t suit you, pick another animal. Dog play is popular with gay men, and so is (what else?) pig play, while pony play is more popular with the pansexual BDSM community. Or maybe you’ve always been fascinated by unicorns—what would it feel like to be one?

If this all seems strange, consider that much of BDSM is built around role-playing and fantasy, of which animal play is just another flavor. It can be enjoyable to experience “a dog’s life” for awhile—nothing to do but nap, frolic on the lawn and just spend time being faithful and adorable. And there’s a shamanistic element for some animal players: what qualities does this animal want to teach them?

It should be noted that we are concerned with role-playing by consenting adult humans here, not with exploitation of real four-legged animals. Bestiality is never condoned or tolerated by the BDSM community because it violates the safe-sane-consensual rule (animals are by definition unable to give consent).

For more information visit leatherdog.com, or just type “BDSM dog play” into your web search engine.

Even Daddies Need Daddies: Leather and Aging

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #164, September 7, 2001)

A question I constantly ask myself is “Why can’t the rest of the world be more like the leather community?” Today’s case in point: Age, aging, and ageism.

So much of the world today is obsessed with youth. General-audience fashion and entertainment revolve around images of people (models, actors, entertainers, musicians) in their teens or twenties—and those already youthful images have been retouched to make them look even younger and more perfect. A huge cosmetics industry has been built on “reducing the appearance of aging.” People want to deny aging, because they know that as they grow older they become less desirable and more disposable. But they grow older anyway, and they find themselves lusting after someone younger. Having a young, beautiful trophy wife (or husband) on their arm, they think, will say to the world that even though they’ve gotten older they still have what it takes. (That’s what they think; actually, they often suffer from the comparison.)

Unfortunately, a large segment of the gay male community mirrors this behavior. There are certain bars, coffeehouses and other gay gathering spots where “older” is defined as over age 35. At the other end of the scale are establishments snidely referred to as “wrinkle rooms,” hangouts frequented by primarily older gay men and visited by younger men only because they either want to find a sugar daddy or laugh at the—another unkind word here—“trolls.” The trophy wife concept is mirrored in the gay male community by the concept of the “kept boy,” whose sole function in life is to live at the gym and in the tanning booth in order to present a testament to his partner’s virility.

Members of the gay male leather community (and the bear community as well) tend to think differently about the whole concept of age, whether our own or someone else’s. A person’s age tends to be just another physical attribute like hair color or shoe size. We notice a person’s age, but we tend not to value or devalue them because of it. Instead, we as a community tend to celebrate all ages. We cherish our young men (some of whom call themselves “boys”) for their beauty, their energy, and their potential. But we also cherish our elders (some of whom call themselves “daddies”) for their history, their experience, their knowledge—and their beauty, energy and potential.

Visit any leather contest, or flip through a leather-themed calendar (from The Minneapolis Eagle, International Mr. Leather, or the South of Market Bare-Chest Calendar, for instance) and you’ll see hot men of all ages. Our community’s elders are anything but disposable, as evidenced by the popular t-shirt that reads “Even Daddies Need Daddies.”

Where else would other men realistically and respectfully consider a gay man of age 55, 65, or 75 to be beautiful, attractive, desirable, and sexy? Where else could that man have an image of himself as a beautiful, attractive, desirable and sexy man—and not worry he was delusional? Where else can a man of age 55 get together with a man of age 30 and not be called a chicken hawk? Where else can an older man pursue a younger man, or a younger man pursue an older man, and not set tongues wagging?

Something about the leather and bear communities encourages people to be real. It’s okay to look our age and to act our age, whatever that age is. That quality of “real” can be very sexy. Gray hair or beards can be sexy. Balding or shaved heads can be extremely sexy. On the other hand, bad toupees, comb-overs, obvious dye jobs and other attempted deceptions aren’t generally considered sexy. Trying to look 45 when you’re 60 isn’t real, and it isn’t pretty.

Maybe, for purposes of perpetuating the species, an obsession with youth used to make sense. If I was a man who wanted to keep my genes circulating in the gene pool, I would look for a young partner at the peak of her child-bearing years. Life spans used to be much shorter, so we would want to start having children right away, so we could raise them to adulthood before we died. (And if we lived on a farm we’d want to have a lot of kids because they could help with the chores.)

Well, it’s the twenty-first century. Life spans are longer, people are having kids later in life and families are smaller. Maybe, in another couple hundred years, society won’t be so obsessed with youth because it won’t need to be.

In the meantime, I am thankful that I belong to such a non-ageist community. What a gift it is, what a luxury, to be able to enjoy men of all ages, and to know that as I get older I will continue to be able to do so.

Friday, August 24, 2001

Look, Ma! I’m a Negative Media Image!

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #163, August 24, 2001)

Awhile ago I was sitting on a bus, casually reading what was then the latest issue of Lavender. Under “Letters to the Editor” I came across one that asked two questions: “(1) How much do we really love ourselves and each other” (hmmm, I thought to myself, I frequently write about those concepts in my column—better pay attention here) “if the one GLBT publication we have consists mainly of ads for anonymous sex, bars, and parties,” (well, there’s more to the magazine than that, but I think I see the point the writer is trying to make) “and information on sadomasochistic sex play?” (emphasis added)

Maybe I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. And to the sound of screeching mental brakes, my immediate and visceral reaction was “Whoa!—Wait a minute—Now we’re getting personal!”

This letter writer obviously thought my column was a Negative Media Image. I hadn’t felt so demeaned, devalued and dishonored since Trent Lott made his famous pronouncement comparing homosexuals to alcoholics, sex addicts and kleptomaniacs.

Eventually I regained my composure and continued reading: “All of this seems particularly and painfully ironic since it is sandwiched between articles on HIV and AIDS”—about which I have also written frequently over the years. And yes, it is ironic. Entire books have been written discussing this irony and how our community is reacting to it and dealing with it.

Next paragraph of the letter: “(2) How can we expect others to love us, and how can we love ourselves, if we portray ourselves primarily as a community obsessed with sex, looks, alcohol and illness?” Okay, that resonates with me—and somewhere amid all that information about sadomasochistic play I’ve managed to write two columns about Manifest Love, an organization holding seminars around the country that, among other things, consider this very question.

Continuing with the letter, which was soon going to run over to another page of the magazine: “Let’s go for media images (and self-images) that portray us as more politically”—(“correct,” I thought to myself as I turned the page, the writer is going to ask for “media images that portray us as more politically correct.” That’s not what the writer said, though)—“engaged and more loving.” Oh. Politically engaged. And more loving. Okay, can’t argue with that. Can I? Well, here are some items from the letter writer’s list of more positive media images:

• A column on “community activism”—Lavender has profiled many GLBT community activists over the years. But it’s interesting to note that in the “Community Activist” category in Lavender’s recent Crème de la Crème awards, “not a single person got more than one vote,” according to editor Timothy Lee. I’ll leave it to others to debate whether that’s because the media isn’t giving enough publicity to community activists, whether community activists aren’t being diligent enough in seeking publicity, or whether community activism is in a lull right now.

• A column on “family life (one not written by a straight woman)”—well, let’s trash another columnist, shall we? Seriously, I’ve always been proud to have my column be in the same magazine as Abigail Garner’s “Families Like Mine” column. Lavender’s editorial scope has always been broad enough to give voice to GLBT subcommunities, like the leather community or straight children of gay parents, that haven’t been heard before. And if we don’t think it’s fair to be excluded from our families because we’re gay, why is it any fairer to exclude someone from our family because they happen to be straight?

• “Our favorite recipes”—Well, now that would just be redundant. According to the stereotype, that’s what we gay men talk about while we’re partying in the bars looking for someone with whom to have anonymous sex.

• “Family pictures (self-chosen and/or biological)”—Lavender, and the gay press in general, is and always has been our community’s family album. Every issue is filled with family pictures of one type or another. The issue in which this letter appeared contained several pages of photos from our most recent family reunion, Pride 2001.

• “Life in the workplace” and “artwork and artists in the community”—Every issue contains arts coverage and reviews, and much has appeared in Lavender about life in the workplace both positive (such as GLBT-friendly companies to work for) and negative (such as harassment issues—I’m remembering especially harassment faced by transgendered folks).

• “The Girl Scouts (they don’t discriminate!)”—No, indeed they don’t. Last year I wrote a column about a group called Queer Youth Exist, a safe place for queer people under the age of 21 to discuss issues, such as an interest in BDSM, that would be difficult to discuss elsewhere. It was created by two girls named Hedge and Katze as their Girl Scout Gold Award project.

So I would argue that Lavender is more than “mainly ads for anonymous sex, bars and parties,” and over the years I have tried to do more with this column than just provide information about sadomasochistic sex play—not that there’s anything wrong with providing information about sadomasochistic sex play, mind you. In writing this column I have tried to show that an important part of the leather/BDSM community is learning and expressing love and respect for oneself and others (which is exactly what the writer of the letter was calling for). It’s not for everyone and doesn’t claim to be. But I don’t think it’s fair for someone to say that because something doesn’t work for them, it has no value for anyone.

But I know that no matter what I or anyone else may say on the subject, some people will not hear it and therefore will not understand. Then it all gets down to the same old dichotomy: do we as a community bow to political correctness and present only what we think will be perceived as Positive Media Images in an effort to say to the straight world, “See? We’re just like you! Now will you accept us?” And do we therefore hide the drag queens and the leathermen and the dykes on bikes who so stubbornly refuse to be assimilated?

No. Whatever else the leather community is, it is not assimilationist. If other elements of the GLBT community are embarrassed by us and feel we’re Negative Media Images, our response to them must be in the same vein as the queer community’s response to the straight world. We say, in as proud and dignified a manner as possible: “Sorry you feel that way. But—we’re here; we’re also queer (same as you); get used to it.”

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Sunday, August 26

Leatherfolk, come together for an afternoon of bawdy fun and merriment at the Minnesota Rensissance Festival. Meet in the area between the Great Bear and the Great Hall (where the Feast of Fantasy is held) between 1:15 and 1:30 PM. Maps and ticket info can be found at: www.renaissancefest.com/minnesota-main.htm. (This announcement courtesy of the Atons of Minneapolis.)

Friday, August 10, 2001

15 Years of International Ms Leather

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #162, August 10, 2001)

The International Ms Leather (IMsL) Contest recently celebrated its crystal anniversary (that’s fifteen years) in Dallas, TX. According to contest promoter Amy Marie Meek of Omaha, Nebraska, “For fifteen years the International Ms. Leather contest has chosen women to represent the International leather/SM/fetish community to the public, and has provided a venue that allows leatherwomen to present their joyful vision of a positive leather image.”

International Ms Leather, Inc. was founded in San Francisco in 1986. Although there had been local women’s leather titles in a number of cities, at that time there was no national or international women’s leather title. The contest was designed to choose a woman to be a spokesperson for leatherwomen and to raise money for community organizations. In 1987, at a contest held in San Francisco, Judy Tallwing McCarthey became the first International Ms Leather. The contest continued to be held in San Francisco until 1994, when Anne C.S. Bergstedt won the title.

On September 13, 1994, Bergstedt resigned as International Ms Leather, and the title passed to Cindy Bookout. (Bergstedt, now known as Spencer Bergstedt, refers to himself as “Mr. IMsL 1994,” and although it is often assumed that the resignation was driven by transgender issues, it wasn’t.)

Also in September of 1994, Meek (who holds the title of International Ms Leather 1993) formed a production company named Bare Images Productions, Inc. and took over production of the contest. The contest started to travel and in recent years has been held in Chicago, San Diego, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Toronto. (Next year’s contest is slated for San Jose, CA—details at www.imsl.org.) The focus of the contest weekend was also broadened to reach out to the men’s, bi, trans and het leather/SM communities. In 1999 the International Ms Bootblack (ImsBB) contest was added to the weekend.

This year’s IMsL weekend (July 19-22) started on Thursday with a contestant orientation and a Contestants’ Night Out. According to Meek, this year’s contestants were a good and dedicated group; one contestant lost her sponsor but still showed up in Dallas ready to compete, even though she had to ride a Greyhound bus from Kentucky to get there.

Judges for the weekend included the Twin Cities’ own PJ Knight as well as Kay Hallanger, “Fluffy” Swenson, Lynda Blakeslee, Mistress Mir, pat baillie and Dean Walradt. On Friday, while the judges interviewed the contestants, other weekend participants could shop at the jam-packed Vendor Fair. The evening’s traditional Basket Auction, in which each contestant creatively packages an assortment of kink-related merchandise, raised approximately $5000 for the IMsL and IMsBB Travel Funds.

On Saturday the Vendor Fair continued and a variety of workshops were presented; topics included bootblacking, erotic shaving, dirty dancing, and structuring Dominant/submissive relationships. Saturday evening’s contest and show, emceed by Connie Cox and Glenda Rider, presented the Speech, Fantasy Performance, Attitude and Image segments of the judging. Knight said later, “It was very difficult to judge them. I thought all nine contestants were just awesome women, and every one of them is very active in her local community.” Meek was also pleased with how the contestants presented themselves: “The fantasies were great, the speeches were great—we had a really fun time!”

Drum roll, please: The new International Ms Leather 2001 is Joni, who last year won the Ms. Olympus Leather 2000 title and who hails from Springfield, VA. First runner-up honors went to Linda L. Cox, Rocky Mountain Leatherwoman from Denver, and the second runner-up was Miss Barbrafisch from Toronto.

Charlie Flake from Denver CO won the International Ms Bootblack contest, with first runner up honors going to Sue from Las Vegas. That means that both international bootblack titleholders this year (Paxsen is the current International Mr. Bootblack) are from Denver, and both work at the Triangle Bar. So if you really want a good shine on your boots, you know where to go.

The weekend ended with a Victory Brunch on Sunday and the 7th Annual IMsL Pool Party on Sunday evening. But if there was anyone in attendance who still wanted more, they’ll have their chance this Labor Day weekend (August 31 to September 3) when, again in Dallas, the first-ever Ms. World Leather 2001 contest (www.msworldleather.com) takes place. Billed as “A Different Kind of Contest for a Different Kind of Woman,” this will be the first leather contest (for any gender) where all judging events will be open to the public.

Does the women’s leather community need another contest? Obviously somebody thinks so or they wouldn’t be starting another one. But can the women’s leather community really support two contests and two titles? The men’s leather community has had two major international titles (IML and Drummer) for years. But the men’s leather community is larger, and over the years each title has carved out its own niche (a gross generalization here: IML is more political and Drummer is more erotic.). Both the men’s titles started at the same time, and over the years there has been very little sniping between the contests or the titleholders (actually, none that I’ve ever seen). Here’s hoping that both women’s leather titles flourish and complement each other; here’s hoping we don’t have a case of competing competitions.

Friday, July 13, 2001

These are a few of my favorite links . . .

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #160, July 13, 2001)

I started writing this column in 1995. Back then if I was publicizing an event and wanted to include a “for further information” contact I gave a phone number, and sometimes a mailing address. The first column I ever wrote that included a web address (in case you’re curious, it was for the Atons of Minneapolis website) was in Lavender’s June 21, 1996 issue.

That was five short years ago, and look what’s happened to leather communications since then. If the leather community is a tribe, the jungle drums we use to communicate have gotten a lot more efficient in the last few years thanks to the internet. Some days it seems as if everything in the leather world has a website or e-mail address attached to it. To fully participate in the leather community, in addition to needing boots, chaps, jackets, vests, harnesses and toys we need computers, modems and internet service providers.

In reality, you don’t have to be internet-savvy to be a member of the leather community. But having access to an internet-equipped computer—and knowing how to use it effectively—means a richer leather experience. Chatrooms and webcams, e-mail and e-mail lists, websites and search engines bring an entire world of people, groups, events and ideas to your computer screen.

Use this short list of local and national leather internet resources as your starting point. Most of the websites contain links to other leather or fetish websites, so your journey can go on and on and on.

Local Leather Clubs and Organizations

Atons of Minneapolis (gay leathermen): www.atons.com

Black Guard of Minneapolis (gay leathermen): www.blackguardmpls.com

Knights of Leather (pansexual): www.knightsofleather.org

TIES (pansexual): www.goldengate.net/~mdon/TIESMN

MSDB (pansexual): www.msdb-mn.org

Queer Youth Exist: www.angelfire.com/mn2/queeryouthexist. For young people (under age 21) interested in BDSM or other alternative sexualities.

Local E-Mail Lists

At the Atons website you can sign up for their Flashmail service and receive a weekly e-mail full of timely local leather information. TIES maintains the TIES-list mailing list (listserv), an e-mail discussion group and a place for BDSM-oriented announcements; sign up at the TIES website.

National and Worldwide

The Leather Journal: www.theleatherjournal.com. Web version of their leather newspaper. News and information about clubs, contests, events and titleholders.

LeatherPage: www.leatherpage.com. Leather commentary from many different columnists, as well as club and event news and a wide assortment of links.

Leather Archives & Museum: www.leatherarchives.org. Can’t make it to Chicago to visit them? Their website is the next best thing.

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom: www.ncsfreedom.org.

You might also try www.leatherweb.com (“the global leather village”—they even have a leather internet radio station), www.leatherquest.com, and www.leathercares.com.

Leather Contests and Titleholders

International Mr. Leather: www.imrl.com

International Ms. Leather: www.imsl.org

International Mr. Drummer: www.drummer.com. Also features the on-line edition of Drummer Magazine.

As For The Rest . . .

Search engines (my favorite these days is google.com) are another good way to see what’s out there on the leather internet that might be of interest. Try searching on your favorite fetish, or something you think is really obscure, and see what comes up—you may be surprised to find that there are websites devoted to it. I am indebted to my readers for the following examples of sites they find interesting.

For rubber lovers: www.latexpajamas.com

For uniform lovers: www.inuniform.net (subscription required for most content, but not all)

Bodybuilders—a century ago: www.sandowmuseum.com

For jockstrap enthusiasts: www.allkink.com

Gladiators: www.gladiatorsarena.com (Adult Verification Service required)

Local erotic artist Mark Debauch: www.scc.net/~debauch/ (Adult Verification Service required)

Local diva Miss Richfield 1981: www.missrichfield.com. Three good reasons why Miss R. is on the list: 1) To see if you’re paying attention. 2) I’ve always loved her, and her new website is a scream. 3) She doesn’t require an Adult Verification Service.

Cinco de Mayo Correction

In my recent column about High Holy Days I made the statement that “Mexican Independence Day is Cinco de Mayo (May 5).” It isn’t, and I regret the error. A reader informed me that Mexican Independence Day is actually September 16. So what does Cinco de Mayo commemorate? To find out, visit home.earthlink.net/~topnach/Cinco.html and read about “The Significance of Cinco de Mayo.”