Friday, September 1, 2006

The IML Agenda, 2006

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #294, September 1, 2006)

Continuing the Conversation with IML 2006 Bo Ladashevska

PHOTOS: Photos have already been submitted

International Mr. Leather 2006 Bo Ladashevska speaks from his heart—and then worries about what he just said. Is what he says controversial, or is it common sense? Read on, then decide for yourself. (See Lavender Magazine, Issue 293 for the first part of this interview.)

I’m sure you’ve had some thoughts on what you want to accomplish during your title year.

I’m someone who believes in inclusivity. I think the leather community tends to be a community of male privilege, and we need to band together and be more supportive of subgroups—the women’s community, the deaf community, the disabled.

Are we just a smattering of groups that are linked together, or are we a real community? I know a lot of people don’t want to hear it, but I think we need to look within ourselves more often and see how we support each other.

I think it’s important to have our own spaces, but when we come together, we really have to come together. I was just thinking of a conversation I had with a woman in Montreal—she was saying, “Yes, we have our women’s events, men’s events, bootblack events—events where we can express our individuality.

“But large events—especially pride celebrations, for example—are supposed to be a celebration of everybody. But the big pride parties and events tend to be male, the shows are about males, they’re all male dancers.” She said, “I feel so invisible, at an event where I’m supposed to feel proud about myself.”

As men in our community we tend not to see the problem because we’re in the position of power. We don’t see how it’s affecting other people in our community. We think, everything’s great, everything’s fine, life’s just grand. Well, you know, it’s not grand for a lot of people, and we have to open our eyes and see how what we are doing is affecting those people around us, and how it’s making them feel.

Which is why I go to the International Ms Leather contest, for example—because it’s important to be in a place where I’m not on my own turf.

And sometimes that doesn’t feel comfortable. And that’s okay. Because you know what? They’re on our turf all the time. How many people go to International Deaf Leather? Not too many, because it’s a deaf event. I think people need to go there and see what it’s like to be a deaf leather person. It really opens your eyes. Until we do that, we can’t become a community.

Also, I think we’re focusing too much on the party. So many people spend so much time and energy now going from party to party to party. Yes, they’re fun—and it’s important that we have fun. But all our time, energy and money is going to these events, and it’s being taken away from causes that need to be dealt with.

I think we as a community are not getting involved in the political process. There are so many issues out there that need a mass of people to fight for them. Like in the seventies—everyone was out rallying, fighting for a cause, pushing an agenda. We need to go back to that mindset.

I think the title circuit puts pressure on our titleholders to go from event to event to event. Why is it important that we have to be seen everywhere? I don’t know where that came from, but for some reason it seems important to be seen, to be there for the photo op. And what happens is you spend your year traveling, and the work doesn’t get done.

Oh, man, I’m gonna regret saying that! But, you know, I’m here to stir up the pot sometimes, and maybe that’s my role.

And at the same time, you have to support events, too. It’s important to network with your community, but don’t overdo it. You have to find a balance.

What else do you feel strongly about?

Right now I feel strongly about community. I’m in a community that’s having problems like any other community. I’m fighting to bring people together. It drives me crazy when people are not working together. It makes me angry when we can’t look past our differences—some days I almost want to cry.

Why can’t we just work together? We can do so much, there are so many things we can do together. And we make so much misery. It costs nothing to be nice. It takes so much energy to be at each other’s throats.

There are communities that have gotten past that. I was in Edmonton, Alberta, about two months ago, and I was so surprised to see women and men, gays, pansexuals—everyone was working together, and they had a wonderful weekend. It’s doable. Communities are doing it, and there’s no reason why we as a wider community can’t do it.

That’s what next year’s Leather Leadership Conference in Minneapolis will be about: working together, “The Art of Sharing Power.” And we hope you’re there.

I’m planning on being there. It’s written in my calendar.

No comments:

Post a Comment