Friday, January 5, 2007

This Is Your Brain on Leather: Lots of Food for Thought at LLC XI

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #303, January 5, 2007)

Register before Jan. 15 for early-bird rate

It has been said that the body’s largest sex organ is the brain. Members of the leather/BDSM/fetish community tend to understand this, and put that understanding to good (sometimes diabolical) use in the bedroom, playroom or dungeon. Even outside of play situations, our community has a sparkling and active intellectual life

The Minnesota Leather Pride Committee has, over the years, sponsored evening roundtable discussions on various leather-related topics. Attendance has always been good and the discussions have been spirited.

Now the eleventh annual Leather Leadership Conference (LLC) promises to take things to another level. The conference, scheduled for April 20-22, 2007, will bring leather/BDSM/fetish community members from around the world to Minneapolis. (If you haven’t registered yet, do it now—you only have until January 15 to take advantage of the $90 early-bird rate.)

Participants in this year’s LLC will be able to choose from a menu of thirty different presentations, workshops, and panel discussions (painstakingly distilled from over 70 proposals), and from among six different “caucuses,” or group discussions. (Only a few of the workshops are listed below—visit <> to see the complete list.)

In keeping with the artistic bent of this year’s conference theme (“The Art of Sharing Power . . . A Work in Progress”) presentations at this year’s LLC have been arranged into six different groupings named for various types of mosaics, all of which Minnesotans and other midwesterners will readily recognize.

The first mosaic, “Crop Art,” includes presentations dealing with organizational themes. Crop art is composed of seeds—and seeds, properly nurtured, grow into a healthy plant. Likewise, proper organizational nurturing yields a strong and stable organization.

“Crop Art” presentations include “Leadership for leather community leaders,” “When consent doesn’t count—decriminalizing consensual BDSM behavior,” and “Leadership vs. Management.”

The “Sand” mosaic includes presentations about event planning. Sand mandalas (introduced to Minnesota by Tibetan immigrants) and leather events both require enormous amounts of coordinated effort and planning resulting in a beautiful and vibrant, yet transitory, creation. When a mandala is completed, the four winds eventually scatter the sand, which will never be reassembled in quite the same fashion. Likewise, at the end of a leather event the participants return home with inspiration and memories of a beautiful gathering that can never be exactly repeated.

“Sand” presentations at LLC XI include “Creating equitable educational events for any size community” and “Putting sex back into leather.”

Presentations dealing with community outreach, publicity and promotion are included in the “Quilting and fabric art” mosaic. Quilting bees have historically been used to bind members of a community together and to welcome newcomers into the community. Quilts and other types of fabric art have long been used to communicate within a community and to document its history.

“Quilting and fabric art” presentations at LLC XI include “Outreach from the BDSM community: effective communcation with police, hospitals and social service agencies” and “Citizen Kinkster—developing community using tools of the new media.”

One of the questions often asked by newcomers to the leather/BDSM/fetish community is “Where do I fit in?” Presentations for newcomers, or for those working with newcomers, are included in the “Tile and ceramic” mosaic. These large mosaics often cover a breathtaking expanse, yet each one of the millions of pieces is perfectly integrated and plays its part in creating the dazzling whole.

“Tile and ceramic” presentations include “Supporting young adults in alternative sexual lifestyles,” “Creating the gender-safe kink organization,” “Leather youth leadership—organizing our community,” and “Mentoring—sowing seeds to grow the next crop of leaders.”

Presentations about presenters? But of course (or, to be Minnesotan, “you betcha”)—they’re included in the “Glass” mosaic. Presenters are educators, and for hundreds of years stained-glass windows have been used as educational tools. Presenters also need to promote themselves in order to get speaking engagements, and mosaics of glass tubes filled with glowing neon represent attention-getting promotional devices.

“Glass” presentations include “You get what you pay for: the value of good education,” “Developing skills-based presenters,” “Understanding sexual freedom as a leather leader,” and “Getting it out there” (presented by Mistress Amanda Wildefyre, author and performer of “Confessions of a Lesbian Dominatrix”).

Finally, “Stone” mosaics represent the very foundation of our community: personal growth, the history and philosophy of leather, and relationship issues. These basics give us the capacity to create the other types of mosaics listed above.

“Stone” presentations include “Sleeping with the competition—sharing power with rival groups,” “Submissives in Leadership,” and “Planning for relationship changes.”

In addition to these workshops and caucuses, the conference will include an opening keynote by noted photographer and activist Barbara Nitke, a closing keynote by International Mr. Leather 2003 John Pendal, an opening cabaret emceed by Patrick Scully, optional pre-conference workshops, and an optional Saturday breakfast with speaker Laura Antoniou, internationally acclaimed author of the “Marketplace” series of erotic novels.

You can find full details on Leather Leadership Conference XI, including a complete listing and more details on the various mosaics and workshops, at <>. Check it out, and register before January 15 to take advantage of the early-bird rate of $90.

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