Friday, May 23, 2008

Joanne Gaddy: The Leather Life Interview

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #339, May 23, 2008)


Joanne Gaddy has been a visible member of Chicago’s leather community for many years. She served as Mistress of IML for about ten years and founded The Slater Society, a pansexual fisting group. She was in the Twin Cities recently to give two leather-related presentations: “Laugh ’til it hurts” at a PEPRMNT munch, and a fisting demonstration for MSDB’s THE LAB.

How did you get started at all this?

I came into it sideways. I left my ex-husband a little over 20 years ago and met a gay man, and he and I became friends. One day he was going to an early fundraising meeting for Chicago House, which was a residence for people living with AIDS. I told him I’d be happy to go with him if they didn’t mind a straight female. Well, I was, of course, welcomed with beyond-open arms. It was at Thom Dombkowski’s house [former Chief Judge of the International Mr. Leather contest].

We were working at a table with two of the Chicago House board members, and one of them called me the next day and said, “Would you consider doing minutes of board meetings?” So I started doing that, which led me to meeting a couple more leathermen. I’m also a member of MENSA, and I joined the MENSA gay special interest group and met another bunch of leathermen there.

One year one of the guys I met at Chicago House, Bill Eskelson, told me, “You’re volunteering at IML.” And I said, “Okay.” This was the first year they had an office, and they had a sweet little bottom girl in the office that somebody had recommended. Well, that office didn’t need a sweet little bottom girl—who had no office experience, either. Wednesday night before IML, the first thing they used to do was photo badges. I was in the orientation and Bill came to me and said, “Can you turn on a typewriter?” I went into the office, turned on the typewriter for the girl, and then I did all the badges. Well, within a day I was told, “By the way, you’re running the office next year.” I said “Oh. Okay.”

Another friend who was involved with IML had one of those electronic BBS things, and he kept telling me I had to log into it. Finally one night I did, and I discovered a posting from a straight man about the Chicagoland Discussion Group (CDG). And I remember sitting in front of the computer, going “Straight people do this? You mean there’s a chance I might, like, get laid, too, and get to play?” So the leather community has changed my life.

Why did you give up being Mistress of IML?

I went out on medical disability, and I did IML a little bit after that, but my health was such that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I have scleroderma, an autoimmune disease in the same family as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The body produces too much collagen. It’s mostly attacked my digestive system. During the last surgery a couple years ago they took out my esophagus entirely. As my gastroenterologist said, “Your esophagus will give you a lot less trouble on the pathologist’s table.”

How did you get your start in fisting?

Chicago Hellfire Club used to do SMU, or SM University. At one of the SMUs I saw two very experienced fisters do a demo and I was like, “I want that.” It was just so amazing. And then along the way I had a female partner, and she taught me about vaginal fisting, and I fell in love with that. It’s truly one of the most intimate and intense things you can do. You know, feeling someone’s heartbeat inside their body is just fucking awesome.

How does MENSA interplay with leather?

Somewhere in the late ’80s or early ’90s I started doing programs at MENSA gatherings called “Intelligent SM.” So I’m kinda single-handedly responsible for bringing a lot of kinky MENSAns out of the closet. There really is a very significant crossover between intelligence and kink. I’m frequently telling people in the kinky world to join MENSA and vice versa.

You’re now doing weddings as an ordained clergyperson with the Church of Spiritual Humanism.

A girlfriend from the kinky community and her fiance wanted to get married at Sinsations a year ago, and they asked if I would get an online ordination and marry them. After doing that wedding I wound up with two more kinky couples and then I got an e-mail from somebody who found me on the Spiritual Humanism site. I decided I was making this a business and started advertising on wedding sites and in run programs.

A friend designed my vanilla website, and as soon as we get a chance he’ll be doing my kinky website. It’s going to be Power Exchange Weddings. For the vanilla site I’ve got a clergy robe and stole, which of course makes me look totally angelic—which is just hysterical. For the kinky site we took a picture of me in the clergy robe and stole, but it’s open, and you can see the corset and I’m dangling handcuffs and a whip. “Let the mistress marry you.”

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