June will soon be here, and with it comes both Twin Cities Pride and Minnesota Leather Pride. My usual Pride warm-up is the International Mr. Leather (IML) contest held each year in Chicago on Memorial Day weekend.
This year, however, I started thinking about Pride earlier than usual. During the Creating Change conference in Minneapolis in February I attended an all-day workshop, “Mapping Your Desire,” in which each participant made a map of their personal sexual/erotic/romantic “desire journey.” We noted significant mileposts along our journey as a way of figuring out where next we wanted our desire journey to take us. (My conclusion: I like where I’ve been, where I am and where I’m going. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to say that.)
Then at the recent Leather Leadership Conference in Los Angeles one of the keynote speakers spoke of the importance of pride as an antidote to shame at being different—and all that comes with that shame, including hiding, self-loathing, bullying behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, abusive relationships, unsafe sex, and suicide.
The following weekend leatherwomen (and everyone who loves them) proudly celebrated the 25th anniversary of the International Ms Leather (IMsL) contest in San Francisco. Sara Vibes was named International Ms Leather 2011; Vibes hopes to use the IMsL title to “rip the veil off the shame surrounding sex and sexuality.”
Now, in a few weeks it will be time for IML 2010, Tyler McCormick, to turn the title over to his successor. Both the IML and IMsL weekends are loud, proud parties with no excuses and no apologies. For members of the leather/BDSM/fetish community, they are celebrations of who we are and how we love.
Every year these celebrations spotlight contestants from around the world who come to Chicago (IML) or San Francisco (IMsL) to stand on stage as proud leathermen and leatherwomen. Each contestant has been on a path of overcoming shame at being different and replacing it with pride in who they are. The chance to stand onstage and proudly say, “This is who I am,” is a significant milepost on their desire journey. At IML and IMsL we celebrate their journeys toward pride, and each of our own journeys as well.