Thursday, December 19, 2013

Leather Lens: Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2014

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #484, December 19, 2013)

Jason Little captured the sash at the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2014 contest, which took place at the Minneapolis Eagle complex Nov. 15-17. This year’s Mr. Minneapolis Eagle contest was the largest and best-attended in the event’s history and attracted an unprecedented number of out-of-town visitors.

The weekend started with a Greet-the-Meat party Friday evening in the Minneapolis Eagle. On Saturday afternoon the contestants had their private interviews with the judges, while other weekend attendees enjoyed a Kink U session discussing “Kink on a Budget.”

As Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2014, Jason Little will represent The Minneapolis Eagle and Minnesota’s leather community in the 35th annual International Mr. Leather competition (<www.imrl.com>), May 23-26, 2014 (Memorial Day weekend) in Chicago.

The contestants in the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2014 contest. Left to right: Ivan E. Nuñez, Jason Little (Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2014), Tim Hotchkin (first runner-up) and Bernd Geels.

Ivan E. Nuñez during the contest’s traditional Keg Walk segment.

Tim Hotchkin during the Keg Walk.

Bernd Geels during the Question-and-Answer portion of the contest.

Jason Little during the Erotic Fantasy portion of the contest.

Seen at the pre-contest party are three out-of-town guest judges for this year’s contest. Left to right are Andy Cross (Mr. San Francisco Leather 2013 and International Mr. Leather 2013); Nick Zuko (Mr. Chicago Leather 2013); and Thib Guicherd-Callin (Mr. Santa Clara County Leather 2012 and first runner-up for International Mr. Leather 2013). Other judges were Daddy Don (International Puppy Trainer 2012); Derek Harley (Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2012); Ryan Brown (Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2013); Tommy Rosengren; and Lady Carol.

Jason Little, the new Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2014, waves to the crowd as his predecessor, Ryan Brown, watches from the wings.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Interview with Andy Cross, International Mr. Leather 2013

Andy Cross, International Mr. Leather 2013. 
(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #482, November 21, 2013)

Andy Cross, the current International Mr. Leather (IML) titleholder, will be in Minneapolis this weekend as one of the judges of the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2014 contest. I recently called him in San Francisco and asked a few questions.

Did you have any childhood inklings that leather might someday be an interest of yours? My first memory of leather—and it has stuck with me all these years, so it’s pretty formidable, I guess—is when my uncle, my father’s brother, came to visit us one time. He was a motorcycle guy and came in wearing chaps and a leather jacket. I wasn’t so much attracted to him as attracted to the leather. I remember, he let me wear his jacket, and I thought it was the coolest thing. I loved the smell of it. There was just something that was inherently manly and sexy about the leather for some reason. And it’s been a turn-on ever since.

What went through your mind when your name was called as International Mr. Leather 2013? It was so great because I wasn’t expecting it at all. And I think the thing that meant the most to me was that there were a lot of San Francisco people in the audience, some of the guys who had helped me prepare.

How has your title year been so far? It’s been busy, but it’s been fantastic. It’s definitely been the ride of my life. I’ve met so many people and seen so many cool things.

One of the most rewarding things is that I’ve had the opportunity to visit communities and tell them what other communities do. For instance, one of my very first trips was to Des Moines, and they have a really large young leather community there—which is fantastic! Then I go to another community, and in talking to them they say that they don’t have the young leather community. I have the opportunity to spread the fire, so to speak, and say Des Moines does this, and it attracted all these young people.

And I get to visit cool places. I was in Alaska a few weeks ago. I’m going to Europe in a few months. I was in Texas a few days ago. And I’m going to Los Angeles on Thursday.

And you’re coming to Minneapolis to be one of the judges for this year’s Mr. Minneapolis Eagle Contest. I am. I’m looking forward to it.

What other contests have you judged as IML? I’ve judged Mr. Michigan Leather, and I just judged the Mr. Third Coast Leather contest in Houston. Next week I judge the Mr. Regiment Leather contest in L.A. I have a lot of contests coming up in November, and also in January and February.

As you judge the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle contest, what will you be looking for? I’ll be looking for someone that I want to talk to. Especially in an interview, I’m not necessarily looking at the content of their answers or what their opinions on certain things are, because everyone has their own opinions. I’m looking to see if they’re genuinely a nice guy, and if I approached them in a bar or at a party, would I want to talk to them? Would I want to hear what the leather community is like in Minneapolis if they were telling me? That’s really the most important thing that I look for.

What do you want to accomplish during your title year? That was actually one of my questions during the IML interview. The question actually was, fast-forward a year and you’re IML—what would you want to be remembered for? And my answer was kind of what I already said, being a conduit of information between regions or communities. I mean, that’s how we grow as a community, and that’s how we change, and I think growing and changing is essential.

Have you thought about what you want to do after your title year is over? Sleep in at least for one weekend! But other than that, like I said before, I’m having the ride of my life, and I love it right now. So I guess I’ll have to cross that bridge when it comes.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kink U Debuts, and Twin Cities Leather Adds Latte

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #480, October 24, 2013)

The leather/BDSM/fetish community strongly believes in education. In that spirit, a day-long educational event called Kink U Minneapolis was presented on Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Minneapolis Eagle/Bolt Underground.

The day was divided into five segments. The first, a demonstration and workshop on bodily-impact play, was presented by Jazz Thomas, assisted by Kyle Truss, Mr. Twin Cities Leather 2013. That workshop was followed by a panel discussion of Master/slave and Dominant/submissive relationships. In addition to Thomas and Truss, panel members were Randy Ingram; Bud Lile; Jayson Glynn, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2011; and Slavepup Axel, International Puppy 2013, visiting from Washington, D.C. The discussion was moderated by Ryan Brown, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2013.  During this segment lunch was provided by Twin Cities Leather.

The remaining three demonstration/workshops of the day were rope and bondage, presented by Creg; electrical play, presented by Sir M; and flogging, presented by Randy Ingram and Bud Lile.

At the conclusion of the day’s demonstrations and workshops, the crowd moved to an evening barbecue hosted by Twin Cities Leather and held at the company’s new retail space (see below). Then it was back to the Minneapolis Eagle for a special Gear Night which incorporated the launch of the North Star Kennel Club, a new Twin Cities club for (human) pups and their handlers.

Kink U Minneapolis was produced locally by Ryan Brown and Jason Zahlen and regionally by Titans of the Midwest (<www.titansofthemidwest.org>), a regional organization focused on kink education. (Other Kink U seminars have been presented in Cincinnati, Des Moines and Kansas City.) Event sponsors included the Minneapolis Eagle/Bolt Bar, Twin Cities Leather, and the Atons of Minneapolis and the Knights of Leather who provided presenters.

More Kink U workshops are being planned as part of the upcoming Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2014 contest weekend. That contest takes place Saturday evening, November 16, when Ryan Brown will sash his successor. One of this year's judges will be a special guest: Andy Cross, the current International Mr. Leather. If you want to compete, email 2012mme@gmail.com for an application.

______

Local fetish-gear merchant Twin Cities Leather, formerly located in the Loring Park area,  has moved to a new location at 2717 Hennepin Ave. S., just north of Uptown in Minneapolis. With the new location comes a new name: Twin Cities Leather & Latte. Yes, the leather shop will be combined with a coffeehouse and community meeting space—a place to meet, eat, caffeinate and shop for gear and accessories. As far as the owners know, there is nothing like this anywhere else.

In the spirit of Twin Cities Leather’s mission and motto of "Community First," the owners have created a space that will be welcoming to everyone in the neighborhood and beyond.  The interior features blue and gray walls with white woodwork and red accents, and light streams through the many windows. In nice weather, a front terrace and a back deck and yard provide plenty of outdoor seating. A wheelchair ramp makes the space accessible and welcoming to everyone.

Twin Cities Leather has always sought to provide the highest quality in both merchandise and service, and they are applying the same philosophy to the beverages they serve. Coffee will be supplied by locally-based Roastery 7 Artisan Coffee, and one of the offerings will be “a unique Leather & Latte coffee/espresso blend.”

Twin Cities Leather & Latte wants to be a gathering place, a supplier of community needs (apparel and other goods), a good neighbor in their urban neighborhood, and a visible and proud manifestation of the Twin Cities kink community. That community appears ready to support this kind of business, as evidenced by the fact that a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.com raised 40% more than its goal.

Find out more at Facebook.com (search for “Twin Cities Leather & Latte”) or call them at (612) 756-9TCL (756-9825)—one number for either the store or the coffeehouse. By the time you read this they should be open for business, so stop by and check them out. And watch for their Grand Opening festivities.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Leather Literature Review: Sexual Outsiders by David Ortmann and Richard Sprott

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #478, September 26, 2013)

When your humble columnist was getting into leather (many, many years ago), the go-to book for newly minted gay leathermen was Larry Townsend’s The Leatherman’s Handbook. This book was, to say the least, enlightening. But I would not have wanted to show it to my therapist at the time, to say nothing of my parents or other family members.

My, how times have changed. Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities is a great new resource suitable for multiple audiences including those curious about or newly into leather, BDSM, fetish and kink—and, perhaps, their therapists and loved ones as well. For all these readers, authors David M. Ortmann and Richard A. Sprott have written a book that is a modern, reasoned, evenhanded introduction to the alternative sexual worlds of leather, BDSM, fetish and kink.

Ortmann and Sprott have a wealth of expertise to share. Ortmann is a psychotherapist and sex therapist in private practice, and much of the book consists of fascinating personal stories of some of his patients. In many instances, these stories are presented in the patient’s own words.

Sprott is a research psychologist and the executive director of the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS), an organization dedicated to furthering scientific investigation and scholarly analysis of understudied sexualities. And indeed, the book makes the very clear point that leather, BDSM, fetish and kink are woefully understudied, and that the many gaps in society’s understanding of these alternative sexualities have many negative consequences.

The authors use the personal stories in the book to illustrate the tremendous variety of people who make up the leather/BDSM/fetish/kink community, as well as to show how that community works. A large part of Ortmann’s and Sprott’s message is that this community has, in fact, developed around these alternative sexualities. This community is large, widespread and sophisticated—and a tremendously valuable resource for its members. Several times throughout the book, the authors stress the undesirability of trying to do BDSM in isolation and the desirability of participating in this community as a way of enhancing one’s kink journey.

Sexual Outsiders is written to appeal to several different audiences:

• The book could serve as a good basic introduction to leather, BDSM, fetish and kink for people new to, or curious about, these alternative sexualities.

• It could serve the same purpose for therapists and other health professionals responsible for the care and treatment of kinky people.

• Readers who do not identify as kinky, but who have a family member or friend who does, will find answers to many of the questions they may have.

• Finally, longtime members of the leather/BDSM/fetish community will enjoy reading the personal stories of the people profiled in the book, and will find the authors’ commentary throughout the book thought-provoking.

(Here’s a private tip for longtime community members: As you read this book, try to put yourself in the position of someone new to the community, or even outside the community. Your empathy, as well as your appreciation for what the authors have created, will increase greatly.)

Because the book is addressed to so many different audiences, however, some readers might encounter challenges. Although the authors’ writing style is generally approachable, readers who are not therapists or mental-health professionals may be put off by instances of therapist-speak sprinkled throughout the text. Similarly, readers not acquainted with the basics of Freudian, or especially Jungian, psychology may occasionally feel out of their depth.

But these are, in the end, minor quibbles. In Sexual Outsiders Ortmann and Sprott have created a worthwhile addition to the leather/BDSM/fetish/kink community’s canon of literature about itself, as well as a useful contribution to the scholarly and academic literature about alternative sexualities.

(Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities by David M. Ortmann and Richard A. Sprott. 173 pp. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.)



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hardy Haberman Discusses Leather Traditions and Protocols

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #476, August 29, 2013)

Hardy Haberman and an Old Guard artifact.
Noted leather community author, filmmaker, educator and activist Hardy Haberman was in the Twin Cities recently to present a lecture on leather traditions and protocols, and the “Old Guard” who supposedly created them. Haberman spoke at In The Heart Of The Beast Theater on Saturday afternoon, June 22. The lecture was part of this year’s Minnesota Leather Pride celebration and was sponsored by Leather Journey.

Haberman started with a description of how he got into the leather scene in the mid-1970s—and, as part of that process, discovered for himself the leather traditions and protocols of the time. He then offered a condensed history of the gay leather community’s formation and development in the 1950s and 1960s. He talked about what some consider the “halcyon Old Guard days” of the 1970s and how the decimation of the leather community in the 1980s by AIDS led to the creation of new traditions and protocols.

Haberman noted that many of leather’s traditions and protocols came from military life, and later from gay motorcycle clubs, but he also noted that there is no one fixed set of Old Guard protocols written on a scroll somewhere. Haberman also made the point that every leather generation thinks of itself as New Guard and the generation before as Old Guard: “All of us have an Old Guard. It's whoever taught us.”

Many of the Old Guard protocols Haberman grew up with are hardly revolutionary: “#1, you respect your elders. #2, you don’t speak to somebody you don’t know until you’ve been introduced. It’s common courtesy! If you get the Miss Manners book and look at etiquette, you have Old Guard traditions and protocols, with the exception of a few kinks thrown in. It’s not rocket science.”

Haberman then offered his thoughts on a few leather community values.

Honor: “Honor is being true to yourself, being true to your community, being authentic. A person who’s not honorable is not authentic, right? So—how much honor is there in Sir Grand Dom of the Universe on Fetlife.com who has 25 cyberslaves but has never shown his face in public?”

Integrity: “Integrity means all aspects of your life are integrated. It means that you are authentic. It means that when I say this is who I am, it’s who I am. It means that I’m not afraid. It takes courage. As kinky people we have no protections whatsoever. If you have children and you can get in a messy divorce, your partner who used to tie you up can say, ‘She’s kinky and shouldn’t have those children.’ Those children can be taken away because you’re kinky.

“So I understand why some people can’t be out. But until we come out as kinky people and live our lives authentically, we will never have any kind of protection, we will never have any kind of equality, and we will always be hiding in the shadows behind that screen name.

“The more of us that are out, the more difficult it is for other people to push us back into the closet. I wear my club colors to church. We have a whole pew of leathermen. We sit right down in the front. We want people to know that we are there, too—that we are part of the blessed community. It becomes more difficult for people to exclude you when they see you and they know you.”

Community: “Community means that you show up, you help out, you become active. You can participate by showing up, but you can participate even better by getting involved. Getting involved gets back to integrity. It means you put your ass on the line, you put your name out there, you become visible. There’s a risk, yes. It’s scary, yes. Everything we do is scary.”

Authenticity: “Authenticity is one of the values that I think was Old Guard when I came into the community, and still works today. Create a protocol and a lifestyle that works for you. Live into it. Because someday you’re going to pass that knowledge on, and you’re going to be somebody else’s Old Guard.

“You’re going to be an example. As leather people, we’re an example for the leather people that come after us. The way we behave, the way we treat each other, the way we play, is going to get passed down. And it’s going to attract people who want what we have. Be who you are, be honest, be out there—and see what happens.”



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pride in Pictures

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #474, August 1, 2013)

Issue 474 was the 2013 Pride in Pictures edition. I submitted some photos but no captions or cutlines.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Knights of Leather Celebrate 25th-Anniversary Tournament

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #472, July 4, 2013)

Members of the Knights of Leather.
The Knights of Leather recently held their silver-anniversary Tournament 25 run. In keeping with this anniversary the theme of the run was, simply, “Silver.”

The Knights Tournament run is modeled on medieval tournaments, a weekend of games, rituals, camaraderie, a formal banquet—and rustic, rough-hewn, candle-lit dungeons in the woods. This year’s run was held the weekend of May 31-June 2 and was sold out, with more than 100 people in attendance. Those 100 people included representatives of 10 clubs, organizations, and groups. In addition to Minnesota, attendees came from North Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and Texas.

Many members of another Twin Cities club, the Atons of Minneapolis, attended this year’s Tournament as a show of support and solidarity with the Knights. The Atons, who last year celebrated their 40th anniversary, played a part years ago in helping the Knights of Leather form as a club.

Founded in 1985 in the Twin Cities as a club exclusively for leatherwomen, the Knights were reconstituted in 2000 as a pansexual leather club. Although there were clubs for leatherwomen on both coasts, The Knights of Leather was the first club for leatherwomen in the Midwest.

In attendance at Tournament 25 was PJ Knight, the club’s first pledge (or “squire”) and now the most senior member of the club. On Friday evening Knight hosted “Tournament 101,” an orientation session and tour of the grounds for those who had never before attended Tournament. Later on Friday evening, the traditional ceremony of remembrance was held around the campfire.

On Saturday afternoon PJ Knight and your humble columnist were two members of a five-member panel sharing their memories concerning local and national leather history. In addition, available all weekend in the main lodge were notebooks, photo albums, and scrapbooks documenting the history of both the Knights of Leather and Minnesota’s GLBT and leather communities.

Eight other educational seminars and workshops were presented on Saturday as well. Topics included switching, tops playing with tops, slave positions, pet play and “rope scenes for all.”

In keeping with the weekend’s “Silver” theme, both decor and guest attire for Saturday evening’s formal banquet were filled with glittery, shiny, silvery, sparkly things. The pre-banquet cocktail hour was hosted by The Atons of Minneapolis.

So what comes after 25? Next year the Knights will present Tournament 26, the theme of which was announced during the Tournament 25 weekend as “Alphabet Soup: Kink from A to Z.” For more information about Tournament 26 and the Knights of Leather, visit <http://www.knightsofleather.com>.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Andy Cross is International Mr. Leather 2013

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #471, June 20, 2013)

Fifty-one contestants from six countries competed in the 2013 International Mr. Leather (IML) contest held Memorial Day weekend in Chicago. Branded as “IML XXX5,” this year was the 35th annual contest (and the twentieth year your humble columnist has attended). This year’s IML contest and related events were attended by an estimated 18,000 guests.

This year’s IML weekend had a new host hotel in a new neighborhood: the Chicago Marriott Downtown/Magnificent Mile on North Michigan Avenue. Because the host hotel sold out quickly, IML also made arrangements with three other adjacent hotels.

But it appeared that most of the weekend’s socializing revolved around the host hotel’s lobby bar, ironically named “Rush.” (Yes, “Rush” is the street outside the hotel, but it’s also a famous brand of poppers—I mean, room odorizer.) The Twin Cities’ own Miss Richfield made an appearance on the bar’s video screens, courtesy of travel website Orbitz.com.

The weekend-long IML Leather Market featured 120 leather and fetish vendors, clubs and organizations. The market was on both the fifth and seventh floors of the host hotel, and there was express escalator service between the two floors. With up to 6,000 visitors every day, the Market was packed.

Friday evening’s Opening Ceremonies and Saturday evening’s Physique Prejudging (also known as the “Pecs & Personality” event) were held at The Vic Theatre, which was the venue for the IML contest several times in the late 1980s (and which reminded old-timers of The Congress Theater, the contest’s venue from 1994 to 2004 and again in 2010). Sunday evening’s Contest and Show event returned to The Harris Theater in Millennium Park, a venue also used for the Contest and Show in 2011.

(Bus transportation, a formidable responsibility with so many events not at the host hotel as in some previous years, was ably coordinated this year by Twin Cities resident Jason Bribitzer-Stull.)

Master of ceremonies for all three weekend events was Lenny Broberg, the IML titleholder from 1992. Also seen during the weekend were previous IML titleholders from 1994, 1996, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010 and, of course, Woody Woodruff, the outgoing International Mr. Leather 2012.

Chuck Renslow, IML founder and Executive Producer, was around during the weekend in spite of some recent health challenges. Renslow had triple-bypass heart surgery in January; while recovering from that he fell out of bed, broke three ribs, and subsequently developed pneumonia. IML coordinator Jon Krongaard handled Renslow’s speaking duties at the Friday and Saturday evening events, but on Sunday evening Renslow both welcomed the crowd to the Contest and Show and announced the winners at the end of the contest.

Competing this year from Minnesota were Ryan Brown, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2013 (who placed as a top-20 semifinalist), and Kyle Truss, Mr. Twin Cities Leather 2013. Also competing from Minnesota in the 21st annual International Mr. Bootblack Competition (held concurrently with the International Mr. Leather Contest) was Bootblack Mike, who finished the bootblack contest as First Runner-up.

Entertainment at Sunday evening’s Contest and Show was a one-woman performance by singer Beverly McClellan, as seen on NBC’s “The Voice”—and boy, does she have one (a voice, that is). Combine Janis Joplin, Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, and Melissa Etheridge—and then multiply by ten. She plays a mean guitar and a soulful piano, too.

After McClellan’s performance it was time to announce the outcome of the contest: Andy Cross, Mr. San Francisco Leather 2013, was named International Mr. Leather 2013. First runner-up was Thib Guicherd-Callin, Mr. Santa Clara County Leather 2012; second runner-up was Robert Miller, Mr. Leatherman Toronto 2013.

(Cross becomes the sixth IML titleholder from San Francisco and the second with the title of Mr. San Francisco Leather. The first? Well, that would be this year’s master of ceremonies, Lenny Broberg—Mr. San Francisco Leather 1992, who became IML 1992.)

Named as the new International Mr. Bootblack was Sammy, from Portland, Oregon. The Jeffrey Payne Lifetime Achievement Award, a relatively new addition to the IML weekend, was presented this year to Rick Storer, Executive Director of the Leather Archives & Museum.

Next year’s IML weekend will be held May 23-26, 2014, and the Chicago Marriott Downtown/Magnificent Mile will again be the host hotel. Rooms may be reserved starting on June 20, 2013—book early by visiting <imrl.com>.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Minnesota Leather Pride 2013 features appearance by Hardy Haberman

This year’s theme: “Perfect Union/Coming Together”

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #470, June 6, 2013)

Hardy Haberman
Internationally known author, filmmaker, leatherman and gay activist Hardy Haberman will be making a speaking appearance in the Twin Cities as part of this year’s Minnesota Leather Pride celebration. Haberman’s appearance is just one of many events taking place June 14-30, 2013.

Minnesota’s Leather Pride celebration has been bringing Minnesota’s leather/BDSM/fetish community together since the mid-1990s. The celebration started as a single-afternoon, post-Pride Parade get-together at the Gay 90s in Minneapolis. Within a few years, however, it had grown to its present form: a multi-event celebration spread over several weeks in June, culminating in the annual Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade up Hennepin Avenue and the Twin Cities Pride Festival in Loring Park.

This year’s Minnesota Leather Pride celebration mixes perennial favorite events like Floggapalooza with new events including rope and electrical play demonstrations and a Leather Pride bicycle ride to complement the traditional Leather Pride motorcycle ride. Also new this year is a Recovery in the Lifestyle twelve-step meeting and an “Adventures in Fetish” leather/fetish fashion show (followed by “FUNdRaver! 2,” a rave dance party).

One of the goals of this year’s Minnesota Leather Pride (MNLP) planning committee is to encourage more involvement by local leather/BDSM/fetish community members in planning the theme and events for this year’s celebration. MNLP representatives attended many community events, parties and meetings last December and January to gather community input. Community members were given a chance to vote for one of three proposed themes, either with a paper ballot or online, and were asked to suggest ideas for new MNLP events.

Besides new events, the board also has added new venues for Minnesota Leather Pride events. New venues The Southern Theater, In The Heart of the Beast Theater and Clare House join returning venues Camp Bar, Patrick’s Cabaret, Smitten Kitten, The Minneapolis Eagle/Bolt/Bolt Underground complex, and Loring Park.

The Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag for 2013, the latest in a long and distinguished line, looks great and also provides discounts at certain Minnesota Leather Pride events (see sidebar). Get yours while supplies last at participating businesses (see MNLeatherPride.org for details) and at Minnesota Leather Pride events.

The theme of this year’s Minnesota Leather Pride celebration, “Perfect Union/Coming Together,” was chosen to show Minnesota Leather Pride’s support for marriage equality in Minnesota. Now that marriage equality is the law in Minnesota, this year’s theme can signify celebration of that fact.



Minnesota Leather Pride 2013 Events

Reminder: Visit <MNLeatherPride.org> for full details and the latest updates.

Friday, June 14: Electrical play demonstration presented by the Electrical Play Group. 8-10 P.M. Camp Bar, 490 N. Robert St., St. Paul.

Saturday, June 15: Recovery in the Lifestyle (RITL) meeting. Open to anyone living the leather/BDSM/fetish lifestyle in any Twelve-Step Recovery program. 7-9 P.M. Clare House, 3105 23rd Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Sunday, June 16: Unity Through Rope demonstration presented by MSDB. 2-5 P.M. Patrick’s Cabaret, 3010 Minnehaha Ave. S., Minneapolis. $10; discounts with 2013 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag and for MSDB members. If desired, BYOR (bring your own rope).

Friday, June 21: Twin Cities Leather “Adventures in Fetish” fashion show and bootblack party. 7:30-9:30 P.M. Followed by FUNdRaver! 2 rave dance party, 10 P.M.-2 A.M. Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis. $10 for each event; discount with 2013 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag or with combination admission to both events.

Saturday, June 22: Guest speaker Hardy Haberman presented by Leather Journey. 1-4 P.M. In The Heart of the Beast Theater, 1500 E. Lake St., Minneapolis. $10; discount with 2013 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag.

Sunday, June 23: Leather Pride Motorcycle Ride presented by Knights of Leather. 10 A.M. departure; meet at 1610 Harmon Place, Minneapolis.

Sunday, June 23: Leather Pride Bicycle Ride presented by PEPRMNT. 10 A.M. departure; meet on Midtown Greenway in front of Freewheel Bike/Midtown Bike Center, 2834 10th Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Monday, June 24: BDSM Creative Collective presents readings from its 2013 Leather Pride Anthology of Art, Poetry, Photography, and Short Fiction. 7-9 P.M. Smitten Kitten, 3010 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Tuesday, June 25: Leather Pride Swap Meet presented by MAsT Twin Cities. 6:30-9:30 P.M. Camp Bar, 490 N. Robert St., St. Paul. No charge to shop; $5 to vend.

Thursday, June 27: Cigar and Pipe Smoker presented by Atons of Minneapolis. 8-11 P.M. On the patio of the Minneapolis Eagle/Bolt/Bolt Underground complex, 515 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Friday, June 28: Floggapalooza presented by Knights of Leather. 9-11 P.M. Camp Bar, 490 N. Robert St., St. Paul.

Saturday, June 29: Visit the Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival. 9 A.M.-5 P.M. Loring Park, Minneapolis.

Sunday, June 30: March with the Minnesota leather/BDSM/fetish community contingent, and help carry the giant leather pride flag, in the Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade. Meet at 10 A.M. at 3rd St. and Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. Parade steps off at 11 A.M. Also, visit the Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival. 9 A.M.-5 P.M. Loring Park, Minneapolis.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sash Brothers: Joint Interview with Ryan Brown, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2013 and Kyle Truss, Mr. Twin Cities Leather 2013

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #468, May 9, 2013)

Kyle Truss and Ryan Brown.
This column is a double interview with the two local titleholders (also known as sash brothers) who will be representing Minnesota at the International Mr. Leather (IML)contest in Chicago, Memorial Day weekend. Ryan Brown is Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2013, and Kyle Truss is Mr. Twin Cities Leather 2013.

Who’s helping each of you prepare for IML?

KT: My club brothers, the Atons, are really stepping forward. Anything I need—I just have to ask. The Knights of Leather are helping out with morale support. They’re a pansexual group, so they’re not tied to IML as closely as the Atons are, but they’re still behind me a hundred percent. The local community has really stepped up and said whatever you need, just ask and we’ll help. It’s been very, very exciting.

RB:I have to agree with exactly what Kyle said. The local community has been awesome. Everyone is willing to help out and be a part of my journey as long as I’m willing to ask.

What do each of you want to accomplish with your title?

KT: The Twin Cities Leather title is owned by Twin Cities Leather, the local fetish shop. Their motto is “Community First,” and that’s kind of what I’ve always embraced with what I do. That’s why I work with Leather Pride—to be a part of the larger community. Part of what I want to do with my title is that there’s always seemed to be this divide between the gay leathermen and the pansexual leather groups. I’d like to pull both communities closer, and see more gay men at pansexual events and more pansexuals at queer events.

RB: One thing I’ve gotten passionate about, based partly on my travels, is seeing other communities and the amount of community-based education they do. I want to see more of that here in the Twin Cities. I had the great opportunity to host a rope event at the Eagle, and I was blown away by the turnout at the event—especially considering how quickly it came together. There was less than a week of advertising for it, yet we had fifty-five guys at the bar. That said to me that there’s a real hunger for more opportunities for knowledge.

How are each of you involved in the local community?

KT: Basically through my work with MN Leather Pride. One of the things Leather Pride is looking at doing is to not focus everything on the week before Twin Cities Pride—to have workshops, demos and classes all throughout the year. I’m also a member of the Atons and an associate member of the Knights, my brothers and sisters.

RB: HIV stigma has been a huge piece of what I’ve been doing, even before becoming Mr. Minneapolis Eagle. I’m involved with the Mr. Friendly project to reduce HIV stigma, and now I’m also on the Community Action Board of the Minnesota AIDS Project. Today I was at the state capitol meeting with legislators, talking about the importance of funding not only for continuing AIDS prevention efforts, but also for the quality of care for people living with HIV. I’ve also done the Red Ribbon Ride. And if Spring ever gets here, softball season will be starting—I play with the Minneapolis Unicorns.

What are your thoughts as you look forward to IML?

KT: Mostly panic. I just want to make sure that I’m not trying to be anything other than who I am, and kind of keep myself in check so that I’m not trying to put on a show when I get there—just remember to be authentic. Yes, to care about what other people think, but not to the point where I’m changing who I am deep down.

RB: In the lead-up to IML, there isn’t a whole lot different than what I’m already doing. There’s a little bit of traveling involved. I’m continuing to learn about the community. I’ve got some fundraising events coming up for the Aliveness Project next week. And I’ll be continuing to chat with people in the community. I agree with what Kyle said—gotta be yourself, there’s no one else to be.

What IML send-off events will each of you be having?

RB: My send-off party will be Saturday, May 11, 9:00 P.M. at the Eagle-Bolt Bar, which coincides with Gear Night at the Eagle.

KT: My send-off party is still being scheduled, so people should check my Facebook page or my blog for details [see below].

Find Ryan Brown on Facebook at <www.Facebook.com/mme2013>; find Kyle Truss on Facebook at <www.Facebook.com/MrTCL2013> or read his blog at 
<go-boy-go.blogspot.com>.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Power, Education and Society

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #466, April 11, 2013)

If you haven’t seen your humble columnist out and about lately, it’s because I have gone back to college. I now am enrolled as a degree-seeking student in the College of Individualized Studies at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. My objective is to complete the BA degree I abandoned long ago, back when dinosaurs still walked the earth.

However, even after I abandoned structured higher education, I still continued to learn through experience—and much of that learning has come from my involvement in the leather/BDSM/fetish community. Now that I have returned to higher education, I am discovering the value and importance of our community’s knowledge and cultural values.

One unexpected feature of my college experience so far is that one word seems to suffuse all my classes, and indeed the general learning culture of Metro State. That word is “power.” In many of my classes we discuss how power operates in our society and in other societies. We discuss who has power and who doesn’t. We discuss how power is acquired and lost. We discuss how power is used, misused and abused. We discuss—all together now—dominance and submission.

To me, these discussions about power sound familiar. I already have learned much about the dynamics of power because I am part of a community built around the dynamics of power.

Members of the leather/BDSM/fetish community learn about power. Then they go further—they use the knowledge they have acquired to play with power. Whether we’re talking about a scene in a bedroom or a dungeon, or a dominant/submissive, sir/boy or master/slave relationship, it’s all about who has power, who doesn’t, and how power is used, exchanged and played with.

My studies at Metro State have made me realize there is something paradoxical about the leather/BDSM/fetish community. Within it everyone—dominant, submissive or switch, top or bottom, master, madame, mistress or slave—is accorded an equal measure of personal power if they choose to exercise it. The community’s culture declares that no member of the community has lesser status because of their chosen role. In the rare instance that a community member thinks his or her lofty role as a master or mistress makes it okay to mistreat or abuse submissives, other community members will intervene to tell them that such behavior is not acceptable.

Yet, to the rest of society, members of the leather/BDSM/fetish community historically have been given less respect and social status than other supposedly “normal” people. Society has given us the label of “perverts” and then told us we should be ashamed of that label. Ironically, society has tried to strip us of our power, the thing around which our community revolves. Once power is taken away it is rarely given back—it must be actively reclaimed.

One way we reclaim that power, individually and as a community, is by educating ourselves and others. Education is important because it is empowering both on a personal level, such as enabling someone to get a better job, and on a public level, such as enabling oppressed communities to cast off labels like “queer” or “pervert.”

The empowering nature of education is why the GLBT community has Creating Change, an annual leadership and activism conference, and why the leather/BDSM/fetish community has the Leather Leadership Conference—and this year, the Kink Lincs Leadership and Community-Building Symposium (April 12-14 in Seattle). These conferences are examples of learning by and for the community.

Another way to reclaim power is by educating the members of the society that is trying to take away that power. Such educational efforts were essential in defeating the Minnesota marriage and voter I.D. amendments last year. The BDSM community’s “Consent Counts” project is an important educational initiative aimed at removing shame and stigma connected with BDSM sexuality.

The more I have studied the dynamics of power, education and social change at Metro State, the more I have become convinced of the correctness of something I wrote in this column in 2008: “So many members of our community have so much to offer the wider society. If politicians professing to be God-fearing Christians have made such a mess of things over the last few decades, it might take a bunch of people formerly known as ‘pervs’ to make things better.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kyle Truss is Mr. Twin Cities Leather 2013

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #464, March 14, 2013)

Kyle Truss and Tommy Rosengren were the two competitors in this year’s Mr. Twin Cities Leather contest weekend, with Truss being awarded the title and sash. Twin Cities Leather, the new leather-and-gear store in Minneapolis, presented a weekend-long slate of events in connection with this year’s contest.

The weekend started Friday night, Feb. 15, with a “Meet the Candidates” event followed by a Black Party. The main event, the Mr. Twin Cities Leather Contest, took place Saturday evening, Feb. 16. The contest was followed by “LeatherBOMB! A Victory Party” with DJ MF.

Sunday, Feb. 17 brought a Leather Brunch sponsored and prepared by Cuppa Java, followed by a victory beer bust. All events were held at The Saloon in Minneapolis, one of the weekend’s sponsors.

Saturday night’s contest and show included judged segments in leather image; onstage question and answer; speech; and talent. In the onstage question-and-answer segment, Truss was asked by one judge, “What are you most afraid of?” His answer: “In all honesty—this, right now,” referring to being onstage before the crowd at the Saloon.

Truss’ talent presentation combined a magic trick using a deck of cards with electrical torture featuring a big, industrial-strength, nasty-looking electrical switch. Rosengren’s talent portion was a demonstration of how to make the perfect banana split—using an accomplice’s bare chest as the serving vessel. To conclude his talent demonstration, Rosengren invited members of the audience to sample his ice-cream creation.

Emcees for the weekend were Karri Plowman, one of the three co-owners of Twin Cities Leather, and Camille Collins. Entertainment Friday and Saturday evenings was provided by Chanda Lehr. The entire weekend was dedicated to the memory of the late David Olaf Brown, a/k/a Danielle Charbonneau.

Contest judges were Andrew Bertke, Atons of Minneapolis; Tynan Fox, Twin Cities Leather; Tony Halverson, The Saloon; Daniel Hennagir, Mr. Twin Cities Leather 2011; and your humble columnist. Tallymaster was Randy Ingram; Den Daddy (contestant handler) was Bud Lile, assisted by Jayson Glynn.

Another sponsor of the Mr. Twin Cities Leather weekend was Fuck Water lubes, many samples of whose products were handed out during the weekend. Lavender Magazine was the weekend’s media sponsor.

Truss will represent Twin Cities Leather and Minnesota’s leather community as he competes in the 35th annual International Mr. Leather contest (<www.imrl.com>), May 24-27, 2013 (Memorial Day weekend) in Chicago.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

“Community First”: Meet the owners of Twin Cities Leather

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #462, February 14, 2013)

I recently interviewed the three co-owners of Twin Cities Leather, the new leather store in town. Karri Plowman is the head designer; Luke Wallrich handles finances, merchandising and event planning; and Tynan Fox is working with outreach, activism and education.

How did Twin Cities Leather come to be?

Karri Plowman: I had previously worked in another leather store and had left to open my own store and was having several difficulties. Frankly, there was just expertise and things that I needed to help me. And then, Luke—

Luke Wallrich: For my entire life I’ve been very entrepreneurial, always wanted to have a business of some kind. During discussions last year with some of the leadership of IML [the International Mr. Leather weekend], they said, your city really needs something that can put the community first, that can do something for the community that’s worthwhile.

Tynan Fox: Driving back from IML we had a long discussion in the car, and we realized that it’s only gonna happen if someone in the community steps up and takes leadership. And we decided that, you know, it’s time to be the grownups. It’s time for us to take some responsibility.

What do you want Twin Cities Leather to accomplish?

LW: I think our primary goal is “Community First.” One of the big ways that we’re doing that, of course, is with the Mr. Twin Cities Leather competition. But ultimately, it’s to help people discover, explore, enjoy, and fortify their kinky lives.

KP: This is a kink leather store owned by kink leather people for the kink leather community, and that’s important to us. And with that comes quality products and great customer service. When our clients come in—and we refer to our customers as clients, because that’s how we treat them—we can answer questions that just a sex store couldn’t answer. And that client concept means conversations, and purchases, are kept between us and our client.

LW: Our store and workshop are in a small basement location. You come in off the back side of this mixed-use property, a mansion in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Minneapolis. It’s also a community space—people can come in and sit and chat. The major hurdle is finding us, but once people know where we are, we’re easy to get to, and they like the privacy.

What can people expect when they visit?

TF: First and foremost, you can expect a friendly face. Our company motto is “Community First” for a reason—we want to make sure people are comfortable being able to shop and ask questions and get friendly answers.

LW: We’ve all been involved in this community for a very long time, even though we’re all relatively young individuals.

TF: Between the three of us we’ve got thirty years of experience.

You’ll have a store on the Web, too?

LW: Our current goal is to be online with TwinCitiesLeather.com, a full e-commerce website, by the end of January, 2013.

Talk a bit about the upcoming Mr. Twin Cities Leather contest.

LW: The reason we sponsor the contest, first and foremost, is that we believe the Twin Cities has a kink community that deserves representation and leadership. Contests are one of the ways we elect the leaders of our community, the people who get to go out there and be a focal point for the community.

Derek Harley, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2012, said in his speech at IML that you have to be a beacon. There are many different ways you can be a beacon in the community, and being a titleholder is certainly one of the ways. We wanted our city to have two of those beacons that people can come to and ask questions, so really we sponsor it for that community reason. And that’s why the store itself has the motto or the slogan of “Community First.”

(Twin Cities Leather is located at 300 Clifton Ave. in Minneapolis. Open seven days a week; more info at Facebook.com/TwinCitiesLeather or visit their new e-commerce site at TwinCitiesLeather.com. And check out all the events that make up the Mr. Twin Cities Leather contest weekend, Feb. 15-17 at The Saloon.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

2012 Atons Holiday Fundraiser Benefits The Aliveness Project

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #460, January 17, 2013)

The Twin Cities leather community’s collective holiday season got off to a great start at the 2012 Atons Holiday Fundraiser. The event was held Sunday afternoon and evening, Dec. 2, in the Bolt Underground.

In addition to food, drink and a bigger-than-usual silent auction, event attendees could have their picture taken with Leather Santa and Naughty Elf (Mr. Twin Cities Leather 2011 Daniel Hennagir and Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2013 Ryan Brown). A bootblack station also was available to get those boots shined for the holidays.

The fundraiser included a food drive to replenish the food shelf at The Aliveness Project, and all funds collected at the door and through the silent auction benefited The Aliveness Project as well.