Friday, August 27, 1999

Transgender Leather

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #111, August 27, 1999)

Okay, so you’re a proud member of the leather/BDSM community. If you’re reading this column, the probability is highest that you’re a gay white male (as is your humble columnist). But you, like your humble columnist, understand that something as wonderful as leathersex must be open to everyone regardless of age, race, sex, orientation, and so on. So you try to be open-minded and accepting, even of women at the Minneapolis Eagle or heterosexuals in a dungeon. (See previous columns on leatherwomen and het queers.)

You’re even trying to be open-minded about transgendered people in the leather/BDSM community. Here you may fall into one of two categories: either “I don’t know any, but of course they would certainly be welcome” or “My goodness, they’re everywhere—where are they all coming from?” Billy Lane was in last year’s International Mr. Leather competition, and he did very well, thank you. One of the judges at this year’s International Ms. Leather contest was Kate Bornstein, author of many books on gender issues including “My Gender Workbook.” You’ve seen transgendered people onstage assisting or competing in local leather contests, too, and sometimes winning them.

That’s fine, you say, it can be their community too. (How very generous of you.) I know people who espouse this line of reasoning, and follow it in the next breath with this disclaimer: “But of course I would never play with one.”

My first response to this is, why not? My second response is, how do you know you haven’t? Considering that much SM play is non-genital in nature, how can you be absolutely, positively sure that the person who flogged you last night (or the person whom you flogged) was not a trans person? Have you checked the chromosomes of everyone you’ve ever played with to be sure they matched the person’s outward appearance?

Suppose you found out the next day (or next month, or next year) that the person you played with last night was a trannie. Would you feel differently about the experience? About the person? Why or why not?

If you feel comfortable with trans people, congratulations—you can skip the next part of this column. If you don’t feel comfortable having trans people around, however, let me say this as gently as I can: Get Over It. Here are two different (and somewhat opposing) viewpoints to consider that may help you adjust your attitude:

Viewpoint #1: Think of a transgender orientation as a special asset instead of a liability. Consider that trans people are an interesting and diverse group. I seem to be getting to know more and more of them, so I say this from personal experience: They’ve seen a lot and been through a lot, and they have the stories to prove it. Their experiences at questioning something about themselves that most of us take for granted tends to give them a special insight into themselves (and others, and society in general) that can be refreshing to be around.

Viewpoint #2: The words “transgender” and “transsexual” are labels. People aren’t labels; if I look at a person and all I see is a label, I’m not really seeing that person. Instead of thinking of a transgender orientation as a special asset (as described above), don’t think about it at all. Focus on a trans person as simply a person, and try relating to them as you would with any other human being. You might be pleasantly surprised. Maybe you’ll make a new friend. You might even play together. Who knows what chemistry you’ll find once you get that pesky label out of the way?

One final note: Earlier I mentioned a book by Kate Bornstein titled “My Gender Workbook.” It is recommended reading if you are at all curious about gender issues—perhaps your own, or perhaps in order to better understand a newfound transgender friend. Before seeing this book I thought gender was basically either male or female, and transgender people either went from female to male or male to female. (And they always used hormones and surgery to make the transition). I now realize that it’s not that simple. Here’s just one example of a “nontraditional” transgender person: Joe knows he is male, in spite of the fact that he was born with a female’s body. Joe is so sure he is male, in fact, that he sees no need to bother with hormones and surgery. So just have respect for his gender choice—call him Joe, and call him “him,” and he’s satisfied.

Gender comes in many different flavors, and it will be a lovely day when people can taste them all and choose their favorite with no apologies, shame or stigma.

Mr. Minnesota Leather Contest cancelled

Late-breaking news: The Mr. Minnesota Leather Contest, which was scheduled for Labor Day weekend, will not be happening. According to Minnesota Leather Productions spokesman Colin Spriestersbach, “Minnesota Leather Productions will not be holding the event this year due to [a] lack of interest in the Leather community.”

Friday, August 13, 1999

Pam Meyer is IMsL 1999

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #110, August 13, 1999)

PHOTO: IMsL 1999 First Runner-up Crickett Watkins; IMsL 1999 Pam Meyer; IMsL 1999 Second Runner-up Peggy aka “O”.

This year’s International Ms. Leather (IMsL) Contest was held July 16-18 in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was there, and had a great time. Being a veteran of many International Mr. Leather (IML) contests but never having attended IMsL before, I was struck by both the similarities and the differences between the two contest weekends. I even prepared a handy chart (accompanying this column) to compare the two.

The first IMsL contest was held in San Francisco in 1987, as were the next seven yearly contests. Now it travels to a different city each year; next year’s contest will be held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

IMsL has become a full-weekend event for the entire leather/SM/fetish community—all sexes, genders and orientations are welcome and were in evidence at this year’s contest. In the words of producer (and IMsL 1993) Amy Marie Meek, the contest “chooses a woman to represent the international leather/SM/fetish community to the public, and provides a venue that allows ALL participating leatherwomen to present their positive vision of a positive leather image.”

New this year was the International Ms. Bootblack title competition, held concurrently with IMsL. This is the first year for this title which, along with the new International Mr. Bootblack title, replaces the old International Bootblack title which was instituted in 1993. For the past six years the International Bootblack competition has been part of the IML weekend and contestants have included male, female and transgendered bootblacks. A joint statement issued by Meek and IML producer Chuck Renslow says, “We believe that, by creating two titles, we will encourage more women to learn the art of bootblacking and the womens’ community to support to support women bootblacks.”

The weekend started Friday night with a Basket Auction—each contestant brought a themed “goodie basket” filled with items representing the leather/SM community in her geographical region. Bidding was fast, furious and often contentious, but when it was finished the Basket Auction raised over $10,000 for the new IMsL’s travel fund.

I spent some time Saturday at the Vendor Fair, where many of the vendors were new to me. Saturday’s schedule also included many workshops and seminars and a Laura Antoniu Book Reading. A special “Telling Our Stories” reception was a celebration of women telling their personal stories about claiming their place in the leather world; written and electronically recorded histories were accepted by the Leather Archives and Museum. (You can still submit your own story to

Saturday night’s contest featured fourteen contestants, including Ms. Minnesota Leather 1999 Mario. Speeches were spoken and fantasies were performed, the judges judged, and outgoing IMsL Megan DeJarlais turned her sash over to new IMsL Pam Meyer from San Francisco. First IMsL Runner-up was Crickett Watkins of Chula Vista, California (who also won the contest’s equivalent of Ms. Congeniality); second IMsL Runner-up was Peggy aka “O” of New York City. The first-ever International Ms. Bootblack title went to Leslie Anderson, of Bosque Farms, New Mexico.

It’s not too early to start thinking about getting a hotel room in Toronto for next year’s IMsL. For more coverage of this year’s contest and information about next year’s, visit IMsL’s website at

International Mr./Ms. Fantasy Contest Weekend

This issue’s Out & About Calendar is filled with activities that are part of this year’s International Mr./Ms. Fantasy Contest Weekend (August 20-22). Take a look, then call Wolf Productions to order Weekend Packages ($45) or admission to individual Fantasy Weekend events. Host hotel is Quality Inn Downtown Minneapolis, 41 N. 10th St. (formerly the Regency Plaza); call for reservation information.

Mpls. Eagle Calendar Model Search

The Minneapolis Eagle is creating a calendar called “Bodies for the Millennium: The Men and Womyn of the Minneapolis Eagle.” A different individual will be featured each month, and profits from the calendar will be donated to two charities chosen by the people featured in the calendar. Two contests will be held to select 10 men (Saturday, August 14 at 9 PM and Sunday, August 22 at 8 PM) and one contest will be held to select two women (Wednesday, August 18 at 9 PM).

Each contestant will receive a $10 bar tab just for entering the contest; if a contestant is selected by the judges for the calendar, the calendar model will receive a cash prize of $50. Contestants will be judged in leather/uniform/rubber wear, knowledge of the leather community, and a question-and-answer category. Contest applications are available at The Minneapolis Eagle, or you can register at their website (

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Saturday, August 14

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Cocktails at 7 PM at The Saloon (patio), dinner at 7:45 PM at Café DiNapoli (816 Hennepin Ave.)
Presented by the Atons, open to all. For information and reservations call the Atons Hotline.

Saturday, August 14

Minneapolis Eagle Calendar Contest Part 1
9 PM, Minneapolis Eagle
Five men will be selected to appear in “Bodies for the Millennium: The Men and Womyn of the Minneapolis Eagle.” Come cheer for your favorite contestant. (See entry details in this issue’s “Leather Life” column.)

Sunday, August 15

9 PM, The Town House, St. Paul
Hosted by guest bartender and Mr. Minnesota Drummer 1999 Gary O’Neill. This will be an ongoing event, every Sunday night at 9 PM.

Wednesday, August 18

Minneapolis Eagle Calendar Contest Part 2
9 PM, Minneapolis Eagle
Two women will be selected to appear in “Bodies for the Millennium: The Men and Womyn of the Minneapolis Eagle.” Come cheer for your favorite contestant. (See entry details in this issue’s “Leather Life” column.)

Friday, August 20

International Fantasy Weekend Welcome Party
6 PM, Quality Inn Downtown (41 N. 10th St., Mpls.)

Friday, August 20

International Fantasy Weekend Party Bus Bar Cruise
7 PM, Leaves from The Saloon
Visit The Brass Rail, Over The Rainbow, Trikkx, The Town House, and The Minneapolis Eagle. Returns to The Saloon about 11 PM.

Friday, August 20

International Fantasy Weekend Reception/Dance Party
10 PM, The Saloon
Meet the contestants and judges. Vocal entertainment by Erin Schwab. Door prizes.

Saturday, August 21

International Fantasy Weekend Vendor Fair and Workshops
Noon to 5 PM, Quality Inn Downtown (41 N. 10th St., Mpls.)

Saturday, August 21

International Mr./Ms. Fantasy Contest
9 PM (Doors open at 8:30 PM), Guthrie Lab Theater (700 N. 1st St., Mpls.)
Contestants will be judged in fantasy wear, question-and-answer, fantasy presentation and the ever-popular Mystery category. Other entertainment will include Ava Monet as Marilyn Monroe.

Sunday, August 22

International Fantasy Weekend Beach Party
2-7 PM, Minneapolis Riverfront Beach
Featuring volleyball, a cookout, and tap beer—all presented in the clean, wholesome, family-friendly atmosphere of the Minneapolis River Flats.

Sunday, August 22

International Fantasy Weekend “End-Up” Party
9 PM, The Town House, St. Paul

Sunday, August 22

Minneapolis Eagle Calendar Contest Part 3
8 PM, Minneapolis Eagle
Five men will be selected to appear in “Bodies for the Millennium: The Men and Womyn of the Minneapolis Eagle.” Come cheer for your favorite contestant. (See entry details in this issue’s “Leather Life” column.)

Wednesday, August 25

TIES Munch
7:30 PM, Legends Café, 825 E. Hennepin Ave.
Ongoing monthly social gathering of around 150 kinky people of all descriptions—het, bi, trans, and an increasing number of lesbians and gay men.