Friday, April 30, 2004

A Leather Life Exclusive: Leather Leadership Conference 8 Explores “Routes to Power”

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #233, April 30, 2004)

The eighth annual Leather Leadership Conference (LLC8) recently took place at the Hilton Airport Inn, in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, La. This year’s theme was “Routes to Power.” About 270 people attended LLC8, some coming from as far away as Israel.

Among the Leather Leadership Conference’s stated purposes are “to develop and strengthen the leadership and management skills of existing and potential new SM/Leather/Fetish community leaders and activists” and to “develop and promulgate broad-scope SM/Leather community policy.”

The conference was started in 1997 by leather- and GLBT-community activist John Weis. He modeled LLC on Creating Change, a leadership conference presented annually by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF).

I was at LLC8 as co-host of a presentation by International Mr. Leather 2003 John Pendal, who traveled from London to talk about “International Leather Perspectives.” You’ll read more about our presentation in an upcoming Leather Life column; you can see what Pendal has to say about his LLC8 experience at <>.

The conference opened Friday night, April 2, with a keynote speech by Travis Wilson of Houston, Texas. Wilson, who currently heads The New Club, one of Houston’s largest and most active BDSM organizations, has been involved in the scene for more than 25 years. You can read his entire speech at <>.

A total of 44 seminars were scheduled on Saturday. They were divided into 6 topics, or “tracks”: Community Issues and Power, Economic Power, Organizational Power, Defending Our Lifestyle, Personal Power, and Legal/Political Power. Conference attendees were strongly encouraged to pick one track and attend the seminars associated with that track.

Although I had intended to ignore this recommendation, I wound up sticking to the “Defending Our Lifestyle” track, and I was not disappointed. Every presentation I heard was excellent.

Saturday’s first “Defending Our Lifestyle” presentation was “Weathering the Storm” by Jack McGeorge, the UNMOVIC weapons inspector in Iraq who was outed as kinky by the Washington Post. It was fascinating, and a bit disturbing, to hear McGeorge tell his story of enduring a twelve-day media firestorm and its aftermath. But his presentation went further, offering lessons that could be useful to anyone suddenly thrust into a public controversy—or anyone wanting to be supportive of someone else who found themself in such a position. (Read the outline of his presentation at <>.

Larry Manion, a member of the LLC Board from the St. Louis area, presented “It’s 2004: What’s Next?” Manion led the audience in considering recent events including the article about BDSM in the Jan. 19, 2004 issue of Time Magazine (<>), gay marriage protests across the nation, two BDSM events getting thrown out of host hotels last fall, and the few ragtag picketers who were at that very moment in front of our host hotel. Led by Manion, the audience tallied all these events—were we winning or losing? Where do we go from here? How best can the leather/BDSM community meet the challenges facing it?

Alan Maclachlan, a member of the LLC Board from New Orleans, and Jack Rinella, a leather/BDSM writer and educator from Chicago, teamed up to present “Hanging Ten on a Wave of Historical Inevitability.” Their thesis: Change “creates new social arrangements which frequently lead to conflict with entrenched ways of doing things.” An examination of the history of the struggle for gay rights in Chicago became a metaphor and a possible roadmap for the struggle for leather/BDSM sexual freedom.

Jay Wiseman, author of the classic SM101 and many other books, has been attending law school recently. He put his training as a mediator to work in an interesting seminar on community disputes and conflict resolution.

Dr. Charles Moser presented “The DSM and Internalized BDSM Negativity.” The “DSM” here is not the last three letters of “BDSM”—it stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (4th Edition, Text Revision), published by the American Psychiatric Association. This book of psychiatric diagnoses still lists Sexual Sadism and Sexual Masochism as valid diagnoses for mental illnesses requiring treatment. Moser discussed how these diagnoses support oppression of BDSM participants, how they affect the way BDSM participants feel about themselves, and why they do not belong in the DSM.

Other seminars in other tracks included “Transfriendly Spaces,” “Alpha Bottoms: Being a Leader in a D/s World,” “The Economics of Conventions,” “Tribalism: A Balanced Approach to Club Government,” “Surviving Burnout in the SM Lifestyle,” and “Grassroots Organizing for Beginners.”

Another notable seminar was a screening of a preliminary version of “50 Years of Success: The Satyrs Motorcycle Club,” a documentary film made by Satyrs members who also happen to be involved in the movie industry. (Well, the club is based in Los Angeles.)

Sunday morning’s agenda was panel discussions and Q&A “town meetings” by track: “What Makes Groups Work,” “Professionalism versus Volunteerism,” “Organizational Responsibilities,” “Separatism, Pansexuality and Political Power,” “Out or Not: Public or Private Lifestyle,” and “Texas Sodomy Decision.”

The conference ended with a closing keynote address by Dossie Easton, noted author of The Ethical Slut and other books.

Following Easton’s keynote address, Jared Keen, of the LLC8 Programming Committee, presented “A Destination Proclamation: A roadmap for change in the leather community.” This document, available at <>, represents “a compilation of points accumulated from responses to questions presented to attendees of LLC8.” After listing nine points, the proclamation notes that “If each community embraces one of these points, or even part of a point, the Leather Movement will begin to be recognized as a political, economic, and social influence in the world.”

In addition to the documents cited above that are available at The Leather Leadership Conference’s website (<>), there are many other documents from past conferences.

Next year’s LLC9 will be held in Phoenix, Ariz. And get ready, Minnesota, because plans are being made to submit a bid to host the conference in the Twin Cities in 2007.

That’s only three years from now. Time to get busy.


Travis Wilson

Jack McGeorge

Larry Manion

Alan Maclachlan

Jack Rinella

Dossie Easton

Friday, April 16, 2004

Interview: Carl Byrd, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2004

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #232, April 16, 2004)

It is six days after Carl Byrd became the new Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2004. I’m sitting in his living room with him and his dog, Gus. (His partner, Chris, is at the gym.) I catch him slightly off-guard with my first question:

Tell me your life story up to this point in twenty-five words or less.

My life story. Okay—

Just kidding. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Gainesville, Florida and went to high school and college there. I was actually born in Landstuhl, Germany. I was an Army brat—my dad was in the Army so we moved around a lot—but basically I grew up in Florida and the south.

Which college did you attend?

I graduated from the University of Florida in 1989 with a degree in fine arts and graphic design. I moved to San Francisco in 1992, and lived there for eight years working in advertising, and then lived in L.A. for a couple years, working in the entertainment industry, and then moved to Minneapolis, where I do fashion and retail advertising, in 2001.

Have you given any thought to how your professional credentials could add to your title experience?

Well, you know, I’ve thought a lot about it. If it’s trying to get a message out, or trying to be a face that can raise the profile of the leather community, or talk about the issues that are important to the leather or gay communities—being a marketer and an advertiser, that’s what I do every day. I problem-solve when it comes to getting people’s attention or making people understand your message. If I can harness that talent that I have for marketing and advertising, and use it for the leather community, that would be cool.

What prompted you to enter the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle contest this year?

Chris had competed last year and was first runner-up to Gregg White, and that was a great experience for him. This year we talked about it, and I asked him if he wanted to do it again—if he had wanted to, I wouldn’t have competed. But he said he thought maybe I should do it.

I wanted to do it because I wanted to show how much the Eagle and this community, the leather community that embraced me, how much they meant to me. My relationship with Chris blossomed out of this community, and I’ve made some really amazing close friends because of the leather community here. And the Minneapolis Eagle is my favorite bar of my gay life as a gay man. Chris and I like having a good time there. We love Ed, and all the people who work there are great, great guys.

How did you prepare for the Mr. Eagle contest?

I thought about what I wanted to communicate—the epitome of a leather man, what they look like. Again, as a marketer, I wanted to communicate that for the visual part of it. I did reading on leather protocol and leather history. A lot of things I had known—you kind of learn things over the years—but I wanted to start being able to articulate and speak with conviction about those things. And I’m still growing and learning as a person who’s involved in the leather community. So I’m by no means the veteran, but I wanted to be able to communicate what I do know and what I do understand.

What did you think when you won the contest?

I wasn’t prepared. Obviously, I had hoped. But part of me didn’t think it would happen. I was overwhelmed, and very excited.

And, honestly, you go back to when you were 15, growing up in Florida, and you were skinny, and you’re half-white and half-Japanese, and didn’t know who you were. You might have questions about your ethnic identity, your sexual identity, you’re doubting your masculinity and your validity as a man.

And to flash forward to being a 37-year-old man, and be in a contest where you’re supposed to exhibit all those things—exhibit masculinity and the qualities of a leather top, or someone who’s supposed to be an example or a role model. And that was overwhelming. Because even though you know you’re an intelligent person, you know you’re supposed to validate yourself, you don’t need external people or sources to really validate you—don’t we all, on some level, want to be validated by our peers? And I mean peers, you know. That was an honor, and it was very humbling. I wasn’t prepared for how much it really meant to me.

Next year, when you step down, what do you want to be able to say you accomplished during your title year?

First of all, I hope to make everyone proud at IML, that’s my first immediate goal. And with the momentum of that, regardless of the outcome there, I basically want to be a servant to the leather community in Minneapolis this next year. At the end of the year I want everyone in the leather community and the judges to feel like they made the right decision, and that I contributed, and that I had a positive impact on this community.

Friday, April 2, 2004

Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2004

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #231, April 2, 2004)

On Sunday evening, March 14, Carl Byrd of Minneapolis was chosen as Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2004 from a field of six contestants. First runner-up was Danny Pelletier of St. Louis Park; second runner-up was Jack Roach of Eau Claire, Wis.

Sponsored by 1-800GAYLIVE, this year’s contest actually started the previous Friday night with a Meet-and-Greet in the Eagle. Private contestant interviews were held Saturday afternoon.

Even though it’s the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle contest, Sunday evening’s stage portion of the contest was actually held next door at The Bolt, which was packed. The space worked well, with The Bolt’s higher ceilings allowing better staging than has been possible in previous years when the contest was held in the Eagle.

Emcee for the evening was Minneapolis Eagle and Bolt manager Brian Anderson. Judges were Tim Forte, the first Mr. Minneapolis Eagle (1999); Gregg White, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2003; and your humble columnist.

Byrd will go on to compete in the 2004 International Mr. Leather contest (<>), Memorial Day weekend in Chicago.


Jack Roach works his way through the crowd during the Keg Walk segment of the contest.


Jack Roach onstage during the Keg Walk segment of the contest.


Carl Byrd works his way through the crowd during the Keg Walk segment of the contest.


Carl Byrd, right, onstage with emcee Brian Anderson, left, during the Keg Walk segment of the contest.


Contestant Bradley Gavin works his way through the crowd during the Keg Walk segment of the contest.


Contestant Bradley Gavin, right, onstage with emcee Brian Anderson, left, during the Keg Walk segment of the contest.


Contestant Mark Mastalir during the Q&A portion of the contest.


Danny Pelletier during the Q&A portion of the contest.


Mark Mastalir entertains the audience with a hot scuba-diving story during the Erotic Reading portion of the contest.


Contestant Dan Lynch working the phone during the Erotic Reading portion of the contest.


Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2003 Gregg White, right, with emcee Brian Anderson, left, shortly before White sashed his successor.


Steven Due, left, and Gregg White, right, Mr. Minneapolis Eagles 2001 and 2003.



Tim Forte (right), the first Mr. Minneapolis Eagle (1999) and one of this year’s contest judges, with his partner John Christensen (left).




Carl Byrd, the newly-sashed Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2004.


Left to right: First runner-up Danny Pelletier, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2004 Carl Byrd, second runner-up Jack Roach.