Friday, May 25, 2007

“Why Not Be Into Leather?” Leather Life Interviews Dan Beach, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2007

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #313, May 25, 2007)

PHOTO: Dan Beach

As Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2007, Dan Beach will be representing The Minneapolis Eagle and Minnesota’s leather community in this year’s International Mr. Leather (IML) Contest in Chicago May 24-28 (<>). I interviewed him recently in the living room of his townhouse, while his dog Turner kept watch.

Why are you into leather?

Part of me wants to say, well, why not be into leather? It’s the image, it’s the look. Obviously there’s a certain feel, certain smell, certain look. But there’s the fellowship of people who are into leather, too, and that’s a very attractive part of it. People tend, I think, to perhaps respect others a little bit more.

How long have you been into leather, and how did you get into it?

I discovered leather in college. The way it happened, actually, was the Internet. The Internet was pretty young at that point, and the web hadn’t even been born yet. But just looking at different postings, the discussions, photographs—when I saw men in leather, it was like, yep, that’s what attracted me right away.

Why did you enter the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle contest?

I’d had friends who did it before, and I saw how much fun they had. And I thought it would be fun, and it was. But more importantly, I wanted to increase my involvement in the leather community, both locally and nationally/internationally. I saw entering the contest as a way of getting that experience—you know, jumping into the pool deep end first.

How far in advance of the contest did you decide to enter?

I decided in December, or perhaps even earlier. I’d been thinking about it for quite some time.

How did you prepare?

I did a lot of reading on people in the community, the various groups, some leather history. I’ve also been hitting the gym more often.

In your reading, was there anyone who really stood out and impressed you?

One person who impressed me, based on his writing and what other people have written about him, was John Pendal, IML 2003. I read some of Larry Townsend’s materials, as well, which I thought were really well written.

What further preparation are you doing for IML now?

I’m familiarizing myself more with politics, actually. There are a lot of political activists on the IML judging panel this year. I’m working on knowing current stances in politics, being aware of my own opinions on various issues, and being able to articulate them. Again, still hitting the gym. And then trying to stay calm and not to be nervous.

What political issues are you passionate about? What causes do you see as really important for leather right now?

There are a lot of issues. One of the issues, not necessarily political but one that I see as very important, is renewing people’s understanding and concern about AIDS and HIV—along with decriminalizing BDSM activities when they’re done consensually. Those are not necessarily political hot buttons, but those are two issues that I’m passionate about. And I’m following the whole gay marriage/civil union track, as well as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

What do you want to do with the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle title?

I’d like to help raise awareness on various issues. I had that same question from someone else, like what events would I organize, or things like that. But Minnesota has a lot of events—groups are holding events all the time—and I don’t feel that I have to try and compete with them. What I would rather do is work with the groups that already exist, with the events, and use my title to bring more people to those events.

If you win IML, what do you want to do with that title?

Again, much the same as what I want to do here locally, I’d want to do on more of an international or national level. Working with groups that already exist, whether it’s the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, or the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, or other leather groups and organizations.

What can you do to affect the issues you’ve talked about?

At this point I see myself working more on a personal level with people. I’ve been talking with friends, essentially getting the word out, trying to educate people whenever I can, whether that’s in the bar, in a car pool, at work, or at the gym—strike up a conversation and you can usually work one of those topics in somehow. Besides that I’ve been volunteering with different organizations like the Aliveness Project and Minnesota AIDS Project.

What are you into—what flags do you wear?

The two that I would say I wear most often are a white and black check, for safe sex, and gray for bondage.

And which pockets would you wear them in?

I could wear them in either.

What don’t most people know about you?

Hmm. That’s a hard one. Because generally I’m a very open book to most people.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Twittering About Leather Leadership Conference XI

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #312, May 11, 2007)

Leatherfolk tend also to be high-tech folk, so the recent Leather Leadership Conference (LLC) in Minneapolis inspired a number of Internet blog entries. At least one conference attendee was posting micro-blog entries using Twitter, a web-based service that asks users “What are you doing?” and allows them to post short responses of up to 140 characters. These responses are called “tweets.”

If I were technologically sophisticated enough to have been posting tweets during the conference, they would have gone something like this:

4/19 (Thursday), 5:00 PM After almost three years of planning, the conference is finally happening. Registration is open. The adventure begins.

6:58 PM Arrive at Loring Park Pavilion, site of welcome reception for early arrivals. (Over half of registrants are arriving early.)

7:32 PM Desserts (from Wuollet’s) ready to serve, coffee brewing, guests arriving. Beautiful evening weather.

8:17 PM Minneapolis city council member Gary Schiff makes the perfect welcome speech to the crowd.

9:03 PM People are asking us to post the recipe for the punch we’re serving. (Secret ingredient: orange sherbet.)

9:37 PM Back to Hyatt (host hotel). Not many leftover desserts to carry.

4/20 (Friday), 1:30 PM Three extra-length preconference sessions this afternoon. I attend one for titleholders and those aspiring to hold a title.

3:30 PM Chicago Leather Kennel Club, titleholder mentoring organization, stages mock contest as teaching tool. Brilliant!

6:34 PM Crowd starts to gather for opening ceremonies/Cabaret. Appetizer buffet is gorgeous.

7:30 PM I kick off opening ceremonies by introducing Patrick Scully as evening’s Master of Ceremonies.

7:48 PM Patrick is the perfect Cabaret host. He tells entertaining and inspiring stories illuminating the conference theme, “The Art of Sharing Power.”

7:55 PM Robert Dante does a bullwhip number. Mesmerizing. He makes it look so easy.

8:10 PM Several burlesque numbers by Sweet Lilly Bee (goth) and Felix Sweatburger, the battery-operated boy (geek). Hilarious!

8:48 PM Heidi Arneson: “I’m a b-a-a-a-d girl!” A coming-of-age story from New Brighton. Sweet, touching and funny.

9:05 PM Dante and more bullwhips, this time under black light. Hypnotic.

9:10 PM Comedian Matthew Gilman tries out new material for a more sexually sophisticated audience. Goes over well.

9:20 PM Opening keynote with photographer and “reluctant activist” Barbara Nitke. Shows slides of her work. Hits all the right notes. Will make a fabulous podcast.

9:55 PM Nitke: “I hope many of you here tonight will conceive your own projects that will help us to advance equal rights for consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression.”

4/21 (Saturday), 8:38 AM Breakfast speaker Laura Antoniou divides leather community into “ho’s, schmoes and pros.” Phrase will echo throughout weekend. Insightful.

8:53 AM Antoniou: “Sooner or later your organization, your group, your dream is gonna need a pro. Get used to it, it’s part of the growing pains. It’s coming.”

9:33 AM Session 1 choices include Working with the Media, When Consent Doesn’t Count, Research on Kinky Sexuality, and Creating Equitable Educational Events.

11:20 AM Working in the art gallery I miss sessions on Leadership vs. Management, Diversity, Leather Youth Leadership and Submissives in Leadership.

12:47 PM Lunch. John Pendal tells our table about the Spanner Trust in the UK. Frightening what government can do to folks it doesn’t agree with.

1:39 PM Everyone crowds into the Art gallery/poster session room. It’s mobbed. That’s a good thing.

2:34 PM Session 3 includes Accessing Our Alt-Sex Past, Gender-Safe Kinky Organizations, and Putting Sex Back Into Leather.

2:36 PM I stay in art gallery and talk with Nagrom Monceaux, artist and leatherman.

4:02 PM Still talking with Monceaux. Video of his “Crack Baby” performance art piece moves me to tears.

4:46 PM I sample sessions on Mentoring, Fundraising, Leather Politics and Leather History. All great quality, all passionately presented.

6:30 PM Happy hour at hotel hosted by National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) and Woodhull Freedom Foundation (WFF). Good conversation.

4/22 (Sunday), 7:55 AM Up early to meet with great group of folks from San Francisco, host city for next year’s LLC. Mentoring in action.

9:02 AM Session on podcasts and new media presented by Graydancer and Minx. Minx is posting tweets from LLC. Idea for my LLC column? Yes!

10:15 AM Good session. Hear it at <>. More podcasts of keynotes and sessions to come at <>.

10:20 AM Other sessions this morning: Managing Organizational Growth, Understanding Sexual Freedom, Support Young Adults, and seminar budgeting for leather events.

11:33 AM We’ve had brunch, now time for John Pendal’s closing keynote. Brilliant and funny. Love his sly British humor. Good motivational send-off.

12:18 PM Pendal: “Do you care more about seeing things done your way, or do you care more about the future of the organization?”

12:49 PM Caucus discussions on next actions. I attend roundtable on Decriminalizing BDSM.

1:55 PM Roundtable impressive. Not just talk, either. Action steps compiled, committees formed, responsibilities delegated. You’ll be hearing more about this.

2:10 PM It’s over! To paraphrase Sally Field: “They liked it! They really liked it!”

2:12 PM You’re invited to share the knowledge by reading transcripts at <> and listening to podcasts at <>.