Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The “Potty Problem”

I’m going to assume that anyone reading this knows the general thrust of the “trans bathroom bill” laws showing up around the country, and the issues people in the GLBTQ and allied communities have with them.  (If you don’t, please look up the details.)  There is, unfortunately, a lot of misunderstanding on both sides of this issue.

While the people driving the “trans bathroom bills” are doing so out of malice — rile up the base, shore up support, bring in donations, etc., all in the name of gathering more power — the people on the ground generally aren’t evil.

They just aren’t educated.

I don’t mean that they are stupid.  I mean that they don’t know what the issues and implications are.  Just like with the various gay right issues of the past 20+ years, where we found that the more gay and lesbian people they knew, the more favorable they were to gay rights, these people don’t have any real experience with trans people.

For most of us who are GLBTQ or allied, no matter where we currently fall on the trans acceptance and awareness scale, it has been a progression to get there.  None of us sprang from Zeus’ head with a fully formed knowledge of and process for dealing with trans issues.  We discovered, we learned, we grew… we evolved.  And we still are evolving — I know I am.

For most of these people, their awareness of “trans” is Ru Paul’s Drag Race and Caitlyn Jenner.  They have no mental separation of sex from gender from orientation — to these people, those are pretty much all one and the same.  They can’t (yet) grasp the reasons why someone would not be comfortable in their assigned gender, why someone would want to transition (much less what that means).  They still believe that being gay is a choice, so they certainly can’t grasp gender subtleties.

A lot of people have pushed up the idea of “Do they want Buck Angel in the women’s room?”  No, they don’t, but that’s because he passes.  Completely.  They don’t see him as female at all, and thus it would not be an issue.  In fact, they have almost no concept of FTM because they don’t see such people as anything but “male".

(Let’s be clear on the idea of genital checks: that has come from our side of the fence.  They say it will be enforced, but it’s us that have suggested that mechanism.  They don’t know how to enforce it other than the silent threat imposed by making it a law.)

Their concern — the one that has been pushed at them by those driving the issue — is MTF trans people.  And back to Ru Paul’s Drag Race, their main image of transwomen is over-the-top drag queens.  (Again, when they don’t know any better, drag and trans are the same thing.)  If they look beyond the glammed up big drag, or a “rich enough to afford what it takes to look good” transwoman like Jenner, they see less refined drag.  They see men in women’s clothes who don’t pass well as women, who wouldn’t convince many people that they are female.  (And those drag queens don’t intend to do that, but these people don’t understand that, of course.)  Or they see butch-appearing women who, to their view are about the same — unable to pass with standard gender norms, ans thus suspect.

So now we have image the undereducated masses have for the trans bathroom issue: men badly dressed as women, saying they are female and using the women’s restroom.  And since these people are obviously not actually women, then their reason for using the women’s room would be… what?  Nothing good, to be sure!  And that’s where things go directly into the toilet (so to speak): such men must be wanting to be there to peek at, scare, molest, or even rape innocent real women or girls.  And that’s not acceptable, obviously.

So how do we fight back about this?  Same way as with the gay rights issues — we challenge them in court, forcing them to come up with increasingly stupid sounding rationalizations for their fears, and we come at it from the other side with gradual, continual education and awareness.  And we need to realize that this is going to take time — years, even.  It will be faster than the gay rights fights (that road has at least been traveled before), but it’s still not going to be solved immediately.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dream Journal: May 12, 2016

I will be competing at International Mr. Leather this year, with the contestant orientation just two weeks from today.  Several of my class brothers have expressed anxiety, bad dreams, and so forth, but I figured “Nah, I’ve done big contests before.  I’m past all that.”

Wrong.  Woke up at about 3 am with this dream and then tossed and turned for a couple hours after that.
We were all on stage at IML, waiting for the announcement of the winners.  Second runner-up was Mr. Puerto Rico!  First runner-up was Mr. Leather Asia (from the Philipines)!  And the winner was Mr. Leatherglades (from Florida, “in all his alligator finery” — that quote was part of how he was referenced. 
The rest of us stood there and clapped with frozen smiles on our faces, thinking “Who, who, and who?  Where did they come from?  Were they even running?”

I recently filled out a survey about the possible creation of a Mr. Leather Asia contest.

And yes, my dreaming brain came up with “Leatherglades”.  That’s kind of brilliant.  And he was wearing a chest harness with baby alligator heads at the ends of the straps, like on this boot — also brilliant, I totally want to see one of those.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Trip Report: CLAW 2016

This was my second trip to CLAW — originally Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend, now Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend (although I’ve heard at least one other expansion of the acronym as well).  For years, I had heard about what a great event it was, often in the same breath as Mid-Atlantic Leather, and thus figuring it was similar, Norm and I attended two years ago.

It had its good bits that year, but it wasn’t what I had expected and had projected to Norm.  We had stayed at the overflow hotel, which was a several minute shuttle ride from the main hotel.  It had a great vendor mart, and we went to a couple good workshops, but we found the evening scene to be a bust.  There was no “lobby bar” scene like at MAL or IML and we weren’t overly thrilled by our night at one of the bars, including dealing with smokers.  (And we had had travel annoyances both coming and going.)  Obviously something had been missed, but I didn’t come away from it feeling that it was an event I could recommend to my leather clan in Seattle.

This year, as an International Mr. Leather contestant, I found out at MAL how much everyone was looking forward to it and to being together as a class, so with a bit of “titleholder guilt” involved, I told the guys I would try to attend.  “It will be good for me,” I told myself.  “I’ll be more visible.  I’ll be able to bond with the rest of the class.”

When I got home, there was an advertising email from CLAW saying they were still looking for workshop presenters.  “Hey, this could be good.  I’ve done a number of workshops, so that could help encourage me, give me a center for the weekend, etc.  Deadline Sunday night… and I got the email on Monday.  Crap.”

But hey, the presenter submission form was still up.  Maybe… maybe they were just getting back from MAL as well.  Couldn’t hurt to try, so I pulled out my bio and workshop descriptions from when I taught at Northern Exposure (Anchorage) and International LeatherSIR (Dallas) and submitted.  And hour later: “Yes.”  Yowza!

This year, they had it at two hotels (about 1/4 mile apart, walkable if you needed to), and with events split between the two — workshops, playspaces, and meals at one, vendors and cocktail parties at the other — which ensured that neither was “just a hotel.”  And they’ve done something right — attendance was up 50% this year!

I taught two workshops — one on Play Parties, mirroring the one I taught for Seattle Men in Leather in January, and one on Fisting, like the one for FlaggersPDX in February.  The first was Friday at 10 am — ugh, that’s 7 am Seattle time, and it meant I had to come in on Thursday, with the extra day of vacation and such, but it’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before with teaching country dance workshops at the hoedowns — and the room was mostly full, a few seats empty, but first workshop of the weekend, that’s no surprise.  (And it was the very first one listed in the program, too!)  The workshop went without a hitch, ending right on time.  A few people gave me in-person compliments later on the weekend.

The best workshops do one of three things: they teach something better than anyone else (which isn’t really likely, let’s be honest), or they teach something no one else does (which was my target on the Play Parties workshop), or they teach something in a way no one else does (which is how I do my Fisting workshop — “You gotta get a gimmick," as the song says).

The fisting one was originally supposed be be 2 hours on Saturday, but got changed to 1.5 hours on Friday at some point.  As I was walking into the hotel, I got a frantic phone call: “Where are you?  We’ve got a room full of people waiting for you!”  Crap — I was on time, but I should have been there earlier because attendees of popular workshops learn that they need to arrive early or they won’t get in.  I got lulled into a sense of security from the morning workshop, but lesson learned for the future!  (And at least 10–12 did get turned away, I’m told.  Sorry guys!)  Because of the reduced time, I didn’t get to do a demo, but I did get to cover all the content I had planned (and I considered that more valuable, although it would have been good to show of some of what I had spoken of).  If we had done a demo partway through as I half-planned to do, I would have gotten lost in Don’s butt, I’m sure.  (It’s an awfully nice one, you know.)  But it’s an idea for next year: if they want to schedule the workshop in a larger room, I can do a fisting workshop for twice as many people and not violate any nudity and sex regulations.  (What, a fisting workshop with no fisting?)  All weekend long, guys were complimenting me on it, including one who told me in the play spaces on Saturday night that it was the best workshop he had ever attended.  (Blush)

I’m not sure just how many from the IML class were there — I countered 30 in the contestant round table on Saturday morning, and there were at least 4–5 who didn’t get to that for various reasons.  (We had 25 at MAL, both were record numbers.)  As I write this on Sunday May 1, we don’t know the exact registration number as the deadline to submit an IML application is today, but we are expecting around 60 total.  (60 is the total, we now have confirmed.)  As anticipated, it was a great time to bond with brothers.  Dave hosted our second naked group pic (again with Aurora).  Just about all of us were volunteers or vendors during the weekend — I think I was the only presenter, but Dave and Mark were workshop assistants, Rob sang and hosted the cigar party (not at the same time!), Russell hosted the pool party, Jeremy worked in the vendor mart, a bunch of them strutted their stuff for Strip Bingo, others hosted various other events at the hotels and the bars, and I don’t know who all else did what.  I got to have dinner with Mike from Texas and Harry from San Francisco, and brunch with Jay from Ottawa, and shared a cupcake with Mike and Russell from Minneapolis.  Really, you couldn’t go 25 feet without tripping over someone from the class!  Or the “sash wives” — Randy, Chuck, Jeff, Tim, and I’m forgetting a few and didn’t meet others.

It was, of course, also a weekend of (re)connecting with friends.  I shared a room with Lucky from Portland.  Doug and Will and Ken from the Seattle are were there, and Josh and Dan, Pounder and Ryan, and Scott from Portland.  Had Thursday dinner with Mario, Mark, and Bill from San Francisco — I’ve known Mario for nearly 25 years.  Jey from MontrĂ©al, in our “Men of IMsL” shirts.  Mark and Stephen from Southern California.  LE, Aurora, Bud and Randy, Tim, Bamm Bamm and Ryan, I don’t know who all else I’m not remembering right now.  Joe and JR from the Leather & Lions trip to South Africa.  And new friends like Brian, Daddy Rick, George and Anna, Hope, Nathan, Josh, Tim, and more.

One thing I found curious was that I was apparently in “top” mode.  Not that I didn’t want to play both sides of the sling, but all my play this weekend was top only.  Is that because of being “on” as an IML contestant (must put on the best show!)?  Maybe.  Could also be because teaching workshops puts me in that zone as well — that was the case in both Anchorage and Dallas, as I think of it.  Oh well, the next two weekends will balance that out!  (grin)

CLAW has a decent sized vendor mart — a little bigger than IMsL, smaller than MAL.  Even with my packed-full leather closet at home, I can always find something I “need”.  This year, that was a new harness from Barking Leather (which might end up on stage at IML) and I wanted a new pair of pants for Formals at IML, which I thought would not happen with Tarsus moving to Palm Springs, but George and Anna at Northbound assured me that they could do them for me.  Their off-the-rack ones fit me almost perfectly, and with a bit of taper on the legs and color changes of some the parts, they will be darn close to what I was after in the first place.

CLAW also has a nice silent auction.  I didn’t realize that each day’s stuff was separate, so I may have missed out on some great options on Friday and maybe Saturday.  (Darn, would have liked that lava lamp!)  But on Sunday, I came away with two fisting DVDs, a Rubber Pride flag (that is, a flag of the rubber pride design, not one made of rubber), and two passes to FistFest in Georgia in October, which I will hope to use to get more guys from Seattle to travel and attend.

There was even a bit of “lobby bar” at the Holiday Inn this time (way more than two years ago at the old hotel).  Next year, CLAW will be at a single hotel, the Westin downtown, and I expect great things and and even more congealed event.  In all, a great weekend — obviously way better than last time! — and I will undoubtedly be back.

(There was one downside to the weekend.  Someone hit my rental car in the parking lot, hit and run with no note.  I’ll undoubtedly be on the hook for a couple thousand dollars in repairs on that as result, but I won’t find the details out for a couple weeks — which the cynic in me says allows them to collect more rental fees by it being out of service by dawdling, but I can likely fight some of that.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Stepdown Speech for Washington State Mr. Leather 2015

My stepdown as Washington State Mr. Leather 2015was on Saturday March 19, 2016.  Thanks to Hobbit, I have a video of my stepdown speech, which I’ve trimmed and will attached to this post.

Here is my Thank You letter from the contest program:
This last year has been a lot of fun — as it should be!
As I told the judges in my contest interview in 2015, a major personal reason for me to run for Washington State Mr. Leather again — last year was not my first title contest, nor the first time for Washington State — was that having a title sets goals, requirements, and deadlines in front of you, and for myself, that forces me to focus and be my best the entire year. 
I will save the meaty items for my on-stage comments and limit this letter to my thank you list.  And if I forgot to list you, I promise, it’s only because I forgot, not because I am not thankful. 
To the WSMLO board, for your support during the year.  And the boards of Seattle Men in Leather and Rain Country Dance Association, beyond your support as clubs and as individuals, for letting me utilize your pull for my events, and for pulling me in to do events for you. 
To my clubs and club brothers (and sisters): Seattle Men in Leather, Vancouver Men in Leather, Alameda County Leather Corps, Rainy City Rubbermen, and Seattle Pups & Handlers, plus the support of Seattle girls of Leather and Flaggers PDX.  To Rusty and Kent, for style.  To Norm, for being a sounding board.  To Gylan and Phil, for when I tried to reach too far.  To my IML 38 brothers.  To Odie, for having the foresight to arrange for our first WSMLO fundraiser last year.  And to all my Menagerie fisting bros — (insert clenched fist image here, just because!) — thanks for all the well lubed support.  And especially to Cole in Portland and Reid in Vancouver, and Bob from Rubberzone.com
And above all else, to my sash partners, Liliya and Beau.  You are beautiful.
By request from one of my Facebook followers, here is a transcription of my speech.  (This is an edited transcription, fixing up some of the text to make it more coherent for reading.  The speech was followed by awarding a Leather Emerald Award, which I have omitted here.  That is why this seems truncated.)
Thank you all for being here tonight. 
I’m not going to give the litany of “thank you’s” — that’s all in my step-down letter in the program.  Instead, I want to give you a rundown of what I did this last year.  Many of you have followed me on Facebook, so you know that I went to Rubout; I went to International Ms. Leather; I went to FistFest twice, in different states; I went to IML; I went to Mid-Atlantic Leather; I went to Folsom Street Fair; I went to Oregon Leather.  I don’t know how many trips I took, but one of the key things I want to tell our incoming titleholders and any of you who think about doing this — the number of trips that I took this year that I took because of the title rather than because of my activity in the leather community is two: Folsom Street Fair and Richland Pride. 
A lot of people come into one of these titles thinking “Oh my god, there’s no way I can put out the effort and put in the extra work to go to all the events and do all the things!”  So I want to give our incoming titleholders and any of the rest of you a hint: it is easy if you are already deeply embedded in your local leather community.  If you are already in the habit of going to the socials, being involved in the organizations, supporting the existing titleholders, the Sisters, the Court, whatever it is… if you’re already doing all that stuff, it’s 10% more work, plus a couple of fundraisers.  Which is still a lot of work!  But it isn’t this humongous mountain to climb; it’s a hill.  If you are interested in being involved in the title community, be involved in the leather community.  It’s easier, and it will make you a whole lot happier. 
Beyond that, I got to do three workshops this year: one for Seattle girls of Leather, one for Seattle Men in Leather, and one for FlaggersPDX in Portland, and I’ll be doing two more for CLAW in Cleveland next month.  I hosted eight play parties this year — my travel fund is based on having people over to my place to have sex.  One of the things you will hear for the titleholders is “Your year is what you make of it” or “Your year is your own”.  That never gets explained to people, so let me explain it to you.  If your passion is traveling all over the country spreading Washington love, do that.  If you passion is teaching workshops, sharing your skills, do that.  If your passion is expanding the sexual community in the area, do that.  But for God’s sake, do something! 
One other piece of “explaining it all for you” is something that our incoming titleholders and everybody else hears a lot: “The title patch is a target” and “The leather community is full of politics”.  So here’s another secret: half of the politics is self-generated.  We make our own Hell.  Don’t send yourself to Hell, and you won’t suffer the politics.  If you don’t give them something to aim at, the target is not a patch… er, the patch is not a target.  Live your life as a titleholder, as a leathermen or leatherwoman, open and free and proud and all these things that you hear horror stories of probably will not happen.  Be bulletproof. 
I wanted to also share three pieces of advice that I have gained from people over the years: 
  • From George Wong, who was one of the founders of Avatar in Los Angeles, rest his soul.  He told me at IML years ago: “Never tell them you’re tired.  Tell them you’re weary, because if you tell them you’re tired, they might agree with you.” 
  • From previous year’s IMsL, Patty: “At the end of the day, you still have to take out the trash.” 
  • The other piece comes from before the Internet was the Internet, back circa 1989 on one of the USENET newsgroups — and this is a humbling thing for all of our titleholders — “None of us here are more important than anyone else, some of us just have bigger mouths.” (And are willing to use them.)

Trip Report: International Ms. Leather 2016

IMsL 2016 was a fantastic experience.

At many men's leather events, I feel that the handful of women attending are a combination of sidelined and ignored — and sometimes even resented.  At IMsL, I have never felt that in reverse.  While this is partly because of the significant trans component at the event, the women’s leather events are simply a different beast.  Pretty much all aspects of the event are open to the attendance and participation of men of all stripes.  Kudos to Pat and Sharrin for a great Generation 4 event.

One thing that particularly struck me was how many of these women I know and love, and have for almost 20 years — this was my 6th IMsL (my first was 1997), plus 3 Ms. Worlds.  It was so great to get to spend a little reconnect time — and to realize that, yeah, they do remember me! — with Judy, Mama Sandy, Gabrielle (whom I have known for over 25 years), Amy, Faye, Lamalani, Dara, Patty, Dee, Angel, Sarge, Tabitha, Aurora, Nancy, Jessi, Pat, Rachele, Beth, and more, and I hope to get to know those I just met this year — Penelope, Meghan, Jane, Sarah, Shiloh, Jen, Vi, etc. — more during the coming years.  And of course my Northwest peeps who were there: Beau, Carla, Brynn, Reesey, Ash, Stormy, Spencer, Dr. Danger, Sparrowhawk, Paul, Kian.

And the other guys who attend: beyond Bamm Bamm and Patrick as judges, there were Bob, Michael, PJ (and Jen!), Roran, Dr. Clockwork, Thib, Randy, and my IML bros Todd, Cody, and Harry, and IMBB bro Douglas (“Camaraderie or else!”).  And more I am forgetting at the moment — sorry!

There were great workshops — Dr. Evil on fisting, Lamalani and Dara on titleholding, and Shiloh on flagging.  (I’m totally gonna steal some of Shiloh’s content for a more gay male-aimed version of the flagging workshop.  With her love and permission, of course.)  And Bevvies with Beavers, the Canadian party!  And Shan and Vi at the brunch!  So much great stuff!

I love the open interviews.  Would love to see more contests do that, although it takes longer to wrangle.  (No way could they manage it at IML, with 60 contestants!)  The mini-teach as part of the interview was brilliant.  Also loved seeing IMsL and IMsBB as one class, including both sets of judges involved in the interviews for both titles.

And it’s true: I am now no longer a gold-star gay.  Thank you for the tarnishing, M--.  #notwhatyouthink #unlessitis.  And B--, too, with pencils.  #notthesamething

The silent auction was great as always.  I walked away with a hot framed poster from the Tristate contest, a pretty necklace (Christmas for Mom!), and gee, who did you think would buy the fisting basket?  (It was for the tequila, of course.)  (“Lying”, says the cat.  #sagarules)

One of the things that I like most about the women’s events is the sense of history, of the importance of remembering and passing it forward, of stories.  The gay men’s community tends so much toward “It’s about sex” (and if it isn’t that, then “It’s about fundraising”) that we forget to make and re-make those connections which are what makes the “community” an actual community.  (I think that’s one of the reasons I like Mid-Atlantic Leather more than many other men’s leather events, because while understated, there is still a definite sense of continuity and history there.)

Oh yes, I will be back!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Market to kids?  Us?  Never!

Remember when Joe Camel has to be retired because the fact that he was a cartoon meant that Camel was inherently advertising to kids?  I’m sure the makers of VapPuro would also deny that they are targeting kids, but when the flavor they push at the front is candy, I don’t believe them.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What Were They Thinking?
    — Just how did that break?

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

I encountered FiberFix, a water-activated bonding repair tape, at the local Lowe’s over the weekend.  Looks like fantastic stuff, but I marveled at the pic:

Explain to me just how the nut-racker bar on a bicycle gets broken (without the rest of it being horribly damaged, anyway).  A co-worker suggested that maybe someone took a hacksaw to the bar, to steal… and then he stopped that line of thought.

This picture from the product’s website doesn't improve matters.  A close look at the chair shows that the tape wrap is Photoshopped (poorly) onto the stock photo.  Onto all the items, apparently, based on the angle of the tape roll.