Posts Tagged ‘international ms leather’

Northern Exposure Kink Conference in Anchorage, AK! And: Judging the International Ms. Leather Contest

June 12, 2013  |  journal entries  |  1 Comment

NE2013I’m catching a plane tomorrow for Anchorage, where the third annual Northern Exposure kink conference will be taking place.

NE is run by Sarha, who was just sashed International Ms. Leather 2013 at the IMsL weekend and contest in April in San Francisco. I was on the judging panel for this year’s IMsL contest, and while I promise I didn’t play favorites (Alaska rules!), I’m thrilled that my home state is representing the leather community this year, and I’m really excited to participate in the conference she produces.

The lineup looks pretty incredible. Though NE is remote, Sarha has attracted an incredible group of presenters who are teaching on a wide array of advanced topics. I’m particularly interested in the many M/s workshops that are offered, and I suspect I’ll be sitting in on as many of those as I can, taking copious notes. That’s a recent study subject of mine that I am really enjoying delving deeper into. I’m also really excited that Midori is presenting! I have been in classes of hers before, but it’s been many years, and I’m looking forward to learning from her. Lee Harrington is also going to be teaching!

Northern Exposure happens to coincide with Pride fest, so Sarha hooked me up with the folks over there, and I’m going to be teaching Writing Dirty, my skills for writing about sex class, on Thursday night (tomorrow!). I’m up against Drag Queen Bingo, so I suspect it might be a small class, but I hope we’ll have some good discussions and write some interesting sentences. I LOVE teaching writing classes, and often the ideal class number is something like 7-12, so I will be very happy with a small class.

The boy is coming with me. We’ve met at leather conferences before, but aside from IMsL in April, we haven’t actually come and gone from one together. And at IMsL, we didn’t get to play much (you know, just once or twice a day for short scenes, no big epic gang bang like at Winter Fire, no long, elaborate scene like at last year’s IMsL. I’m glad he’ll be there with me. I’m only teaching one class, Cock Confidence, aside from the writing class for Alaska Pride, so I should have some really nice time to play.

(Hopefully I’ll come back with some good stories to tell y’all.)

And, speaking of IMsL.

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International Ms. Leather 2013 Sarha and International Ms. Bootblack 2013 bella join the IMsL and IMsBB alumni on stage at this year’s contest and leather weekend

I’d never judged a leather contest before. I attended IMsL the year before, but I’m not particularly familiar with leather contests. I’ve been more and more involved with the leather scene in the past few years, attending more leather conferences, events, and happy hours, and participating in more conversations online about leather and reading up on leather history and culture, but I’ve only recently really come to understand the difference between BDSM, kink, and leather, which, though related, are slightly different.

I’ve been kinky since as long as I can remember, adding sensation play and power dynamics to my friendships, playtimes, and interactions since my first adolescent sexual experimentations, and probably even a bit before that. I’ve considered myself part of the BDSM communities since … well, at least formally since about 1999 when I got my official membership to the SPCC, the Sex Positive Community Center (now the Center for Sex Positive Culture) in Seattle. But I’d only ever really gone to classes or events to gain a particular skill to take back to my bedroom—I never really stuck around in the leather community.

Until recently. Really it was Dark Odyssey that started me on that path in a significant way. I thought I was familiar with leather culture and the kink/BDSM worlds, but when I started teaching more at leather events, I experienced how different it really was, and realized how I’d longed for leather community even without knowing it. I was on the board of the Lesbian Sex Mafia in New York City around that time, too—clearly seeking some more kinky community, not just to support my own kinky efforts but also to immerse myself in and learn new, different things.

I found a lot of what I was seeking at Dark Odyssey, and I found a lot of people who really felt like my people in a new way. (I’m kind of sad to be missing Fusion, which is next week! But it was either Fusion or Northern Exposure, and I’m so glad to be in Alaska right now. I don’t know if I’ll make it to Summer Camp in Maryland in September, but I would really like to. I’ve been two years in a row and I’ll miss it if I’m not there.)

So when I ran into Glenda Ryder, who runs IMsL, at Summer Camp last summer, I was thrilled to consider the possibility of being a judge for IMsL 2013. I knew very little about the history of leather contests, what it pertains, what a judge would do (aside from the obvious, duh), but I’d attended once (and watched almost exactly 20 minutes of the contest) and was interested in being more involved with leather culture, so I said yes.

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The judges judging | The judges brief moment in the spotlight, onstage, when they introduced us

I spent more time with the judges panel than anyone else that weekend, and they were lovely people I’m thrilled to know. (One of my favorite activities was passing dirty fairy tale stories back and forth with Tillie during the contest.) It was great to spend some time with KD Diamond, and Sarah Vibes, both of whom I know from New York, and to meet Woody, the current International Mr. Leather, and hear more about the traditions of leather, fundraising, queerness, and history.

#fullofwomen

#fullofwomen

I spent so much time at the contest part of the conference itself that weekend in April that I barely had time to do much else—I didn’t attend any of the workshops, though I wish I had. I did send my boy to attend a power exchange relationships class called “Exploring and Deepening M/s, D/s and PowerExchange Relationships” taught by Liza and Jody, which was excellent, from what he relayed, and he took many interesting notes and gathered some concepts we still discuss. I also participated in a author’s meet and greet with Mollena, Laura Antoniou, and Tillie King (one of my fellow judges), hosted by Mr. and Ms. SF Leather, where we read some snippets of our work (and got to see many of the literarily-inclined folks at the conference congregate in one place, which totally got me hard).

Oh! And, here’s a quick sidenote: Laura Antoniou read from her most recent book, The Killer Wore Leather, which is a murder mystery set at a leather contest conference weekend. I picked up the audiobook on Audible.com for the long 5-day drive through Canada to Alaska, and Rife and I have been listening to it and really enjoying it. The reader is excellent, and the story is really fun. It’s kind of amazing to see our community through an outsider’s lens, and it’s also a very tight insider’s satire. If you want to know more about leather community, this book is definitely a fun place to start. Full review to come when we finally finish the book.

three judges [me, Tillie, Sarah Lashes] and Glenda

three judges [me, Tillie, Sarah Lashes] and Glenda with our serious judge faces on


I also taught a Flirting & Foreplay class, for which Rife designed a little IMsL flirting bingo card, which was a fantastic hit. I want to do that again, and I think all leather conferences should have a flirting bingo card in their conference bags.

I don’t have tons to say about the actual contest itself, aside from that it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed being behind the scenes but still in an important role as a judge, as someone described it to me that weekend. I don’t always want to have attention on me, but I do like to be important, somehow, so that felt good. I thought the contestants were incredibly well spoken, all had very impressive resumes (and formal leather), and had both new young spunkiness and wise experience from many years of serving and guiding and participating in these communities. I learned a lot.

I’d prefer to go to more classes, and I’m looking forward to being more of a participant at Northern Exposure this coming weekend than I will be working. I hope to have some fun, learn some things, and have lots of conversations about what it’s like to be kinky in Alaska.

I’ve got lots more things to say about Sarha and how she won (she won!) on an excellent platform about outreach to leather in little towns and not just big cities, how she excited (and kinda scared) everyone with her black bear fur lined chaps (where do you think leather comes from, folks?) and how it felt to have my Alaskan identity coming together with my queer and kink identities, too. I could talk about the MC and how unimpressed I was with her racist jokes (just because you “make fun of everybody” does not exclude you from racism). I could talk about the beautiful redhead who had a pet girl on a leash with her all weekend, and a new friendship and relationship that has bloomed from a distance. But this post is already 1600 words long, and it’s time to go to bed, even though it’s 10:44pm and the sky is still light.

It’s going to be even lighter in Anchorage. I’m really looking forward to soaking up all the midnight sun I possibly can.

(Official conference photos by Rich Trove, thanks Rich!, except for the instagram ones taken by me.)

Thanksgiving in Texas

November 26, 2012  |  journal entries  |  4 Comments

I’ve been in Dallas with Kristen’s family for the last few days for the Thanksgiving holiday. We did a Dirty Queer Sex Tour reading on Tuesday that Lillith Grey helped put together, which was fantastic—it is so fascinating to me how each of the Dirty Queer Sex Tour stops have been so different. I think (hope aim for) it reflects the local culture well, which is great, because as much as I’d love to introduce the Say Please book around to all the different folks who might be interested in it in all the different cities, the cultures of BDSM and queerness are actually slightly varied depending on where you are. Having interacted with those cultures primarily on the internet for the last oh, fifteen or eighteen years, I didn’t really know that until I started touring more. And when I go around and visit colleges in various different cities, I get a small taste of local culture, but usually it’s more like the local college culture, which isn’t quite the same.

I wish I could explain how each of the readings were different, but it’s hard to put my finger on it exactly. Sometimes it seems like one is more butch/femme, one is more genderqueer, one is younger, one is old school, one is more trans focused, one is darker in material and content, but I also don’t really want to generalize that specifically about identities, because I don’t really need to draw the conclusions that therefore the city that that reading was in is therefore more trans or genderqueer or butch/femme. But the differences have been big, and are really interesting.

This particular reading was at VerLes, and they have a really great selection of leather goods and whips and percussion toys that I kept fingering and coveting while I was there. We did a giveaway for a beautiful photograph from one of the readers, CR Kirven, and a dirty cross stitch that Lillith made, and a copy of the book, and a few other goodies, and it was a blast.

Thanks to photographer Amy Price for these beautiful photos from the Dallas Say Please reading! I don’t know if that Facebook link will work but I think it will—check it out. We had a beautiful sexy lineup and the store looks so pretty.

Lillith and her partner Synn (who is the 2012 International Ms Leather!) took us around to the Dallas Eagle and to the Round-Up, which was a gay boy bar (with very mixed company) that has two stepping and line dancing pretty much every night. Kristen and I don’t really know how to two step (though I did okay following while Synn led, and I led Kristen around the floor in a circle at least once), but we have taken some east coast swing and it was so incredibly fun. She and Lillith and some of their friends also had so much fun line dancing. I did a few songs—but when they get really complicated, it’s so hard to keep up. We vowed to go out to Big Apple Ranch more frequently.

Oh and speaking of IMsL—it’s official, and I can announce it now: I’m going to be a judge for the 2013 International Ms. Leather contest! So I’ll be in San Francisco in April 2013. 2012 was the first year I attended, and it was very memorable and fun, and I definitely felt like the folks there were my people. I’m really looking forward to meeting more of the folks who make the contest run and to seeing behind the scenes a little bit—always my favorite way to see an event.

Kristen and I did a lot of other things in Dallas, aside from hang out with her family and eat delicious food, like go around to Kristen’s old haunts, her favorite restaurants, her high school, her old house. It was great to see where she came from. I love having a sense of a city. We rented this little zippy car, some Volvo sports car that I didn’t even know existed, not that I’m really a car person, and it was so fun to drive. Driving around a city gives me a much better sense of it and I loved that I got to experience it.

I didn’t get any gigs in Dallas, aside from the Dirty Queer Sex reading, but maybe I will get some interest from some of the local colleges and come back another time.

Kristen and I are better. Things have improved since that big explosion and I think that couple’s therapist will be helpful. I’ve been containing my feelings much more, haven’t been lashing out, haven’t been quite so wildly all over the map with my feelings. Or rather, I have still been, but I haven’t been showing it as much. This is not quite the same as bottling them up—it’s more like, I know that bringing things up to Kristen doesn’t result in greater understandings right now. I’m making note of things that are difficult or upsetting, and trying to breathe through it and put it aside at the moment, and work through it later with the couple’s therapist or some other moderator because Kristen and I can’t seem to get out of our patterns well enough to actually discuss things to a healing conclusion lately. It’s not a long term solution, this lack of sharing, but it is a temporary solution, and the most important thing right now is to stop fighting. It does seem to help to just not share my feelings—and to not talk about the other people that she’s dating. There are still some issues here, things I don’t know how to resolve, but our couple’s therapist basically said that right now isn’t the time to resolve them, isn’t the time to go into the deep patterns and try to rewire them, because we’re both feeling so defensive and attacked, both feeling pretty wounded, so we need some time to just be with each other and be kind and take time to do things that feel good before we can get to a place where we have enough energy and patience and flexibility to do more excavating and fixing of the patterns and ruts that we’ve developed.

I still don’t know where that will bring us, ultimately. But I am trying to breathe and focus on the “healing power of pleasure,” which is one of the core Tantra principles. I keep asking myself, and Kristen, whenever we are stressed or overwhelmed with all these emotions: What would feel pleasurable for your body right now? I think that focus has been helping us relax and enjoy each other.

I’m in Houston now, and I’ll be visiting Rice University on Thursday, but aside from that I’m visiting with Rife. We’re outside of the city actually, on his family’s ranch, and at the moment, he and his dog are out doing something with the horses, a little practice training, it looks like. I’m sitting in the very pleasant breeze looking out onto a pasture with beautiful old trees and a wind chime nearby. I have a cup of coffee and my pen and notebook and my computer (and wifi!), and the only things on my agenda today are some hours of work, some reading, some walking around this beautiful land, some play with Rife, some good food, some stargazing later if it’s clear. The more time I spend away from cities, the less I seek to go back to a city. I love the grass under my bare feet, love the sounds of the wind in the trees and the birds and the chimes. I’m soaking up as much of it as I can.

I’m at IMsL! (So Of Course I Got a Haircut)

March 29, 2012  |  miscellany  |  1 Comment

Thanks, Tomcats, as usual, for the ability to not really think that hard about my hair and still have it look good.

So I’m in San Francisco this week! I was at Mills College doing a Radical & Responsible Gender workshop last night (hi Colleen! Hi Jack! That was fun!), and this weekend I’ll be at the International Ms Leather contest and conference, and I’m really stoked to be here. I’ve never been before but it’s been on my radar for many years. I’m really looking forward to many of the workshops (and who knows, maybe I’ll discover some new presenters who might want to come do some things for the Lesbian Sex Mafia in New York City?) and to the social time too, hanging out with the incredible folks who are going to be here.

I’ve got some copies of Say Please hot off the presses! And I’m doing a reading at Good Vibes (Polk Street) on Sunday at 5pm if you’d like to come to that—in addition to me, it’ll be readers from Say Please, Best Lesbian Erotica 2012, and Salacious Magazine’s Leather issue. It’ll be debaucherous and fun. I’m now calling the whole Say Please tour the DIRTY QUEER SEX TOUR, and still working on dates (Chicago! Portland! Hi I want to come visit!) and hope I can get out to many more places this summer and fall.

The virtual Say Please DIRTY QUEER SEX book tour kicks off on April 1—more info on that shortly.

If you’re at IMsL and see me, say hi!