Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mr. Chicago Leather

Though I've been a part of kink culture for a little over a decade now, leather is actually a fairly recent acquisition. When I was younger the complex D/s dynamics that the leather community seemed to harbor were simply of no interest to me. History was of little interest, and I was scarcely able to identify history in the making as it unfolded before me.

A lot of people like to scoff at contests using "pageant" as a pejorative, and pointing out how some title holders do nothing with their title - at some points I even agreed with this derision. As my exposure and desire to provide meaningful contributions has increased, it's become clear to me that the process of selecting these individuals is still not only important but necessary. Hearing where these men have been, what they aspire to, and their thoughts on bettering our community is nothing short of inspiring. To know someone with such ideas is one thing, to see that you can fill a stage with this caliber of man is something completely different.

Events like these are built with the help of people who believe in this and are willing to give their time and dedication to see it happen. Whether it's a starry-eyed kid volunteering for the first time to meet the people that make this community so great, or someone who's been around for decades trying to help their friend's event succeed, they acknowledge there's something worth their time and energy.

This weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer for Mr. Chicago Leather, which has a storied history of successfully choosing men who would go on to actively try to make meaningful changes. Despite having a sinus infection and feeling rather under the weather, I was still very excited to be able to offer my time.

Through the entirety of the six-hour registration shift, we were approached by at least a dozen volunteers, demonstrators, or VIP guests with questions regarding their accommodations. We had been assured that this information would be made available to us, but as 5 PM neared and registration was set to close we still had no answers for those with growing concerns that they had driven to a contest they may not have a ticket for. As we continually pushed for more information we were told, and I quote, "Just worry about the paying customers for now."

About an hour into my shift as an usher, with 11 ticket-holders standing outside the door without seats, my friend and I were asked to give up our seats for paying customers and instead given drink tickets. I also found out later that at least a few paying customers who arrived late had been turned away at the door since the theater was at capacity.

I want to be very clear: I am not at all bitter about missing the contest. I had honestly not even expected to be able to see the show for my paltry contribution and was expecting to be stationed at the door to monitor those who had to leave and reenter. What is upsetting to me is that an event which purports to represent a community with pillars of trust, honor, and respect managed to demolish all three in a single blow. While I appreciate some token of goodwill, trading what should be a piece of history for a cheap buzz is more of a slap to the face of what the contest represents than to myself.

From what I understand - and I do try to place very little value in hearsay - something similar happened last year as well, and this is by no stretch of the imagination acceptable. How can we expect those outside the community to believe we truly place value in the selection of those who represent us when an event cannot even honor its own commitments?

I really hope they're able to correct these issues next year, but I don't know that I'll be able to view the contest with anything but apprehension for quite some time.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Loss of an Icon

One of the main things I expend effort and energy on is trying to be genuine which means, believe it or not, trying to avoid being imposing – or at least avoiding presumptuousness. Laugh or scoff as you will, but it is the most significant source of anxiety present in my life. I try to trust people to show me where I stand with them, and in cases where I am unsure I do my best not to presume how they perceive our dynamic. Naturally this is particularly difficult with acquaintances or people I don’t interact with very regularly.

When dealing with public figures or well-known individuals, this is especially important to me. I’ve known some larger-than-life people, and have seen first-hand that no weight of responsibility or notoriety can diminish a person’s humanity. We all have a finite amount of time and energy, and with that comes the need to prioritize with whom we are willing to share these precious resources – *no one* is exempt from this. The last thing I want to do is to be audacious enough as to make someone feel uncomfortable by overestimating my relevance or importance to them.

It’s for this reason that condolences are particularly difficult for me. I see people around me willing to offer them in earnest, without ulterior motive, and with a warmth and understanding that I wish I knew how to express openly with such brevity. I would never in a million years diminish how heartfelt these wishes are, nor would I discredit the good that a kind wish from even a literal stranger can do, but the whispers of anxiety continually tell me “It’s not your place, grieving is for those who had a greater investment in the person than you did.” After all, how can I sympathize with a loss I cannot fathom?

In believing that humanity is innate and that no one is above being flawed, idols have never been my thing. As such, it’s rare that the death of someone I did not know well affects me directly, emotionally speaking. That being said when I heard of Alan Penrod’s passing, I was beside myself – or to be more precise I compulsively exclaimed “holy shit” in shock despite my surroundings.

I’ve always had trouble expressing my submissive side, largely because my interests are very out of sync with most gay men. While it doesn’t bother me that most people don’t respect or understand that I identify as submissive, it’s been a very difficult part of me to grow despite how long it’s been around. For a long time I had given up on trying to form any sort of D/s dynamic, thinking that there weren’t any Doms who adequately respected what it takes to help a sub like myself (as damaged as myself?) grow.

The extent of my interactions with this amazing man were a perfunctory introduction and a quick Recon message lauding his profile for its depth of thought, but he was always in my periphery and it was apparent that goodness seemed to follow him and the company he kept. What he had to say about building D/s relationships was inspiring enough that it immediately revitalized my interest in exploring my sub side, and gave me additional insight as to how to go about doing so.

While I’m glad I was able to send the quick message of appreciation, I guess I had always assumed I’d run into him at some point where I had more than a second to tell him thanks. In retrospect, I don’t know that I’d ever have had the courage to speak my mind on something so heavy to me in person.

As I see posts of condolences and well-wishing, I can’t help but think “If he impacted a bystander such as myself so much, how momentous was his impact on others?” I can’t fathom the pain his family must feel right now, and I sure as hell can’t find the words to adequately sympathize with such a loss, even after writing this long.