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.

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