Editor’s Note: Stepping out from behind the camera

In case you hadn’t heard, I was in the recent Illinois Leather Contest, running for LeatherSir. My first contest entry in a decade. And I have to say it was amazing.

Editor's NoteOne thing was how powerful I felt. It wasn’t because I was going for Sir. That’s a subject for a different column. I think it was because, for the first time in a long time, I was really embracing a major part of myself. I felt hot. Not just because of all the leather (which does NOT breathe in a crowded bar or under stage lights, just saying) but because of how I felt. I think I may have strutted, just a bit, in my boots, cover and leather.

Another part of it was the fact that I am actually an introvert. I am quite happy to huddle at home with a small number of chosen family. I like being behind the camera or keyboard. I don’t have to worry if I’m looking the right way or doing the right things. But this time, I stepped out in front of the camera. I was actually speaking on stage (Which I hate doing). I said what I believed to more than 100 people and, despite choking in the middle of it, still got a great response.

I felt centered by the end of the weekend. Like I was finally back in the right place. I felt… right. I was, and still am, more relaxed than I have been in months. I was finally where I belong again after being away for far too long.

My family has grown. I was already good friends with Sarah, who I adore and will beat someone down for. And now it feels closer, like she’s my sister. But I became close to the rest of the class as well. Shadi is a brother now. He’s even called my husband Daddy (which he is in several ways, including being the last Illinois LeatherSir to win the title). I feel protective with Krystoff and Scout. I’m physically affectionate with them like I am with my husband or closet friend, comfortably wrapping my arms around them or letting them hold on to me just to hold on.

I felt, and feel, right as a Sir now. It was a role I had already embraced and enjoyed. But I was addressed as Sir by other Doms and even by strangers. It was empowering and reinforcing. It also made my dick twitch just a bit. I was expressing myself and being confident in it.

I’m still overwhelmed at the congratulations and respect I’ve gotten after the contest, even with not winning. Jeff said it was because I had come out from behind the camera and stepped up to be recognized. That I stood up to be a leader. Which I can see. But it still surprised me.

That goes back to one thing I said I wanted to highlight when I ran for the title. While I am grateful and thank everyone who has been so supportive of me for running, I still believe, respectfully, you don’t have to run for a title to be a leader.

Every single one of the contestants on that stage had stepped up before entering the contest. Sarah is an educator and writer who earned respect and attention. Shadi was active in volunteering and speaking out for equal rights for all people. Krystoff and Scout were active in events and clubs in Chicago. We were already leaders and stepping up before we entered.

That isn’t to say people shouldn’t enter the contests. It was honestly one of the best and happiest weekends of my life. Only my wedding to Jeff tops it. Even without winning, there’s a bond that is hard to find in many other places. But it’s not the only place. You can find that bond in organizations and activities that speak to you. You can find the empowerment by embracing who you are and running with it. And when you do, it is amazing.

(Special thanks to Puparazzi Photography for the great new column photo!)

Ruff Wray is the publisher and founder of Great Lakes Den. He lives in Chicago with his husband Jeff. He can be contacted at editor@greatlakesden.net.