Great Lakes Leather Alliance XVI: A Different Side of Things

When you open the event guide to GLLA you are met with a letter from Ms. Kendra, Owner and Executive Director of GLLA.

GLLA was formed to bring many facets of our community together. From our Educational Program to the displays of our history that is available to you.  Learning and growing is a big part of the GLLA experience. Talk to someone you might not have the opportunity to talk to any other time of the year.  Listen to them and learn about them.  You might find that you enjoy it and maybe make a friend along the way -Ms Kendra, Owner & Executive Director GLLA

I took this to heart this weekend when I attended my first ever GLLA. I didn’t know what to expect or how this event was run. So I took every opportunity to open my ears and listen.

What I found was a weekend filled with classes, a social with cigars and bourbon that encouraged people to bond, an ice cream social that had bourbon floats while pups cooked us a barbecue lunch. We had a community that raised funds for this regional travel fund like nothing I’d ever witnessed before. The Bootblack travel fund raised $6,000 from one quilt alone! We saw an array of amazing fantasy scenes from Little Red Riding Hoodto Little with Legos including a Lego flogger. We watched dynamics in scenes unfold with the Masters/slaves contestants and a unique look into Power Exchange. The boys seemed to have a religious them with most of their fantasies, with the Good Christian falling to sub play, the Alter boy, and the Mormon Visitors. The last boy had an amazing fantasy unfold in a shoe store. Daddy sky brought Doctor Who to GLLA while Bootblack Ray brought Dorothy in all her glory to the stage.

We had some amazing words through out the weekend with step aside speeches and speeches from the contestants.

A few key things that have stood out can be reflected in both boy Steve’s speech and that of Pup Alice the 2017 Bluegrass Leather Pride Puppy.

boy Steve:

“Sure, you can ride the elevator, as long as you’re not bleeding down there.”

“But, not all white people…”

“That wasn’t assault, you are just a tease.”

I came to leather two years ago, in a borrowed vest and grey hanky in my right hip pocket, and I found my home. I found a community welcoming me with open arms and I found the empowerment to realize my full and authentic self.

But the more I worked and learnt in this community the more I saw the struggles of People of Color, Women, Transgender and Non-Binary folks, and so many other marginalized groups being mad light of, or even worse, completely ignored. I saw the effects of age, body, femme, gender and sex shaming. I saw violations of consent and the persecution of victims, not assailants. And, I realized how much work for the future of our community needs to be done.

To those marginalized, who feel condemned to the fringes of society, you are welcome here. More importantly, thank you for continuing to show up. You are important to the future of his community and WE NEED YOU!

To those of us who have never felt the effects of marginalization, who have lived with privilege all of our lives, we must do better. We must educate ourselves, have conversations with those marginalized in our community and strive for the empathy and the understanding of what it is not not feel safe in our own safe places!

True, we have been given privilege by society through no fault of our own, but, how we wield that privilege is COMPLETELY up to us.

Pup Alice:

Nigger. Anorexic. Tranny. Disgrace. Colored. Pussy. Soooo. I’ve been called every one of these names. I’ve been sexually assaulted eight times within leather spaces. I’ve been spit on, kicked, forcibly penetrated. Why? Could it be as a “man” I wear my heels too high? Is my skirt too short? Are you trying to teach me a lesson and make me a “man” again? Why would anyone be treated in such a way? Could it be because I have the courage to be myself?

I’ve fought to love myself. Reached. Saved. Pulled from under the blade. No matter what I’ve said or done I’ve tried to be myself, despite others telling me to be something different. Every day is a struggle to be the best version of myself even when others are telling me I’m invalid. Overcoming these things are hard and demanding, but in the end I win. I win because I am me. I’m standing here to be me, and hopefully reminding you to be you, exactly who you are.

I’m not one for spotlights, being in front of everyone, but I think representation is important, so I am here today to be the spotlight for those like me; those that have to struggle each and every day to be their authentic selves. I am here to tell all you: You are worth it, you are deserving of respect and dignity, and YOU ARE VALID!

I am a Genderqueer, Pan, Bi-racial, Femme Pup and no matter what people say about who I am, or who you are, know this: I have a place here, you have a place here, and we all have a place here.

These are some hard words to hear for some. They open the hearts and minds of others. They make some look at themselves and wonder what they can do better. One thing no one can deny is that these are the hard truths that are faced in the community today.

We need to hear these truths to understand. We need to hear these truths because they may touch someone out there quietly sitting at the side lines. We need to hear these truths so that others know they are not alone. AND we need to hear these truths because we can do better and we must do better as a community, as a family. 

Lets go back to the beginning of this article and think about what Ms Kendra said: Talk to someone you might not have the opportunity to talk to any other time of the year.  Listen to them and learn about them.  You might find that you enjoy it and maybe make a friend along the way

One of my take aways from this weekend that stood out was not the leather, it was not the pups, it was not the gear, or the possibility for action, so to speak. It was meeting and talking to people I had never met before or had conversations with one on one.

I sat down with Vi Johnson and had a long talk about the history of pup play as we know it. She told me stories about Patty the Pup from the 70s living her life as a pup, down to sleeping in her puppy house over her bed at night. This beautiful pup is the grandmother to current puppy play and yet we still hear arguments over women participating in pup play. Let that sink in for a minute!

I sat in a class led by Bootblack contestant Ray where, for the first time, I got to smell around 20 bootblacking conditioners, polishes, and soaps. I stood in groups of new people while in sea of new faces and inhaling the taste of new cigar that was recommended by Gabriel Majors while a bear in a gold lamé swimsuit lit the cigars for people.

I met new faces, talked to new people, and explored the event in such a different way before. My favorite moments from the weekend will stay with me for a very long time. Sunday morning, I sat down with Slave Amendah and joined the group she was in. After a little conversation the group shrunk to three of us: Myself from Chicago, Sweetsalt from Dallas, and Indybabygirl from Indianapolis. The conversation was amazing. We discovered so much about each other and talked about our kinks, our time in the community, and our titles. We discussed puppy play, pony play, and getting downright piggy! It was by far one of the best conversations I’ve had in the last 3 years exploring this community and I will never forget it.

Take this with you when you are done: We can do better when we speak to each other, we can do better when we listen to each other, and we can do better getting to know each other. WE CAN DO BETTER!!