LOUISVILLE – So, when last I left, we were at the Bizarre Bazaar and the party was about to start.
Actually, before it started, I took the opportunity to have the fabulous Sir Markos take some photos of me with slave drew for our Christmas picture.
He did a wonderful job and we ended up with at least three contenders for the position. I think it will end up being the one I posted last night, which I am referring to as “Peekaboo,” since I seem to be leaning to one side.
Later in the evening I had him take a few absolutely priceless photos with Elf Devon, one of which I posted here yesterday, too.
One of the things that has been important to me over the last few years is the bringing back of the tradition of earned Leather. At the Great Lakes Leather Alliance weekend every year we give earned Leather during the brunch.
One of the things that matters to me about that tradition is that your Leather is earned, that it’s not just something you necessarily go buy, but something that you earn through your work in the community.
Traditionally, earned Leather can only be given by someone who has earned three pieces themselves. It’s rather like being vested, in a manner of speaking. You can’t give Leather until you have earned your own.
I’ve given Leather to ten people over the years. One was, in retrospect, a mistake, but not of such magnitude that I would take it back. I’ve given thought to it, but always decided against it.
In 2010 and 2011, I gave Leather at the Louisville Munches, but wasn’t offered that option this year, so the ceremony was moved to the event itself.
Giving someone Leather also makes them a part of my Leather family, in a formal sort of way. Or, as those members tend to joke – I think it’s a joke, anyway – one of Ms Constance’s bitches.
Because of that, it’s not a quick decision, or one I make lightly, although I do already know who will probably be given Leather next year, unless something happens between now and then to make me change my mind.
I look at who works in the community, first. I pay attention to who devotes time and energy, at who volunteers, and maybe more importantly, at who doesn’t wait to be asked to volunteer.
I like to have two other people speak about the people to whom I give Leather, in addition to my speaking. Sometimes I say more, sometimes I say less. One thing I do, too, each time is pass the piece of Leather itself among the people there. I like the concept of each of them adding a trace of themselves to the Leather.
One thing I do each time I give Leather is read the same thing. Part of it is what is read at Great Lakes, too, a piece that was written by slave ziggy, from whom I have permission. slave ziggy and his Mistress, Suzan, share the titles of International Master and slave 2006.
The first part is a short paragraph I wrote. The part that I read each time is this:
The Leather community is a tribe. We come from many different perspectives and backgrounds, but we come together as a group to honor those among us who have, through their dedication to and work within that community, earned a piece of Leather.
As an elder in this tribe, I have the right and the privilege of presenting that earned Leather tonight. You are our tribe, and you are, then, also our witnesses. Because you are our witnesses, the Leather we will be presenting tonight is being passed among you.
This is the last time it will be appropriate for you to touch these pieces without the permission of the owners, but as part of the tribe, it is entirely appropriate for you to touch them now, to add a trace of yourself to the Leather.
At Great Lakes Leather weekend, we read these words before we present earned Leather. They were written by slave ziggy.
“Beginning with a condensed version of what I understand to be a rudimentary history of Leathermen:
Servicemen in wartime had experienced the stress of war and the company of other servicemen for long periods. Upon returning, they sought each other out as a way to find support, to fit in, and to try to make sense of their shared experiences. The life they lived in the military was one of discipline and hard work. They often found it hard to assimilate back into a society that simply would not understand.
Those experiences did not translate into a new lifestyle, once outside the military structure. Tightly knit groups of men formed, and they developed a language and specific practices that only one who was “on the inside” or had been in military service would understand.
Most of these groups remained highly exclusive out of necessity. It was only through someone on the inside, that another was allowed access. There may have been hundreds-perhaps thousands-of these groups throughout the country. Each had their own twist on protocols and practices, yet many adhered to what had been taught to them in the military. Although there were varying degrees of discipline and order, a few concepts were consistent in each of these groups.
1. Honor: The way one interacts with others, maintaining a good name and reputation.
2. Integrity: The way in which one handles one’s affairs and one’s adherence to accepted ethical codes.
3. Trust: Due to the nature of their practices, both socially and sexually, trusting a fellow Leatherman was as important as the trust one had in another when in combat. Their lives and their practices depended on it.
4. Respect: In the military, these men developed a mutual respect not only for each other, but also for authority. Seniority in rank and experience took a front seat in combat, and in these groups.
5. Loyalty: As in the military, these men developed strong alliances to the groups they were involved in, sometimes to the point of exclusivity. Outsiders were outsiders. Anyone wanting in would have to gain admittance through an insider, who then became responsible for him. People who wanted in were subject to testing just as one is tested in the military through boot camp. If they didn’t cut it, they were pushed back out on the fringes of the group where they stayed.
As with the military, everything one has is EARNED. This is what formed the tradition of earning one’s Leathers. Regardless of where one ended up on the Dominant or submissive scale, nearly everyone started out at the bottom and earned their way up. I also suspect that a Dominant could take the fast track through earning His Leathers, but not the respect of His fellow Leathermen.
Now, folks profess their Mastery with words from a keyboard, or clothing from the local Leather shop. Sadly, it has lost its original meaning of longevity of service or knowledge. Thankfully, there are people who still value the idea of earning what you are given. There are people within the community that value this symbol and are working to bring the tradition back.”
This year, I gave two pieces of Leather, one to Cerrin, and one to Shane. Normally, I end the ceremony in exactly the same way, too, though I made a slight change this year.
Once the other two people who speak for the one being presented Leather are done, I bring up the person who is to be given their Leather. Usually they don’t know until the first time their name is used during the presentation.
I say the same words to them, normally, every time, though this year I did make some changes. What I normally say at the end is this:
“By presenting you this piece of Leather, which you have earned through your service to this community, you become a formal part of my Leather family. I know that you will make me proud by continuing to earn it. Do you promise to continue working for others and for your community? Will you continue to do something nice for someone else every single day of your life?”
Some of the Leather I have given over the years has been new, sometimes made specifically for the person, and some has been used.
When it’s possible and appropriate to do so, I like giving Leather that belonged to others. This year I gave an apron, which was made specifically for Cerrin, and a vest, which I actually bought at the silent auction at the International Transgender Leather Person contest in Atlanta. The organizers, Wayne Brawner and his slave, Keith, had donated the vest, and the fact that it carried some of those Leather men, too, is appealing to me.
Once I’d finished the Leather presentation, I realized that all but three of the people I have ever given Leather to were there, so I asked all of them to join me. In addition, I had slave drew join me, because he is clearly part of my family, and Ms Tammy. I was involved in presenting Ms Tammy her first piece of Leather, too, and she is also family.
Interestingly, and meaningfully, the person who presented me my first piece of Leather on behalf of the community, back in 2003, was also there, and I asked him to join us, too. Master David presented me my Master’s cover shortly before we headed off to Dallas to compete for the International Master and slave title, saying, “We wouldn’t send you to Dallas bare-headed.”
The final part of the presentation was for me.
Sandy “Mama” Reinhardt is a fixture in the Leather community. You can read about her here.
If you go to events much, you’ll notice lots of people wearing small brass pins that say, “Mama’s XXXXX.” There are something over 1600 members of Mama’s Family. Often at events, there will be a moment when they do a photo shoot of Mama’s Family attendees.
One of the primary requirements for being part of Mama’s Family is working for the community and for charity both. When I was at an event in Lexington a month or two ago, Mama approached me to ask me to be part of her family. She also asked Ms Tammy, too.
You have to choose your name, of course. I suggested Mama’s Bear Hunter to Ms Tammy, since she is so fond of bears, and I’d settled on Mama’s Party Dominatrix, since that’s what I’ve called myself for years at GLLA. Ms Tammy had been pinned by Mama at a recent Lexington event which I didn’t make, and Mama had given her my pin.
Ms Tammy spoke briefly about what being part of Mama’s Family meant, and then she pinned me, which Mama always does right over your heart, allowing you to place it on your leather where you’d like.
In vest protocol, your club pins, the things that show your affiliations and your memberships, go on the left, the same side as your heart. The pins for places you’ve been, your “run pins,” go on the right. Traditionally club colors or leather patches go on the back.
It was meaningful to me to have all those people there, and I’m glad I was given the pin in front of my community.
So, yet again, my family grows.
So now we’re about half way through Friday night. I haven’t even TALKED about the appearance of Santa on his sleigh pulled by Gypsy, the red-nosed rein… pony?
More to come tomorrow.