This blog will cover my interest in the Leather, Bear and other gay related communities.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Drag Turnabout Fundraiser

My partner was going through some pictures he took during the event, and noticed that Google Photos had linked a few into a single GIF file.  I wonder if this actually will work when I post it.  But I hereby introduce...Ms Cherry T. Case.  She's been nipping at the still a bit too much...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Not sure where I fit in...

Since a bit after sometime in the Spring or early Summer, I have been getting the nagging feeling that has been growing about an uncertainty of where I fit into the leather community.

Let me start by saying that in no way I feel unwelcome in the community.  Quite the opposite.  For someone who has been in the community for less than three years, I have been part of so much and met so many wonderful people.  It has been part of 3 of my title run speeches...and some variant of it will continue to be part of it.   It is that I just don't know where I fit in.

I think what has been happening is that I have been getting more and more involved with various parts of the community.  The place that I felt I probably should be... wound up not being that place after all.  I have been learning more and more about so many aspects of the community.  So, what started as a certainty about where I should be is now in question.

So, where do I belong?  How do I continue to grow?  How do I continue to learn?  The worst thing I fear of myself is to be stagnant and not growing anymore.  But in growing, I find that I could be wrong about what I had perceived.  After all, when I first discovered the leather community, I felt like I couldn't belong at all.  I had some preconceived notions about the community and I felt I didn't fit into them.  Then, a cute cub of a guy wearing a Mr Michigan sash at MAL took some time to talk to me about it.  He helped me take the first real step in growing my awareness.  Then I see, that yes, I can belong.  But where?

I think one of my biggest problems is that I don't know exactly what I am seeking.  I want to explore more, but it is slightly difficult with a partner who does not share the same interest in the leather community.  He greatly supports me in my endeavours, we go to events, we are out at the bar, he lets me be part of a leather club...he wants me to grow to support me.  Then we get into the issue of I just don't know where I want to be.  Am I a Sir?  I can say no to that.  I know my personality and that is not for me.  Am I a boy?  That is difficult too.  I feel that a boy is subservient to another.  But being an NCO for several years in the military, I have also grown to enjoy some freedom of giving orders, while also taking them.  I find it hard to give up so much of myself.  Do I love the feel and look of leather?  Hell yes!  Do I like the sex with other leathermen?  Again, Hell yes!  And then there are so many fetishes that I am intrigued by, but don't know how to experience them...much less learn how to be in control of a scene.

I think another aspect of my unsure feeling about where I should be is maybe I have grown.  Maybe it isn't only the fact that I have learned that there is so much out there...but maybe I have moved slightly to a new space of where I feel I should be...but again, don't know where that is.

I am frustrated that I don't know how to express what I am thinking at times, especially when I see others having such an easy time knowing where they want to be and what they want.  But I do take heart that I have such an opportunity that many people don't have or are too scared to take.  I am in no rush... I will find my place.  I have great friends I can trust and count on when I need help with an answer... I just have to figure out how to ask the question.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sometimes Even I Feel Like I Don't Belong

To me, the Leather Community is a great community.  It is one where we can all be who we are.  It doesn't matter if you are male or female.  It doesn't matter if you are gay, straight or bi.  It doesn't matter if you are white, black, latino, asian, or none of the above.  It doesn't matter about your body type.  It doesn't even matter about your interests as the leather community has branched to include many of the other fetish interests too.

This is one of the reasons I advocate that people should not feel like they belong on the outside...but be part of the community.  Especially since I have heard on more than one occasion that people have said that there are only a certain group of people that are true leathermen.  I call bullshit on that.  What you wear...and whether or not you have a boy/slave does not make you more of a leatherman/woman than the guy who finds his interest in neoprene, or rubber, or if they like S&M or if they don't.

But here is where I run into my conflict.

I have always lived a very compartmentalized life.  I was in the military before Don't Ask Don't Tell was even around.  I had to sign a form verifying that I was not homosexual when I joined the military.  Even after DADT came out, I could not let anyone know I was gay.  So for the longest time, no one knew I was gay.

Over time, I let some things slide.  after I left the military, I told some friends.  Some didn't care, others never talked to me again.  I didn't even tell my family until right before my graduation from a Community College.  I wanted my partner to be there for it too and didn't know how to explain his presence to my I finally told them a week before I graduated.  Some of my barriers are breaking down.  Like work knows I am part of the LGBT community as do my parents...but I still can't broach the topic of leather with them.

My mom can't even understand why I go to a bar since I have a partner.  She and my brother (who is gay too) feel that we should be doing things like going to museums or theaters...not bars.  That is where people go to hook up.  So, if they can't handle us going to bars... I dread going more into some of the other aspects of what we are exploring.  In addition to the family... I don't truly get to experience some of the S&M fetishes that are out there.  Some because I know my partner wouldn't be into them...and others since I am scared to start since I don't want to risk hurting my partner due to inexperience.

But, then I see so many other people.  They are able to live their lives being who they are.  Their families are completely part of their lives.  They even joke and share insights about stuff from the various fetish events.  Then I see others being able to go to events to learn more about different fetishes, meet others around the nation that are into the same things as ourselves, learn more about our history and our future in the leather and fetish communities.

And when I look at myself.  I almost feel like a fraud.  I can put on leather, but I feel like someone who doesn't belong.  I feel like the kid who will try to do anything to be part of the cool kids.  And it makes me wonder.  With separating my life so much...I have been so untrue to myself for so many years... who am I?  Truly?

Then I wonder.  Should I just step back from leather?  Just I re-examine my life?  In some aspects, I am so entrenched now, and in other aspects, I feel like if I were to abandon it, I would barely be missed.

I think this links to the fact I was never part of anything really before the military.  I had always moved around.  If I finished the school year in the same school that I started the year in...that was a blowout year for me.  And to say that the military provided me stability...that is saying something.

But now I look at it.  I feel like a number of people can take over being VP of our leather club.  I feel there are others that could do such a better job.  With me being fairly new to the leather community...what makes me deserving of such a role?

But then...I see the work we do for the numerous charities.  I try to be out there whenever I can.  Seeing that we are making a difference in someone else's life is something that always touches me.  And this is something I would greatly miss out on if I were to leave our leather community.  I also love the freedom I feel when I am in leather.  People say I appear confident in leather even though I normally am a very timid introvert.  This sense of freedom is also very incredible for me.

But through all of this... I sometimes I still feel like I don't fully belong.  But when I truly examine why I feel like I don't belong...I see that I am looking at all the wrong reasons.  True.  I don't have a Sir or a boy.  I don't often have the opportunity to get to play more with the various fetishes and how to improve in them (outside of major events).  But what does make me belong is that I have the drive and desire to see our community grow and improve.  What brings me to the leather community is that here in Dallas, we spend a lot of time helping others.  And that is what I find important.  So, what I lack in "play", I make up in heart.

I just have to remember that everyone is welcome in the leather community...Especially myself!  We just all have to make sure we are not being distracted by issues that don't really matter.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Who can truly be part of the leather community?

For the sake of simplicity, any time that the masculine nouns of he/him are referenced, it is equally applied to males and females...biological or self-identifying.

Anyone with the passion and desire to be part of the leather community is what makes up the leather community.

It has been a very long time since I have written, for this or any of my blogs.  That is one of the drawbacks to Facebook.  It gives me a venue to briefly make a statement, but it is not really the place to put something for people to truly read.  But this weekend, several things combined to really want me to write a little bit.

For those of you in the Texas area, you know that this weekend was the Mr and Ms Texas Leather competition.  I was one of the five contestants for the Mr Texas title.  I was surprised to see how far and wide people came from to attend this event.  Not only did we have people from all the reaches of Texas at our event; we had people from New York to Oregon and many states in between.  It was amazing to see so many different people, from all walks of life, all different backgrounds, and each with their own interest in leather.

This brings me to one of the questions that I received during my interview.  I will paraphrase it a little as I cannot remember the exact wording.  But it went something along the line of what my views or reaction would be to someone commenting that there are so many people in the leather community nowadays that don't even ride motorcycles, how can they really be considered part of the community?  This question struck a very personal chord with me.  That kind of mentality being brought up in the question is something that kept me out of the leather community for years.

For a little backhistory on me.  My partner and I travel a lot.  Whenever we hit a new city, we tend to hit the various gay bars in the towns.  The one thing that we found is a lot of the bars we would go to were usually pretty "cold" in attitude towards us.  As you can see in my picture, after leaving the military, I packed on a few pounds.  Since I was not muscular or a twink, people tended to avoid us.  My partner had always known I had a fascination with leather, but we never lived anywhere that I could get more into it.  Then during one of our trips to Atlanta, my partner said to hell with the regular bars this time...let's hit the Atlanta Eagle.  To our surprise, we weren't welcomed with the usual snide glances or being completely ignored.  People were very friendly.  They came up and talked to my partner and I.  A couple guys even snagged my partner onto the dance floor and they had a great time while I was at the table chit-chatting with the guy from the group who was like me and wasn't too much into dancing.  All-in-all, it was a great time.  This even continued when we would visit Washington DC and hit the DC Eagle.  It was a great time.  The people at the DC Eagle didn't care that you don't drive a snazzy car or which Congressman or military contractor do you work for, like they would at the other bars.  People at the DC Eagle also were just there to have a good time.

For me though, I had overheard someone spouting their opinion about someone else that this one guy isn't truly a leatherman because he didn't earn his leather and didn't have a Sir.  That comment actually stuck with me for a long time.  While my partner and I still enjoyed the atmosphere of the leather bars, I never thought I could be any more within the leather community.  After all, I just have a partner...I don't have some Leather Sir to bring me into the community.  It is amazing...but it only took one negative opinion to create a lot of influence.  Especially when it is the first opinion I heard about it.  After all, it is very hard to make a second impression.

My second impression did come though.  My partner and I happened to be in DC at the same time as Mid Atlantic Leather (MAL) in 2012.  The DC Eagle was packed, especially with a lot of hot guys with these sashes and back patches I really hadn't noticed before.  My partner had noticed me checking out this really hot guy in a harness that I had never seen before.  He made some sort of comment about me going over to talk to him before I drool on myself.  At some point he nudged me to go talk to him.  For anyone who knows me, I am incredibly shy.  I think it took me a couple tries to actually get the sentences out of my mouth as I was talking to this hot guy.  As I was talking to him about the harness he was in, he had actually started asking me about my interests in leather.  And, as he found out more and more about my interests too, he was wondering why I wasn't in any leather.  I told him that I didn't think I could, along with the reason that I had thought was why I couldn't.  He told me, "The only thing you need to do to be part of the leather community is the desire to be part of the leather community."  He was telling me I needed to go check out MAL.  Just go check out the lobby.  Check out the vendor areas.  Just look around and go talk to people.  Then after a bit, he went and introduced me to a bunch of people he was at the bar with.  There was a whole contingent of guys there that would be competing at International Mr Leather later that year.  He introduced himself to me as Woody and then introduced me to the other guys that he was there with.  I was taken aback (in a good way) that all these guys getting ready to compete in an event would talk to some guy, not even in leather, and they all happened to express similar sentiments about being part of the leather community.

I had wanted to get more involved, but at the time, I was living in Richmond, Virginia.  We had no leather clubs and barely had a couple gay bars that could stay open.  But out of some random Internet search, my partner actually found a leather and fetish group that would get together at one of our bars for a dinner once a month.  I was excited.  I was able to find a small group of people that came from all over the state...and even from North Carolina and West Virginia at times too.  This was something that I liked.  It gave me people of similar interests to talk to and to find out about more things.   But even that had to come to an end.  I found out that I was going to move to Texas.  All I could think of was "oh god, redneck cowboys.  I hope they aren't worse then the Appalachian rednecks of Virginia."  But, before I moved, I had hit the next MAL.  I got to see Woody again, to my surprise.  This time he was wearing the IML sash that he had won the previous year.  We had caught up on what had had occurred over the previous year.  And then, I had mentioned I would be moving to Texas in a few months.  He told me that we needed to have dinner the last night of MAL, he wanted to introduce me to someone.  That was when I got to meet Bobby Thurman for the first time who was representing Mr Texas Leather at the time.  Woody also gave me a couple names to look up when I got to Dallas.  One of which was Jeffrey Payne.  I had no clue who it was at the time, but if Woody thought highly of him, I'd look him up.

Then, I arrive in Dallas.  One of the first bars I had to hit was the Dallas Eagle.  I had to see if it was just as welcoming as the other bars we had been to.  And to my surprise, not only was it as welcoming, it was moreso.  In our bars in Richmond, people of varying races barely were in the same bar together.  But here, race, sex, gender, interest...none of that mattered.  And everyone felt like they belonged.  This is where I truly learned that to be part of the leather community, it was one of open arms.  Our community has leathermen who ride motorcycles and those who have never touched one.  It has people who live a strict Sir/boy relationship and it has people who just wear leather for something hot to have on while having sex.  We also have bears, pups, bootblacks, drag queens (which were barely welcome at the Richmond bars outside of performances), Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Court...and it just goes on.  I have learned that for those people who try to say only a certain part of the community is the only true part...I have to say that your time has come and has passed on.  The community has grown and will continue to change.  For if it doesn't adapt to the changes of our world, it will die out completely.

Eventually I finally wound up meeting Jeffrey completely by accident when someone had invited me to a Leather Knights meeting.  My time there is still just beginning, but it is now also part of my history.  I have seen how the negative attitude of just a single individual can impact someone.  But, I have also seen a community with arms wide open.  But like with Woody, taking the time to talk to me...we all have to take that time to talk to those we see at our bars who happen to be standing off by themselves.  You don't need to be a titleholder.  Anyone can be that welcoming smile at the bar.  You may even find that they may be in the same situation I was in.  They might feel welcome to the bar, but not know there is a larger community that they can be part of.  And, as something I try to do when I can at the bar...I try to talk to those people who look uncomfortable like I was.  Find out if they are interested in the leather community and help guide them to a group that closely fits their interests...whether it is social, service, play, etc.

Because for those people not yet part of the leather community, they may not know what opportunities they might be able to have as part of the leather community...but even more importantly, the leather community doesn't know what that person can bring into the group.

John Pates
Chamberlain (Vice President)
Leather Knights

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Conversation with Mr Friendly - David Watt

While, I was at Mid Atlantic Leather, I had the opportunity to talk to David Watt about the Mr Friendly program.  This was a person I have wanted to talk to for a while to learn more about the program and its goals.  And below, this is what I gathered from our talk.

For those unaware of the Mr Friendly program, it is a program with the aim to eliminate the stigma that those living with HIV face day to day.  They want to create an environment where people don't fear being able to openly discuss their status.  Through this initial goal, they hope to reduce the transmission of HIV be allowing people to honestly discuss their status with a potential partner.  A secondary goal is to help reduce the transmission of HIV.  This includes the hopes that people will be more apt to test for HIV and know their status without fear of being stigmatized if they do happen to get a positive result.  By knowing their status instead of trying to stay ignorant of it, they can take the proper steps to protect themselves or their partners.  And if they do find out they are positive, instead of hiding in fear, they can seek treatment that both lets them live a comparably standard life to that of someone negative and also keeps their viral load low to where they have a very low risk of passing the virus onto others.  Both partners have to be knowledgable of their status.  Both partners need to be able to discuss their status without fear.  Only then, can they make a proper use on what method(s) of protection they will use.  Whether this is condom use, Pre-Exposure Prophalxis (PrEP), sero-sorting, non-penetrative sexual practices, or all of the above...this is all up to the partners.  But they have to be knowledgeable of their status and be comfortable to discuss it with their partner to make sure they are using the proper level of protection that both partners can agree to.

Here is the logo for Mr Friendly:

This is not a program only for those living with HIV.  It is a program for everyone.  If you notice in the logo, it incorporates both the positive(+) and negative (-) signs.  This is a show of unity between both those with and without HIV, working together to help eliminate the stigma.  Without allies in the majority, it is hard to make change.  Plus, we are all human.  We all feel.  We are all in this together.  And no one should be made to feel less about themself.

One of the aspects with this program is that it is fairly new.  It is in a growing and learning phase, and like all good programs, it will always continue to learn and grow.  We all can say something that may feel like it is a non-issue, but may be insulting or intimidating to someone living with HIV.  As the program learns and grows, they try to help educate others how not to accidentally insult the very people we are trying to support.

One interesting topic did come up during the conversation.  It came from a person who viewed that the program is a good one, they felt a bit apprehensive about using cute logos as part of an HIV acceptance program.  He felt that people are already pretty slack with protecting themselves from HIV and something like this would encourage that.  Looking back at the situation, I couldn't think of a good way to present my view to the person, but hindsight is always 20/20.  This person made a very strong case for his views.  While I do partially agree with the person about people becoming slack with the use of he different forms of protection, I disagree about the use of the "cute logos".  The logo is not about acceptance of having or acquiring HIV.  The logo is about acceptance of the people living with HIV.  It is a way to show that there are people out there that don't care about your status when it comes to you being a person.  And only when people can treat each other as equals regardless of status, hopefully we can stem the new transmissions of HIV through use of testing to know your status and the proper uses of the different forms of protection can we hope to end HIV.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Leather Family - post-MAL edition

If I have to say one thing, I have discovered that the leather community is one of family.  It is one that no other can really be compared to.  While many groups that seem like family such as the military or fraternities, they aren't.  They get you to bond, by making everyone the same.  Leather is different in that we embrace all of our differences and encourage people to be who they feel they are.

This brings us to leather events.  If I was to compare these to anything, it is a massive family reunion.  A slightly incestuous family reunion, haha, but a family reunion nonetheless.  I see brothers and sisters that I have not seen in months.  I see cousins that I rarely get a chance to see outside of these events, but I get to see them.  For a lot of the part, many people know each other.  The thing that surprises me is that there are so many people that recognize me, that I had just met for the first time at Mid Atlantic Leather.  I am not a big name in the leather community.  In fact, I am fairly new to it.  I am not incredibly hot, nor highly desired in everyone's bed.  I am not a title holder, nor have I held a title.  Actually, I didn't even win our bar's title this year.  But still, people knew me.   Maybe they did not know my name, but I did get the "You're the guy from Dallas" statement more than once.  It is sort of like hearing, "Oh, your Uncle Steve's little boy?"  It is the same.

Another aspect of the leather community is that we consistently try to better those that wish to learn more, or improve their knowledge in the community, or just simply need help.  I've seen this with titleholders and their crazy travel schedules needing a place to crash for a weekend, and someone in the community will volunteer a spare (or same...haha) bed for them to save them a couple hundred bucks.  When a couple of my friends in the community found out I had no mentor to help me prepare for the Mr Dallas Eagle competition, they met with me almost every night that week before the competition to give me tips and help me get my gear ready.  Then we have those groups that truly need help.  These are the people that need help, living with HIV, but cannot afford the basic essentials such as food after paying for their medications, or even worse, not even being able to afford their medications.  Our leather groups and several others in the area with the help of the Bears, the Sisters and the Imperial Court will raise funds for organizations that help those in most dire need.

And now that I am back home after a great MAL event, I would almost be sad that I no longer can see my friends.  But I know, just like any other family reunion, I will get to see my leather friends again.  and like members of my biological family, there are those that I strive to be proud of me.  Someday, I want to be someone that the leather community can look up to.  I want to be a person that helps carry on the traditions and also to bring others in to help our community grow.  I want to be there to help teach these traditions to the next generation so they can carry that torch after I am no longer able to.

And now, I would also like to thank my leather family for all their encouragement during my bar title run.  I can only hope to take what I learned from the experience and try to improve myself for next year.  And I can't wait to see some of you this weekend during the Mr/Mrs Texas Leather competition.

P.S.  - If you are in Dallas, come out to the Dallas Eagle Friday the 24th and Saturday the 25.  It'll be a fun night :p

John Pates

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mr Dallas Eagle 2014 competition

I have to say, this event made for an incredible weekend.  While I did not win, I do not feel like I lost.  Several people even thought I might have had a great chance at being the winner.

I am not disheartened though.  Kody did a bang up job from what I saw, and knowing him as a fellow Leather Knight and the different things he does for the many community support organizations, I am definitely glad he won.  This competition provided me an incredible insight into what goes into a competition.  If I had waited a year to try to be more prepared, I would have lost out on this great opportunity.  It had me learning a lot about a leather community that I have just become very active in and an area that I had just moved to both of which were merely 6 months ago.  To be honest, not only did I learn a lot about my leather community, but I also learned a lot about myself. I learned what I am comfortable with and things that are not so much.  This pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to work on things to improve myself; such as public speaking, socializing with strangers at the bar.

Another perk of being in this competition is that I also got the chance to meet some new people.  In fact, there was one contestant that I had not liked originally.  This was mostly due to me catching parts of his conversations at the bar.  It seemed like he had a grating attitude or something that was rubbing me the wrong way.  During the competition, I actually had a lot of time to talk to this person.  I found out that he actually is a really nice guy and I had misjudged him.  I think with some mentoring and guidance, he'd be a very welcome member of the leather community. 

As for next year, I will try again.  I will take what I learned and add those things to what I need to do to prepare for the competition. I also look forward to having this year to observe the duties and responsibilities of the current Mr Dallas Eagle now that we have one that is local again.
But until that time comes, here is my YouTube to my formal speech during the competition.