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

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.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Competing in my first title event - Mr Dallas Eagle 2014

I am kind of excited.  I will be competing in my first title event.  The bar that I frequent is holding the Mr Dallas Eagle 2014 competition.

I am very new to the Dallas community in addition to the leather community.  Since this is my first time at a bar level event, I have no idea what to truly expect.  A few of my friends had asked if I had a mentor, but I did not.  So, last week, they were giving me some advice.

I am looking forward to this event.  Only after this weekend will I know what to expect.  This will be a great learning opportunity for next year.