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There were a lot of questions leading up to International Mr. Leather 2013 and they were being answered as the third or fourth largest annual convention in Chicago progress the last full weekend of May.

Question number one, actually questions 1-so many, centered around the host Marriott Magnificent Mile. What was the lobby going to be like? After all, one only had to go to their web site to get an idea. It was small. The rooms - small to tiny, the service - excellent, the food and bar service - expensive as in $24.95 for the breakfast buffet. Food was very good, but they need to knock about seven or so dollars off that next year. How would the Marriott staff handle the kinky crowd about to descend upon the? Magnificent is part of the hotel name, isn't it? They were really great; front desk, concierge, security, restaurant, maids - all of them really shined.

The hotel was built many moons ago. Maybe not as many as when the Cubs last won a World Series, or even appeared in one, but long before Marriot became owners of the property. In short, Marriott did the best with what they had to work ith. They cannot make the rooms any bigger.

Making lemonade out of lemons: The Marriott converted their Rush grand entry way into an extended lobby which accommodated the overflow and smokers had a well-lit place to congregate. Good job.

What would the IML Leather Market be like, given that it would be on two floors. The booths were slightly smaller, at least it seemed so, and the aisles were definitely narrower. Again, it was staff, part hotel, laborers and IML staff that made the experience a good one. As a vendor I felt better served this year than any in recent memory. I've usually got good treatment, but this year they were all great. Thank you Bob Graves and staff.

What was it going to be like with all of the major events off campus. I can't remember a time that I was treated as well as I was at the Vic Theater - by everyone from the moment I got off the bus until the time I left. I am not the mayor of Chicago, but I sure felt like it. Jon Krongaard and Chuck Renslow take note. The Vic staff was incredible.

The first and second IML contests that I attended were held ther; Michael Pereyra won in 1988 and Guy Baldwin in 1989.

The great service continued at the Harris Theater. A lot of this was the IML staff as most of us had little interaction with the theater staff. Dean Ogren has had a lot of good things said about him by contestants over the years. I found out just how true their words were during the parade of colors. With all of the hustle-bustle getting contestant groups on and off stage and trying to get all of the club representatives is not easy and probably can be frustrating. He was concerned enough to make sure that I was able to get up stairs. Given all that he was responsible for, no one wold have thought anything of it had he just took care of the larger group in general.

IML 2014 will be at the Marriott Magnificent Mile next year and perhaps beyond. I have no doubt that they will work through what glitches there were, just as the Hyatt did. Remember those dreadful pizza squares in the early Hyatt days? One wonders how a city like Chicago that is as proud of its pizza and hot dogs would allow something like that. The Hyatt turned that around and Leatherfolk were giving them high marks for what had been their weakest link. Chicago is the city that can and I believe that they did it this year. Thank you IML staff. You may not have competed in the contest, but each and every one of you is just as much winners as those men who did.

Enjoy reading The Leather Journal,

Dave Rhodes

I was born behind the "Orange Curtain" in one of histories most notorious US Cities, surf city, Huntington Beach. I grew up with my mother, in Corona, CA, on the "wrong side of the tracks" and thank god for that small favor.  The summer before my senior year I returned to the Orange Curtain County to live with my father. The summer of 1992 saw the beach riots, skin-heads ruled main street and white affluent surfers and republicans ruled the sand and streets elsewhere in the city.  I spent my teen years in my family's auto repair business fighting the "awe, you're a girl what could you knows". I spent my early 20's helping LDS Young Adult Ward Members as the Ward Emergency Preparedness Co-President, a position I was MORE than capable of holding without a man by my side.  "What could you know about helping these people out, this costs money? After all you're just a young woman, and he's got an MBA from BYU Idaho. Work with him. Let him guide you."  All the while, I watch him prepare 72 hour packs that cost thousands of dollars, while our public goal was to teach preparedness on $5 a week, and how to easily build small space storage solutions for apartment and roommate situations. Which I, sans my partner successfully did while he worked against me showing off his, all be them useful, toys from REI and Eddie Bauer.

My mid and late 20's found me fighting the realization that my father was (is?) a bigot, when the black man I loved drove a 6-month wedge between what was finally our blossoming father-daughter relationship (we still have yet I fear to fully recover).  I walked beside my best friend (at the time) when she was excommunicated for "failing to repent of her thoughts of impurity regarding members of the same sex", even though she had never acted upon them.  She sought help from the men who were entrusted with her eternal soul, and in-turn one at a time pushed her from the flock, the only flock she had ever known.  My following her that day, started my own descent from the Church, NOT the only flock I had ever known.  I was not raised in The Church, but I found my religion, and began my real relationship with God, at a time when I desperately needed it.  I also left, when my relationship with God became strained because of the Men who ran it and their beliefs.  The nail in the churches coffin was my boyfriend at the time, telling me that I was broken, read not a virgin, and that he had received revelation that being with me would leave his soul in damnation.  The conversation we were having was over a non-carnal power game that we played once in a while (a VERY mild BDSM trip...that was wonderful and an outlet for my non-virginal soul).

I have fought battles within myself drumming up the courage, embarrassingly calling up two friends one afternoon - I was terrified of asking out this girl...the advice was simple. "What do you want to do with her?" April asked. Then chuckling continued, "on this date".

"Take her to dinner, a movie, the dungeon, I don't know.  Fuck fuck fuck, what the hell is wrong with me?" I sobbed, hysterically, into the phone blocks from this girls house. "Some big bad dom I am huh?" I continued, nervously chuckling into the phone.

"It's just asking her out. What's the worst that could happen?” was her calm, yet oh so not simple (in my mind) response.  Christ I could feel her and her girlfriend looking at each other with such incredulity over my rising hysteria.

What was I thinking? I can't fall in love with a girl! My father will disown me.  I thought back to the distress it had caused him when I brought Michael, a handsome, educated, well off and strong black man to dinner years before.  I am a 31-year-old woman, fuck him I thought. And in that moment, I knew I would be fine.  I started my car, smiled looking at my speakerphone, so very glad that April and Jamie could not see me.  I was "Miss Vonn uber dom" and they, until that moment, well the truth is I don't know what they thought about me, but they now knew me a little better now, still I hesitated.  "There has to be more than that woman" I gripped the wheel with my left hand, hysteria rising steadily again, my right shaking the phone, as if to elicit some, some magic lesbionic password from the handsome dyke on the other end of the phone, "girls are not that easy, I know...I am..."

I felt a twinge in my heart, my voice trailing as my own conscious kicked me in the side of the head whispering, ok yelling, "hey dumbass if you know so much why are YOU calling HER?" In an instant, the angel on the other shoulder cooed soothingly into my ear "cause you needed to know you'd be loved anyway".   I smiled, looked in the mirror cursed my red eyes, sobbed my thanks to April for the advice, now mildly embarrassed at my hysteria. I put the car in drive, and pulled around the corner, to pick up this woman and ask her out.

I have questioned my sexuality many, many times, who hasn't.   I have watched good people be torn from those they love, watched their family members lose positions in church and the workplace because of their child’s sexual orientation.  They lost everything (cars, home, college fund savings) but their family first attitude has since helped them recover financially (that girl my old friend, graduated with NO Debt from ASU 10 years ago, and now works for the California Governors Office).  I have grown and changed since then too. A wise young man, who I am still very much in love with, and I sat for months during an very poignant point in our own relationship discussing the ability of languages to evolve and evolution of societies and man. Neither side won that particular battle. But I feel he eventually won the war, because my mind was opened to the one last barrier that remained grasping to that which I had known to be the one truth in my life until that point.  I would marry a man, and live happily ever after.

I am relating these bits of my life to you today, because I want you to know me. I want readers to understand part of who I am, that they may read my stories and know they come from a place of admiration for what some might think are insignificant moments in our lives. However, I see every individual that I write about as courageous and strong, and it is this strength to be who they are, that deserves to be recorded.  We report on what some of our readers see as everyday benign occurrences.  But each and every one of them has a rich story, that has made them who they are today, champions of human rights. They are warriors for a cause, some things as simple to us today say as the right to dance with your boyfriend in a bar.

I am lucky enough to know some of these amazing individuals whom have been around since before the modern civil rights movement began, Alexi Romanoff, Rio Boreno, Ces Williams and of course Dave I am honored to know you, to be able to talk with you when our paths cross as friends.  We live in a moment, that these folks (and millions of others) have worked LONG and HARD for, living, hiding, enduring through god only truly knows the whole story. I mourn the loss of champions like Madame Wong, Mr. Marcus and Harvey, all on this eve of major victory. Though I am sure they are now sitting waited with baited breath their shining spirits seated beside some handsome young men, with a wide joyous grins watching with baited breath with the rest of their loved ones.

I want to record these stories, for it's important to me, history, herstory whatever you choose to call it, it deserves to be recorded and preserved and told.  Some lessons need to be shouted from the mountaintops so that the lessons of the past, and the lessons of RIGHT NOW not lost or diluted with complacency (as some lessons have apparently become) for those who come after us.  You know, that whole, one day I’m going to tell my grandson that I lived before cell phones story that we joke about. Well what about those who lived before television, radio, telephones, electricity...bathroom, work-place, marriage and “plain old” equal treatment under constitutional law.  

I may love two men and date a third, each of those men having their own stories.  I may fall in love with a woman in the future, I don't know what the future holds for me.  But I know, as long as Dave lets me I'll be here telling youstory dear reader.

Oh, that girl?  Shut me down, one sentence, eight words, "I know, not happening, glad that's over, finally."

Recently, someone tried to start a conversation with me that not only made me uncomfortable but put me on just this side of fighting. So I'll be clear, I am not the person to talk to about any current titleholder in any negative context. Ever. Not this year. Not next year. Not any year.

If you have questions as to what any titleholder is up to during their year, contact them or their producers. If you don't think they're doing enough, talk to them and then find out what you can do to help get them on board with getting your own goals met. Our titleholders cannot do a damn thing without our support. And so that we're clear, by support, I mean money, I mean couches to land on, I mean cheerleading like it's homecoming at every single event, I mean being a confidant in a real way.

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