TLJ-VT: Tell me about your favorite charity.
IMsL Contestant Luca: I am thrilled to be helping fundraise for The Rainbow Railroad with my 2015 Toronto title family. This organization helps LGBTQ folk around the world escape persecution and violent/dangerous living situations and resettle in places where they can live with less fear. Even as a small organization with a small budget the Rainbow Railroad manages to save LGBTQ lives every year. It is so personally gratifying to help contribute to the good work done by the Rainbow Railroad, where every dollar makes a real difference in providing someone in trouble with a way out. I have also previously been involved in the Women Ride Out Against Rape (WROAR) charity ride, which generates much-needed funding for the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre / Multicultural Women Against Rape.
TLJ-VT: Tell me in your own words how you feel about community service.
IMsL Contestant Luca: While many communities exist inside the boundaries of mainstream culture, some groups function on the periphery of the predominantly accepted norm and consist of people who are “other”, who stand outside accepted convention. The boundaries of what is mainstream are open to definition but I think many will agree that the world of Leather is still somewhat of an outsider community, relative to much of the rest of the world. And often these outsider communities need all the support from within that they can get just to maintain ground and not fade away. This support often comes in the form of community service.
When people discover a community such as the Leather community, some folks pass through on their way to other things, some people remain sporadically or peripherally involved, and others dive in and immerse themselves. For these last, community service seems like the inevitable result of developing this investment in our world. When a Leather person comes to appreciate the magic of our tribe and realizes it is worth promoting, developing and defending, community service is a way of expressing this investment and valuation of our lifestyle and the people who live it. This has been my narrative; community service is how I put my energy back into the groups and people in which I am invested. It’s how I try to “do my part” to help our community thrive and grow, so that it will be around for future generations to discover and become invested in as well.
Is “doing my part” a selfless act for community? Not exclusively, I freely admit that in addition to the positive change made in the community, service also feeds me and my own sense of doing right in the world. I have a need to live deliberately and to try to help make positive change. My need is met nicely through community service inasmuch as it helps me look myself in the mirror and feel that I am helping the people I care about and supporting something greater than myself. Perhaps this is a little self-serving, but then again that’s part of the joy of community service, it’s a win for everyone.
TLJ-VT: What makes you a Leather Woman and/or Bootblack?
IMsL Contestant Luca:
I am a Leather Woman because leather is my armour.
I am a Leather Woman because I live authentically as my true self.
I am a Leather Woman because I believe in reaching for higher standards and surrendering to a higher purpose.
I am a Leather Woman because my spirituality is fuelled by the affirmation and practice of authority and hierarchy.
I am a Leather Woman because I find great pleasure and satisfaction in the feast for the senses that we share when we play.
I am a Leather Woman because I believe in the value of our tribe and what we bring to the world.
I am a Leather Woman because it is who I am.
TLJ-VT: Who is your favorite Leather Woman…Why?
IMsL Contestant Luca: We have many wonderful Leather Women in Toronto and I’ve been blessed to meet many others from outside our local community. There are several women in my life who have helped make me the Leather Woman that I am today and who I love and respect dearly. Even with these other highly valid choices, my answer to this tough question remains my friend and mentor Master T’Hayla Ferguson of Toronto.
Every community has a few members who inspire others through their example, members who devote much thought energy and muscle to supporting and growing the community, often away from the spotlight. It’s my belief that Master T’Hayla is one of these great engines in our Toronto Women’s community. She tirelessly and enthusiastically puts long hours into producing Toronto Leather Pride and Toronto Bound as vice-president of Heart Of The Flag Federation Inc., and helps organize other events in Toronto and Ottawa. As a long-time educator who has taught throughout North America, Master T’Hayla regularly helps promote the sharing of knowledge and experience through workshops and by leading discussion groups. She is one of the leaders in our community who makes things happen and helps our community grow by getting done what needs to be done, and isn’t afraid of getting dirty in the process.
Master T’Hayla is also special to me as one of the pivotal individuals who’ve helped raise me in the ways of Leather. I feel privileged that She has previously been my owner and is currently my mentor. As both Her puppy and now Her student I have learned about power exchange as an ongoing lifestyle, and She has helped me develop skills now used in leading my own authority-based relationship. She has challenged me with higher standards and pushed me to rise above and be a better Leather Woman. She has also shown me much warmth and care and has never stopped being a dear friend.
“Family” can mean different things to different people, and is a label that can be loaded with much emotion, both good and bad. For me, Master T’Hayla Ferguson represents the best of that word, and I will always be grateful for Her good influence and presence in my life.
TLJ-VT: What do you feel is the most dangerous mis-information passed through traditional & social media affecting our community today, and how would you combat it should the opportunity arise?
IMsL Contestant Luca: It’s my belief that some of the most dangerous mis-information propagated today is that dealing with consent and how the community handles accusations of its violation
I am still sometimes surprised by folks who believe that consent violations do not occur within the Women’s Leather community, and this piece of mis-information is itself quite dangerous. Fortunately I think most players who operate in Women’s Leather space understand that, although we might like to think otherwise, these consent violations do take place in our community. The greater piece of misinformation is the idea that there is some agreed-upon community enforcement mechanism that is already in place to handle these violations.
Most would agree that the importance of consent is a foundation value in our world, and I can’t imagine many would challenge the need for a response to violations of consent. But what do we do about these breeches of trust? Some believe in public shaming, some believe in reaching out to reform and reeducate, and some believe in resolution through legal channels. While I’ve heard all of these options and others proposed and debated, I’ve never heard any kind of consensus on how even a regional community handles consent violations, let alone any consensus on a national or international level. Yet I’ve encountered those in real-life and online who have the perception that these questions have already been asked and answered and an approved process is waiting to resolve accusations around consent.
There is no easy answer to managing these situations, I know I don’t have one. The discussions need to continue while we grapple with how to handle violations of consent. For my part, I would like to continue to gently dispel the myth of some unnamed Leather Tribunal that has been approved and blessed by the community for the resolution of these matters. I would like to help eliminate this fantasy by further encouraging the discussion around what the community can actually do to help enforce consent and to manage its transgression. I don’t know if we will ever come to agree on how this is handled. But I know we won’t ever figure it out if we chose to believe that the questions have already been answered by others.
TLJ-VT: In 100 words or less what will you do as IMsL or IMsBB to promote your title?
IMsL Contestant Luca: Promoting the title itself is important and I would achieve this by following the good examples of IMsL alumni who’ve promoted the title through their behaviour and their action. It’s my belief that an IMsL is responsible for supporting and championing all members of the Women’s community. While doing this I would also like to use the title as a platform from which to further promote awareness and acceptance of Leather folk who are also on the trans spectrum, specifically acceptance of trans women as valid and valued members of the community.
TLJ-VT: What do you say to those who feel that the Title system is outdated and no longer necessary?
IMsL Contestant Luca: Some may feel that the title system is no longer relevant to the Leather Community. I disagree, as I think our community still benefits from this system.
Humanity has a need to gather and celebrate as a tribe. For thousands of years we’ve found reasons to congregate and mark moments during our year. Title contests provide us with this opportunity to gather the tribe and celebrate our way of living. Simply by attending title contests I’ve met Leather folk from all over and made friends with folks who I might not have connected with otherwise.
Many of us don’t need excuses to gather and enjoy our lifestyle together, and if that was all that the title system offered, perhaps I might be quicker to agree about its obsolescence. That said, the title holders themselves are important as they are the closest thing we have to elected representatives who become conduits for the ideas of the community and get charged with executing them. Title holders also take on the responsibility of leadership both through action and example. And I think these roles in themselves are important. But titles are held by real people, and some of the real value comes from how title holder brings their own individual energy and perspective to their year. It’s this yearly renewal of energy and enthusiasm, which looks different for every title holder, that helps keeps this leadership position vibrant and fresh for the community.
I don’t believe that someone needs a title to lead and to get things done, much great work is done by those who do not involve themselves in the title system. But I think there is still some value to the community choosing an individual for the year who is explicitly charged with a leadership role.