TLJ-VT: Tell me about your favorite charity.
IMsL Contestant Tris: Only one? It's impossible to have only one favorite organization, as there are so many!
During my title year I focused on supporting and raising money for Lifelong AIDS Alliance, based in Seattle, Washington. Lifelong empowers those living with HIV/AIDS by providing services through their food program (Chicken Soup Brigade), housing programs, partnerships, and health programs including administering testing using the INSTI Rapid HIV Test. Lifelong advocates for those living with HIV/AIDS to ensure that their voices are heard at a local/state and federal level.
IMsL Contestant Tris: I also support the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom based in Baltimore, Maryland. The NCSF provides information and advocacy assistance to those involved in alternative sexual expression through education, outreach and advocacy. The NCSF maintains the Kink Aware Professionals directory and the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) revision project. They also have started the "Consent Counts" program, where advocacy is provided via media outreach to reduce sensationalizing media reports of sexual expression, through education on selective enforcement and predisposition of behaviors to law enforcement officials and professionals, and through the Incident Reporting and Response Program which guides individuals and organizations through criminal, civil, or PR matters.
TLJ-VT: Tell me in your own words how you feel about community service.
IMsL Contestant Tris: Community service is key to who I am.
“It takes a village to raise a child”, an African proverb says. Each person within that village offers their skills and resources to drive an individual to be the best representation of themselves that they can be. At the same time, those providing service grow themselves as they cultivate others. Through our diverse opportunities for community service, I have had an opportunity to create, maintain and develop opportunities for both organizations and individuals, either through fundraising, education, mentoring or advocacy.
Ultimately service is not about the individual, service is about ‘us’ and what we can accomplish together with teamwork and, most importantly, FUN!
TLJ-VT: What makes you a Leather Woman and/or Bootblack?
IMsL Contestant Tris: Like many from my hometown, I identify as both a Leather woman and a bootblack. Both are equally integrated into who I am as a leather person.
My leather is not what I wear externally. It is who I am at my core. Leather is my sexual identity. My leather is loyalty, honor and integrity. It is service to my family, friends and my diverse communities. My leather is respect. It is honoring those who came before me, while helping those following behind, by providing mentorship and education. My leather is courage in my transparency, fragility, vulnerability and strength.
TLJ-VT: Who is your favorite Leather Woman…Why?
IMsL Contestant Tris: There are so many amazing Leather women I can think of, not even including the incredible ones within this IMsL Class! The first person that popped into my head, however, when I read this question was KimberlyKate Neagle.
KimberlyKate guided me to finding the leather community years ago. She embodies the spirit of leather through her honor, her grace, her honesty and her service to her owner and her community. Handling any situation with poise and charm, she continuously provides a model to emulate and exemplifies what I strive to be.
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 Tris: There is increased visibility by the general public into the alternative sexual community due to the fascination of the “50 Shades of Grey” franchise. This franchise has created an interesting juxtaposition between mainstream acceptance of alternative sexuality while reflecting on the revulsions of rape culture and consent violations.
The media operates on a mechanism of sensationalism and the likelihood of reporters digging up situational details that tie in “50 Shades of Grey” and negative stereotypes is high. Given this, I would focus on advocating for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), with their Incident Reporting and Response and Consent Counts programs, to educate and engage with the media and first responders. Subsequently, I would continue to ensure that NCSF information is available at each function and event I attend and encourage communication and proactive facilitation of reported consent violations.
TLJ-VT: In 100 words or less what will you do as IMsL or IMsBB to promote your title?
IMsL Contestant Tris: As IMsL 2015, it would be my responsibility to not only represent myself as a Leather woman, but to be a positive, visible representative of the IMsL organization, its producers and the foundation. To that end, I will connect with organizations and individuals across the world via social media and have a correlating in-person presence to increase visibility of the IMsL and Leather woman community. Focusing on education, mentorship and charitable actions, I will be able to reach un/underserved individuals within our diverse communities, connecting them with others with similar interests and knowledge to expand and connect our international community.
TLJ-VT: What do you say to those who feel that the Title system is outdated and no longer necessary?
IMsL Contestant Tris: I was told by a friend, “Running for a title will change your life. Winning, of course, will; but the amount of knowledge you gain about yourself just by running is immense.” I couldn’t agree more.
The title system provides a huge opportunity for growth as an individual, with bar titles and local titles giving an opportunity for someone to have success by growing within themselves. Regional and international titles are focused more on leadership, and achievements are viewed as more successful based not on individual outcomes, but on the positive results that others had in engaging with the titleholder and their endeavors.
We should encourage people to grow and learn. We need to create opportunities for growth and development for others. Ultimately titles are not about the solitary individual. A title is one person representing multiple diverse groups of people, engaging these people and inspiring them to take action on their goals.