Great Lakes Bootblack 2016
Metro Detroit, Michigan
Weekly kink and fetish educational classes by the BOE in metro Detroit.
I co-host a monthly sex and play party called Fevered Nights.
I just restarted the Detroit Area Bootblacks' Laboratory with access to a new venue space.
Maybe it's cliched, but my favorite leather item is definitely my custom engineer boots. I have very hard-to-fit calves and these have been the first pair of boots that truly and comfortably have fit me from day one. I wear them to bars and events but I also wear them to hard work meetings or on days when I'm feeling tired and scared and like I need my people, my community, walking with me.
Is your run in April sponsored by an Event, bar, club, organization?
I am sponsored by Great Lakes Leather Alliance (http://greatlakesleather.org/), Great Lakes Leather Alliance -- Michigan and the Michigan Band of Brothers.
These are all amazing contests and organizations, but I am especially grateful for the Michigan Band of Brothers, which I've been involved with since the summer of 2014, prior to ever holding a title. We're a gender-inclusive titleholder support and preparation group. I would never have even considered running for my state title in 2015 if not for their generous time in answering questions, convincing me, supporting and helping me.
Tell me about your favorite charity. The Leather Archives and Museum is my favorite charity. I can't express the value in collecting and storing our past, which legitimizes who we are as leather people, in a publicly accessible museum. There is no way to know how to move forward into the future without understanding and relying on who we were and where we have been as a community.
Tell me in your own words how you feel about community service. I think community service is critical. We are a self-organizing bunch of folks. If someone wants an event, an experience, a venue to exist, that person has to put in the hard work and hours to create it and therefore enrich the community as a whole.
I think that the vast majority of what I do in the leather and fetish communities is community service. I'm fiercely dedicated to education -- I want to be able to play knowledgeably and play with people who are similarly knowledgeable. I want people to feel safe and comfortable to explore edgy experiences and I think that that can only happen with education and mentorship. I'm also fiercely dedicated to creating a culture of sex positivity and I co-host a party for that explicit reason. I think sex positivity happens when we stop talking about how we need a more sex positive culture and instead start enacting it in our play spaces and venues.
What makes you a Leather Woman and/or Bootblack? I first heard someone give a class on Leather 101 and their personal leather journey back in June of 2013. He talked about HIRT -- Honor, Integrity, Respect, and Truth -- and that he looked at himself in the mirror every day and asked whether or not he had HIRT that day. That shook me down to my core. I had always felt that way about my life, but I did not consider that there was a community within the broader fetish community that valued those principles and lived them out every day. I think HIRT, combined with an unwavering commitment to authenticity in all elements of my life and a fundamental respect and interest in our history, is what makes me Leather. I am a Bootblack because it's part of who I am at the deepest core of my soul. I knew it from the first moment that I saw someone doing boots in front of me that I was meant to be that person working on the boots. Bootblacking is the deepest expression of my desires to love and care for people from a position of both power (in terms of technical expertise) and vulnerability (in terms of revealing my desire to serve and trusting that the service will be valued).
Who is your favorite Leather Woman…Why? Cynthia Slater, hands down, no question. She was an amazing bridge-builder and fiercely dedicated to education. I think that communities flourish and integrate when people comfortably cross over between gay and straight fetish communities and develop interconnected webs of friends, family and lovers in both communities, which she did. But she did this formally as well, in founding the Society of Janus and providing a formalized venue and mechanism for education and community building. Because of her successes, the fabric of the local community was permanently changed. That's work that I try to emulate in my own local community as much as I can. She also wasn't conventionally or stereotypically beautiful, but I find images of her so profoundly compelling and erotic. She owned who she was and it shined through.
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? I think the most dangerous mis-information in the broader society about our community is a failure to acknowledge how deeply consent is ingrained into our attitudes and practices. I think the NCSF (the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom) has done and continues to do amazing advocacy work on the state level across the country to legitimize consensual sexual activities and I would continue that support and work.
In 100 words or less what will you do as IMsL or IMsBB to promote your title? As IMsBB, I would emphasize writing, teaching and speaking to create and continue dialogues about what it means to be a bootblack, what it means to be leather and how we can effectively move forward into the 21st century as an inclusive and innovating community while still staying true to the spirit and heart of our traditions of the past.
What do you say to those who think there are too many titles and that it has diluted the meaning of holding a title? I disagree with this position, for a couple reasons. Generally, at all contest levels, I think the contest process and titleholding is fundamentally an exercise in self-exploration and self-knowledge. People grow and develop and learn about themselves whether they are holding an international title or a bar title or whether they win at all. So to the extent that more titles affords more individuals an opportunity to compete and have that experience, I can't see it as anything but a good thing.
Secondly, I would challenge what meaning the proliferation of titles is supposedly diluting. I don't consider titleholders to automatically be "community leaders," although many people feel that way. So if that's how we're defining the meaning of holding a title, I suppose more titles means a broader array of voices in "leadership" positions that potentially conflict with one another, which I guess some people might see as a bad thing. But since I don't agree with that basic premise, the most I will ever say is that I think titleholders act as public and visible faces of what leather can be, do, say and look like. And gloriously, we as a community are complicated, multi-faceted, fiercely individualistic and each dedicated to living out our own personal truths. So to have international titleholders who are trans, who have disabilities, who are fat, who are people of color, who are women, who are working-class . . . those public faces create the space for anyone who feels like they might not fit. So if there are more titles created and supported by the community that expose more of the diversity of who we are as leather people, I can only see that as positive forward momentum into a better future.