Survived by her life partner Margaret Begley. Meek had been suffering illness and had suffered several falls over the last few months but details surrounding her death this morning are unknown at this time.
Amy Marie was known to many as Daddy, Bare or Papa or Aunt Bare. The nickname Bare was short for Bare Images, which was the company that Meek ran that actually held ownership of IMsL during Meeks "IMsL Gen 2".
Perhaps best known for her IMsL/IMsBB Legacy, her title journey started in 1992 with Ms Nebraska Leather. Then in 1993 she won International Ms Leather. In 1994 she purchased IMsL from the board and ran the contest 1995-2006. It was under her ownership that the contest grew into the weekend event style we enjoy today. It was also Meek who approached Chuck Renslow, owner of the then co-ed International Bootblack Contest, and convinced him to endorse splitting the contest in two. Creating the International Ms. Bootblack Contest in 1999.
Meek is the first of the IMsL/IMsBB Alumni to pass away. Our hearts go out to each and every reader whose life was made better by this phenomenal woman.
Meek was the first female to judge IML, however, she was so much more than a titleholder. Amy Marie has been described as trailblazer. An out and proud lesbian since the 80’s. She came out in high school amid a climate that was less than ideal or supportive. She was also an activist. Meek was a member of the 1993 March on Washington as well as a rabid backer for the DSM-IV revisions.
Amy Marie was definitely her own person and lived life on her own terms. She was an influence to those who sought out how to be masculine women and have pride in one's self and their community, no matter what community one’s path would take them to. An unorthodox sense of humor, Meek gave hugs that tried to heal the world. Even when she didn’t understand or appreciate a person's view she still loved and encouraged them to follow their heart.
Unapologetic, strong, brave, and troubled, Amy Marie “Bare” Meek was a Leather Icon. Her methods of community involvement made for some legendary battles. But, one thing is for certain, Amy Marie Meek forever changed the leather landscape for all women.
By Brian Conway
Richard "Rich" Dockter, co-owner and producer of Thunder in the Mountains in Denver, CO, passed away unexpectedly on September 20, 2016.
Rich had recently been diagnosed with HPV throat cancer and had been undergoing treatment. Since his diagnosis he had been a advocate for people to get vaccinated against HPV as it is now one of the rising cancers in both men and women.
Rich had been in the the Leather community for over 20 years touching many of people's lives over the years through presenting at events, producing his own event and meeting and greeting complete strangers on the street. He volunteered his services at the Denver Police with Missing Children Department for several years. He later volunteered his time at Hey Denver a local free STD testing facility. Rich always had a knack for striking up and carrying on a conversation with the people he met.
Whenever you would run into him, he would always have a smile and upbeat attitude. Rich was never one to shy away from situations and always lived his life to the fullest. He leaves behind his husband Brian and their four Shar-Pei dogs. He will be missed greatly and has left a hole in the heart of many within the community.
Services will be October 22, 2016 at 12 PM at Horan & McConaty in Denver, CO, followed by a reception at the Tavern DTC.
Jaco Lourens: For those who don’t already know, please tell us about yourself and your connection with the Leather world.
Demetri: I got involved in the Leather community back in the early 90s through a group called the Men of Discipline in New York City. I helped start the chapter in San Francisco, too. But, more recently, I’ve been serving as the Executive Director of Folsom Street Events for the past 11 years, helping to grow the organization and make our events as big and powerful as they can be. I’m married to an amazing man, and we have an adopted son together.
1. Please tell us who got you started in the Leather community and for how long?
Demetri: If it hadn’t been for the Men of Discipline, I probably wouldn’t have been so attracted to the community. Many evenings were spent training and being hosted at The Lure. My involvement has spanned over 20 years now, and it sure does seem like a lot has changed in that time.
2. Which club or bar are you affiliated with and tell us more about the history?
Demetri: I’m not a titleholder so I don’t affiliate with any particular bar or club. As a community leader, I like to make sure that I frequent as many of the bars here in San Francisco as possible. Among my favorites are SF Eagle, Powerhouse, and 440 Castro. There is still a thriving community here, and it’s one of the reasons why I continue to stay involved.
3. Tell us about your charity involvement and goals.
Demetri: Folsom Street Events is a charity. But, on top of that, we donate our net proceeds each year to local and national charities that are doing direct service work – primarily those working in public health, human services, and the arts. Last year, we donated almost $350,000 USD to charity, and over the course of our history, Folsom Street Events has donated over $6.5 million USD to hundreds of charities. It’s one of the primary motivating factors in my job. We all love giving out the charity checks at the end of the year.
4. Tell us about your Leather family.
Demetri: I honestly consider the whole community to be my family. Even though I may not know everyone very well (or at all – yet), I like to think of us as one big, global family. That said, I’m certainly close to some of my former Men of Discipline brothers and there are many folks who frequent the bars with whom I’d consider closer friends.
5. I met you in Chicago, with IML 32, you were one of my judges at the contest, please would you tell us how did you enjoy being a judge, what were your highlight and why should people visit the contest part of the event?
Demetri: Judging was pretty hard for me because I feel like most guys take the contest very seriously (as they should), and everyone has something unique and special to offer. Meeting you was certainly a highlight as I was definitely impressed that South Africa was sending a representative! I’ve been impressed by how our community comes together at events like IML or Folsom Street Fair…or, many of the events that happen all over the world. Our community is stronger when we partake in these events, including contests.
6. If I think Folsom Street Events (San Francisco) I think of you, please would you tell our readers what has made the huge event such a success and what brings people back year after year?
Demetri: There is long and rich history to Folsom Street Fair. It started in 1984 as a small community event called MEGAHOOD. So much has happened in our 30-year history. Honestly, if you’d like to know more about what has led to our successes, I would recommend watching the documentary Folsom Forever by Mike Skiff. He did a fantastic job of summing up what makes San Francisco so special and why this event could only happen here (in the way that it does). At the end of the day, we have an amazing organization of volunteers who make this organization run like clockwork, and our Board of Directors should certainly get more credit for our success.
7. Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
Demetri: Probably my husband and my son at this point. Being a dad is a tremendous source of pride for me, and my husband helps to support me as I make mistakes and try my best to be the best father I can be.
8. In your mind, what does Leather mean to you, and what is the glue that keeps us together?
Demetri: Leather means living honestly and openly. Living proud and supporting one another. I think there is a reason why philanthropy motivates the leather community more than the average LGBT person or person in the general population. We believe that it’s important to come together, stick up for one another, and speak out on behalf of sexual freedom. When we achieve those goals, we are all stronger.
9. South Africa is electing its very first Bootblack title this year, what advice can you give us?
Demetri: Authenticity and passion are the two factors that I always look for in a bootblack. Of course, there is much talent there and so it’s critical to refine your skill as well.
10. If you can be anyone dead or alive (not yourself) who would you be and why?
Demetri: I’m a huge music person, so I’d imagine that the life of Freddie Mercury was quite outrageous and fun – and certainly quite meaningful at the end of the day. I hope he understands how truly influential his life was (and is) on so many LGBT and Leather folks alive today
11. What do you see for the future of Leather in your community and internationally?
Demetri: There has been - and continues to be – so much evolution in our community. Years ago, we were Levi’s, black Leather, and motorcycles. Now, the Leather community is so much more. Fetish has expanded into rubber, uniforms, age and role playing, etc. I think it’s tremendously exciting to see what the future looks like. That said, I do think that our bars and venues are at risk, especially in large urban centers. To me, that means that our job of activating public spaces, like those which take place at street fairs, are all the more important than ever.
12. Tell us what your favorite piece of Leather is and why?
Demetri: My first pair of Leather pants. I got them at Mr. S Leather. And while the waist doesn’t quite fit anymore, there’s no way that I could ever get rid of them; I’d have to find someone to hand them down to. I like the time honored tradition of passing along Leathers.
13. What’s the funniest thing that happened to you in Leather?
Demetri: This would be more rubber than Leather. One of the first times I wore it out in Chicago, I was at a bar and a huge bubble of sweat must have built up along my back. When I turned inadvertently, I swore someone was pissing on me right in the bar. When I realized what had happened, I was pretty embarrassed. But, I also thought it was hilarious.
14. What’s the funniest safe word you ever heard?
Demetri: Barbara Streisand.
15. If you enjoy it, what’s your favorite drink? And design a drink or cocktail that represents you and what would it be called?
Demetri: There is a shot called the Cum Dump (which many people don’t know). It’s mostly Bailey’s with a shot of Fireball in it. It’s actually fun to order it from a bartender or to ask someone if they’d like a Cum Dump.
16. What was the last meal you cooked just for yourself?
Demetri: My husband is a great cook so I’m pretty spoiled at this point. If I cook for myself, it’s usually just heating up something frozen.
17. I have visited San Francisco many times, one of my favorite cities in the world, what five non-touristy things would you show me and why?
Demetri: There are actually some touristy things that are WORTH seeing including Alcatraz (but you have to do the audio tour), Conservatory of Flowers (where I got married) in Golden Gate Park, a walking tour of the Mission or Haight Ashbury (as there’s just so much great history in both neighborhoods), a film at the Castro Theatre, and then Outside Lands which is just a phenomenal music festival.
18. In conclusion, anything you would like to add to this interview for the Leather community around the world?
Demetri: If your travels ever take you to San Francisco, come for our events but stay for all of the other things to do! I feel like we make pretty great hosts. = )
1. For those who don’t already know, please tell us about yourself and what your titles are.
My name is Kj Nichols. It wasn't always Kj. It's the name I chose for myself upon transitioning. It is actually the initials from my birth name as a way to honor my parents and my past while creating my future. After being called Kj since age 19 years old, I sat down with my dad one night at age 29 and we tried figuring out "male" names with the initials Kj. Neither of us liked any. Finally, he looked at me and said, "I like just Kj." It was perfect. I nodded my head and told him that I agreed. My father named me Kj.
I'm proud to represent the Connecticut Leather, Inc. community as Mr. Connecticut Leather 2013, second runner-up at Mid Atlantic 2013 and was blessed as a Top 20 contestant representing the class of 35 at International Mr. Leather 2013.
2. What or who got you started in the Leather community and for how long?
My Leather journey is a very unique one as I began my journey surrounded by Leather dykes and fierce fearless femmes wielding violet wands! The first person to pique my Leather interest was a powerful "born butch" Leatherwoman named Amiee. She wore her gear like a second skin molded to her body. Every step was skillful and deliberate and she oozed this charismatic charm that drew me in like a honey bee. We ended up good friends. You know, like the good good friends you help sand, paint and bolt a St. Andrew's Cross in the spare bedroom when the need arises. Or when living together, the kind of friend whom you can have a "dueling banjo" night as we competed for the loudest play session as we both held separate flogging scenes. I met Amiee when I was 28, I'm 41 now.
When crossing over into the male community, I give credit to my friend Daddy Matt. The kink side of me had been repressed for a while because quite honestly, I had my hands full learning how to respectfully navigate the gay male world as a gay transman. Daddy Matt saw glimpses of the kink and naughtiness when i began to invest myself within the Connecticut community. Over the past four years, his friendship and mentoring made it safe for me to re-explore the kink in me. I keep on telling him that I'm innocent. He's never believed me.
Throughout both realms, my lover of 11-plus years Sean traversed and navigated a very similar path and we have supported each other along the way. He's now on one coast of the US and I'm on the other.
3. Tell us about your Leather family.
For years Sean and Amiee were my Leather family. Amiee was my mentor and Sean was my instigator! Oh the trouble Sean and I would cause (Boston will never be the same for me after an eventful weekend with him!)
As I wrote above, the Connecticut community pulled me out of my shell. The Leather bears who frequented the bear scene that I was hanging with in Connecticut saw me as one of their own. The Leather bears introduced me to the Connecticut Leather scene and this past year, my Leather family has exploded exponentially being in the limelight as a title holder. I now have mentors and friends in so many far off places! The internet and technology are amazing tools to use for staying connected with far reaching family. For example, before running for Ct. Leather, I ended up calling a friend whom I had known for years strictly via social media and talked about his experience as a titleholder. Before IML, I was heading advice from a Daddy in Maryland telling me just to be me. And boy oh boy, AFTER IML? I thank god every day for the technology that allows me to connect daily with my 50 brothers at my fingertips.
The newest branch are two SIRS from Wilton Manors, FL who are becoming important in my life.
I've never had the honor of being collared. I still have hope, and in the meantime I will continue to learn and grow.
4. Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
Most influential, huh? This question is hard for me because the most influential person in my life was also the most damaging person.
My mother taught me about the kind of person that I DO NOT want to be.
I grew up being taught that appearances are what mattered most. If you didn't look, act, talk, walk just like everyone else... If you caused a commotion and drew negative attention towards yourself then you weren't working hard enough. Perfection was the goal. After years of striving for perfection and failing, all I learned was how to effectively fail. It took a while but I finally shifted my focus from perfection to progression. Perfection doesn't even happen in nature and is a myth. PROGRESSION! That was obtainable! One can succeed towards progression. And yes. Sometimes progression is having the courage to pick yourself off of the floor and dusting off your backside and braving it enough to continue forward!
5. In your mind, what’s the biggest misconception of the Trans community?
I think the biggest misconception is also one that a lot of transpersons also share.
There is NO specific roadmap or timeframe on how to "effectively" transition!
Not everyone wants to transition with hormones, or have every medical procedure known to "effectively" transition while others thrive on hormones etc...
Every transperson's life journey is as unique and valid as they are themselves.
Ok, now take out "every transperson's" in the above sentence and replace it with "everyone."
(Everyone's life journey is as unique and valid as they are themselves.)
See? Thinking about it this way makes the trans stuff less exotic.
6. What would you say are the most important strengths to have as a Leather man?
Have honor and earn respect. Be forever ready to learn something new and have heart.
7. What does Leather mean to you?
Once upon a time, Leather was my armor against the world. Being a "freak" of society meant I was more likely to be harassed and bullied. At that time, I wore my gear as protection.
As time progressed, so did my personal definition of Leather. Now, the main meaning of Leather to me is family and community, honor and respect. Of course there is still that element of protection, my Leather family would whoop some buns if someone messed with me. Yet, overall the Leather community's influence on me is focused on encouragement, learning and growth.
Oh and the mind bending good sex. Cannot forget about that!
8. You judged ILSb a little while ago, how was the entire experience and how does the contest differ from IML?
I took on the honor of judging ILSb after some thoughtful consideration.
Last year's controversial issue of ILSb forbidding transmen from competing for International Leather Sir/boy titles, followed by the swift community's disdain and finally the ILSb board's reversal of the decision is still quite fresh in many community member's minds. Some people still feel the sting of the sudden exclusion. Some feel they were forced into inclusion. Ultimately, we are still all reeling from change.
I chose that word purposefully: Change.
Change is learning and people often resist the opportunity to learn because they are ultimately afraid of change. The thing of it is, change will happen whether or not we like it. We ALL have a unique opportunity to learn.
I acknowledged that opportunity and took the honor of judging ILSb to be a part of that opportunity with a very positive intent.
To pass along one of the best piece's of advice I ever received from my father, "It's not the f*** ups that will define you. It's what you do with them!" I am confident that the community will weather this storm and come out stronger on the other side. Not because of any magical powers, but because WE choose to make it so.
IML will always have a place in my heart as a contestant. It is BIG! It's Grandiose! The countless number of men who cruise the host hotel lobby and the vendor-mart will make a Leatherman groan! It's where my Leather family exploded internationally. It's where I found "home" in my brothers' embraces and cheers.
ILSb is a much smaller contest but it is also an incredible, wonderfully intimate contest that boasts an equal amount of Leather heart and brotherhood! I got to spend some quality time hanging out with Leather family whom I haven't seen in ages. I also enjoyed the aspect of being on the other side of the interview table amongst a distinguished panel of judges digging into the minds of the proud men competing to represent the ILSb community for the next year.
The major differences in the competitions is that ILSb is considered a "player's" title and the contestants are required to perform their ideal fantasy on stage which can be surprisingly hot! (boy Gizmo's helped me solidify my affinity to flag gray flannel!)
There is no way that I could compare the two contests and give you a definitive "this one is better" referral. The would be just as pointless as comparing strawberries and blackberries. Both are sweet, sustain the community and need to be in my mouth!
9. You were a contestant, now a judge, what's next for Kj?
Honestly, a lot of my time lately has been concentrated around a particular man whom I affectionately call Mr. Blue Eyes.
I actually met him during my title year but am a little clueless and had no idea that he was hitting on me right while I was in full Leather on the Providence Eagle float before the evening Providence Pride parade in 2013. Luckily, he is a persistent bastard and I found myself sitting across from him in a local restaurant about a year later. Yet once again, my cluelessness reigned supreme. I had no idea I was on a first date until he grabbed and stroked my hand on the table during our meal. He's incredibly sexy, intelligent and wonderfully kinky, yet he is not yet into Leather but supports me on my own Leather journey.
(Notice I said YET! The Higher Powers know that I never imagined that Leather would be this important in my life when I first snapped on a Leather cuff.) I've no doubt that he will come to enjoy and embrace my Leather family as much as I do. He will actually be in Germany during Folsom and I introduced him to my IMP brother, Mr.. Germany Leather Tyrone Rontganger via Facebook. I made sure that I was sending him over to meet Tyrone with his modest amount of gear fully clean and conditioned. I couldn't be there physically, but wanted to make sure that my Leather energy would be close to him on his journey.
As for my personal Leather journey, I will continue to be a part of our community by attending events when I can as long as my bank account allows me to do so. I will still be a part of vivid conversations and will strive to listen to all sides and make informed decisions. I will continue to mentor and be mentored. In short, I will continue to learn and grown in our community. This very evening (September 5th) is the Meet and Greet to this year's Mr. Connecticut Leather 2015 contest and I am beside myself with anticipation to see so many wonderful folks of my local Leather community!
I am also honored to be a part of the speakers panel at the 2014 Trans Out Loud event in NYC sponsored by the Callen-Lorded Community Health Center's Transgender Community Advisory Board discussing dating transmen. I plan on attending in full Leather formals to add my own unique flair to the speakers panel and hope to add kink and Leather relationships to the discussions.
10. What do you see for the future of Leather in your community and internationally?
I'm no longer wearing the legacy Mr. Connecticut Leather sash, but I'm far from walking away from helping the Leather community understand and welcome diversity within its ranks. The easiest way for me to do that is simply being out as a Leather transguy. People fear the unknown. I want to help that by putting a face on a particular issue that can sometimes be challenging. Yet, while I'm concerned with helping foster change, I'm also very adamant about learning the community's past and protocols. I know that I personally challenge people, and we may never see eye to eye. Yet, I try to be very respectful of their position and influence within our community. My community elders fostered the birth of many groups and organizations that have been the backbone of our culture. For this, I personally am forever grateful to them
11. What advice can you give young communities that are embracing people from all backgrounds?
Keep up the good work!
It's really a thankless job because the people you will affect the most will likely be the ones who are too shy, too quiet, too fearful of rejection to step out into our community had it not been for your hard work at welcoming them! This doesn't just pertain to gender outlaws, but also to those into "new" kinks. I once had a friend who identifies as a pup rant to me about how someone told him that his kink as a pup was wrong, that it was just an exuberant version of "boy." Exclusion on any level in the community will be our downfall.
12. Tell us what your favorite piece of Leather is and why?
My most treasured piece are my first set of Leather suspenders. Gorgeous Latigo Leather, wide and thick hardware. Most importantly, they were made for me by Master Harley.
When I was younger, I didn't realize how blessed I was to have an established and talented Leatherwork shop in my tiny New England small town. Back then, I didn't have a lot of money, but I'd find myself drawn to his shop week after week. Walking around touching those cuffs, fingers grazing harnesses, blissfully inhaling the intoxicating scent of Leather that clung to the air. When I finally saved up enough, I immediately went down. He treated me just as royally as if I were buying a full set of formals. Sized me up. Custom fitted them for me. I glorified every time I will make his big burly gray mustache curl up in a smile.
Master Harley's shop is no longer open and I haven't had contact with him in years, yet his professional, sexy, enthusiastic, teasing, and trusting energy courses through those suspenders. Every single time I strap them on I think of how blessed I was to have him as a Leather guide when I was so young.
13. Would you please tell us about your tattoo’s especially the one on your belly?
For years I not only felt I was born in the wrong gender, but I was taught to hate my size. As a kid, I was sent off to fat camp, was teased incessantly about my size by family members, at one point I saw a nutritionist who put me on a 900 calorie diet (less than 1,200 and your body thinks it's starving and actually slows down your metabolism!), and in high school I would eat and then force my finger down my throat.
All of this created an adult version of me that saw myself as unworthy of attention and love.
One day, my friend Amiee tells me that she is getting "Joy" tattooed on her belly. Instantly the words, "I want that!" shot out of my mouth. She wanted it because it was her middle name and her dog's name. I wanted it because I was finally beginning to learn to not hate my body. Before my belly rocker "Joy" tattoo, you'd NEVER see me without my shirt. My "Joy" tattoo taught me to celebrate the things that I used to hate. Now, it's a daily reminder to love myself no matter the size.
Years later, my lover Sean got "Joy" tattooed on HIS tiny belly as a celebration of our years together.
"Joy" still remains my favorite tattoo.
14. What are your favorite hanky colors?
Purple and black plaid flannel.
All on the right.
Red on left (when I'm lucky) or right (when Sean's around).
Is there a hanky for electric play? Maybe I ought to start shoving an extension cord into my left pocket.
15. What’s your favorite drink? And if you could invent a cocktail for the Leather community and what would you call it?
Fave drink? Jameson on the rocks.
A cocktail? I am horrible about mixing cocktails (explains my affinity for Jameson's on the rocks)
16. If you were stranded on an island with only basic needs, which five people would you choose to be stranded with and who would be fed to the hungry sharks first?
First person would be Mr.. Blue Eyes. Obvious reasons. One may not be able to sustain themselves on love alone, but damnit if I am not going to be able to have cable, I definitely want that sexy beast next to me to pass the time away with.
Second person would be Jorge Vieto Jr. That man with his joyous nature and and his talent with ropes would most definitely be a survival plus. (Ok ok, even *I* cannot keep a straight face! Yeah sure... like Jorge's rope skills would be used for "survival")
Third person would be Daddy Matt Kenney assuming that a pallet of Jameson was included as a "basic need." Daddy Matt keeps me balanced. When I am on the verge of freaking out, he pulls me back. When I am too serious, he reminds me to play. He's a great friend and confidant and honestly I see way too little of him as of late. So maybe being stranded on an island with him would give us some needed/overdue quality time!
*Side note* Between daddy Matt and Jorge, I am SURE there would be a sling up in NO time!
Fourth would be Sean Brochin. This man is not only a kinky sexy bugger, but quite honestly he is one of the best cooks I've ever known. He is a proficient gardener and I have literally seen him make a delicious salad out of what I would have identified as weeds. Without him, I would probably eat the wrong mushroom and die within a day.
*Side Note* I would be fighting Sean to be IN previously said sling.
Fifth would be my IML brother Sir Steven Parker. I mean, come on!! who WOULDN'T want to see Sir Steven in just a loincloth?!?
Fed to the Sharks? Probably me. I've a bum ticker already so the electrical impulses of my heart would probably attract them. Unlike Leslie Anderson, sharks scare the ever-lovin-be-jezus outta me!
17. Tell us your favorite song at this moment.
The Blues Brother's version of Sweet Home Chicago.
Every time I listen to it, I cannot help but think of my amazing IML experience.
18. If I had to visit Northampton, Massachusetts for one day, what five places would you show me and why?
Local Burger - best burgers in town and it's all organic.
Michaelson's art gallery - some great art works!
Smith's art gallery -as a comparison in the art collections.
City Hall steps - best people watching/cruising stoop in all the town.
Academy of Music - it's a great old theater, hopefully to watch the Young At Heart Chorus.
19. In conclusion, anything you would like to add to this interview for the Leather community of South Africa?
Thank you for your time an interest in projects such as this one. Every Leatherperson I've met from South Africa has been of a high quality. You're definitely doing something right down there!