Journeying Toward Pride

June will be here soon, and with it come both Twin Cities Pride and Minnesota Leather Pride. My usual Pride warm-up is the International Mr. Leather (IML) Contest year in Chicago on Memorial Day weekend. This year, however, I started thinking about Pride earlier than usual.

During the Creating Change conference in February in Minneapolis, I attended an all-day workshop, “Mapping Your Desire,” in which each participant made a map of his or her personal sexual/erotic/romantic “desire journey.” We noted significant mileposts as a way of figuring out where next we wanted our desire journey to take us.

My conclusion: I like where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to say that.

Then, at the recent Leather Leadership Conference in Los Angeles, one of the keynote speakers noted the importance of pride as an antidote to shame about being different—and all that comes with it, including hiding, self-loathing, bullying behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, abusive relationships, unsafe sex, and suicide.

The following weekend, leatherwomen (and everyone who loves them) proudly celebrated the 25th anniversary of the International Ms Leather (IMsL) Contest in San Francisco. Sara Vibes, who was named IMsL 2011, hopes to use the title to, in her words, “rip the veil off the shame surrounding sex and sexuality.”

Now, in a few weeks it will be time for IML 2010, Tyler McCormick, to turn the title over to his successor.

Both the IML and IMsL weekends are loud, proud parties with no excuses and no apologies. For members of the leather/BDSM/fetish community, they are celebrations of who we are and how we love.

Every year, these events spotlight contestants from around the world who come to Chicago (IML) or San Francisco (IMsL) to stand onstage as proud leathermen and leatherwomen.

Each contestant has been on a path of overcoming shame about being different, and replacing it with pride in who he or she is.

The chance to stand onstage, and proudly say, “This is who I am,” is a significant milepost on their desire journeys. At IML and IMsL, we celebrate their journeys toward pride, and each of our own journeys as well.

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