Master Rick Dunham’s Endnote Speach
LeatheratiFollowMar 4, 2014
Master Rick Dunham
As we left the event last year and Colin Sir invited us back, he said that, if they were able to do some of what the board was thinking, this year would be would be “controversial”. But I have to say, other that turning me loose up here with a microphone, from my perspective what you’ve done this year is to be applauded as great ways to honor all of our Leather Roots. So I guess that leaves it to me with this opportunity to be at least a little controversial. I believe a Keynote speech is supposed to be relevant to the event and it’s attendees, and is supposed to give everyone some things to think about. And Endnote speech should be, well, relevant to the event and it’s attendees, and should send you all away with some things to think about until next time. Sometimes that means part of what gets said may not be exactly what everyone wants to hear, but hey…
So that said, I’d like to really start off by telling you all we are very pleased to have been invited back here for this, the third Iteration of BOLD, the event’s Leather Anniversary and in the tradition of themed anniversaries, celebrating “Our Leather Roots”. Some might question the idea of a 3-year-old event having “Our Leather Roots” as a theme, but it seems to me, at least from some of the things I’ve observed here this year, the theme isn’t about BOLD’s Leather roots, it’s about “OUR” Leather Roots, you all out there, the attendees, we presenters, the producers, everyone here. The people, from the long-time Leather identified, to new people just finding this evolving culture called “Leather”, and wondering if there is something there for them.
Three years ago we were contacted, really right out of the blue, and asked if we’d consider coming down here the first BOLD to present. Now we’d never heard of the Monarchs, we knew absolutely no one involved in the event, and what information we found was about this whole Male Dominant Het Leather focused thing, something new for an event as far as we had seen, maybe something even a bit BOLD. As the event got more promotion and notice, we heard some rumbling and grumblings, some wondering and speculation on the event. You know, the occasional sort of gentle inquiry as to why we’d agreed to present at “that event”. I mean, here we were, pretty well known as that Het/monogamous couple that had come up in Leather as much attending and associating with Gay and Lesbian leather people and events as anywhere else.
Even early on as part of our own growth and journey in Leather, and particularly in our title holding years and since, we’ve spent a lot of time not just trying to have some small part in building bridges between the various segments of the leather community, but we’ve actively tried to walk across those bridges, hand in hand, to experience and learn from the Leather people we encountered regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Our maybe somewhat uncomplicated, maybe even through “Rose Colored Glasses” view was that the Leather Community was to us, just that, the Leather Community, and it has never mattered what gender Leather Folk are or what sexual orientation they might subscribe to, they are Leather-Identified and that’s what resonated with us.
So why would we even chance risking our reputation presenting at an event that “some people heard” was not “community inclusive”, an event that was “rumored” to be presented or produced by an organization that appeared separatist, we even heard the word misogynists, remember that word, it’ll come up again a bit later.
Well the first person I contacted to sort of check out what the local overall Leather Community view of this new event and these MDHL people might be was a Leather man whose opinion I respect, and whose integrity I felt was unquestioned. We made a call, and Guy Baldwin told us he actually knew some of the people involved in the event. He suggested we might not want to buy too much into rumor, and encouraged us to make the trip, saying we really should come on down and both see and decide for ourselves.
So we did, and what did we find on getting here? A bunch of people doing something new? Yup, the event had a very Het-Centric feel overall, but there was this core bunch of people who seemed genuinely exploring the idea of a more open and active Het-involved Leather community, maybe even some folk exhibiting an interest in becoming not just part of, but actively participating in the larger Leather community. We saw panel discussions and presentations on Leather culture and defining what Male Dominant Het Leather might look like, and when I put my hand up, then stood in that panel discussion and commented briefly that Leather as a culture has been around a long time in the gay and lesbian communities, that it already had a rich history, and is pretty well defined by generations of out and proud leather people, we saw a willingness of those sitting on the panel to listen to us outsiders. Then, in our travels over the next year, we started recognizing people we’d met at BOLD, running into them while attending other Leather and M/s events across the country, events that were not “Het Oriented”, but rather well-established, community Leather events. And now we are seeing MDHL focused MAsT chapters opening, a participation in an organization that has always had a diverse and broad based membership.
After experiencing that first year we were asked to return, and we saw more inclusiveness in this MDHL event that second year, a queer friendly BOI-identified Bootblack on the presenter list doing a class on Leather Care, and a Keynote address by a man who is a regular presenter and board member for the Butchmann’s Experience, a Leather and M/s educational and service organization as well known for it’s all men and all women intensives as it is for Pansexual events. Now this year you kicked off the event by hosting the local opening of the Carter Johnson Leather Library, and not only promoting an amazingly relevant Leather History of Los Angeles presentation headlining two nationally renowned and respected Gay Leathermen, but opening it to the entire community.
Earlier I said “from my perspective”, but I should really say from our perspective. Understand, slave Tina and I came up thru Leather, finding our way into this culture and this community that so resonates with us, mostly thru events and organizations that were primarily Gay or Lesbian Leather oriented, along with some Pan-sexual BDSM events out here on the Left Coast where a smattering of Leather people, with some common leather ethics and ideals, could be found floating around in the exciting mix of BDSM players, kinky folk of every orientation, and classes on flogging, caning, electric play, and lots of other fun things. It was also in these arenas, Gay, Lesbian, and Pan-sexual, that we found our own even more narrowly focused involvement in an authority based Master/slave relationship not only recognized, but generally accepted as a viable way to conduct a healthy relationship. This sense of community, and having it be our great good fortune to become friends with, maybe adopted by, and eventually becoming a part of an amazing Leather Family with some of the very people this whole community can look upon as part of our Leather Roots, has been the environment that has nurtured us in our journey so far.
But how could that association with those communities, even exposure to those amazing people, be enough to give this pair of Het outsiders a real foundation in the leather culture? How could a kinky Het couple find our way through the dark guarded passages that lead to discovering Leather as a lifestyle. Well, maybe we came across a copy of the “secret book”. You know…(Holding up a worn black leather bound book)…“The Book” you’ve all heard whispers about, bound in worn, cracked black leather, a St Andrews Cross embossed on the front. The ancient and venerated Old Guard Leather Bible, authored in a centuries old European Leather Household, scribed by hand using a the sharpened end of an English Boarding School’s rattan cane dipped in ink made by combination the blood and the tears of 1000 willing slaves. Hmm (opening cover), autographed by Guy Baldwin, this must be just a copy, it says here, “property of the ancient archives of the San Francisco Council of Elders. Failure to return to Library may result in fine up to and including revocation of your Domly Dom card”. Uh well…Nope…it doesn’t exist.
We, along with many of you out there found our way to Leather by seeking it out, stepping outside of our boxes, our closets so to speak, going to the places where people of this culture gathered, played, and socialized. Many of us were already somewhere on a parallel path by experimenting with looking into, or as with us, already living in a form of 24/7 M/s or D/s type relationship. And where were we able to find a whole new level of acceptance of our relationship models? From leather bars, to Leather events, Gay, Lesbian, and Pansexual, where sometimes we were at first outsiders, generally a minority, but always allowed, and welcomed. Het folk from San Francisco who went to men’s or woman’s parties and play spaces not to get laid, but to get involved in the culture, to get exposed to, and to explore the Leather ethics and associations that resonated with them and were more openly and freely practiced in those places.
We’ve came to Leather by investing a significant part of our lives, our time, and by basic hard work and involvement. Like your own Don Sir who was one of the very few Het men to ever run for International Mr. Leather, definitely a BOLD step to undertake as part of his own Leather Journey. He called the experience difficult to describe, but crucial to his leather journey and identity, stating that “While IML is a gay-centric event, the rituals I observed and participated in resonated so very deeply with me, all borders and boundaries separating het from gay, top from bottom, even Master from slave dissolved and only leather remained amongst me and my brethren. Well said Don.
But now, particularly in the past couple of years, we’re seeing a huge interest from Het people in aspects of our lifestyle. Particularly in the kink, BDSM play and even the authority-based relationship areas. And they DO have a book, in fact they have Three of them…(hold up 50 Shades of Grey) Many people are seeing this as somehow related to how real people interact in our culture, and many of those will look to the M/s, D/s, BDSM, and Leather communities as everything from a way to find a romantic fantasy, to a place to just to get an occasional kinky thrill or two, to a new arena to prowl looking for opportunities. And they are showing up every day, at all kinds of events, play spaces, munches and every other kink, swing, and Leather venue around. The vast majority will take a peek in the door, look around a bit, and just not do much else. Some few will stick around, give some aspects of the play and maybe even take a shot at a Dominant or Submissive relationship, and then will drift back to Vanilladom.
But some very few will stay, and some fewer still will see the realities of our community, what we do, how many of us now conduct our lives, and they will find things there that just click with them, some of that few will start on their own journeys in seeking a positive Leather lifestyle.
Unfortunately some others will stay as well. The unethical, the predatory who will be attracted to a society that practices and celebrates authority-based relationship models. Abusers, who might look at our culture as potential fertile grounds, a target rich environment for locating victims. Some might view a segment of our culture that celebrates Male authority over female as an environment where the abuser or the misogynist (told you we’d hear that word again) can roam and exercise their will camouflaged in the guise of Male Dom, in a Male Dom female submissive environment. In a recent interview with Leatherati’s Loren Berthelsen, Colin Sir addressed this stating “A misogynist can arrive at BOLD a misogynist and leave a misogynist. We can’t change that. All we can do is give them the opportunity to change.”
In that statement Colin was speaking specifically about BOLD and what it can do, and he’s right. BOLD, a 3 day event, has neither the time nor the ability to affect change like that in someone. He is also right in that Bold can be an opportunity to let that person looking in see some examples of healthy and strong relationships at work, and maybe take a few seminars on how it can happen. But that’s all anyone can expect of a single event. So to BOLD I say he’s right, but BOLD is just one weekend a year, and while having certainly been a catalyst to the MDHL movement, BOLD is still only a portion of the growing MDHL representation of this community. And to that larger MDHL representation, and to our community as a whole, I have to say “that’s just not good enough.” We don’t want our relationships, our lifestyle, or ourselves painted with the same brush as the Arial Castros or the Gerald Gallegos of the world. We don’t want to see headlines of arrests made for outrageously abusive and egregiously violent behaviors towards women, and then read all about the perpetrators trying to justify these behaviors by claiming participation in, or associations with our community, with us.
This MDHL movement as an out and proud representation of the Het Leather community is still new, fresh. It is growing by the day, and still finding it’s way. And those of you right out there this evening who have cowboyed-up right here and made this event happen have taken huge steps in the leadership of, and in influencing the MDHL movement towards inclusiveness and community. The folks that have formed these new MDHL MAsT chapters that are springing up have also stepped up, as will those looking to do so in the future. And it’s here and in the future where all of you will get to discover an absolute truism, you leaders who have stepped up and put yourselves out there as examples. And that truism is that “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”. All these new Het folk coming in to explore MDHL and Leather as a lifestyle, joining these new MAsT chapters, and going to events of every kind, will be looking to you for inspiration, for guidance, and for advice. They will be watching you, those that are already recognized as leaders in this community, looking to you for examples of how to live this lifestyle we’ve chosen with integrity, to be for them the ideals of tradition, order, honor and respect that will not only guide them, but help foster a healthy Het leather community for the future. And that, people, is one of the ways we can “change that”.
Today when I look back on my Leather Roots, I see events that celebrated the diversity of our leather community. I see personal experiences, like The Black and Blue Express, spending a week crossing the country by train with Guy Baldwin and a few other close leather friends, relaxing in the observation car watching the country go by, spending a lay-over day as a group checking out the Seattle Pike Place, getting my ass handed to me playing Gin with friend Guy, but then every evening, we’d make one group reservation, and we all wore leather to the dining car and made dinner a nightly celebration and reminder of who we are and the company we were with.
I recall our being asked to present at Leather Levi Week-end, then seeing we were one of two Het couples at the entire event, yet feeling as comfortable as we would be in any venue anywhere, surrounded by Leather folk. Being asked to present at International Ms Leather, then being honored to be asked back to serve as a contest Judge. Finding friends in so many people from so many segments of this community, seeing that we share acres and acres of common ground while our differences are really few.
I remember so many people and times that inspired, and continue to inspire me to grow as a Leather Man and as a Master. Friends of all genders and orientations that have, by example, advice, and communal support, helped me keep my feet on the path, and I see my Leather Brother Patrick Mulcahey who has been there more than once to pick me up if I start to stumble and has been there for me and my slave when we really needed the emotional support only family can provide. I look at him and see the Master I want to be when I grow up. I am thankful, and count myself and my slave as rarely fortunate to have found ourselves part of our small Leather Family with Patrick and Ms Rhonda, and their slaves little patrick and tomo. It’s not just community, it’s also family, their love and support that not only keep our Leather Roots grounded, but feed and nurture them as well.
Finally, with that, I’d like to leave you with one further thought. It is my fervent hope that as time passes we will see more and even larger events like BOLD. Events and people that will celebrate and defend the diversity of our community with the same fervor and fierceness with which they celebrate and defend their own individuality. I hope we will see an even far more significant representation of “out and proud” Het Leather identified people being even more active and involved in the greater leather community all across the country. And when we see these new people, not if we see them, growing into their own as the years pass, I am sure that many of those out and proud Leather men and woman will look back on their journeys of discovery, and learning, and growing, and they will remember. They will remember these early BOLD events, and the influence of many of you people, you people right out there this evening, as being both influential in their lives and an being an important part of their Leather Roots.