Tuesday, July 29, 2014

International Ms. Leather 2014 - April 24-27

As part of my package for winning Ms. SF Leather, I was lucky enough to receive a free pass to attend International Ms. Leather (IMsL) 2014, which was held April 24-27 in San Jose, CA.

At this event, IMsL (International Ms. Leather) and IMsBB (International Ms. Bootblack) are selected.  It's in effect a pageant, but it's so much more. IMsL is a four-day BDSM convention, with educational workshops, bootblacking, large events in the ballroom every evening, including the contest on Saturday night, a hospitality suite hosted by various clubs and organizations throughout the event, and 24-hour play spaces for all genders. I consider IMsL to be a woman-centered event that is open to everyone, with the majority of attendees somewhere on the queer spectrum. I have attended IMsL for six of the last seven years, pretty much since the event started being held in the Bay Area, and I have always had a great time. 

In the past, I volunteered for IMsL many of the years I have attended. Whether I had a formal role, such as assisting the education chief (as I did twice), or just working a shift here and there, volunteering was a good way to feel useful at the event, to meet people, and to reduce the cost of attending.  As the current Ms. SF Leather, I had a free package and did not *need* to volunteer.  So, since I am planning to compete in the event next year, and expect to be very busy, I decided to dedicate this weekend as much as possible to the pursuit of FUN. Other than representing my title in the titleholders' parade, I had only one real obligation, which was to assist with the hospitality suite on Saturday afternoon that The Exiles and Ms SF Leather organizations co-hosted, so there was plenty of time for fun! Here's some of what I did over the weekend...
  • Thursday.  Attended the Thursday evening Seduction event, and then went to the play space, where I had an appointment. What happens in the play space stays in the play space! Sorry, but you just had to be there.
  • Friday. Hung out with friends. Went to class. Visited the hospitality suite. Attended the opening ceremonies, where I carried the Union Jack in the parade of flags of countries represented at the event, and represented my title in my sash.  Went back to the play space, where I had another appointment. Went back up to the hospitality suite, where a party was going on. Enjoyed the party, spent time talking with old friends and meeting new ones. Ran into a friend there, and we went down to the play space for some more fun.
  • Saturday. Took some time out from IMsL to go to services at the local synagogue. Got back in time to assist with the Exiles and Ms SF Leather hospitality suite. Had my picture taken with IMsL 1999, Pam Meyer.
    Later, I went to the contest, got photographed with IMsL 2007, Lauren Ide, 
    and watched the contestants' speeches and fantasies.  Here I am with IMsBB 2014 (and Oregon State Bootblack 2013) Dara, right after the winners were announced,
    and here I am with IMsL 2014 (and Ms. Leather Toronto 2013) Patty, later on at an informal party for the winners and all the contestants. 
  • Sunday. Attended the keynote brunch.  Here I am there with Ms SF Leather 2012, and first runner-up for IMsL 2014, Nerine Mechanique.
    Originally, renowned trans activist Kate Bornstein was scheduled to deliver the keynote, and to be one of the contest judges, but because of health issues she could not attend. Author, storyteller and educator S. Bear Bergman was drafted in her place.  His speech was wonderful. (I am sure he was a great judge as well! I say this because the winners are both doing great jobs as I write this.) Later that day I managed to get back into the play space with a friend. Then, during the evening, I went to Bawdy Storytelling to hear people tell funny and sexy true stories.  This time the (curated) Bawdy Stories were joined by a Bawdy Slam where you could put your name in a hat to tell a story.  I almost hurt myself laughing at Laura Antoniou's hilarious story about a porn slam, and then as part of the Bawdy Slam I got to tell my own true story entitled "Turkey is not a Vegetable".  I also got to buy signed copies of Laura Antoniou's book "The Killer Wore Leather" and several of S. Bear Bergman's books. I went back into the play space with my wife, who made time in her busy schedule to hang out with me. Finally, she and I sat in the hospitality suite and chilled out with some of our friends until it was time to go to sleep.
  • Monday.  Had to leave!  Sad face.  Can't wait until next year!
If you have read this far, you will have seen that I spent a lot of time in the play space. What I didn't mention directly is how much I enjoyed a whole weekend of being in the company of old friends and new, talking, eating together, hanging out by the pool, schmoozing, cruising, catching up, swapping stories, and just being together, in community. I feel at home at IMsL. I feel like I am with my tribe. 

My thanks to the producers and staff who put this event together. This year we had new producers, and from my point of view as an attendee, they really hit the ground running. I am looking forward to a fantastic IMsL 2015. 

This was just a brief report on the event.  As I alluded to earlier, for some things you just have to be there. So, be there! Mark your calendars for April 9-12, 2015. Don't miss it!

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