New Ms. San Francisco Leather Chosen
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One of the wonderful things about the San Francisco Bay Area leather and kink communities is that women are generally better represented than in many other areas of the country. One of the biggest events of the year for local leather women is the Ms. San Francisco Leather contest, held on Saturday, January 13, 2018, at SOMArts Cultural Center.
Sadly, I was out of town, but thanks to Val Langmuir, Ms. SF Leather 2013, and my other proxy scouts, I'm able to do adequate justice to reporting on this event.
Before discussing the contest though, I asked a few past Ms. SF Leather titleholders for their thoughts about the state of the local and national women's leather and kink communities, what issues are currently at the forefront, what successes they have seen lately, and what might these communities do to continue to grow and thrive. Here are some of their responses.
Queen Cougar, Ms. SF Leather 1993, mentioned that many of the issues plaguing society, such as financial stresses, rising suicide rates, homelessness, and the downsides of social media overexposure that sometimes diminishes civility, manners and respect, are also impacting the women's communities.
On the upside, Cougar feels that today young women are increasingly empowered to position themselves in various leather environments to pursue what interests them, and trans women are also being taken more seriously.
Stela Furtado, Ms. SF Leather 2016, feels these communities are growing and looking for ways to be recognized. She would like to see more men genuinely embracing their leather sisters. Echoing Cougar's comment on financial challenges, Furtado agrees that economic hardship is still a top issue facing women
Nerine Mechanique, Ms. San Francisco Leather 2012, offered this about where the women's scene is at these days. "In the Bay Area, I am glad to see groups - especially femme-led ones - continue to have meet-ups and play parties that thrive in a city that has much of its conversation and otherwise positive energy clouded by some of the stressful hot topics of today."
For the record, what Mechanique alludes to is something I'm hearing increasingly across the leather gender spectrum, not just in the women's communities. So often someone will extol some wonderful aspect of our scene, only to immediately feel obligated to counter with their frustrations and anger at the increasing levels of drama and disagreement. I'm not sure what's the answer to this trend, but I sure hope we can figure something out.
Langmuir, Ms. SF Leather 2013, brought up something I also hear a lot, especially from non-gay male sectors. "One of the most important issues facing the women's kink and leather communities is what is the definition of 'women's space' today in a world that goes beyond the gender binary, and how does the changing definition affect us? We are clear that trans women are women. That part finally seems easy. But what about the inclusion of non-binary folks?"
Again, this is also something I hear often, especially from non-gay male sectors of the scene, but as with the drama and disagreement issue, I don't have a good answer for it except to continue to bang the drum for striking a balance between inclusion and giving each group their own space. This appears to be one of the trickier problems our scene now faces.
Before the contest itself took place, there was a casual meet and greet gathering emceed by Langmuir at the SF Eagle on Friday, January 12. This gave people a chance to meet the contestants and judges while mingling with other leatherfolk and kinksters in a relaxed social atmosphere. Contestants also sold raffle tickets.
The following Saturday night was the main event, the Ms. SF Leather contest. The glamorous and sexy Mechanique emceed as two great contestants, Haley and Teena, vied for the title.
Judges for the contest this year were: Vick Germany, SF Dyke Daddy 2002 (Head Judge); Leigh Ann, Ms. Santa Clara County Leather 2018; Geoff Millard, Mr. San Francisco Leather 2017; Tracy Wolf, Women's International Leather Legacy 2011; Ms. V, International Ms. Bootblack 2007; Queen Cougar; and girl kim, SF Dyke Grrl 2002.
Earlier that day each contestant faced an interview with the judging panel. During the evening event, each contestant performed a three-minute fantasy, gave a 90-second speech in formal wear, and answered a pop question wearing bar wear. Mechanique made answering the pop question task more difficult by asking the questions dressed as a plush robot.
Additional entertainment was provided by Peppermint Furiosa who performed a hot opening dance number, and Mya Byrne & the Something Extra, a three-piece band who rocked the house with an original song after intermission.
While the audience waited for the scores to be tallied, Daddy Sal Hopkins, the new executive producer, thanked outgoing producers Liza, Jody and Ms. Cat for their service and hard work, and outgoing titleholder Azalea gave a heartfelt and moving speech, taking us through some highlights from her year. During Azalea's speech she called on us to do the work, to be part of the resistance, and to remember to lift each other up.
Other highlights of the evening included a live auction of contestants' baskets by auctioneer Langmuir, ably assisted by the contestants who brandished their basket items and encouraged the audience to bid up. There was a presentation of colors with "America the Beautiful" sung by Rio Spooner, accompanied by the audience. The color guard walked in to bagpipe music, and departed to an instrumental version of "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
At the end of the evening, Haley was declared the winner, Ms. SF Leather 2018.
The contest was well-attended by a great cross-section of the community. Many contestants for Mr. SF Leather 2018 (including Stephan Ferris, Mr. Friendly Leather 2018; Colton Long, Mr. SF Eagle Leather 2018; Spencer Adam, Mr. Powerhouse Leather 2018; Austin James, Mr. Daddy's Barbershop Leather 2018; and Ken Berard, Mr. SF Sober Leather 2018) were in attendance, and were among the first to congratulate Haley on her new title.
The Friday meet and greet raffle, the Saturday live basket auction, and a silent auction on Saturday combined to raise more than $2000 for the titleholder travel fund. The beneficiaries of the contest net proceeds were The Carter Johnson Library and The Women's Leather History Project.
The Ms. San Francisco Leather production organization made it a point to tell me they thank their sponsors including the SF Bay Area Leather Alliance (fiscal sponsor), Folsom Street Events (platinum sponsor), Northwest Leather Celebration (gold sponsor), SOMArts (venue sponsor), Mr. S Leather, The Exiles, and Wicked Grounds.
Congratulations, Haley. May your title year be a fun one.
Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. You can reach him at: www.bannon.com