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Titles, Sashes, Bashes and CrashesPalm Springs, CA – A very interesting thread hit my inbox a couple weeks ago from the GLPW mailing list. What apparently began as a question regarding Sashes became a discussion about titleholders and I was called out by my brother Gene Romaine (pictured right on the left at the most recent Gear Night at the Cuff courtesy of Graves). Yes, it's true, I am a Leather titleholder. I served my local community as Washington State Mr Leather in 2002. And yes, I wore the Sash that came with that title on exactly three occasions; the night of the contest when I stepped up, the day I marched in the Seattle Pride parade with the Leather contingent, and, finally at the contest a year later when I stepped down. Truth is I don't really like sashes; I find them so pretentious. My title vest, however, I have worn with pride on countless occasions. Even now, eight years later, around this time in March, my title vest comes off the heavy plastic hanger in the closet and put back on my back.

Titles, Sashes, Bashes and CrashesIf you ask anyone who was around back in 2002, I'm sure they would tell you that I had a pretty successful year as Washington State Mr Leather, but that wasn't why my brother Gene called me out. I can tell you it wasn't because I went on to winning an International title either, because I didn't even compete for one. I didn't need another title to do what I needed to do. Instead, I stepped up to serve as a board member for the Washington State Mr|Ms Leather Organization (WSMLO) and eventually became the producer of our annual contest. I serve as Chaplin to the Board of Generic Leather Productions of Washington (GLPW). While I do not currently sit on the board as a member, I have in the past and will undoubtedly do so again. My brother Gene called me out as being, in his words, "a national figure of prominence – even if we disregard his art film career" because I continued to serve after my title year.

Of course, I'm not the only one. Some have gone on to compete in International competitions. Some have not. Some have won and many did not. But there is a common trend associated with Leather titles; they cultivate leaders and facilitate a sense of community.

Gene is an example himself, serving as president of GLPW, the Producer of the Northwest Leather Sir/boy contest, and having served as both a former President of Seattle Men in Leather and a past Treasurer of the Wetspot long after his years as Northwest Drummer in 2001 and Washington State Mr Leather in 2004. And as Gene has pointed out, my brother Odie went on to serve as President of GLPW after his year as Northwest Leather Sir and was a primary contributor to establishing recurring play parties for queer players in the Seattle area. Toby Noon went on the lead Seattle Men in Leather as President after his year as Washington State Mr Leather and is a leading organizer for the largest monthly leather/fetish Gear nights in the Pacific Northwest. Both Lamalani and Hobbit went on the serve as International Ms Leather after their consecutive years as Washington State Ms Leather and have already advanced to their own prominence.

The names that come to mind go on and on, and they are not limited to my own local community either. I recently highlighted the continuing efforts being made by Mike Russell, a past International Leather Sir from 2003 here in this blog. I know from my travels that John Pendal, the International Mr Leather from that same year, continues his service as a writer and presenter. And I have seen the longevity this kind of service can have through the contributions of people like Lenny Broberg who was International Mr Leather 1992 and David Kloss who served as International Mr Leather in 1979.

As I write this, I find it coincidental that I end the above list with the names of two of the men that sat on the judging panel that selected me as Washington State Mr Leather those eight years ago and that I now find myself on panels that are selecting our upcoming leaders. What I don't find coincidental is the fact that the thread that prompted this entry was the result of a question posted by Aubrey Sparks, a most respected elder in our local community just before we began perhaps the kinkiest month in the Pacific Northwest. Anyone who knows Aubrey knows he has a tendency to spark thoughtful conversation at the most relevant of times.

Titles, Sashes, Bashes and CrashesThis coming weekend, GLPW will be hosting Northwest Sash Bash 2010 in Seattle, WA from Friday, March 5th through Sunday, March 7th. This annual event celebrating the work of our titleholders bounces back and forth between Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. Over the years this event has evolved and grown to become one of the most enjoyable excuses to bring the community together. This year the weekend will offer a variety of events including workshops and discussion groups, play parties, an evening of Leather fantasy performances, and a kinky pajama party co-hosted by Seattle’s Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Titles, Sashes, Bashes and CrashesThen over the weekend of Friday, March 19th through Sunday, March 21st Portland Leather Alliance proudly presents KinkFest in Portland, OR. This year an entire hotel will be taken over to party the weekend away with your fellow kinksters. With presentations, workshops, vendors and the biggest, badest, best equipped dungeon space the region has ever seen, KinkFest is a must attend event. Would anyone care to venture a guess as to the number of former Leather titleholders are involved in organizing, presenting at or otherwise volunteering to make this event happen?

Finally, the month concludes with the 18th Annual Washington State Leather Pride Week and the 2010 Washington State Mr|Ms Leather Contest presented by WSMLO. The contest weekend includes our Meet & Greet at Dog House Leathers in the evening on Friday, March 26th, the contest on Saturday, March 27th and Annual Victory Brunch, Memorial & Awards Ceremony in conjunction with Generic Leather Productions of Washington, Seattle Men in Leather, Seattle Women in Leather and the Seattle Boys of Leather on Sunday, March 28th both at the Cuff Complex.

Are Leather titles still relevant? I say, yes. So long as Leather title contests serve to bring our communities together with a sense of history and tradition; so long as there are still some titleholders who aspire to leadership roles within those communities; so long as there are those who are willing to mentor them into those roles, then Leather titles are still relevant.