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PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLANDAfter spending six hours in relentless traffic in a car with an engine on the brink of overheating and without any air conditioning to drive to a place that is supposedly three hours away, the last thing I wanted was to put on leather. But when I arrived in Providence several hours behind schedule, that was exactly what I had to do: squeeze my perspiring self into a black and red leather corset, leather skirt, and lace-up knee-high boots and walk onstage to emcee the 2001 Ocean State Leather Contest.
You may be thinking: a leather contest in Rhode Island? How many leatherpeople can there be in the smallest state in the country? The answer is plenty, and what they lack in numbers, they more than make up for in passion. The Ocean State Leather Contest is much like other competitions around the country, from New Jersey to New Mexico. Local members of the s/m community vie to earn the title of Mr. Ocean State Leather (for men), Ms. Ocean State Leather (for women), or Ocean State Leatherboy (who, incidentally, can be of any gender, since being a boy in the world of dominance and submission is more a state of mind than a set of chromosomes). The contest is also a fundraiser for Enforcers RI (www.mindspring.com/enforcersri/), the gay and lesbian leather organization that produces the event and donates all proceeds to local AIDS groups.
All contestants are interviewed by a panel of judges, perform a fantasy onstage, and model their best full leather, "hotwear," and "cruisewear" (which has nothing to do with kinky shuffleboard on the lido deck of The Love Boatthink cruise as in cruising for a hot daddy, a submissive girl, or whatever turns you on). Before you start picturing a shallow, Miss America-style popularity race about who is the best looking or has the flashiest outfits, let me assure you that leather contests have a rich history among s/m folk, as they promote leadership and service in the community, and as such are taken very seriously. Winners go on to perform various tasks throughout the year, including judging other local competitions and representing Rhode Island at American Brotherhood Weekend, a national contest which crowns its own American Leatherwoman, Leatherman, and Leatherboy.
For such a small community, I was impressed with the ambitious production of a two-night contest and struck by how closely queer men and women worked together to make it happen. Meeting former and current title holders from places as close as Boston and as far as Denver, as well as this year's contestants, gave me an overwhelming sense of how being accepted by a community really does change people, inspiring them to give back and serve as role models for the next generation of leatherpeople.
I, too, felt compelled to give something to this vibrant community. As my co-host and I were encouraging people to buy raffle tickets as part of the fundraising efforts, I got the idea that I would auction off my panties. (Well, it was for a good cause, after all.) I started the bidding at a modest $10, and pretty soon the price for the small piece of fabric covering my pussy and ass was up to $100. Needless to say, I was a little surprised. Then came questions from the potential bidders. How long had I been wearing them? Since about 10 that morning, with plenty of sweating (remember all that traffic? Well, it made my pussy pretty ripe). Could the winner not only have the panties but take them off me? Sure. One zealous leatherfag generously shouted out, "One-fifty!" and I was beginning to think that he'd be the one to walk away with my pussy-juiced panties. But the dykes in the crowd pulled through, pooling their resources rather than bidding against each other, and came up with $200. Then a pack of themincluding a broad-shouldered woman with a buzz cut, a boyish blond in head-to-toe leather, and a cute butch in a naval uniformjumped onstage, seductively lifted my leather miniskirt, slipped off the satiny black Victoria's Secret bikinis, and then exited to cut them up for souvenirs. I was more than happy to surrender my panties to a bunch of dykes for charity.
By the time the next night rolled around, I eagerly slithered into a supertight pair of leather pants (sans panties this time); by then, emceeing seemed like a piece of cake next to watching contestants work their butts off. Every time I looked backstage, there was a flurry of leather jockstraps, chaps, and bizarre props (including a box of Dunkin' Donuts and a Star Wars light saber) for the fantasy segment of the competition. For her fantasy, one woman transformed herself from a junk-food-eating housewife in curlers into a whip-toting dominatrix. One of the boy contestants began her fantasy being pushed around by a top in a military scenario, which transformed into a playful romp with children's toys used as s/m implements. Her excitement was infectious, and she was rewarded with the Leatherboy title.
After leather sashes were draped on all the winners, a surprise guest arrived to make a brief speech: Providence mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci Jr. Never in a million years would Giuliani even consider showing up to a leather contest to support the queer community, let alone be as gracious as Mayor Cianci was. A staunch supporter of the community (racketeering, schmacketeering, his recent indictment has yet to overshadow his gay-positive attitude), the mayor used the word "transgendered" so many times that I wanted to marry him. He giddily asked if one of the drag queens (B.B. Hayes, who performed earlier in the evening) would do a special number for him, and she obliged. When the clock struck 2 a.m., everyone headed to a local club for an after-party of s/m play. I thought New York was the city that never sleeps. I could barely keep my eyes open, but couldn't resist watching some hot scenes to finish off the weekend. The folks in Providence really know how to show a leathergirl a good time.
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