Ramien Pierre, International Mr. Leather 2014[/caption] Growing up gay isn’t easy Growing up in leather is even harder We’ve come a long way But we have a lot further to go. Whether in leather or lace Whether in white collar or blue We need to talk to each other To try to understand each other To work together To strengthen the bonds we have already fashioned If we use our god-given gifts: Our intellects to know what is right Our wills to do what is right with compassion and love We better ourselves And the world around us. As International Mr. Leather I hope to bring all minorities together In the brotherhood we share Those words aren’t mine. They are the words of Ron Moore, and he said them in 1984 as his contestant speech for IML. Ron Moore was the first black man to win the IML title. Let me give you the history of black IMLs. Don’t worry. It won’t take long Ron Moore was came to IML in 1984 as Mr. Leather Colorado. The second black man to receive the title was Dee Cannon who came to IML in 1991 as Mr. CC of Palm Springs. Then there’s me. That’s it. History lesson over. Ron made his transition from this Earth in 1997. Dee’s whereabouts are unknown. And that is why on Tuesday I am petitioning for federal protection as endangered species. I want to ensure that future generations of perverts will be able to enjoy me via educational field trips to my holding compound — the Tom of Finland House. Because Black IML Lives Matter. IMLs in general need your support. As titleholders we are by definition delicate and precious flowers. I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of support this year. I have the best partner/boyfriend/barber — Kudjo Tankhead Onyx Brown … or whatever his Facebook name is today. I’ve had the support of the best bar in the world — the DC Eagle. The DC Eagle is back, and though the construction isn’t complete, the Deathstar is fully operational. I’ve had the support of my clubs. I’m an Associate Member of La Garou, a club for leather transmen. They throw a great CampOUT run in July where you are 100% guaranteed NOT to be bitten by spiders. I’m also member of ONYX and I want to give them a shout out. I’m sure they are in the house, out there in the inky shadows. Who am I kidding? As a fraternity for leathermen of color they ARE the inky shadows. I’ve had the support of an amazing sash family. Scout MY International Mr. Bootlback. Grumpy or no, you are mine and I love you. Patty Patty — an IMsL so nice they named her twice. And Dara who apparently had better things to do this weekend. And I couldn’t have done this year without the IML staff and volunteers. These folks have all be looking after me all year, and it’s been my privilege to hold this title for a year and return it in as good as condition as I found it. Truly, it’s been a privilege. Privilege has been getting a bad reputation recently. And as the sum total of all IML blackness on this planet I want to say something about it. I first learned about privilege when I read Dr. Peggy McIntosh’s essay “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. It’s a piece she wrote in 1988 where she talked about the unearned privileges she had as an American, white woman. In the late ’90s I had the opportunity to work with Dr. McIntosh on a project and she told me why privilege often gets a bad reputation. She said that for most of us, our first awareness of privilege is an unpleasant experience. Either we realize we have it and someone else doesn’t and as a result we feel guilty. Or we realize that we don’t have it and someone else does so we feel resentful and frustrated. Another person who worked on that same project was Lorene Cary who wrote the book “Black Ice” about her experience as a working class kid attending a prestigious East Coast boarding school — something that she and I have in common. Lorene told me that yes, there is no privilege without responsibility, but that the first responsibility of people with privilege is to enjoy their privilege. To enjoy it. And that’s what I did this title year. I’ve been enjoying my IML privilege. I’ve used it to travel across this country and across three continents. I’ve used it to learn important cultural international phrases. I can say “thank you” in Italian. I can say “on your knees” in German. And I can say, “I will perform sexual favors for baked goods” in French. Because I have a sweet tooth. All that is privilege. And all of that has been my job as IML. Enjoying that IML privilege hasn’t always been easy, because I’m an introvert, and we work differently than extroverts. Extroverts get their energy from interacting with people, and being in the crowd, and going to events. If my life is an example, then introverts we introverts get our energy from a combination of alone time, Netflix bingeing, comfort food, coffee and tequila. There are other differences. If you have a 10-minute conversation with an extrovert and you don’t know what’s important to them, then you haven’t been listening. If you have a 10-minute conversation with an introvert and you don’t know what’s important to them, then you haven’t been asking the right questions. And I’m talking about questions that come from a genuine curiosity. Not like the questions we tend to ask which are just statements in disguise. You know, like: * Do you really think that’s a good idea? * Do these pants make my crotch look big? * Does this hanky smell like chloroform to you? Joey McDonald got me with that one…. four times… because I’m pretty. I love good questions. One of the questions I’ve gotten number of times this year was about my contestant speech last year. People liked it but what sure what I was really trying to say. It’s hard to be clear and poignant and meaningful in 90-seconds. And they wanted to know if my whole “you are a enough” theme had some meat to it, or was it just something I pulled out of the ether while watching Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday (YOU are enough! And YOU are enough! Everybody is E-NOUGH!). So I’ll break it down for you. You sir [point to someone in the audience]. You look at me and you might say: wow that Ramien really has his shit together. He’s got a job, a boyfriend, a title. He seems reasonable, cultured, and smart. He’s easy on the eyes. I can see why the judges selected him and if I were closer I might not only see it, I might touch it and taste it too. But THIS guy that you’re seeing wasn’t named IML 2014. It was THAT guy — the Ramien who was here last year. Let me tell you about THAT guy. He’s a hot mess. That guy has stranger danger. That guy is a neurotic overachiever. That guy cries at Sally Field movies… or anytime he touches a woman. But if it wasn’t for THAT guy, THIS guy wouldn’t be here. And as human beings we tend to dismiss THAT guy and pay all of our attention to THIS guy. We tend to give all our praise to THIS guy and ignore or shame THAT guy. What I was trying to say last year is THAT guy… THAT guy was good enough to get me here to THIS guy. And if that’s true for me, then maybe it’s true for you. So love on THAT guy. Even if you don’t like THAT guy. Even if you want to change THAT guy. Love him FIRST. You gotta love him to leave him. Take that Oprah. Maybe that could be my job. To be a leather Oprah. Maybe not. But I know one thing: I know it is NOT my job to represent you. I can’t represent you. I mean look at you. No, I’m just kidding, you all look amazing… out there in the dark. Inky shadows are your color. Representing you is not my job, and I can prove it to you. Alright show of hands: * How many of you were at IML last year? * How many of you came to any part of the contest last year? * How many of you voted for me to be IML? Anyone? Anyone? [point out the people who are too drunk/confused and kept their hands up] See if you voted for me then I could be your representative. But you didn’t. That’s not how this things works. That’s not how any of this works. Representing you is not my job. But I love my job as IML. And I love this weekend. This is my second IML ever, and I plan on having a very good time. I hope you are too. This is a weekend is like a leather family reunion. It’s a time to embrace the highest-fidelity version of yourself and express it… often with on and in other people. And it’s about fun. Now earlier I said there is no privilege without responsibility, so I’m going to get serious for a minute. You know that I’m serious because I’ve asked the crew for serious lighting. Thank you crew. One of the charities I support is Rainbow Railroad. They are a registered charitable organization based in Canada, and they save LGTB lives. They find LGTB people around the world who are targets of state-enabled violence and persecution in places like Uganda, Iran, and the Caribbean. They find them. They get them to safe places in their country. And then they get them out of their countries to safe havens primarily in the US, Canada, and Netherlands. They are saving our brothers and sisters. And they need your help. We are working on a campaign to save five gay men living in Jamaica. And by living I mean that these men have been shunned by their families, and are living on the streets. They were living in a storm drain until it was blocked off by the police. We need $34K to get these men out of the country, and resettled somewhere safe where they will have the support of social services. Here’s what you can do: You can give $34K, and we’ll wrap this thing up right now. If you can’t give $34K, then you can give something smaller. Give $15. You can spread the word about this campaign, because maybe someone in your network can give $34K… or $15. You can do all or any of those things. If you want to learn more you can go to my Facebook page, or you can go to rainbowrailroad.ca Thank you for considering this. Okay. Serious time over. I’ll tell you one last thing before I go, and it’s my big takeaway from my title year. I finally figured out what my job as IML was. Well actually someone else figured it out for me. I was at CLAW last month and someone broke it down for me exactly what my job was. I was socializing in the hotel lobby when someone said, “Ramien, I’ve been watching you your entire title year, and I wanted to let you know that you are a good example of being a good example. And that’s exactly what our community needs. Thank you and bless you.” And that was an ah-ha moment for me: “a good example of being a good example”. That’s a great job to have, right? And I was touched too. I mean it was a thoughtful and sincere compliment, and I didn’t want to just brush it off with that stereotypical titleholder smile and a “thank you so much”. I wanted to say something meaningful and heartfelt. So I took a beat and said, “Hey you… I’m over here. That’s Justin Terry-Smith you’re talking to!” Because sometimes that happens. You have to know your negroes. Get the app. Available on iTunes. My name is Ramien Pierre I live in Baltimore, MD with the best boyfriend in the world I am International Mr. Leather 2014 I am Mr. DC Eagle 2014 My preferred personal pronouns are “he”, “him” and “his” I love you all. And you are each important to me. Have a good night and and great weekend.