It's been an interesting few months. Kinda surreal, actually. Minnesota passed Same-Sex marriage, to start on August 1st. The Defense of Marriage Act has been declared unconstitutional (so all same-sex marriages are now recognized on the Federal level as well). Exodus International, the world's largest organization of "therapists" and "mental health professionals" that worked with individuals to turn from gay to straight (i.e., ex-gay), issued a public appology for their meddlings in individuals' lives over the years and shut its doors effective immediately. And Prop 8 was overturned in California (congrats!!).
These are all things that, at one time in my life, I thought I would never see. It's incredible to watch the whole world change around you. For that change to evolve in such a short period of time is even more incredible. We all deserve to take some time and celebrate our hard work in making those changes happen. Person by person, life by life, we've touched the hearts of others and motivated them to be the change we need to desparately in this world.
Twin Cities Pride was my time to celebrate. I've written about it in years past, and it's always one of my favorite times of the year. Of course, one of my favorite parts of the whole Pride festival is the Leather Flag event, where any and all members of the leather community, no matter your age, race, gender, or level of experience, are welcome to march in the parade and carry the biggest Leather Pride Flag in the World (at least, it's the biggest one until someone proves me wrong). Here's some of this years' pics, courtesy Everett Allen Photography:
The people watching the parade always clap for us, a lot. Let's face it; it takes some amount of courage to walk down Hennepin in all of your gear/leather/rubber in front of over 150,000 spectators. But that's the definition of Pride. This flag has made the walk for many, many years. Even when I just started walking with the flag four years ago, the cheers from the crowd weren't as loud. But slowly, one by one, we're making a different and people are realizing that just like them, kinky people want to live life comfortably, safely, and happily.
Each kinky person who lives out loud and proud is a hero in my heart. But there's one hero I specifically need to mention.
I wore rubber for the big day, as usual. My business partner, Karri Plowman, was walking with the flag right in front of me, wearing leather pants and a harness he had made. I've always been one to admire Karri - for as loud and as proud as he lives his life. He's more than just a business partner, he's my confidant, friend, brother, sounding board, kinky terrorist, and we might *occasionally* hook-up. Most of all, I've always admired his level of perseverence. No matter what life hands him, onward he kinkily trudges, without hiding his work or his passions; not even from his kids. I've watched him be one of the best fathers I've ever seen over the past few years while still being transparent...but I guess that's a side of him that I see a bit more frequently than others.
As we walk down the parade route, we yell out to the spectators as we march, "Happy Pride!" and whatever else it takes to get the crowd riled up. I'm no exception (because have you ever known me to be the quiet type?). We walk and walk and yell and they applaud and people are excited...and then just past the half way point of the parade, something absolutely incredible happened.
Out the corner of my eye, I see a girl jump up out of the crowd and start to chase us down as we walked. She hopped forward, threw her arms around Karri, who hugged her back. And our amazing photographer snapped the perfect photo (minus me looking like I'm photo-bombing them):
Karri's daughter had never EVER even seen him in Leather before that moment marching down the parade route. But it doesn't matter. She's his daughter and he's her dad. She's just as proud of him as he is of her. Watching the two of them embrace, in a moment when Karri is being his uninhibited self (something he does best) was one of the most inspiring moments I've ever witnessed in my kinky life. I had to stop yelling at the crowd for the next three blocks because I couldn't stop myself from crying.
I hope this photo speaks to the people who see it. I want everyone to remember that you can be just as strong, powerful, and confident OUT of your gear as you are when you are IN it. We're going to change the world! It'll be slow, but the only way to do it is one person at a time.
If a leatherman and his daughter can embrace that, then maybe one day, the rest of us can, too.
And for reminding us of that...that man, Karri Plowman, is MY Hero.