Monday, July 20, 2009

International Deaf Leather 2009

International Deaf Leather was held in Chicago this year and I was honored to be present at the event. RAD had a reception on the evening of July 2 and it was great to finally meet Philip. Philip and I had been emailing for a few weeks prior to the event and it was nice to finally put a face to the name. Thank you Philip for coordinating the event and making sure that I had all of the information I needed in order to be on time!!

At the RAD reception, I met Bo and David. They have been friends since college and they assisted me in communicating with others at the reception. The three of us decided to have a quick bite to eat before going over to the Meet and Greet being held at Cellblock for IDL. It was at dinner that the three of us got to know each other better and they began to teach me how to sign a some basic words. Of course, they showed me the curse words; which is always important to know. Of course, David had to teach me the very subtle difference between signing “meet” and “fuck”. There is but a one finger difference but the phrase “Nice to meet you” takes on a whole new meaning if you sign the incorrect word. . . unless you want to say, “Nice to fuck you” . . .

Once we made it to the Meet and Greet at Cellblock, Philip introduced me to Amanda. Amanda is a beautiful woman in so many ways and she also assisted me in being an interpreter for me. She’s from my neck of the woods (Louisiana), so it was great to have her by my side! She also interpreted for me as I emceed the Meet and Greet. We introduced the judges, the current titleholders, the contestants for the next evenings contest, and had an auction. I truly had a great time at the Meet and Greet!! Thank you, Amanda!!

The next evening was the dinner and contest. Dinner was grand and I was able to meet some wonderful men and women. The contest itself was fun. They asked me to say a few words during the contest. I do not remember the exact words I said (I should start filming these things); however, I did talk about the moment I found out I had been selected IML 31. That due to my hearing aids, I was not able to hear Chuck Renslow announce me as the winner, so I looked at the sign interpreter who singed the number “11”. After checking to make sure I was still number “11”, I told everyone, “Your IML had a not so butch moment. I covered my face just like Ms. America in total disbelief. And to this day I’m not sure if Chuck actually said number “11”, but I say we go with it.” At that moment, Chuck (who was in the audience at IDL) said, “I said 11”. So we had confirmation from Chuck himself. ;-)

I then spoke about my own hearing loss. That I had recently found out that I would be deaf in just a few years. And that I wanted everyone there to know that they did not need IML at their event to make the event successful, but that it was IML that needed them.

And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. As I continue my journey, I need the leather community, the deaf community, and my family, to help me through the steps along the way. David (my partner) and I do not know what the future holds for us when it comes to my hearing loss, but whatever the future holds, we know we will go through it together and with the community supporting us each step of the way.

Once the contest was completed, Terry Morrell and boy taz were chosen as International Mr. Deaf Leather and International Deaf Leather boy, respectively. Congratulations to both of them. I could not be prouder of either of them and we will coordinate our schedules in order to make events together.

I also had the chance to meet a wonderful young man, Ken. Ken has been instrumental in making and sending me video clips of signs so David and I are able to learn them. He truly is salt of the earth to take the time to make these videos, and I appreciate his willingness to assist us.
Also, I have a challenge to all of you in our community. It surprises me how many events do not offer sign interpreters. I know for me, it helps me greatly to have an interpreter, as I have difficulty hearing intercoms, speakers, and such. Between lip reading and the interpreter, I am able to “hear” the event. Let’s make sure we reach out to all of our community titleholders and be as inclusive as we possibly can. I know many of us already do, but let’s make sure we are consistent about it. I know I’d appreciate it, and I know there are 1000’s more that would as well.

Also, I will be unveiling a program soon called, “Hearing from the Heart”. The program will fall under the Sharon St. Cyr Fund, Inc. (SSCFund). The program is being created to assist those persons in need of hearing aids; however, are not able to afford them. Hearing aids are not covered by most insurance companies. I know, because I had to purchase my own to the tune of $5,000 for the pair. The program will also create and raise awareness with the insurance companies, major corporations, and the government to begin covering these devices in order to assist those persons with the purchase of hearing aids.

Your Leather Brother,


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