The International Ms Leather competition came to Toronto – but the hometown women did not.
“I couldn’t help feeling that I was at an American event that had planted itself in Toronto,” says Mariko Tamaki, a model for one of the local vendors at the business expo.
“Everyone running the event, speaking at the event and for the most part, participating in the event was American. There was one Canadian contestant and they couldn’t even pronounce the name of the province she was from.”
(That province was Alberta – and Calgary’s Christine Baker was declared first runner-up.)
Women In Black, the 2000 International Ms Leather and Ms Boot Black competition was held Jul 21 to 23 at a downtown Hogtown hotel, making the US contest truly international for the first time.
But none of the contestants or workshop presenters were from the Toronto leather community. And Toronto’s leathermen almost outnumbered the women at the Saturday night Ms Leather contest.
Local gal Gloria McIsaak says none of that mattered. “Toronto leather women were so busy critiquing IMSL that they didn’t get to enjoy the event. Everyone was like, ‘Where is the Toronto representative?’
“But Toronto women weren’t doing anything to represent themselves. I say, you don’t have a right to criticize if you don’t step forward.”
McIsaak says the weekend was an extremely positive experience for her. “It extended my leather family, it was totally overwhelming.”
There hasn’t been a Ms Leather Toronto contest in years. And attempts to organize a women’s party last month were unsuccessful.
The US-based executive producer, Amy Marie Meek, says half a dozen Torontonians helped plan the event, including three dykes.
The contest was founded in 1986 in San Francisco, and was designed to choose a spokesperson for leatherwomen and to raise money for community organizations.
The contest evolved into a full weekend with the goal of allowing all to present a positive leather image.
“The event is all about picking a public representative, to bestow honour and prestige within the community, to create a sense of pride and visibility within and also outside the community,” says Kristan Dunnion, an employee at Toronto’s sex store Come As You Are. She found working in the vending area a lot of fun.
“I’m in a constant state of arousal. I just want to lick everything!”
The women of On Our Backs provided a continual dyke presence. They made a splash by gathering aspiring pornographers and photographers for shoots for the lesbian sex magazine.
Editor Tristan Taormino held her popular Anal Sex For Everyone workshop.
“I came out to meet Tristan Taormino, do some networking and check out the vendors,” said Tania Anderson, an artist who says she is peripherally involved in the Toronto women’s leather community. “There could be a lot more dykes here, but the day is young,” she said hopefully.
And clearly, there were a lot of politics behind the scenes. The outgoing titleholder, International Ms Leather 1999 Pam Meyer, said in her conference greeting that infighting is something the community needs to work on.
“Mainstream society attacks us daily, why should we do it to each other?”