This is Allena’s keynote speech from NW Leather~~
I had a terrible time figuring out what to say. I’ve already done my “It’s About Sex” speech. Then I thought I could talk about 50 Shades of Gray since it’s all the rage right now, but that didn’t work either. I’ve spoken at conferences, on TV, radio, in documentaries and I usually am not at a loss for words (those of you out there who know me, know how true that is). However, I’m not a part of the Master/slave community and while I know that Northwest Leather Celebrations is more than about the Master/slave community it is the primary focus. So, what can I bring to this? I’m a simple bi/poly/switch who knows a lot of people in the M/s community but doesn’t partake of it.
So, I got to thinking, what about this conference stands out and how does it compare to my life, the Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle and the greater leather community and its leaders. I initially found two common threads. Perseverance and Personality. The clubs, conferences, organizations that have survived long term have survived because of Perseverance and Personality and then I realized that there was one more P word. Principles. It’s kind of like a three legged stool. All three are important
I had an email chat with Ms. Margaret and she told me that many people said that this event would not survive (this is the contests 7th year and the conferences 5th)
Many people said it couldn’t be done; they said that the current economy and fractionalized community wouldn’t support a new weekend conference. Where have we heard that before?
In the beginning she was told she was wasting her time — that nobody on the west coast cared about M/s, that people out in San Francisco wouldn’t be willing to drive 45 miles south to San Jose, and that people outside the SF Bay Area couldn’t be bothered to travel here. How many of you are from outside the SF Bay area?
She was also told that “title contests are out of style,” and nobody is interested in titleholders, contests and what they represent anymore. From the number of people her tonight and the great contestants I’m guessing “they” were wrong.
She was also told that a woman would not be able to lead an event team. And that nobody would take her seriously. 😉
Naysayers predicted that our titleholders would not be well-received at the International level because we “do things too differently” here on the west coast. And how!
And yet, 3 out of our 6 NW Master/slave titleholder pairs have gone on to win at the International level!
Her perseverance paid off. I also believe that her personality and even more so, her principles had a lot to do with the success of this event. More on personality and principles in a bit.
I like to think that one of the things that has made us a success in Seattle is our perseverance and focused vision. You would not believe the number of people who said we’d never survive. That our unorthodox way of doing business would be our downfall. (our membership does not elect our board, the board recruits and hand-selects the upcoming board. We have paid staff, which is unheard of in the leather community. We run a 400+K dollar a year non-profit with 7-10 parties a week. Yes, we have had some tough times over the last 12 years. There were a couple really lean years a few years back in fact. And yet we persevered.
How does one persevere? Here are some tips. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your mission. Enlist the support of your community. Remind yourself often about what you wished for when you began your journey. Focus on the positive not the negative. If necessary re-evaluate your goals.
Walt Disney said: “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
What do I mean when I say personality has a large part in making our organizations successful? It takes more than a big ego to make our clubs, orgs and conferences succeed, it takes a certain type of personality. However, you don’t have to be a Master or a Top or a Dom, you have to be a leader. You have to realize that a lot of leadership is about service and you have to be willing to set aside your Domliness and come from service to give back to the community as a leader. And you have to be strong enough to be able to not let the naysayers and the drama queens get you down. I think that Ms Margaret embodies that, as does many of the men and women who run our organizations and conferences. Oh, and you sometimes have to be a force of nature, as a good friend of mine puts it. And that is the term he uses for me and well, I will take some credit for that, in that I can be a force of nature. That said, I do my best to keep that “force” in check by remembering humility is also a key component.
Saint Augustine said: Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.
Tips on being a personality. Well, I don’t have a lot of tips because so much of this is just who you are, but if I can say a couple thing, keep your ego in check and realize that no matter how much of a Top you are, leadership is about service. And always try to find a way to put yourself in other people’s shoes
Which brings me to Principles. While I don’t know the inner workings of the NW Leather Celebration, I can tell from my interactions over the last several years that the organizers have principles. It’s something that I’ve noticed that seems to be the hardest one of the 3 P’s for organizations to grasp. What do I mean by Principles. There are several definitions; I like this one the best. “The collectivity of moral or ethical standards or judgments: a decision based on principle rather than expediency.”
I’d like to think that our community is principled and adheres to a certain moral or ethical standard. And for the most part I think it’s true. (oh, I know, there are some glaring exceptions. That is for another speech on another day…why we don’t always hold our leaders accountable. But for the most part, our biggest successes are because of principled personalities who persevere (say that 10 times fast))
Some of our Principles at the Center.
Never flying under the radar. That means, we have a business license. We’re out to our community. Our neighbors know who we are. The police are aware of our existence, actually the whole city government is because a few years ago I was on the Seattle LGBTQ commission as an out Kinky leader.
We have insurance. And when we lost our insurance for over a week, we close our doors rather than put or organization or membership at risk.
We no longer allow fireplay because the Seattle Fire department saw a notice of a fire play workshop and told us we had to have a very costly permit or not do the workshop or allow fire play in the building. We could have still allowed it and probably gotten away with it, but not very principled.
Holding people accountable for their actions, — board, staff, volunteers and even our membership
Not allowing buckling to pressure (for example when we stopped allowing some kinds of breath play at the advice of our attorney. Caused a big stink for awhile but we survived it)
We actively support other organizations and groups both locally and around the country. We helped a small group in another county start their own club and we assist other organizations in fundraising and advertise for them in our newsletter. We actively work to create community.
Those were just some of our organizational principles
How do individuals and organizations stay principled?
We live in integrity. When we say we’re going to do something we do it. When we screw up we clean up the mess and get back in integrity.
We take responsibility for our actions.
We respect ourselves and others and their opinions and do so without compromising ourselves
We are open to change, but don’t let go of our values.
Principled actions are the hardest because they aren’t always the most expedient. And they definitely aren’t the easiest. However no matter how we stick to our guns and persevere and no matter how amazing the personalities are that run our organizations, without principles we will never be the success that we can be.
In closing I want to encourage all of you to take a close look at your organizations and communities and especially yourselves. Are you willing to take the steps to persevere, even when times are tough? Do the personalities that lead your organizations leading from service and not from ego. Are your practices principled? If you can say yes to all three of those questions then you can are ahead of the game you and your organization is lucky. If you find yourself lacking in some area, don’t beat yourself up, rather look at what you can do to change the situation. Being aware of the issues is a big part of moving forward. By remembering the 3 P’s, perseverance, personality and principles you can create amazing organizations and truly make a difference in your community and even the world.
Director, Center and Foundation for Sex Positive Culture
May 20th, NW Leather Celebration Keynote Speech