Sunday 22nd April 2007 - With Scott Erickson at the Leather Leadership Conference in Minneapolis.
During July I flew to Denver to teach two workshops at Thunder in the Mountains. It was the tenth anniversary of holding the event and my first time there. I had a lot of good experiences the weekend, but the highlight was being tied up by Midori during my class on "rope bondage for amateur escape artists". The class then stayed behind during the lunch hour and insisted that I escape. It took my just over 22 minutes and it was a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday.
One of the first leather friends I made in America was Scott Erickson, who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Since then Scott has won the title Mr Boston Leather 2004, competed at International Mr Leather, won the Pantheon of Leather New England Regional Award for 2007, and he's currently the Vice-President of the Bay State Marauders and the co-chair of the New England Leather Alliance. He kindly agreed to be interviewed for this column:
So you knew you were kinky before you worked out you were gay?
Sort of, I knew I was gay around 11 years old. But at 5 years old I didn't quite understand what that rush from bondage was. It started with an advertisement for a movie and I distinctly remember what it was. There was a guy tied to a wall and a bunch of people ran by. And as they ran by his pants fell down and it gave me this rush that I didn't quite understand. I understand it now, though. By 1992 at the age of 23 I'd been on the cover of Bound and Gagged twice!
Did you get into sailing because you liked bondage?
Well, sailing was there before my interest in bondage. My parents got a boat when I was three and I started learning knots then. I taught my Boy Scouts group their knots tying merit badge. But it was only when I got into my twenties that I realised "oh, I can do this with that!"
May 2004 - Scott competing at IML in Chicago.
In 2004 when I was a judge at IML, you were a contestant. What made you enter?
It was for many different reasons. I'd just wound down a 16 year job at a very conservative financial institution and it was time for me to move on. Also in 2003 we started a leather club here in Boston called the Bay State Marauders and part of entering IML was to network for the organisation. It wasn't for publicity but to network myself into the national community. I was the club's first president and entering IML helped me to accomplish the things I wanted to do.
What is the aim of the Bay State Marauders?
We're a social club primarily for gay men.
You're also co-chair of the New England Leather Alliance (NELA). Has that happened since IML?
I was involved with NELA before IML, about two months after I won the Mr Boston Leather title. Part of the thing I wanted to do with my title was to aid communication between organisations in the New England area. There were lots of different events but they didn't seem to be talking to one another. I wanted to find some common ground so I went to NELA's Fetish Fair Fleamarkets two months after I won my title and met the then chair, Vivienne Kramer. I gave her my business card and two days later I got a very warm and welcoming email from her. I started attending their open board meetings after that. With the assistance of NELA, I organised roundtable meetings in my title year that lasted for a year. They stopped due to personality conflicts in the community. However, people in the community are looking to start having the meetings again, and I'm still committed to the goal.
What area does NELA cover?
It's a pansexual organisation and we cover 6 states of New England and upstate New York. That includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
I've tried to work out from the NELA website what the organisation does, but I think it's easier to ask what it doesn't do! You seem to cover SM education, outreach, fundraising, charitable giving, domestic violence projects, you network and support organisations in the region...
We're not a social organisation. We may do things to help bring people together but the purpose of it is education, outreach and activism.
How do you raise money?
We have two Fetish Fair Fleamarkets a year, one in the summer and one in the winter. We raise our money through the entrance fee. Between 1000 and 2500 people turn up in the summer. Last winter over 3,300 people came through the door. Entrance for the weekend is free if you're an associate, $10 if you're associated with a club or organisation, or $15 if you're just walking in off the street. This fee gets you into all 3 days of the event. At last winter flea you could have attended: a pool party, fashion show, a market with almost 100 vendors, and attended 7 classes and demos from 24 different topics, or a round table discussion group from 8 different topics. We pride ourselves on the low cost of attending our event.
You also give away money. How do people apply for a grant?
You can download a grant application on our website at www.nelaonline.org/GrantApplication.pdf - but your request will need to fit in with our charter and be used for education, outreach or activism. It must also benefit the NELA organisation in some way, shape or form. In 2006 we gave over $13,000 in grants and charitable giving.
What education do you offer?
Our educational programme runs throughout the year. We try to do at least one class a month, which is free or a low cost to attend if you're an associate. Our presenters are both from the New England region and also from around the world, such as Midori, Bridgett "Lee" Harrington, Barbara Nitke, Lolita, and many more. If you wanted to be a presenter it's best to approach Allen, our Director or Programming. His email is Allen (at) NELAonline.org
I was at the Leather Leadership Conference in Minneapolis earlier this year and there was a rather large NELA presence there. Why was that?
We're a well funded organisation and we were the main sponsors of LLC this year. We consider what we do with NELA to be work, and see LLC as something that we need to attend on a regular basis. LLC is a way for us to learn and to grow and to help the organisation become everything it can be.
If someone is reading this from outside the New England region and they want to get involved, what can they do to help?
We need people to get out and spread the good word. For instance, NELA is a coalition partner of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF). We encourage people to join the NCSF and combat discrimination against the BDSM, SM and poly communities. On a personal note, my parents taught me to be involved in my community. If I wanted something or saw something that needed to be done, and didn't put my two hands together to do it then I had nobody else to blame but myself for not getting what I wanted. So with that, I encourage everyone to get out and make your community right outside your door what YOU want it to be. Don't get mad, get active!
For more information on NELA please visit www.nelaonline.org
Have fun, look after yourselves and the people you play with.
International Mr Leather 2003