Expecting More, Yet Accepting Less

Posted: May 6, 2011 in Titleholding

Those who know me well know that I am a bit puzzled as to why people seem to take notice of me.  I find it kind of fascinating in the way I puzzle over anything I can’t understand.  When I received emails in my inbox stating that I’d been nominated for several Pantheon of Leather awards, my honest first response was that, “We need to have higher standards.”  To be honest, I don’t think anything I have done or accomplished over this past year is above or beyond anything we should expect of our Leather titleholders.  To me, I have only done the job I was given, to the best of my ability, and even then I can point to many times I’ve felt like I fell short of the great responsibility I was given.  We should expect the very best our Leaders, titleholders or not have to offer.  When we give someone a sash and ask them to represent us, they should feel the weight of it, and even maybe fear it.  I feel like a title year should be a struggle, an ordeal which calls upon each titleholder to rise up and be more than they think they are capable of, straining to reach an ideal.  All our leaders should feel a great weight of responsibility to those who have given them their trust and a huge responsibility to live up to the great expectations we have of them.

Yet, I also believe in balance.  We should understand that our leaders are not gods and godesses descending from the pantheon on Mount Olympus to grace us with their presence, but rather mere mortals trying to be Atlas, holding the weight of the world on their shoulders.  They will stumble.  They will even fall.  It’s tough to fail when so many eyes are on you, but being too afraid to fail means that often we won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to make a bigger impact.  It’s even tougher to see those we look up to fall.  I’ve had to learn to separate moments of human weakness from the great contributions of my own heros, to allow them to be human as well as admire that which rises above in them.  I have often been afraid.  I have sat across from a contestant in a Leather contest, my own heart beating out of my chest, afraid as I pushed them, not wanting to push them too hard.  I’ve been afraid as I’ve stood up in front of classes and put myself out there as some sort of authority, for fear that I would offend, anger, or even just make a fool of myself.  There have been times I’ve thought I’ve done all three.  I have laid in my bathtub, trying to console myself as I felt I was the worst failure, just days after feeling I was on top of the world.  I’ve quickly learned that often those who are the most eager to push you up on a pedestal are doing so because they are hoping to knock you off it and watch you fall.  Yet, I have also had so many people who have been there when I did fall, to brush me off and send me back on the path.

Our Leaders are human.  They will say the wrong things.  They will burn out when we need them.  They will forget details and even forget to thank us.  They will sometimes be selfish or even cruel without meaning to.  Even the greatest among us will have days when we wonder what we were thinking when we put our trust in them.  Somehow, we need to learn to temper high standards with compassion for the humanity of those trying to reach those standards.  We need to encourage the best qualities among our leaders while still being forgiving of their faults.

I have been honored to share time with some of our Leather communities leaders this year.  Some of my favorite moments were the times when I saw behind the armor we all must put on when we go out to do battle with cameras.  I have seen great leaders wrestle with their humanity.  I’ve seen them tired, sad, unsure, even frustrated.  I’ve even seen great people when it seemed like life or even someone they trusted had just delivered a sucker punch to them.  It was in those moments when I really saw why they are great people and worthy leaders…by watching how they handled the tough moments.  I watched them put aside their own personal feelings to serve others and to make sure what needed to be done was done.  I watched tears swallowed and angry words held back for the good of others in moments that no one else would see or appreciate.  Those aren’t the moments we see on the front page of the Leather Journal or written about in Leatherati, but those are the moments that make these great men and women who they are.

As I think of their faces, as they covered the hurt and put on a smile to help someone else or make sure an event succeeded for others, I see a pantheon, not of Leather gods, but of something much more noble…regular human beings striving to overcome their own human frailties to help others in their humanness.  To me, that is so much more interesting and compelling than the idea of powerful gods and godesses descending from on high to rescue us.  The idea that we each, as humans could rise to higher standards and hold each other to them and that each one of us could be a part of this is truly inspiring and one of the reasons I try to stress to the people I meet that I’m just a bootblack, a slave, and someone who decided to run for a Leather contest and happened to win.  I am very much human as are the people I look up to and every other Leather titleholder and leader I know within our Community is just as human…and all the more inspiring for it.  We are the Rocky Balboa’s of our world, flawed, anxious, and unsure of ourselves, yet doing what must be done anyway simply because it is the right thing to do.

I see nothing remarkable about myself that deserves to be on a list with the amazing men and women nominated for the Pantheon of Leather nominations this year, but perhaps my name joining theirs might inspire someone else out there, to set their sights higher and maybe we all can collectively raise our standards while still caring for each other as the humans we are rather than pretending to be gods and punishing each other for our humanity.

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