Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Five Marvel Characters Who Are Either Abysmally Incompetant at Their Jobs or Possibly Even Secretly Villains

My last three posts were summaries of major events that happened to me back in 2017, and now that that's out of the way, we can get back to my regularly scheduled list-style posts that revolve madly around Marvel.

Marvel does a fantastic job of world-building and justifying character motivations, which means that there are rarely instances when I find myself criticizing the movies.  It's easy for me to suspend disbelief and let the plot carry me through the arc.

However, there's a couple of times I looked at characters and was like, wait, what?  Why the hell would they do that?  This entry highlights those rare moments by examining characters who suck at their jobs in a way that's necessary to advance the plot but would be unlikely to fly in real life.

1) Aunt May

More like Aunt Bae, am I right?

Aunt May is the beloved guardian of Peter Parker, aka Spiderman.  In the most recent Spiderman movie, Homecoming, she is played by Marisa Tomei and gets hit on by Tony Stark.  Presumably, the reason they did this was because they felt audiences would be uncomfortable if they showed Tony Stark hitting on a GMILF.

 Which is weird since Tony makes no apologies for his eccentric and varied taste in women.

So Aunt May has one job, which is to keep her nephew safe.  She is easily the most inept guardian I have ever seen.

Scenario: a billionaire bachelor known for his sexual exploits shows up to tell you that your nephew, a pubescent boy without a father figure in his life, has won some sort of scholarship.  Let's assume it's normal for billionaires to inform scholarship recipients personally about their awards, and also in person, at their homes.  There is still no reason for Aunt May to allow Tony to take Peter to his room, privately, and close the door.

Tony Stark: Can I have 5 minutes with him?
May Parker: Sure.

The moment they get into the room together, Tony closes and locks the door. 

By the way, canonically, Peter has already been molested once before.  

Later, after Tony whisks Peter off to a fight in Germany, they made an "alibi" video.

Now, I'm going to just ignore the fact that everyone knows Tony Stark is Iron Man and that the airport fight would have been publicized on television.  Aunt May would have seen, in the news, Tony Stark fighting Captain America.  But let's assume Aunt May lives under a rock with her eyes closed and her fingers in her ears, and also doesn't think it's weird that Tony Stark, superhero billionaire, personally picks up and drops off Peter at his house for a "conference."

The alibi video is more like the thing they would need an alibi for.  It features Tony and Peter side-by-side in the back of a limo, talking about how much fun they had at some sort of conference.  There's no other videos of the supposed conference, no fake ID badge or conference memorabilia.  Just a video filmed in a car of Tony and Peter going, "Whew, what a conference!  Sure wasn't some weird billionaire sex thing!"

 This is from the limo scene.  

Aunt May readily admits she doesn't like Tony, which makes her willingness to allow Peter to hang out with him even more baffling.  Tony is two and a half decades older than Peter.  That's weird, Aunt May.

Throughout Homecoming, Peter becomes increasingly withdrawn from Aunt May, and he also quits band and starts skipping school.  Red flags, all over the place.  When Aunt May finally asks him what's up, he starts crying and says he "lost" the "Stark scholarship" which he was investing so much time in.

Aunt May.  Connect the dots, sweetheart.

There's also a scene where she walks in on Peter mostly naked with his best friend (he has just changed out of his Spiderman suit), and she closes the door, stopping just short of saying "carry on, boys," and handing them a condom.  Gee, isn't it weird that, from Aunt May's perspective, Peter's sudden discovery of his sexuality and increasing demands for privacy are directly correlated to his personal relationship with an older man?

Aunt May.  CONNECT.  THE.  DOTS.

2) The Guy Who Texts Steve About Peggy's Death

Stone cold.

This guy.  This guy doesn't even have a name but he, or she, is probably one of the most evil not-villains in the MCU.

Let's break this down.

First of all, you NEVER TEXT SOMEONE about the death of a loved one.

Second of all, it's CAPTAIN AMERICA, the guy least capable of  even getting text messages.

Why didn't you call him?  What the hell was going on that you couldn't just call?  Do you not realize that Steve Rogers has almost no living friends yet and he's lost in a terrifying future he doesn't understand and that Peggy is one of the last remaining links to his old life? 

3) Laura Barton

Hawkeye's wife cheerfully readily admits that her husband is in way over his head but makes no move to dissuade him.  In fact, she encourages it.  Here's an exchange they have during Age of Ultron:

Laura Barton: And that someone be you. You know I totally support your Avenging, I couldn't be prouder. But I see those guys, those "gods"...

Clint Barton: You don't think they need me.

Laura Barton: I think they do. They're gods, and they need someone to keep them down to Earth.

Yes, Laura.  They're gods.  And Clint is in way over his head.  Even Clint knows it.

Laura.  There's being supportive and then there's being an enabler.  You are not doing Clint any favors by telling him the team needs him.  Didn't he, like, get mind-raped by an alien one or two years ago?

My guess is that she's got some sort of killer life insurance policy on him.  This is the only explanation.

 The REAL Black Widow.

Well, joke's on you, Laura.  Clint Barton is clearly uninsurable.  His job is "bow and arrow guy" on a team of genetically enhanced supersoldiers, gods, and invincible laser-shooting robots.

4) Sam Wilson 

He's a PTSD therapist.  The first time we see him, he's meeting Steve Rogers for the first time and they have a friendly, 2-minute chat.  The second time we see him, he's at the VA, and this is literally how the scene starts:

Female War Veteran: The thing is I think it's getting worse. A cop pulled me over last week, he thought I was drunk. I swerved to miss a plastic bag. I thought it was an IED. 

Sam Wilson: Some stuff you leave there, other stuff you bring back. It's our job to figure out how to carry it. Is it gonna be in a big suitcase or in a little man-purse? It's up to you.

When do we next see Sam?

Steve and Natasha show up at his house saying they "need a place to lay low" because "everyone we know is trying to kill us."  And Sam accepts that at face value and agrees to join them.

Sam, you fucking fuck, shouldn't you assume Steve is having a PTSD freak-out?!  Doesn't it seem likely that Steve, WWII veteran and Battle of New York guy, is having paranoid delusions and is in desperate need of help?  Doesn't that make ENTIRELY more sense?  You barely know Steve; why do you believe everything he tells you?!  If the bag lady from the VA scene showed up and told you she saw another IED bag, would you believe her, too?

As if this weren't enough, I'd like to address this scene:

Okay, so, it's supposed to be funny, but here's the thing.  Bucky just spent 70 years as HYDRA's mind-slave.  This is, if I recall correctly, the only time in the movie he actually makes known a preference.  Bucky, as the Winter Soldier, is not used to having opinions or engaging in self-care.  He does not ask for things.  He does not care for himself.

Imagine what was running through his head moments before he asked this.

Boy my legs are sore.  Should I say something?  No.  No, I can wait. I don't need to be comfortable.  ...what's the worst that can happen?  But they've already done so much for me.  I'm such a burden.  I don't deserve to be comfortable.  But Steve wants me to recover.  Okay, Barnes, go ahead and ask.  You're your own person, gosh darn it, and if you need more leg room, it's okay to ask.  You're allowed to have feelings again.  No big deal.  Sam is Steve's friend, he'll understand.

In a single, aggressive syllable, Sam Wilson totally shuts down Bucky's first attempt in 70 years to care for himself.  He probably set him back months in this scene.

Way to go, PTSD counselor.

5)  Literally all of Thor's friends

Okay, look.  We all agree that Thor is... not very smart.

Thor's deal is that he's strong.  He's strong and he has a hammer.  Thor is not on Stark or Banner's level.  He's not even on Steve's level.  Thor is a great Avenger but he's not a tactician or a detective or anything.  Really, the Avengers can be divided into two categories: people you ask to smash things (Hulk and Thor) and people who can solve problems (Hawkeye, Black Widow, Iron Man, and Captain America).  Most Avengers are capable of basic problem-solving and strategy and planning, but not Thor.  No, Thor is a lovable moron.

Bless his heart.

But he's a really good Avenger.

Here's the thing, though.  Thor has four friends who should be helping the bumbling asshole with his quests and don't.  He has four friends who pledge their unwavering loyalty to him and then never show up ever again.  Thor 1?  They show up late.  Thor 2?  They don't show up at all.

Why did they even pledge loyalty to him if they're never around?

Thor: Ragnorok opens with Thor trapped by a monster.  Where the fuck are the Warriors Three?  Where the fuck is Sif?  Thor later reveals he's spent the last 2 years searching for the Infinity Stones, apparently alone.  Unsurprisingly, he has not found any despite literally encountering two that he fails to identify.

His brother had a stone in his scepter which was later embedded into his team member's head. 
Come on, Thor, you're not even trying.

(Also, he never explains his fucking plans once he finds them.  Remember, he got control of the aether, which he sent to the Collector in an utterly bone-headed move to protect it.  What are his plans for the other stones?  Does he have more buyers or what?)

Thor couldn't find his way out of a wet paper bag.  Thor has no fucking clue where he is or what's going on at any given time and he literally has a guy whose job it is to locate shit for him.

As easy as it would be to say Thor is the incompetent one here, I would argue that Thor's doing his best and that he's doing it alone is baffling.  He's nobility on Asgard.  Why the hell is he operating alone on a massive task that no one, even a smart person, couldn't possibly be expected to complete?

To be completely fair, in Thor: 2, we see Thor and the Warriors fighting on Vanaheim, Hogun's homeworld, and Thor tells Hogun he should spend some time with his people.  So Hogun's at least doing something.  But Sif, Volstagg, and Fandral have no excuse for not helping Thor in his quest.

"Yo, Thor, we're bored, we're gonna go home now, good luck with your hunt for the stone thingies."

Honorable Mention: Darcy Lewis

She's a political science major who is interning under Jane Foster, astrophysicist.  Her motivation for applying for the internship was 6 college credits.  She spends most of her time slouching around Jane, not knowing how to work equipment and getting coffee orders wrong, interrupting Jane's dates and in one especially hilarious instance, hitting Thor with a taser after Jane Foster hits him with a car. 

Reason It's Okay: She's a dumb college kid who isn't getting paid and who clearly doesn't give a shit.  Darcy's incompetence is understood to be purposeful.  At times, it reaches Tony Stark-eqsue levels of snarkiness that's more artful than anything.  Darcy's disrespectful ineptitude is a front she's putting on and honestly, it's working for her.  Darcy is like a poor, young, female version of Tony Stark.  If she ever really wanted to, she could probably pick up all the slack.  She just doesn't want to.

Honorable Mention: Pepper Potts

Pepper Potts is Tony's personal assistance in Iron Man 1 and becomes CEO of Stark Industries in Iron Man 2.  You go, girl!  

But things take a turn for the worst in Iron Man 3, when Pepper forgets her lofty career goals and starts dating Tony and walking around Stark Tower barefoot and in jean shorts.

What the fuck.

 Okay to be fair this was how Pepper was introduced so maybe we sort of all saw this coming.
Still, #NotMyPepper

My issue isn't really with the relationship itself, although it seems unrealistic that a high-powered career woman who wants to be taken seriously would end up dating her unstable playboy boss.  My issue is that they're now engaged in the MCU and the idea of Tony Stark settling down is so bafflingly out of character that it makes me want to puke.  Their marriage is gonna last about two months, tops; Tony is incapable of going longer without having himself a breakdown that involves building a new Iron Man suit, destabilizing a third-world country, and then celebrating with a coke-fueled orgy.

"Whelp, Ghana's on fire.  Who wants a ride on the TONE BONE?"

Reason It's Okay: Let's be real, we all know that the real reason for Pepper being Tony's love interest is pure, shameless fan service.  Tony is an unstable, selfish piece of work and Pepper is a confident, empowered, career-oriented woman who disapproves of his Iron Man-ing.  They're fundamentally incompatible.  But hundreds of thousands of dumb fangirls LOVE #Pepperony because Pepper is basically their analog and allows them to fantasize about Tony.  Because who wouldn't want a whirlwind romance with an emotionally stunted alcoholic man-child with daddy issues who gets himself attacked by aliens or robots at least once a year?

 Maybe Pepper is taking relationship advice from Laura Barton, and has decided to start enabling Tony's awful lifestyle so she can claim some of the sweet Stark inheritance when he succumbs to syphilis / liver cirrhosis / terrorist attacks.

People are dumb and they love happy ending.  Tony Stark isn't a character who gets happy endings but I understand that Marvel doesn't want to go too dark and that for writing purposes, the Tony/Pepper romantic subplot is a thing.

Also Tony probably needs to get married.  Pepper is the beard that allows him to carry on with Peter.

Tony has a special nerd shirt he gives to his "friends."

Honorable Mention: Every single one of Stan Lee's cameos

Reason It's Okay: It's a running gag that Stan Lee shows up in every Marvel film, usually as a background character with a single speaking line.

However, in the instances where his character has a job, he always sucks at the job.

 Here's a Smithsoian guard who is on patrol when Captain America's uniform gets stolen.

 Here's a FedEx delivery guy who misreads Tony Stark's name, which is especially baffling considering everyone in the world knows who Tony Stark is.

 Here's an intergalactic barber who mangles Thor's hair.

Reason It's Okay: It's Stan Lee, yo.  We love Stan Lee.

Here's a guy cosplaying Stan Lee while meeting Stan Lee.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Radical Inclusivity and My Year in Leather

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that, whoever you are, reader, you have an opinion about leather.

It's also overwhelmingly likely that you own or use leather.  Maybe it's on your shoes or the seats of your car.  Maybe you own a leather jacket like the Fonz.  (Eyyy.)  Maybe your belt or purse is leather.

Maybe you think it smells good.  Maybe you only buy "vegan leather" because you think killing cows is bad.

You are 22 times more likely to be killed by a cow then a shark.  Not so innocent now, are they?

Regardless of what you think, you think something, because leather has been a shocking influential culture force, ranking well above the Slap-Chop and just below OxyClean.

Jury's out on how it compares to the ShamWow.

So it should not surprise you when I inform you that leather has its own little subculture.

It has a flag and everything.

This subculture isn't exactly new.  Its origins can be traced to post-WWII.  It bases much of itself on military protocols and sexual ritual, which shouldn't surprise you, since leather is a very sexy material indeed.

And at this point in the post I think it's a good idea for me to issue the following warning:


Here be dragons.
Part of the reason I am issuing this warning about proceeding is because leather culture has a fair bit of overlap with BDSM and fetish or kink culture, which is again unsurprising, since leather culture began largely as a gay / sexual freedom thing and is still very heavily male-dominated.

 Pun intended.

Look not further than the influence of homoerotic artist Tom of Finland (above) if you want to know what leather culture looks like.  By this point you should realize that this is a NSFW post and that, if this sort of thing offends you, you'd be better off leaving now and reading some other blog.

If you're still here, you may be asking, why on earth am I talking about leather culture at all?


Well, back in August, I won a leather title, and have spent the last year immersed in leather, and wanted to describe my personal experiences about this relatively insular community.

What's a leather title, you ask?

Okay, so, you know how there are beauty pageants?  Think that.  But more leather.  Title contests often feature interviews, a formal wear portion, a sexy wear portion... they're seriously a lot like a beauty pageant.

The concept of a leather contest has been around since sometime in the 1970s, when gay bars would have pageants as an excuse for hot men to strut their stuff on a stage, which in turn brought more patrons.  For example, the very first International Mr. Leather contest in 1979 originated from Mr. Gold Coast Contest, which was a bar contest. The competitive element made the title contests more interesting to watch and provided a structure for multiple hotties to go through multiple costume changes on the stage.  However, the contests soon went beyond merely being a bar gimmick.  Contests became regional in nature and "winners" held on to their title for a year, during which time they operated as a sort of liaison for the community and a pillar of what the particular community stood for.

Another example of an early leather contest is Drummer.  Drummer is a big name in leather culture; Drummer was an American magazine founded in 1975 which, like Tom of Finland, helped develop the iconic image of a "leatherman."  The publication arranged International Mr. Drummer contests in San Francisco from1981 until 1999.  Nowadays there are multiple Drummer organizations whose names are references to the Mr. Drummer contests and the Drummer magazine.

Well, helloooo.

If you are still confused and want more historical PG-13 information without worrying about seeing a penis, you can look at this primer here.  So now that you're up to speed on what the hell a leather title is and how leather titles and leather title contests are sort of a big part of leather culture you're probably asking how in the fuck I got one.

Your guess is as good as mine.

The short answer is that I was asked if I wanted to run for a contest by a good friend of mine, V who happens to be a producer for said contest.  The contest in question is for the title of Inland Empire Leather Ambassador.

Inland Empire is basically Riverside and San Bernardino county.  Aka "the stuff east of Los Angeles."

The Inland Empire Ambassador title is called "ambassador" because one of the major missions of the ambassadors (aside from reminding people that the Inland Empire exists) is to foster cross-talk between the Inland Empire and the greater leather community.  The holder of the title is expected to plan events, volunteer at events, learn and share and teach leather values to the Inland Empire leather community, encourage growth of the community within the Inland Empire, and nurture the Inland Empire Leather community by networking with other leather communities outside of it.

This is about as hardcore as the "gay agenda" gets, ladies and gentlemen.

 We also fundraise for non-profits!

So V asked me to run and I said yes because what the heck, it sounded like fun and also I had literally returned from my dad's funeral a week ago and was not thinking straight.

Pun intended.

I knew I was in too deep sometime during the contest because holy shit leather contests are serious business.  I dragged myself through speeches and interviews and a formal leatherwear section and a sexy leatherwear section.  At some point I was asked what I was flagging.

There's an entire not-so-secret code involving handkerchiefs!

Then someone gave me a sash and I was like oh okay this is a thing now apparently.

Look at that thousand-yard stare.  I have no idea what's even going on.

 Winner, winner, fidget spinner.

 Here's a bunch of title holders at Folsum, which is a BDSM and leather subculture street fair held in September, that caps San Francisco's "Leather Pride Week."  Google at your own risk.

I'm half-joking about my surprise.  The thing is, I have a lot of friends in leather, which, as I already mentioned, has a fair bit of overlap with BDSM communities.  For the last several years I've been giving classes on petplay, which is a whole separate thing.

The thing about petplay is, there's some parallels with leatherpups, which is a subset of leather culture.

Confused yet?

Anywho, I was already well-known in a lot of BDSM and leather circles for my (very tame and non-sexual) classes and involvement in petplay events.  I was already volunteering at charity fundraisers, and slapping together classes and events at sex-positive conferences.  I was already doing that stuff.  So I thought, why not have a title?

And here we find ourselves.

I'm about halfway through my title year and I have a lot to say about what I've seen.  Like an culture there are good and bad parts.  Ultimately, every culture is a place for people to feel like they belong.  Subcultures like leather and punk and burners and so on are places where people who have felt rejected or not at home in maintstream cutlure can find a place to belong.  And that's a wonderful tihng.  Everyone should feel like they belong.

In fact, the platform I ran under was radical inclusivity.

The thing is, radical inclusivity, in the mainstream, means accepting marginalized groups.  For example, queers.  Within the subculture of leather, it likewise means accepting those who don't fit in... including the politically conservative, the heteronormative folks, and the willfully ignorant, to name a few.  

Mind you, I'm not saying we should excuse bad behavior.  Merely that we should open ourselves to welcoming those who have not been traditionally welcomed.  This is a shockingly controversial idea because, especially for Old Guard leather, leather was a closed community and a safe space for gays.  There is still an unfortunate amount of toxic "us v. them" mentality within the leather community.

I'll give an example.  Here's a WILDLY controversial thing I wrote on National Coming Out Day:

On "National Coming Out Day," regardless of what you identify as, the most important thing to come out as is an ally.

It's easy to champion a cause you are a part of. It's easy to care about gay rights when they affect you personally. But when a person in a majority position of power stands up and says, "I demand my fellow human being has rights, and I say that because it is right, it is just, it is self-evident... NOT because I have any personal vested interest in it," that is a very powerful statement indeed.

Also, please recognize that ANYONE can be an ally. Not "just" straight or "just" vanilla people. Don't use historical marginalization as an excuse to marginalize those who want to help you, just because they are not part of your group. ANYONE who wants to live in a world where coming out is safe is an ally, and they should proclaim it loudly. Our voices are stronger together than they are by themselves.

I am an ally. My orientation does not matter. I stand by and for a world of equality.

How DARE I suggest that gay right are human rights, and that human rights are for everyone!
Case in point: within a month of getting my title, I was told to check my privilege.  (This was in a discussion about why cis-men get offended when you "call them out" for being cis-men, and I said it was because pointing out their demographic is often used as a way to silence them or mitigate the validity of their opinion.)  Since i'm repping a title and also not a total piece of shit, I asked if they could explain to me what "checking my privilege" means.  I was offered a curt yet wordy explanation that checking my privilege meant recognizing the social structures afforded to me by society or something.  I replied that I understood the concept but was looking for, you know, actionable and objective action items.  Things I could do to make them feel more heard, or things that might use my privilege elevate disenfranchised groups.  I was then told to go fuck off because my demand for knowledge was offensive.  (These were the actual words used!)  (Also, after I thanked them for engaging with me at all, they proceeded to say I was a "typical white man" who wasn't willing to change.  Which is weird considering I had literally asked them how I should change my behavior.)  While I will readily admit that it is not their job to educate me, I do think it's in their best interest.  And I approached the conversation with all of the innocent sincerity of a college freshman taking his first philosophy course.  I was completely blind-sided by the aggression and defensiveness of the whole thing.

Artist's depiction of the conversation.

That conversation left a bad taste in my mouth.  Leather titleholding is a lot more political than I realized.  And not in a good way.  The intentions themselves are generally positive.  People say they want rights for women, and people who are transgendered, and gays, and sexually disenfranchised groups, and racial minorities.  And those are things I want, too!  But often, in their attempt to correct for past injustices, the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction.  There's an over-correction that often demonizes majority demographics.  I'm not for demonizing anyone.  See above: radical inclusivity.

I am of the opinion that you should never tear others down to lift others up.  I am fully aware that this is an ideal that is difficult to always put into practice.  However, I have seen a lot of anger and drama within the leather community, and I would argue that 95% of it was avoidable if only people had taken a deep breath and asked themselves, "Am I accomplishing anything by being upset right now?"

Patience and understanding is what happens when you deserve to be mad but instead you choose to try to understand.  "Anger" is one letter away from "danger."  It is these types of platitudes I recite to myself as I watch people on social media aggressively value-signal to each other.

There's a lot of smugness in the community with regards to social and political issues.

In the last two years I myself have become much more moderate and even-keeled.  We live in a dark, dank timeline where people are very divided and upset and prone to impulsivity.  We are a divided people.  And that is not where I want this country to go.  I believe in dialogue.  Or at least, I want to.  I want to believe people can rise above terrible and frightening circumstances and be kind to each other.

 Mr. Rogers gets it.

My title came about during a time when a lot of people were talking about punching Nazis.

Most leatherfolk I know are pro punching Nazis.  

 Indiana Jones wears a leather jacket and carries a whip.

While it's fashionable right now to assault neo-Nazis, and undoubtedly very gratifying, I, for one, am anti-punching Nazis.  Hear me out: many of them use that as justification to become further radicalized. While many (hell, most) neo-Nazis are absolutely vile people, a lot of them are also lacking in any sort of real support network, and have found acceptance among their fellow neo-Nazis. The "us v. them" mentality of hate groups makes them very, very hard to leave, similar to a cult.
Life After Hate is an organization that tries to help de-radicalize, rehabilitate, and re-integrate neo-Nazis.

For those who don't believe neo-Nazis can be rehabilitated and should be punched in the face, I would like to present the case of Daryl Davis, a musician who has befriended and convinced over 200 Klansmen to exit the KKK. Davis's advice for dealing with racism and hatred? "Establish dialogue. When two enemies are talking, they're not fighting."

Shout-out as well to Tiffany Whittier, a parole officer who befriended a neo-Nazi who went on to get his tattoos removed and get a stable job, abandoning his prior racist ideologies.

Or consider the black educator Lawrence C. Jones who convinced a lynch mob to let him go and also to donate to his school, who famously said, "No man can force me to stoop low enough to hate him."

My point is, sometimes, people can come back from the brink. We should make sure they know they have a place to come back to. 

If a guy who faced a fucking lynch mob is able to find it in his heart to forgive evil people, and resist hateful ideologies without becoming hateful himself, then we can, too.  Hate the idea; hate the system; but don't hate the person.  People are small, broken, and fallible.  We should try not to hate individuals. 

(Biden went on to say, and I am not making this up, "It's one thing to say: 'I think the proposal on the following is a serious mistake. I think it's gonna do the following damage.' It's another thing to say, 'The guy's a fucking idiot, and he is an egomaniac who's a whatever.'"  Throw that shade, Mr. Vice President!)

Some people, of course, are totally vile and we're incapable of not hating them.  But we should still try to temper our visceral reaction toward them and, you know... not escalate the situation by assaulting them.

Be the bigger man!  Take the high road!  Et cetera and so forth!

Anywho, for all of its failings, the leather community does provide structure and community to many.  And I've had some good experiences.  When my insurance lapsed in December, for example, I had one person I barely know get me my asthma medication, which is not cheap.

It's $300.  For the medicine that lets me breathe.

But putting on productions and having commitments and laurels isn't worth it for me.  I learned in the last year that I didn't need a title to do what I'm already doing, which is learning, teaching, and trying to embrace humanity with open arms even when it's sort of shitty.  Having a title just isn't for everyone, and it certainly isn't for me.  Having every word and action scrutinized is tough.

You have no idea.

I'm looking forward to passing my title along.  (Titles, like the curse of the video tape in the movie Ring, can only go away by passing them on.)  I've learned a lot in the last year... probably more about myself than about leather.  But in the end, leather subculture is all about being yourself.  It's about self-expression without hate or fear.  That's something we can all get behind.

Get behind.  Oh my God.

In closing I'd like to sum up what my take-away message has been from this whole leather thing with the graphic below.

I did not make this graphic.  I did, however, say that quote.  And someone liked it enough to make a little leather graphic that people shared on FaceBook.  Which is kind of nice, because it means I'm not alone in trying to be the change I want to see in the world.  And not being alone is, at the end of the day, what every community is really all about.

Click for full size.