Last year, I made the analogy that each of us could be compared to a musical note and when one arranges the unique notes within our communities there is an awesome and powerful potential for a song that can have an impact on our future, our world, and our lives. I challenged everyone to "find their sound" and throughout this last year I have had the amazing opportunity to hear first-hand the sounds, the marches, and the anthems that you have created in each of your communities. My heart fills with pride with the work that has been done this last year and the impact you've all made in our world.
Certain songs can instill in an individual a sense of pride and this last year has made me swell up with pride for my own journey: who I am, what I stand for, and what I have accomplished in my life. I say this not to be egotistical, but to be encouraging because I know someone else may have a similar story; and maybe, just maybe, hearing my story will inspire them to BE PROUD OF THEMSELVES, to make a difference in their community, and define themselves as a Leatherman or Leatherwoman.
I didn't have much pride in myself thinking back to my early years growing up in a small town in northern Michigan, living somewhat in the shadow of my bigger and more athleticly talented brother. After finally coming out as gay, I again struggled to find my place, trying to fit in while continuing to make mistakes along the way. It wasn't until I met Bob, my Papa Bearand together we took a chance on each otherthat my place started to become clear.
We pride ourselves on taking the steps of our leather journey together. I would like to say the first leather event was perfect and welcoming, but the truth is it was not. I remember overhearing a group of men ridiculing and commenting that we were not Leathermen because of what we were wearing and how we were wearing it.
Luckily for me, moments later I met a titleholder. Everyone seemed to gravitate towards him and hang on his every word; I for one was mesmerized by him. He was not only attractive, but welcomed me with open arms. It was my experience with this person that gave me the drive to learn more, and encouraged me to become a Leatherman based on his example.
My journey as a Leatherman helped me finally discover confidence, brotherhood, and that sense of what it meant to belong for just being me; I continue to build upon that each day.
With that I am not going to write a list of "thank yous" as you all know how thankful I am for each of you, and for being blessed with this amazing adventure. I do, however, owe one heartfelt thank you to James Finley, Mr. Detroit Eagle 2008 for being that one person that reached out and welcomed me to this community. I try to live my life by his actions and his example and cannot encourage you enough to be the Leatherman or Leatherwoman that brings the next member into our community.
The only person you can compare yourself to today is the person you were yesterday. Who will you be tomorrow and what will your sound be?