Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Judging IML 35 (May 2013) - What an Honor

This past weekend I had the honor of sitting on a judging panel for International Mr. Leather (IML) 35.  I first got the call offering me a seat on the panel in November of last year, and I was grateful and honored to get that phone call.  At the time I didn’t even know who else I would be sitting on the 9 person panel with.  I didn’t know the rest of the panel until the official press release came out in January, and that’s when I was completely humbled.  I was going to be sitting on this panel with some people in the community that I have looked up to and respected for years.  I knew that the weekend was going to be a tremendous amount of work, but I knew that this was going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.  One thing that I didn’t have quite a full grasp on was how this experience would make some of my friendships even stronger than they have ever been.

The weekend was a very emotional experience for a couple of reasons.  Firstly I got to share the weekend with two close friends, who both got even closer throughout the weekend.  Rik “Hooker” Newton-Treadway I first met in January 2007 at Mid-Atlantic Leather shortly after SIR Alan and I first got together.  SIR Alan got to share the other side of the IML contest experience in 2009 when they became members of the brotherhood of contestants together.  This time I got to share the experience with Hooker from the other side of the judges table.  We have shared a lot together since we met back in 2007, but this was the most intense for sure.  Sitting on the other side of me was the outgoing IML, Woody Woodruff.  We first met one another about a year and a half ago when he was visiting Atlanta with his partner.  Over the past year and a half Woody and I have gotten to be closer and closer friends.  We now talk almost every single day, and refer to one another as Brothers.  We never realized until this intense weekend that we were both cut from the same cloth (I’m thinking I may have been the twin he tried to absorb in the womb).  I was honored to be able to share this weekend with him as he prepared to step-aside and took part in finding the next member of the Fraternity that is the IML Lineage.

The judges handler team even told us that they were blown away by how quickly all of us gelled together during the weekend.  I look forward to working with all of these individuals again in the very near future. 
The complete list of judges for IML 35 is:
Hardy Haberman
Bryson “Pup Nitro” Hankinson
Uew Langer
Murray Lavigne
Patrick Mulcahey
Brent Seeley
Rik “Hooker” Newton-Treadway 
Lolita Wolf
Woody Woodruff

A huge thanks also goes to the Tally Masters:
George Brown
Danny Tamez

I can’t even put into words how much to thank the Judges Coordinator and handlers:
Billy Lane
John Brook
Peter Fiske
Michael Hernandez
Richard Hubley

There is one thing that I really want to talk about as well.  I want to thank all 51 of the brave men who stepped up and put their personal lives on display for everyone to see as they tried to become IML 35.  Even though only one man can go home with the Title, I can honestly say that all of these men are winners in their own rite.  Each of these men will be going down in history as party of the legacy that is IML, and I hope that each and every one of them is proud.  Even though I only got to spend a few short days with these men, there were many whom I saw great growth in just in that short period of time.  I am proud to have been a part of their experience, and I look forward to being involved in their development in the future as well. 

I know that there are plenty of people out there who do not understand the need for contests, but I can honestly say THIS is the true reason for them, personal growth.  Yes sometimes titleholders become leaders within our community.  Yes sometimes titleholders make great changes that impact us all.  Yes titleholders get to travel and represent different facets of our community and our culture.  However, not all of these are guaranteed.  One thing that is guaranteed is that everyone I have ever known that has entered into a major contest has been a different person by the end of the experience.  That is what contests do, they push us outside of our comfort zone so that we can hone in our personal development and challenge us to grow and break down all barriers that are restricting us from moving forward.

Thank you again to the board of IML to trust me to be one of the 9 judges that picked this year’s winner, Andy Cross from San Francisco.   Thank you to everyone who contributed to this amazing weekend for me, and thank you to my family that supported me through this emotional experience.

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