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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Running For A Title: What's The Payoff?

During the course of a year, we have two men's titleholder contests in San Diego aimed at identifying, supporting and encouraging new community leaders and volunteers. The Mr. San Diego Eagle contest is always on the third Saturday in February.  At the moment, the Mr. San Diego Leather Contest is in flux. We will know more as time goes by.

Last year, I made a request that we come together to show our loving support of the five young men who were running for the title of Mr. San Diego Eagle. As I had predicted beforehand, the turnout was the biggest in history of the Eagle, with a line out front. Best of all, it was a respectful, supportive and kindly gathering of grownups:

I want to explain what is actually happening in this photo.  The men in the crowd are practically leaning over the judges in their desire to show loving support. When it came time for everybody to be quiet, the place went DEAD SILENT, because we truly wanted to hear what our brothers had to say.

I was so overwhelmed with joy, I wrote this article and then this article.

So - what if YOU have been considering running for a title. 
What is it about, and why should you bother?

Think of a diving-board, but with a difference. Instead of going downward, you shift upward to a new, much more powerful, effective and life-affirming phase, and NEVER GO BACK again. An ethical, effective titleholder contest isn't a pageant, or merely a way for a bar to sell extra beer that night. Those used to be true, but when so many of us died in the 1980's, titleholder contests became the only effective way to invite somebody, ANYBODY to please step up and help a suffering community.

In the years since then, the focus has changed.

In San Diego's current phase, we are 100% about encouraging new stars to rise among us, and to be loved for it. Really. When we see a young man reach his fullest potential and then KEEP improving, it's a cause for joy for everybody who is paying attention, and there are a LOT of us. We have no interest in working a man until he collapses, and then yelling "NEXT!" There are no strings attached.

I asked Eli (Mr. San Diego Eagle 2012) and Aaron (Mr. San Diego Leather 2012) to tell their truth, without any desire to "pretty things up".  I asked them to share how their lives have changed in the time since they won their titles:

Mr. San Diego Eagle 2012, Eli:

As my title year of Mr. San Diego Eagle 2012 comes closer to the end, I look back at where I started, and where I am now. This experience has taught me so much about myself and the San Diego Community which I love.

One of the many benefits of this title was the ability to host events. This helped me become even more confident in myself and also see the support this community offered. I grew more comfortable using the microphone with each event and found the audience respecting the words coming from my mouth.

Upon winning the title I set forth to make a difference within the leather community by thinking outside the box and pushing my limits. I desired to go above and beyond the past title holders that I would follow. The community was watching to see what I was made of and I proved I was up for the challenge.

This specific title gives individuals the chance to mature and prepare for future endeavors such as Mr. San Diego Leather. The only task you are required to host is the monthly underwear contest, which is a great way to learn how to control the crowds and to speak publicly. This event brings a great crowd and is meant to be fun. Don’t be afraid to add some personal flavor and variety.

The beauty of this title is your ability to suggest ideas to the owner of the Eagle, and you can also volunteer for more to show initiative. This allows you to learn more and show the community you are serious. Of course with our busy everyday lives, some can’t afford this leisure and that's understandable.

The only thing I would lay caution to, is to say don't let yourself get wrapped in the drama of others. Stay focused on what you desire to accomplish and make it so. Make sure to utilize those in the community with experience, and are willing to help.

This community needs more young kinky men to step up and lead us into the future. It’s a great feeling when you travel to see other leather men and women who know your name or have heard of the things you’ve done. It brings honor to the title and your city. Remember a title is what you make it and should be amazing experience.

I have met some of the best people because of the title and even just being out speaking about events. It’s one of the best feelings to see your event come together after all the hard work, but keep in mind things can go wrong, so remember to keep your cool and learn from the experience. Thanks to everyone who has helped me grow in this year. I will forever be grateful for this once in a lifetime experience.

Eli Correa
Mr. San Diego Eagle 2012

Mr. San Diego Leather 2012, Aaron:

One year ago, I moved to San Diego, and nothing has changed, except my entire life. Many people ask me what my favorite part of San Diego is. I always reply that it is the people.

Since being honored with the title Mr San Diego Leather 2012, there have been many wonderful changes in my life. People in the leather community (as well as the greater LGBT community and heterosexual communities) have welcomed me with open arms.

My biggest fear was that I would have to do everything alone. That has not been the case. Any time I am coordinating an event, whether it is educational, social, or fundraising, there are always eager volunteers invested in the success of these events. There is a built-in support network if you just reach out and ask.

We have a wonderful community of small business owners who graciously support me in my fundraising endeavors. I make sure that all donations are promoted as a wonderful gesture of support for our community.

Marketing for events is coming from all directions. Fetish Men San Diego's weekly newsletter, Facebook, and pre-established Yahoo Groups with thousands of members make sure your events are broadcast to members of the community that want to see you succeed.

I have been fortunate to travel to many of the big events throughout the country.  Although they are fun, my favorite part is the one-on-one conversations with people from around the country.  It is nice to get to know people on a more intimate level.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I travel extensively for work.  I have used this opportunity to forge relationship with other titleholders in other cities.  I have been taken to dinner, taken to local leather events, and enjoyed their company over cigars.

I have been an ambassador not only in the Leather Community, but the larger LGBT community as well.  I have spoken at the Hillcrest Youth Center and participated on a panel in a psychology class at a local university.  In addition, I have had coffee with many people interested in learning about the leather community and getting involved.

I have used my time to mentor a few people as well. I have not had any expectations or preconceived notions of my title year.  I have just been open to possibilities and seizing opportunities as they present themselves to me.

What To Think About All Of This?

In our normal, day-to-day lives, we don't usually get challenged to rise above our past limitations, fears and considerations. In fact, the general agreement in our culture is that we should all do the minimum to get by, and that's just dandy.

What if, instead, huge crowds of older men show up at events just for YOU, to specifically and intentionally express their loving support and admiration for your excellent good character?

What if your simple, heartfelt request for support brings out a crowd of true friends every time, instead of the usual flakes blowing you off?

What if your circle of true, stable, honorable, lovable and respected lifelong friends gets MASSIVELY bigger?

What if your life transforms for the better, and you discover what kind of admirable man you were always meant to be, but never had the chance to express?

What if you need money to travel on behalf of the San Diego community, and you are broke, and people that you have never met before, show up to contribute?

What if high-end photographers contact you throughout the year, seeking to get together, with the intent of showing you at your very best, in your prime of life, for free?

What if you decide to host a fundraiser for charity, and everybody shows up?

What if you can just get together with a few other guys for a casual chat, and everything SHIFTS in your direction as a result, so that your plans always succeed?

Every one of these things (and many, many more) have happened in the last year. I can't imagine any reason why things won't be even better in the years to come. This is the way that our community has grown.

If you have ever considered running for a title, you are the right man, at the right time, and in the right place.

Feel free to contact me at papatony and receive complete support 7/24/365.

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