Scott Bryen, Edmonton
Several people have asked for a transcript of the speech I gave tonight. Here it is for those that are interested.
Good evening fellow kinksters.
For those of you who do not know my name is Scott Bryen and I have been in the leather community for over 35 years. I’ve spent many of those years teaching and organizing many different events however this is the first time I have ever been called on to do a keynote speech so bear with me while I fumble through this and hopefully we will come up with some good ideas that we can take forward. Or at the very least you don’t fall asleep.
I am honored to speak before you this evening in complete physical isolation, the irony of that statement and the topic of this keynote is not lost on me, following rules which have been set before us. This is a very odd situation so we will make the best of what we have here tonight.
The subject of this weekend’s conference is connection, both personal and community. Given the current circumstances that we find ourselves in connections are challenging these days as we are not allowed to physically connect or interact with anyone these days except those of us who are within a small and intimate group. This alone makes it difficult to connect with people. But we also live in an age where electronic communication has never been easier and while it is not the most ideal form of communication, we will have to make do with what we have available to us at this point. Electronic communication will never replace full physical communication and connection. We will do what we can to keep ourselves healthy and happy both mentally and physically.
Connections are something that has always driven me. To be perfectly frank, intimacy is more the word I would use instead of connection but it is something that I have spent my life trying to develop with people that I find I wish to have in my life. However, intimacy requires trust and a connection to develop that trust. Being what most people would define as an extrovert I like to talk, but I also like to listen, and I like to understand and learn new things. I love to see people for the truth they hold …. with out pretense or any mask. Both the good and the bad.
Connection is defined as a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else. The keyword here is relationship. I am not speaking of the relationship you have with a superior, or a neighbour. What we are going to explore is the more intimate side of connection.
Looking at me from the outside you would think that I was only a top, dominant, Master and for years that was the box that I put myself into. To be honest my introduction into the leather community was through a mutual friend to drag me along to an event. I had showed up in khaki shorts in a preppy shirt which the boys at the event were not having any of. Before I knew it, the shorts and the shirt were off (thank god I decided not to go commando that day) and I was being put into a rope harness for the first time in my life. What I genuinely appreciated about that day besides the fact that being put into a rope harness was freaking hot, was the connection I made with the people at that event. Each one of them seemed to be open, fearless, honorable and without any of the usual protections that people keep on themselves to prevent themselves from being hurt. The connections I made that day still linger to this day and several the people who attended that event are still dear friends of mine.
The only problem being in a smaller community is that tops were a rarity and because of my size and physicality I was thrust into the role of being a top. It was something I accepted simply because the community cast me in that role. And it stuck with me for years. To tell the truth I am versatile more than a top or a bottom mostly because I’m a greedy SOB. To let you in an even deeper truth I am not even completely gay and have been very attracted to some women. The one thing I am is selective about who I choose to connect with has therefore become intimate with. I have always lean towards quality rather than quantity.
All of this leads me to my first point about connection, fear of rejection, fear of appearing foolish, and fear of your community’s disapproval is what keeps us from making deep connections. Somebody far wiser than me once said a question never asked is never answered. The same goes for connections.
My case in point is as follows; about 20 years into my involvement with the community I ran into a well-known top at the event I was attending. You may even know the name; it was Guy Baldwin. As we talked guy actually invited me down to his boys house in Phoenix for a couple of weeks just to get to know each other and it was during that time that guy who had had several experiences with IML (international Mr. leather) Talked me, a small town Leatherman from northern Canada, into considering running for the title , something I had never thought myself worthy of. The experience of IML certainly opened my eyes to the larger North American leather community and gave me a chance to create some connections also which last to this day. I placed 21st out of 87 contestants that year and unfortunately the second part of the contest only takes the top 20. I probably would have made the top 20 if I hadn’t had a heated exchange with one of the judges during my interview. With 87 contestants to fit into a two-day period the period the interviews were short and concise I believe they were 7 minutes or less. I unfortunately drew the 8:00 AM slot on the second day. While most of the judges took their duties very seriously one of them was a party boy from San Francisco. So, you can imagine the state he was in at 8:00 AM on the second day of probably the largest leather party in North America. The interview proceeded fine until this one gentleman decided to bark a question at me and before I could respond put his head directly on the table with his hands over his head. Being somewhat concerned I approach the table and ask the judge if he was feeling OK. He looked up at me And I swear his eyeballs were bleeding. It took him a couple of moments to focus on my face and then barked at me again to answer his question and ended with boy at the end of his direction. Unfortunately, I saw red at that point, and told the judge that I would certainly answer his question but prior to answering I wanted to state something. I preceded to tell him that respect was the cornerstone of the majority of what I understood to be leather and that as a contestant I felt I was deserving of the judges respect just as much as the judges were deserving of my respect. I then went on to tell this judge the phrasing of his question indicated that he had no respect for me and as far as I was concerned the interview was over and walked out of the interview early. Apparently, it caused quite a commotion in the judge’s room after I left however half of the judges scored me a perfect mark on the interview and the other half scored me a 0. Either way I had made a mark on the judges and all of them came up to talk to me after the contest was over. The empowerment I showed made them want to connect with me.
This leads me to my second point about connection empowering yourself to make the connections.
I want to say a couple of words about empowerment here. Empowerment is not insisting on your own way all the time regardless of how other people feel. Empowerment is a personal state where you give yourself permission to explore but still consider the feelings and try to respect as much as possible the other people that you are trying to make this connection with. In my experience I am seeing a lot of people who seem to consider empowerment as a get out of jail free card for any behavior. This is not acceptable in any way shape or form and certainly not acceptable in the larger leather community.
At one point in my life I decided to accept a Collar and start to understand how the boys I mentored and played with felt by creating some of my own experiences to draw on. In other words, I empowered myself to explore something I had not been given an opportunity to do so before. The person that I collared myself too Was a well-respected man who unfortunately did not live in my community. It was a bit of a mutt and Jeff situation I am 6’1” and weigh a solid 220 pounds while this man was 5’7” and probably weighed 150 pounds soaking wet. My long-distance master insisted that I wear a punishment caller every time I was in service with him, whether that be on skype or at an event. He was stern he was no nonsense and he was straight to the point with how he wished to be served. What I found during this journey what is a distinct empathy with the boys that i had mentored. I found myself in a position where i found true joy in the service that I was giving him and was crushed when I failed him. I remember being lippy to him at one event (I know the thought of me being sarcastic is beyond belief) and in what seemed seconds he had me in a rope cuff around my thumbs and fingers behind my back and proceeded to lead me thru the crowd. I was unable to do anything. My first impulse was to lip off some more but mama didn’t raise a fool so I just complied. And in that moment I felt a freedom I had never experienced before. I don’t even know if the words exist to explain that sense of being present.
I am no longer in service with him however we are still very good friends to this date and this has a lot to do with the connection that we made during the three years that I was in service to him. What I recall most vividly is the community’s reaction to me appearing in public with a punishment collar on in obvious service to my master. How could I be a top and accept a collar or maybe I was just pretending to be a top all the time. I spent a lot of time in that three years explaining that I needed to learn this and at the end of it all it was none of their business. Years later I did have some people come to me and tell me it was inspiring to see the courage to try it. I did not know I was making an impact on people just by following my own journey.
Which brings me to my third point about connection. You can make connection without even knowing you have made it.
Northern Chaps (the now defunct Edmonton Leather club) used to meet every other week at a local bar. Full gear and impromptu play were seen in abundance and we showed the rest of the community that we were here. During one of these meets a rather shy young man approached me and asked if we could talk privately. Rolling my eyes inside I thought “wonderful another curious tourist” However what he told me both shocked me and made me tear up. He apparently had been coming to the meets for several months and looked me dead in the eye when he said he had been watching me and how I treated other people. How I always took time even for the most annoying sorts and patiently explained who we were. And then he said, “you are the type of man I would want to be” and walked away. That connection while brief was deep and very meaningful to me but it was connection. Connections come to you for a reason, a season or a lifetime and all of them are valuable. We are nothing but our accumulated experiences and connection with others form those experiences.
SO, what did I learn.
First: fear can keep you from making connections. Its up to all of us to not let that fear stand in the way of finding something valuable.
Second: Empowerment or giving yourself permission to make connections is essential. Connections typically don’t fall into your lap; you will have to work on them.
Third: You can make a variety of connections both brief and long lasting and all of them have value.
I will leave you with a quote that says a lot to me about this concept of connection both personal and community.
“There is no power for change greater than a person or a community discovering what it cares about.” – Margaret J. Wheatley
Find what you care about and follow that passion. That passion will lead you to the connections in your life and the connections you make on that journey will be with you for your lifetime.
Scott Bryen, Edmonton Alberta