2017 IMsBB Step-down Speech


Hello. I’m skipping thank yous again. There are an innumerable number of you who deserve gratitude from me for your support, generosity, love, time, and help. If you think you may have helped in some small or large way, you did. If you think you didn’t help, you are wrong. And I learned that I am really awful at sending thank you cards and I offer a blanket apology for that year-long failure. I had a moment in early February where I really thought I was going to fix this, but it didn't happen.

But now I want to change gears and tell a brief story. Lest you ever think you get to a point in your leather journey where people stop trying to dull your shine, I got pulled aside at a bar last month by someone who wanted to say how proud he was of me, despite the fact that I don’t look like I belong.

I left that bar and cried in the car on my way home, perhaps the first time I have cried after leaving a bar for things people have said to me in years. He had good intentions, but whatever. He was trying to compliment me about my ability to persevere, but whatever. He was trying to remind me of my place in the hierarchy of value that we assign to each other in this community, intentionally or not, but whatever.

After I mustered myself back together and reminded myself, just as Leslie Anderson said during the alumnae panel this afternoon, that I was going to be damned before I let some man determine my self-worth and the parameters of my success in this title, in this scene, in this life based on my physical appearance, I realized a few things. First, I have spent a year talking loudly and openly about my body, my genitals, and the truth of my sex and my sexuality, which I never would have imagined for myself five years ago. Second, for every one of you who have felt empowered or appreciated what I’ve had to say about these unruly bodies we all wander around in and their wonderful glories and ridiculous foibles, there have been many that have felt that I was uncouth, inappropriate, disrespectful of men’s spaces if I dared to mention my vagina in one, or self-centered. And lastly, and most importantly, we are all here in this scene for erotic intimacy, sexual or otherwise, and looking like you belong is the most counter-productive metric of success in terms of achieving erotic intimacy that I can think of.

My body and your body have an equal right and value to take up as much erotic space as male bodies in our discourse around our scene and our spaces. I keep people around me who never ever dismiss the validity of my body and the experience of my sexuality. I am tired of seeking approval by minimizing the reality of my experience. I can’t do it any more, I won’t do it any more and I hope so much that none of you will do it either.

So, speaking of unruly bodies, let’s discuss mine. I wouldn’t want anyone to say I wasn’t consistent or that I missed a single opportunity on my very last day to talk about my vagina. This weekend, I have a uterus that keeps on threatening flood the hotel out by slamming itself against my low back. My legs have swollen up enough that my boots feel really awful to put on and I had to work hard to not cry at how frustrated I was with my uncooperative body while getting ready. I have a nervous colon and I have been having enough anxiety over this weekend that I had some poor lady drop off fiber supplements to my room on Thursday morning. Dear CVS lady: you will never know how much you will mean to me forever.

But that all fades, because the other half of the truth of my experience has been that I’ve been waking up every morning with a magnificently fucked-raw vagina. I’ve had multiple experiences of multiple orgasms. Last night I had some kind of glorious four person experience in the dungeon that was the epitome of erotic intimacy. I went from having an area of my body that I feel uncomfortable with worshipped profoundly to giggly cuddles to literally getting ground down into the carpet in a single two-hour whirlwind. Whether or not I look like I belong has literally occupied zero percent of my mental landscape. I hope so desperately for you that none of you here this weekend have spent a single moment worrying about it either.

These bodies of our’s are confusing messes, often embarrassing, unpredictable and truly absurd. I spent so many years being ashamed of mine because it did not look like anyone else’s. The only surefire method I have discovered to scrub that shame away has been to be relentlessly open about the weirdness. It has only ever garnered me friends and partners who have been able to laugh with me at the messy physicalities of our bodies and been willing to travel with me to uncharted territories of pleasure and pain and discover the intimacy that lives there.

While I wrote this, there were three boys cuddled up together in the bed next to me and it’s the sweetest reminder I have, aside from the bruises on my collarbones, that this scene is about finding transcendent ecstasy through the process of becoming fully embodied. Your body is your self. You can love it or hate it, ignore it, decorate it, or make after-market improvements but it remains your only means of connection, joy, and erotic intimacy.

We lose so much when we tell ourselves and each other that we do not belong. I lose nothing when you belong fully, in the entire glory of yourself, but I gain an exquisite universe of joyous possibility.

Elisa Vegas