This article is part of my Mentoring for Tops/Sirs/Doms/Masters curriculum.
UPDATE: Now that this event is over, I have added a few photos to show what happened, and here is my speech from the opening part of the ceremony:
Speech for Cover Ceremony
I love San Diego’s kink, Leather & Fetish community. As of this month, I have been a part of it for 41 years.
Back when my journey started, I was very blessed to have dozens of loving uncles. By this, I mean older gay leathermen who cared about my well-being, and wanted me to succeed. They taught me about interpersonal dynamics, and how to have transcendental sex and kinky play.
I was in paradise. I had never had such unconditional love from male role-models. I will never stop blessing their memories.
When they all died of AIDS, we ALL suffered as a result. The ones who knew the most, were the first to go, and were not replaced. This is a terrible wound in our tribal culture.
As you may know, I’ve worked very hard over the decades to bring people together in kindness and camaraderie. This work has been my therapy for the wound in my heart.
Now that I am too old to organize big events, I have found new purpose in life as a Tribal Elder. I have had no role-models in this work, because they died before passing on crucial wisdom about growing old. I’ve had to make a lot of it up, because nobody has risen up to guide me as the years have raced by.
My self-assigned job as an Elder is to:
This means that decades of experience in volunteering and leadership help me to see subtleties and nuances that pass right by most folks.
Let’s say somebody shines like a star in a very pleasing way. They step way out of their comfort-zone, take big chances, and succeed. Many times, that heroic effort may just go unnoticed in our distracting culture.
Whenever possible, that’s when I step in. My policy is:
If it is...
Say it now!
I’m always on alert for the new, rising star. If my intuition clangs like a bell, my head whips around, and I focus upon the person who is practically vibrating with talent and possibilities.
I focus upon them, establish trust, and help them in any way that I can. I make no claims to perfection. I’m a fragile human like anyone else.
However, I never take a day off from being the old guy with the pom-poms. It is my purpose in life to be the supportive wind beneath the wings of others.
My goal is to bring back that cycle of mentoring between the generations, and that helped ME so much. We can’t leave it to chance to nurture new leaders, role-models and future mentors.
Mentoring is an active verb, and we all have something to contribute to those in need of what we can share. Long after we are all dead and gone, the ripples of positive change that we co-create will spread around the world.
Tonight is special in the work that I do. When the folks under my wing achieve new heights of character and courage, I like to celebrate the news with my very favorite friends. This means you.
You can appreciate integrity, heart and hard-earned achievement, because you have lived it. These young men that I present to you tonight are rising among us as admirable, lovable, respectable and honorable additions to a thriving and ethical local culture.
Tonight, let’s celebrate them!
Here is the publicity leading up to the event:
Photos from a previous, similar ceremony.
Both men have diligently applied themselves, to my great satisfaction. I am entirely confident in their worthiness and skill-set. I see no reason to delay further.
If you would like to be a part of this San Diego event, please send an RSVP to papatony AT mac DOT com. It's a buffet-style Italian dinner meal, with a cost of $25 per person. Since this is NOT a fund-raiser, 100% of the cost is for the food, and there is always a lot of extra food to take home.
Since there is limited seating, ONLY folks who RSVP by March 10th, 2018 may attend. I will also reveal WHERE the event will be held.
Many good people of the community will be attending. Please help us celebrate those who are actively contributing value to our excellent local Tribe!
Awarding A Master's Cap (AKA Cover)As you may already know, I mentor a LOT of gay men, in varying degrees. Once in a while, I will take a man all of the way through to earning his Master's Cap.
Are there ways to earn different types of leather? Like you have to complete training for a cap and the a different training for boot or a vest? Do they need different styles of training or topics to learn about, and master?
I can only speak for myself. In order to earn a Master's Cap, the man has to prove his courage, his initiative, his kindness, his willingness to step way out of his comfort-zone, and many other things that demonstrate his character.
Because somebody can study hard skills on YouTube, but then be dead inside when it comes to being a high-quality Sir for high-quality submissives.
It is my highly-biased opinion that the man who is fully-expressed in his emotions and empathy, and who understands interpersonal relationships, who makes the best Sir, leader and role-model to lead our Tribe into its next phase.
I look for the best-possible Man of the Tribe, when I work somebody through months of intensive, dedicated training, before he earns his cover.
Thanks for the info! I was just curious if you earn a belt, then gloves, shirt, etc. in a specific order. Or if each item represents a skill or milestone you’ve passed.
As a Tribal Elder, I always have to customize the feedback and approval to the individual.
If someone has thoroughly mastered the singletail, I may give him my favorite toy.
If he has impressed me with his wit, character and social graces, I may award him a vest that looks sensational on him.
Not being a wealthy man, I can’t afford to do this incredibly often. But I want it to mean something deep for the man, when it happens.
Since the Master’s Cap (otherwise known as a “Cover” is the highest level of approbation, the requirements and procedures are much, MUCH more intensive. They have to be. Otherwise, it’s just a good-looking trinket to throw on the pile.
Here is a subset of my criteria (I reserve some Elder mystery, by choice):
The man has to:
- Consciously request the journey toward earning his Master’s Cap. This must be a well-considered, informed and sober choice.
- Continuously impress me with his eagerness to learn, and his self-driven desire to practice until he masters his skills in public. Why in public? Because a high-quality Master is a man of the Tribe, and THEIR opinions of him count very highly on the final scorecard.
- Courage counts. A lot. I intentionally and lovingly create challenges that address areas of personal difficulty. My goal is to help them see that they are much stronger and better than what they feared.
Blessing a Daddy/boy relationship
- Being a “Gandalf” style of a Sir, I have a bias toward elevating the man who causes joy and excitement whenever he chooses to. Men like us cause transformational change in the Tribe, often without trying very hard. We make the best leaders, whether it’s with one submissive, or a crowd of happy followers. That’s my opinion, and I stand by it with decades of proof.
- These are not hardened rules. I elevate introverts as well. Being a Tenth-Degree Black Belt Extrovert, I also know the value of the man who is quietly effective. Our community needs character in our Sirs, just as much as it needs flashy peacocks like me. :-)
- I have to be SURE, in my deepest heart, that the man is ready. I have ended the journey early for a few men, and it is never easy. I will give a man dozens of chances to prove his worth, but I have no desire to get behind him and shove him along. That helps nobody. I leave the door wide open for him to come back and try again when he feels that he is ready.
These men are being praised in front of 695 people.
- I do NOT disrespect the man by using words like “should” or “ought to”. When I am at my most conscious about the process, I even prefer not to give advice. This is because I want to honor what makes that man SPECIAL and valuable... not crank out clones of myself. His worth comes from his unique ideas, contributions and skill set. Instead of advice, I offer him viable and useful choices. Then, I accept the choices that he makes.
Clearly, I’m being awfully subjective at all points, when I guide a man toward his big reward. I’m comfortable with that. After a few decades of mentoring, I am proud to say that I am always the first one to notice when the new star rises among us. I can see potential for greatness, and my intuition clangs like a bell.
That’s when I leap into action.
Would I be correct in thinking that you can be a good Sir and Leatherman without having earned a cover?
Of course! It’s a symbolic thing, not a final endpoint. Even after a man receives his cover, he still has the entire rest of his life to hone his craft, gain more wisdom, and (my fervent hope of hopes), PASS IT ON.
First of all: Awarding leathers is expensive, so it is not something done lightly. I like to mix awarding gear that is destined to be worn, with toys, since they are ever so practical. I am NOT strict about circumstances, procedures, goals or 100% expertise. My underlying goal is to encourage mastery, leadership, confidence and social standing.
After decades of being massively connected, I know what we need:
Leaders, Mentors and Role-Models. Our Tribe is STARVED for solid, honorable, lovable, admirable and respectable men who touch, move and inspire others to be better individuals. I can honestly say that I have never taken a single day off from pondering, mentoring, leading or encouraging others toward that end, in decades.
So, I do what I can to shove our Tribe further along our timeline, AWAY from the Holocaust Phase, and to make a discernible difference, before I die. If it takes every penny that I have, to bless the men who are growing into their power, honor and charisma, then that's just how it is.
Many public events are currently being staffed by folks who I took under my wing with love, patience and intense mentoring. They grew past the need for me, as I always wanted. I have thousands of photos from these blessing ceremonies, and they provide me with intense satisfaction.
Being awarded a token of esteem, whether it is a titleholder vest, or a set of gauntlets from someone who you respect, means that you have impressed someone very much. It is public approval, esteem and validation.
Yes, we live, work and get by somehow in the larger community, but we hunger for Tribe. We need to know that we are part of something larger than ourselves.
We want to belong. We want to be on the inside. Tragically, with the current lack of loving and wise Mentors and Elders (the ones who knew the most, were the first to die of AIDS, and were not replaced), the vast majority of Leatherfolk will never know what it feels like to be blessed, certified and validated.
The reason why I work so hard, in the direction that I do, is so that the current supply of mature, masculine and wise men will someday grow to be Tribal Elders.
I am playing a very long game here. I know that things will only get massively better, long after I am dead. I’m OK with that, as long as I can get some momentum going.
Awarding A Toy
Here is how it USUALLY works for me:
- I teach something that I care deeply about. Usually, flogging or whipping.
- If a particular student’s eagerness to learn impresses me, I will loan him one of my favorite toys to practice with, at home.
- I then request that the student practice diligently, on a pillow. If he does, this pleases me.
- if he lives in San Diego, I have him come over to my place, and show me his progress. This can include him topping Papa Tony, the Stunt Bottom. I’m willing to bottom during the evaluation. It’s a perfect way to judge all aspects of his style, aim, caring, and ability to calibrate on the fly.
- If he lives outside of San Diego, then several Skype or FaceTime sessions allow me to video-evaluate the student’s talents and diligence in pursuing his goals. I spend that time throwing tips and challenges at him, and checking-out subtle signals of how he shows up as a talented Top.
Digital, fiber-optic floggers. Very sting-y.
- Having jumped through flaming hoops of my own design, and having impressed me mightily, the next step is for the student to attend a public playspace and apply his new knowledge and talents on actual human beings. Then, I wait for reviews to come in.
- Doing out-of-state evaluations is a new thing, but I recently sent our own Nate my very favorite toy as a well-earned token of my esteem. He’s the Real Thing, based on video proof, and long conversations.
- A student, having completed all of these steps to my satisfaction, will be told to bring that same toy to a crowded public event. When he does, I will wait for the appropriate moment. Then, I will call for everyone’s attention. I will call the student to me, and praise him in front of everyone. I will talk about his journey, his courage, his heart and other virtues. Then, in front of everyone, I will present him with my favored toy as a gift of love and respect.
- At that point, he gets SWAMPED by eager bottoms, wanting perform their own, in-depth evaluations.
- Years and decades later, I still see those men with my toy worn proudly on their hip. They have no doubt that they are true masters of that style of play, because I have certified them. Nobody can take that away. Naturally, they branch out into their OWN personal style, and I admire that. I lay no claim to their talent... that is all them. I’m just the guide who encouraged and rewarded them when they needed a boost.
In my own case, awarding a cover/Master's Cap has to do with my belief that the man has exceptional character, courage, talent and a hunger for further growth. I make him jump through hoops of my own design, to help him to feel that he has EARNED it, the hard way.
I HAVE made folks earn gear from me in difficult ways at times, but most times I am an impulsive bestower.
Somebody will try something on, and there is NO way that I will let them leave without it. I tell them that they are required to think of it as a hug from me, every time that they put it on.
I am NOT in the habit of doing this often. They have to impress me as a high-quality person, first. Then, I feel as though my gift might give them a boost along their path.
Group hug for the younger folks, to thank them for being in our lives.
I don’t believe that I have ever gifted gear or toys unmindfully.
I DO periodically make the trainee endure a “trial by fire”. Since it is my primary purpose to train Doms, Tops, Masters and Sirs, the greater the gift, the harder the path gets, when approaching the end goal.
You can't see it, but when this Sir went through
his customized "final exam," his Master's Cap was on the
pillow next to him, throughout the process. It helped him focus.
Normally, I don’t talk about the final exams, but this IS a place for sharing wisdom.
I am VERY reluctant to share more about my private processes. It’s important to me that every man’s guided journey to Mastery be personalized, intimate and life-transforming.
I don’t want folks to see such a powerful growth-process as an easy “gimme”... put in a coin, turn the handle, get a treat. I know exactly what is at stake, after guiding so many men along the way.
I honor the mystery, the mystical and the Tribal.
More On Personalizing The Journey
I identify the strengths of a man, by asking specific, focused questions. I follow up with MORE questions as time passes. My goal is always to check for courage, character, initiative and a desire for improvement.
I also search for fears, weaknesses and any other attributes that we all have, but want to hide... old wounds, breakdowns and shadows in our souls. I’m seeking these, not as a pry bar or as a weapon, but as information that can help that man to PREVAIL. I want him to come out on the other side feeling that his past and old decisions don’t count, except as a history that led powerfully to this place.
Perfection has nothing to do with being a Sir. It’s how we deal with our challenges, that speaks for our character.