Alaskan trapper breaks pageant fur ceiling
A Meadow Lakes woman who runs a trapline and tans her own furs was named International Ms. Leather at a pageant in San Francisco last weekend. It’s a big victory for Sahra Shaubach, a mom/wife/hunter/trapper who also promotes events in Alaska that feature bondage, discipline and sado-masochistic play. Shaubach has entered the International Ms. Leather pageant before and took flack from other participants, most of whom take the stage as butch leather women.
The negative feedback wasn’t because Shaubach is married to a man. She didn’t take flack for portraying a submissive instead of a dominatrix in her pageant live show. Nor was she criticized for being a blonde, or being a breeder or for her politics. She was criticized for something much more controversial among the Lower 48 urbanites who make up the majority of attendees at the International Ms. Leather gathering.
She wore fur.
“People were threatening to glitter bomb me,” Shaubach said of her 2012 appearance in the pageant. She wore fur on stage. She offered furs for sale at a silent auction for charity. Shaubach made such a stir in 2012 that fur, trapping and hunting became active topics on Internet bulletin boards that normally host people chatting about riding crops, paddles, knee-high boots and techniques for bondage play.
In Alaska, Shaubach promotes what she call “BDSM education” events. In California, she learned she would have to educate people about fur. “At first I would say, ‘You know that leather you are wearing used to have a face, too,” Shaubach recalls. “We had a lot of discussion, and this year, my fur was embraced.”
The International Ms. Leather gathering attracted about 700 people to the Holiday Golden Gateway in San Francisco, for four days of events surrounding the pageant. The event bills itself as the largest gathering anywhere “for leatherwomen and all the people who love them” and brands itself as a “Hot Leather Weekend” for everyone involved. Two titles are given out. Shaubach earned a studded leather belt for the 2013 International Ms. Leather award. A woman identified only as “Bella” in press releases was named the 2013 International Ms. Bootblack. (A bootblack is a shoe shiner, employed to polish and repair boots and shoes. We suspect they make themselves useful at leather events. Readers who wonder if this is worthy of a pageant title can check out Bella Bootblack’s Facebook profile.)
The 2013 celebration was the 25th year for the International Ms. Leather. Shaubach and the other contestant didn’t just walk across a stage in leather and fur, they also answered questions from the audience, did private interviews with judges and for a finale, acted out fantasies on stage. Shaubach scripted a four-minute play for her performance. She played a young female trapper, who leaves her childhood home in Alaska to hunt bears in San Francisco.
In the slang of leatherwomen the word “bear” describes a person similar to the gay male type bear. (Don’t fret, we at the Press we have a hard time keeping track of all the different gender roles, too. These are dykes who identify as a bears, okay?) “My character leaves home and her mother gives her a red handkerchief, which I put in my back pocket,” Shaubach said.
The fantasy plot includes a California wildlife cop who scolds the Alaska trapper for using illegal bait. “It turns out marshmallow bear bait is illegal in San Francisco,” Shaubach said. To get out from under the heel of the law, the heroine switches to Alaska honey bear bait, which the rules in California didn’t prohibit. Three performers—playing papa bear, momma bear and baby bear—are attracted to the stage to join Shaubach for finale of the four-minute show. “At the very end they mauled me—and it was fantastic,” Shaubach said.
Now holding the International Ms. Leather belt, Shaubach will be expected to travel to leather events during the upcoming year and promote acceptance of the BDSM and leather-play lifestyles. She said she is also expected to bring a personal message to events. Shaubach’s goal is to educate people about domestic violence as it pertains to the BDSM lifestyle, as well as kissing and safer sex. No doubt she will be talking about fur-bearing animals and the Alaska trapper lifestyle—an inevitable subject for anyone wearing a fur stole with paws attached while traveling Outside.