Conversations with Cowboi Jen - The Leather Journal

Conversations with Cowboi Jen

Cowboi Jen fireBio: Cowboi Jen

Cowboi Jen has been immersed in the Levi/rodeo community since 1992 and Philadelphia's Leather and kink community since 2000. She was the first Mid-Atlantic Leatherwoman in 2009 and created Philadelphia Leather Pride as her title year fundraiser. She had helped found numerous local and national organizations with the most recent being the Philadelphia Leather Alliance. She is also an associate member to the Keystone boys of Leather, the Heart of the Flag Federation and the Bootblack Brigade. 

Jen has volunteered at countless events and fundraisers and she has judged leather contests around the world. She made history in December 2012 being the first International judge as well as the first female judge for the Mr. South Africa Leather Contest.
Cowboi Jen has had the honor of receiving several awards over the years. In 2010 she was the recipient of the 20th Anniversary Pantheon of Leather President’s Award as well as the Diabolique Community Service Award for outstanding community activism.
In 2012, Philadelphia Leather Pride won the Pantheon of Leather Award for Small Event of the Year and Jen was the proud recipient of the Chuck Renslow Presidents Award from the Leather Archives and Museum.

In 2013, she was chosen as the recipient of the Pantheon of Leather Woman of the Year and had the utmost honor of receiving the Toronto Leather Pride Award for Life-Time Achievement and for Continued Development of Leather Pride.

1.    For those who don’t already know, please tell us about yourself & what your titles are.

     a.    I am best known as Cowboi Jen. I am a 44 year old leather woman hailing from the great city of Philadelphia PA, USA.  My nickname name comes from the gay rodeo circuit (www.igra.com). I have been an avid competitor for over 20 years. Back in the day, there were multiple Jen’s. It would be confusing when we were all together. One night, a Jen was referred too and the woman got frustrated… she pointed at me and said… “that Jen… the Cowboi”… referring to my involvement with rodeo. So a nickname was born and has stayed with me all these years.

     b.    The only title that I have held was that of being the first Mid-Atlantic Leatherwoman in 2009. I had been afraid of being a titleholder due to my career and family life but it was the right title at the right time. I was given an opportunity to walk my own path and do it my way. I am proud of what I did my title year and beyond and that influence has spread to my title sisters since. Each of them has created their own path and is known as being their own leatherwoman.

 

2.    What or who got you started in the leather community and for how long?

     a.    I first started going to our leather bar in 1987. I don’t know why… I just really liked the environment…and they played country music on certain nights! The bar’s name is The Bike Stop and has been open for more than 30 years now. I found myself drawn to the bar in the basement called “The Pit”. Back then women were not allowed down there but someone being very young (18), fit, butch and passing for a young man I was allowed in. It was all dark red lighting where you could barely see, the room was filled with the scent of cigars, leather, sweat and sex. I never stayed long…. Just long enough to get a high of sorts.

     b.    In 1992 I found the gay rodeo circuit and discovered the “levi” of leather and levi. I wound up competing in over 100 rodeos across the United States and still compete to this day. Because of my travel, I stopped going to the Bike Stop for many years but somehow found my way home in 2000. I now have a balanced life between the two. That is why you will almost always see me wearing one of my rodeo trophy buckles that I have won with my leathers. I am proud of my history and heritage.

 

3.    Which club or bar are you affiliated with and tell us more about the history?

     a.    My home bar is The Bike Stop though I have other bars I call home around the world. The Eagle in San Francisco is my favorite on the road bar in the United States and the Black Eagle in Toronto is my favorite International bar. I have amazing memories at both establishments. 

     b.    I am one of the founders of The Philadelphia Leather Alliance. We are a cross-cultural leather fellowship who’s purpose is to foster friendship, build leadership and to provide opportunities for education and service.  Membership transcends sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, social economic status and disability. We welcome those who feel they have a place in the Leather, Levi, S/M, Fetish and Kink Communities. The PLA was started out of a need for a club that was more inclusive to the greater leather/kink community. Our other local clubs are the Keystone boys of Leather, which I am an associate member of, the Philadelphians MC, which was founded in April of 1994 and the Liberty Bears. All four clubs make up the quadrants of Philadelphia’s beating heart.


 

 

4.    Tell us about your charity involvement and goals.

     a.    During my title year I was required to throw a fundraiser. With help from the greater Philadelphia community, Philadelphia Leather Pride Night was created. PLPN’s Mission is “to celebrate and bring together the Greater Philadelphia Leather, Kink, BDSM, Pansexual and LGBTQ communities focusing on the support of charitable organizations and to teach, promote and preserve our History”. With that in mind, my pet charity has been the Leather Archives and Museum (www.leatherarchives.org) and I am also a big supporter of the Carter/Johnson Leather Library (www.leatherlibrary.org).

In the first 4 years of Philadelphia Leather Pride we were able to donate out over 44,000 to charities with the largest being the Leather Archives and Museum. With the help of multiple group’s participation and a boatload of volunteers we are now on our 5th year with no end in sight. Without the generosity of others our event would not exist so THANK YOU!

 

Jen signing flag5.    Tell us about your leather family.

     a.    My family starts with my partner/girl Tina. We first met during my title year when I was promoting PLPN. Our second meeting actually happened in my own home when Tina was visiting my then roommate. I knew a good woman when I saw one and we have been together ever since. She is my rock.

     b.    There are others that I fiercely call family. My leather dad is named Skip. He brought me to my first gay rodeo in 1992 and made sure I followed a certain path. Back then, I had no idea he was the founder of the Bucks MC, which is the oldest leather club in our region celebrating their 41st year this year. I just knew there was something about him that I was drawn too and wanted to be near him. He holds me to a level of honor that I didn’t know existed and trust me when I say he is the very first to scold me if I screw up. I was recently able to repay him for the nurturing he has given me over the years. He was in the last few months of a career that we both share and I was able to get him assigned to my unit. I am so proud to have been his last boss and to be there for the end of his 30+ year career. For 6 months I found a new joy at work and we had everyone convinced he was my real father. He retired with pride and dignity. Thank you for all you have done for me, Skip. You taught me the difference between right and wrong and made it ok for me to go against the popular decisions because it was the right thing to do. I am well aware of the shield you put up around me as well.

     c.    My leather brother is Jaco Lourens. We were “first” titleholders at the same time and met online in 2009 and in person at IML in 2010. A spark went off the first time we hugged and I just knew we would become bonded. I am drawn to those that want to make a difference in the world and a better place for our community. I feel a closer bond to Jaco than I do my own blood brother. I have learned that distance is irrelevant and I have always believed that my passport is my most valued possession as it opens up a world of possibilities to me.

     d.    In all my leather family is made up of men and women who make a difference in the world. Those that stick their necks out only to have people try and chop them off. We are passionate, we are strong and in the end we are still here while others are long gone. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. That we are!

 

6.    Who is the most influential person in your life and why?

     a.    Her name is Jo Arnone. I first met her at New York’s Leather Pride Night in 2000 where she was the auctioneer. She was a true Leatherwoman that I have striven to emulate. To give you an idea of her background… Jo Arnone marched in full leathers in the 1975 NYC Pride Parade. She was Co-Founder of the NYC based Lesbian Sex Mafia in 1981. In 1993 she volunteered to be the auctioneer for the very first NY Leather Pride Night. 30 years later she has helped raise over one million dollars for charities. I remember the first time I saw her at NY-Leather Pride Night in 2000. She commanded the stage and there was an aura about her that I was drawn too. Who was that woman? I strove to get to know her and have enjoyed learning and listening.

One of the proudest memories I have of Jo is the time we were walking to an event and she grabbed me and pulled me next to her. She told me I was to walk side by side with her from now on. That I have earned my place. I’ll never know if she saw the tears that ran down my face that day. Ironically, I have yet to earn a single piece of leather (though I have been gifted a few) and here I was walking side by side with my hero.

 

7.    In your mind, what’s the biggest misconception of the leather community?

     a.    I think the biggest misconception is that people think we are freaks. Yes we may do freaky things (and loving them) but we are also your doctors, firemen, teachers etc…

 

8.    What would you say are the most important strengths to have as a leather woman?

     a.    I think the biggest strength anyone can have is the ability to believe in themselves first.  If the strength is found from within it will emulate to others.

 

9.    When you made history of being the first lady judge in Cape Town 2012, what impact did it make on you?

     a.    Words cannot express the honor of not just being the first female judge but also the first International judge of your contest.

     b.    I had lost my father that June to cancer, a disease I had survived from. In the months after that I had fallen into a functional depression, where I could still do things but rarely a smile would hit my face. The trip to South Africa and meeting a leather community that was young and eager and full of life helped bring the life back into me.  I became grounded again and surrounded by positive light. To me, the trip was a spiritual experience. I look forward to repaying the generosity and kindness that was shown to me to members of the SA leather community that comes to the states. Having James Michael Allen here was a huge treat and I certainly hope he was able to bring the love of one community home to another.

 

10.    What does leather mean to you?

     a.    Leather to me is more than the clothes on my back. It is a state of being. We are a unique community that (for the most part) embraces each other and strives to do great things. It is a code of sorts. To me part of leather is doing the right thing…. Even though it may not be the right thing for me.


 

 

11.    What do you see for the future of leather in your community and internationally?

     a.    Our communities have an amazing future. I remember years ago only knowing about a small handful of events and even those you had to know someone to hear about them. Back in the day, through an AOL Chat room I heard about a women’s only leather event in Provincetown. Not only did I go but it was also the beginning of a network of women that I still have to this day.

     b.    Today there are events almost every weekend. In a way I think that is hurting us as people only have so much expendable money and numbers of attendees are dropping.

     c.    I am a big believer in quality over quantity and right now the caliber of leathermen and women who are visible in the world is the greatest I’ve seen. If this trend continues our community will be driven forward into the next century.

 

12.    What advice can you give a future female title holder?

     a.    The best advice I can give is stay true to yourself and to listen to your heart. When there is Ms. South Africa Leather she will be given the same opportunity that both Jaco and I had and that is a new title to make something out of. To start creating a legacy for others to follow. You don’t need to spend a million dollars but become a presence on social networking sites. Get to know other title holders from around the world and learn from each of them and bring what you learn back home. Most important is to have fun and to not lose yourself in the process.

 

13.    Tell us what your favorite piece of leather is and why?

     a.    My favorite piece of leather is my title vest. Though I have never earned leather I know I earned the right to proudly wear that vest. It is a one of a kind custom Northbound. I am friends with George and Ann who own the company and with my friend Nancy we were in the store picking out what it would look like based upon other designs.  It was simply amazing having that opportunity and the end result is stunning. It truly was made with love.

 

14.    What’s the funniest thing that happened to you in leather?

     a.    I must say, when traveling home from IML in 2013, the TSA agent grabbed my backpack to search it. Keep in mind, the backpack is filled with donated auction items for that year’s Philadelphia Leather Pride Night. With a serious look and doing the…Ma’am… step back… routine… he slowly unzipped the backpack and pulled out what was on top. He held that plastic bag in his hands first then unwrapped and opened it up only to find…… an Orca (whale) shaped penis dildo that was donated by exotic-erotics.com. The look on his face was absolutely priceless and trying to keep his composure he wrapped it back up, put it back in the backpack, handed it to me and stated have a good day. He never made it through the rest of the bag!!

 

Quinn-cowboi-jen15.    In your own words, can you tell us the difference between BDSM and Leather?

     a.    BDSM is a physical action where leather is who we are.

 

16.    What are your favorite S&M activities?

     a.    I have an amazing set of floggers that had been made by Andre from Canada. Activities depend on environment and energy. One of the great unfortunates of running events is not having time to enjoy events.

 

17.    What’s your favorite drink? And if you could invent a cocktail for the leather community and what would you call it?

     a.    I would love to create chocolate martini infused strawberries. Tina and I have been chocolate dreaming of them and I believe we’ll have them made… and named… who knows.. But first thing that comes to mind is Sunset Strawberries…. And name them for the sunset I saw from Table Mountain… YUMMMMMMMM

 

18.    Tell us your favorite book at this moment.

     a.    It’s a rarity that I actually get time to read as I prefer getting to know the living history. But right now I have Laura Antoniou’s book named The Killer Wore Leather. There are so many things in that book that hold true.  My favorite non-leather book is The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony. One of my trips to South Africa I will visit the Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand. Lawrence’s passion about saving the elephants holds true to my heart.

 

19.    How important is your leather title to you?

     a.    Being a titleholder isn’t for everyone. I never thought it was for me until the year that I ran. It was all about timing. I take great pride in being the first Mid-Atlantic Leatherwoman.  It was the right title at the right time.  I became an activist and was fortunate to be at the forefront of change in my region. During my title year I was able to help found The Leather Heart Foundation and MAsT: Wilmington Delaware. The experiences I had as a founding director of the Leather Heart Foundation are irreplaceable. We helped dozens of community members when they needed us the most. So, its not a matter of how important it was to me… it’s a matter of the good things that happened and continue to happen when community members work together.

 

20.    With all the incredible work you have been doing what is in store for you for the future?

     a.    I have a very busy year in 2014. My scheduled travel is bringing me back to South Africa in December for the Mr. and Ms. South Africa Leather contest! As part of that trip I have been working with Master Mike Zuhl and Randy and we have pulled together a group trip there that is open to anyone. The website is http://www.mastertravelandtours.com/portfolio-view/leather-lions/      I will also be competing in the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland. For the first time they have added in rodeo as an event and I will be bringing a team of competitors and horses with me from the Philadelphia region.  One very important thing I have to do is to start attending events as an attendee. It is extremely rare that I get to sit through a class and continue learning. The world is constantly evolving around us and if we don’t keep up we will be left behind.

 

21.    What is the funniest safe word you have heard?

a.    I can’t say I have heard any funny ones but then again I DM at a multitude of events where the safewords are either SAFEWORD or RED. The object is to create an environment where safewords are not needed due to education and skills.


 

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22.    When I visit Philadelphia in April 2014 for the Leather Leadership Conference, what 5 places would you show me and why?

          1. The Bike Stop - www.TheBikeStop.com The Bike Stop is our leather bar and now one of the oldest in the country, operating as a leather bar since 1982. Here is a link to the amazing history behind the bar and the building http://thegayborhoodguru.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/t-squares-and-jockstraps-the-bike-stop/ The Bike Stop is only a 3 block walk from the host hotel for the Leather Leadership Conference and will have special events all weekend. One event that is already scheduled will be "Bootlust" by the Keystone boys of Leather. It is their most popular event of the year and with so many bootblacks from all over in Philadelphia you'll be able to smell the Hubbards for miles! The Philadelphia Leather Alliance is also planning a welcome to Philadelphia party there on the Friday night after opening ceremonies. Think we can get Dilana there? She'll be rocking out our opening ceremonies!          2. History and Tourism! - The City of Philadelphia's Visitor and Convention Bureau are one of the sponsors for the LLC weekend www.DiscoverPHL.org  Yes..thats right.. Our city sponsored a leather event! Almost all of our history is within walking distance of our host hotel. Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are fantastic free tourist sites. Think carriage ride through our history as well! I would take you on a Trolly Tour where you could see 28 different major locations in the City and pick which ones you like and we can go back. We also have world famous museums and for Herman; the Japanese House and Garden http://www.shofuso.com as well as www.longwoodgardens.com  

We are also ranked as one of the country’s top gay friendly cities.  "Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay" www.visitphilly.com/gay our event is located in "The Gayborhood" and is surrounded by dozens of places to eat, drink and be merry. We even have a low-income LGBT friendly senior housing center that is scheduled to officially open April of 2014. The John C Anderson Apartments are located right around the corner from our LGBT Center. We are making arrangements to offer a walking tour of the area during the LLC weekend. The region is welcoming to all of us and with such a diverse event there is something for everyone. Rumor also has it one of our sponsors will have a shuttle bus on Saturday night for a special...ummmm... party.  

Did I mention that Philadelphia Leather Pride is a member of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus as well?

We are truly the City of Leatherly Love!

          3. Shopping! - We have two major fetish/kink and leather stores in our region that have both sponsored the Mr. South Africa Leather contest last year. The first, Passional/Sexploratorium just combined the two store into one on our world famous South Street. The other store, Le Chateau Exotique, is located in New Hope PA just outside the city. When you come bring a list, we also have shopping outlets in the region where you'll need a 2nd, 3rd or 4th suitcase to bring home all your extra purchases.

          4. With or Without... FOOD!!!  Come hungry because we know how to feed you! Philadelphia is land of the cheese steaks and we'll have fun figuring out which one is your favorite. Will it be Pat's Steaks.... or Geno's? Let not forget we also have your favorite fast food, Popeye's Chicken!

          5. Mom. She asked me to bring you home for her to meet you!

I also look forward to bringing you to the NJ shore where you will see the sunrise over the Atlantic in Asbury Park, NJ. I grew up on the Ocean and we will also hit Barnegat Lighthouse and Seaside Heights. NJ is truly "Stronger than the Storm" and is slowly recovering after the devastation from Hurricane Sandy last October.

Five is not enough.... given an opportunity we would travel the Mid-Atlantic Region. NYC is 2 hours to the North with Baltimore MD and Washington DC just to the South. If you get into town early we can head to the Cherry Blossom Festival for a day. Hopefully there will be other events in the region surrounding your trip.

I just look forward to showing you the city that I love so much.

Disclaimer: You may fall in love with it too!

 

23.    In conclusion, anything you would like to add to this interview for the leather community of South Africa?

     a.    I want to thank each of you for making me feel welcomed while I was there. I did not know what to expect and instead of resistance all I felt was love. I enjoyed my trip there so much I will be bringing others back with me in 2014.

     b.    I also want to finish with my philosophy. I was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2001. I had Hodgkins Disease stage IVb and fought like hell to survive. After a full year of chemo and a stem cell transplant I am still going strong. So it’s not just about living… it’s about how we choose to live. I choose to live…. and live well!   

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