San Diego Pride celebrated its 40th Anniversary the weekend of July 18-20 in the Hillcrest district and Balboa Park. Its’ annual LGBT parade is among the largest in the country, attracting over 300,000 spectators and was on Saturday, July 19. This year’s theme “Reflections of Pride” truly showed in the Leather community’s contingent as the San Diego tribe was joined by Leatherfolk from all over Southern California.
Ms San Diego Leather 2012 Wish did a great job as parade monitor again. The San Diego Eagle’s float, organized by Mr. San Diego Eagle 2014 Paulo Batista, followed the Leather-clad marchers. The Los Angeles and San Diego Ponies and Critters groups brought up the rear with their crowd-pleasing pony carts and dog sled. Bears San Diego had a truck as well.
Over 150 Leatherfolk continued marching into Balboa Park and headed directly into the Leather Realm to volunteer for, or attend, a weekend of fun and education. This year’s Realm was made possible by a generous donation from Club X.
The Realm opened with new co-producers, Bikkja Amy and Cobi Maravilla, a new committee, a new logo, designed by Sarge Servitus, and a new motto, “Turn Fantasy into Reality."
As a former Leather titleholder, I have a vested interest in ensuring that the Leather culture continues in perpetuity. Over the past few decades, what that "means" has continually been reshaped to best suit the needs of the current crop of Leather enthusiasts and the times in which they live. One thing, however, has remained consistent: the outgoing generation reviles the changes brought about by their incoming replacements.
Perhaps the one stable meeting place for those in the Leather community has been the ubiquitous "Leather bar" - that often dingy, dimly lit bastille where the local Leather denizens gather to preen as much as their restrictive clothing (or lack thereof) will allow. Beneath the layers of posturing and displaying, however, there are turbulent conversations being had about the future of these bastions of our culture, and what that future may mean for the community.
Before I delve into the content of these conversations, I should take a moment to describe my own experience. I have moved a grand total of 43 times, the most recent in April from los angeles, CA to Morgantown, WV. As someone who was raised on the outskirts of the Leather community in New York City in the late 80s, only to be transplanted into the rural South in my teen years, I was lucky enough to experience a variety of different "scenes" along my journey to my current state of being. When I first started going out to bars, the only options around were of the "small-town gay bar" variety - a hodgepodge of every social type, gender, and sexual proclivity. It is largely due to these vastly different experiences that I am so open to change. The decor and clientelle aside, these bars are the most similar to Leather bars that I have found in that they provide patrons both with a sense of belonging to a community and of being on the outskirts as an anomaly within that community.
These things having been established, please allow me to begin:
When I first moved to los angeles, I found myself voluntarily thrust into the middle of the Leather titleholder community, and by way of my then-partner, the Avatar education non-profit. As an educator, myself, I have always been concerned with ensuring that whenever people engage in any type of sexual activity, they're smart (and educated) about it. At one of my first educational sessions (on the subject of fisting), I entered into a rather heated debate with a very prominent figure in the LA Leather community over the current state of Leather bars.
"I don't even like to go out to (redacted) on a Friday night! How is it that I'm the one being given the stink eye over my attire in my own goddamned bar?"
Flip flops, tennis shoes, outsiders, and, worst of all, women - no irritant was too small for my friend, each of them more of an affront to his sensibilities than the last.
"I miss the days of enforced dress codes," was his, and the most common, refrain when arguing that the Leather bars just "aren't what they used to be," and to some degree, I agree with him. When I made my first (legal) forays into the Leather bar scene, it was so I could find for myself a sense that I was not the outsider standing on the sidelines while the rest of my peers played in the big game. That I was into BDSM and fetish gear happened to be my Scarlet Letter in the small-town gay bars; it was in these Leather bars that I sought acceptance and, most horrifying to me, now, admittance - a feeling that I had been allowed into a special event to which few were ever invited.
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I played the part and donned the drag of my Leather compatriots, but still, there was something missing from my experience. While I had all but forced my way into this exclusive brotherhood, the reality was that, even though I get on famously with the 40-plus crowd, I still found their approach to enjoying their scene still too conservative for my tastes. So many rules; so many protocols; so much bullshit.
Over time, I began to realize that, while after a few (dozen) drinks I could find myself having a good time, I always felt like the Leather bar scene was such a compartmentalized part of my life. I was cut off from the friends I held dearest because, as my friend so vehemently pointed out, they were not welcome on this field of play. My female, straight, bisexual, and "normal" friends often found themselves on the receiving end of distasteful and inartful signals that they had wandered into the wrong part of town; that they'd better get off the old man's lawn.
It was at this time that I began to notice the existence of those to whom I refer as "The Gerontocracy" - a group of gay men over the age of 40 who played a very vital roll in the late 80s and early 90s in helping to ensure that LGBT rights and causes were advance, but who, in their (as my friend put it) "senescence," have come to find themselves being not-so-gently shoved out of the spotlight only to be replaced by those whom they feel to be either too incapable or too incompetent to take up the mantle they so publically bore.
"The younger generation doesn't care about our traditions; they don't respect us," my friend averred, as I sat across from him wearing my title vest and medallion at the tender age of 28, the four pieces of Leather I could afford clinging to my form as I endured his tirade. Was I so dismissive of our Leather heritage? Was I really the cause of the downfall of the Leather bar?
In a word, "No." Economically speaking, the times had to change. The Leather bar faces a unique challenge ahead of them because, if this is the attitude of those in our community who are supposed to be leading and teaching the new generation, they are not replacing themselves at their rate of expiration. Younger people have fewer economic advantages than their elders, and have had to make some not-so-tough choices: $250 for a pair of Leather pants or rent? I'll go with rent. And so they go to the Leather bars in what they have, more often because they are the bars where they are ostensibly less likely to wind up on the receiving end of shady pretty boys because they can't afford to wear high-end clothing and get into the VIP lounge. What they often find, however, is an older generation no more forgiving of their status than their A-Gay peers.
And so, I posit this:
Rather than bitch about how the Leather bars are falling from grace and devolving from dens of iniquity into just another gay bar, why not welcome all comers into the fold and educate them about what we find so damn wonderful about our culture and our community. The days of the oft-mourned Leather bar are gone, and I say, "Good riddance." We have to realize that the Leather community is no longer the only game in town, and if the newer generations can't find acceptance for the sexual deviances with us, they will most assuredly find it elsewhere.
The Bolt Bar in Sacramento will host Sacramento Leather Weekend, Friday, February 14 through Sunday, February 16. The Bolt is located at 2560 Boxwood Street in Sacramento. Sacramento Leather Weekend will feature a Cigar Social, formal Leather Dinner at a popular Sacramento restaurant, and Leather activities and demonstrations.
A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit Shriners Hospital and Mama’s Family, the largest Leather family in the world with 1,700 members. Founded in San Francisco by Sandy "Mama" Reinhardt, a stalwart advocate for the LGBT Leather community, Mama's boys and girls each year raise hundreds of thousands for numerous charities, including toy drives to supply holiday presents for needy or sick children. As Mama always says, "Ask yourself, 'What can I do to make a difference?' Then do it from your heart!"
Funds raised will also help send Mr. Bolt Leather 2014 Matt Bunch to represent Sacramento's Leather community at International Mr. Leather in Chicago this May.
John C. Anderson Apartments Move-In Scheduled for January 2014, with Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony in February 2014
The Leather Journal reported on the ground breaking ceremony on this story in 2011 when covering Philadelphia Leather Pride. Now the complex is ready to accept residents.
The John C. Anderson Apartments - the nation’s pioneering LGBT-friendly, low-income senior housing apartment complex, located in the heart of the Philadelphia Gayborhood – has passed all city, state and federal inspections and is now certified to accept residents. Accepted applicants are now receiving notification and information about move-in, which will begin in January 2014. To mark the completion of this significant project, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held in late January or early February.
The apartments - named for John C. Anderson, a Philadelphia City Council member from 1979 until his death in 1983, instrumental in the passage of Philadelphia’s civil rights bill for sexual minority individuals – broke ground in November 2012. Financing for the $19.5 million project was provided through a Philadelphia HOME grant, Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Programfunds, and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. Pennrose Properties, one of the nation’s top 10 affordable housing developers, oversaw the project. WRT Design was the architect and Domus Inc. was the general contractor.
The Heart of the Flag Federation Inc. (HOTF) announced the nominees for the 2014 Toronto Leather Pride Award. The award will be presented on Saturday, August 9 during the Toronto Leather Pride Competitions.
The nominations for the 2014 Toronto Leather Pride Award are: Mistress Sydney Creighton, Toronto, Ontario; Jaco Lourens - Cape Town, South Africa; and Alex Wisniowski - Ottawa, Ontario.
Nominee bios are listed at http://TorontoLeatherPride.ca/toronto-leather-pride-award-nominees/
The Toronto Leather Pride Award is presented on an annual basis to an individual or organization in the local, national or international leather community who has contributed significantly to the development of Leather Pride and/or for Life Time Achievement. This award focuses on the people and organizations which have created and contributed to the vibrant and diverse Leather Community which exists today in Canada and throughout the world.
The Leather Leadership Conference 2014, to be held at the DoubleTree Hotel and the William Way Center in downtown Philadelphia April 11-13, has done an internal inventory of what it has offered, combined with conference feedback forms and with the results of their 2012 community survey, with the result of that inventory being the creation a new Do It Yourself (DIY) program that will debut in Philly with a new delivery system for that program.
LLC has been the offering leadership training for Leather/BDSM/Kink/Fetish and LGBT communities for nearly 18 years. During that time, several changes have taken place and there has been more acceptance for those in alternate lifestyles, including more positive media. The Internet has given endless opportunities for contact, communication, and networking. There are a multitude of groups, munches and events to attend; sometimes so many that one could go to at least one event a week or have to choose where to participate.
Prominent San Francisco Leather community activist Race Bannon will begin writing a new leather column for the Bay Area Reporter, the nation’s longest continually published LGBT newspaper, on January 23, 2014.
Bannon’s first column, penned while attending the annual Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in Washington, DC, continues the traditions started by the preeminent gay news weekly.
In his first column, Bannon wrote:
“San Francisco and the overall Bay Area has one of the most vibrant leather and kink scenes in the United States and indeed the world. Yes, it’s changed and morphed as various factors have influenced how LGBT kinky folk live and express their alternative erotic identities and sexualities. But the scene is still rather awesome here, and I’m comfortable saying it’s in pretty good shape nationally as well.
“Thus all the more reason I am honored to have been asked to carry on the legacy of the original writer of this column, Mr. Marcus (Marcus Hernandez), who established the Bay Area Reporter’s leather column as one of the preeminent leather news and information sources in the world. Upon Mr. Marcus’ passing, Scott Brogan took over this column and truly did justice to Mr. Marcus’ memory. I promise to always try to live up to both men’s history as I embark on being the caretaker of this important piece of journalistic real estate.”
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) has announced that Pat Baillie will receive the organization's Ninth Annual Leather Leadership Award at the Task Force's 26th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. Over 4,000 leaders and activists are expected to attend the conference, which will be held in Houston, January 29 to February 1.
"We are very proud to honor Pat's long dedication to and leadership in our movement," said Rea Carey, Task Force executive director. "Pat's exemplary career in the Air Force and as a rock-solid pillar of the Leather community inspires all of us to do more, to do it better and to stay the course."
The award will recognize Baillie's more than three decades of leadership and activism within and on behalf of the Leather community. Among many other achievements, she is International Ms Leather 1995, a founder of Leather Women United, a Vice Chair of the National Leather Leadership Conference and in September 2013 became co-producer of the International Ms Leather and International Ms Bootblack Contest. See editors note for biography."
CLAW XIV will be held April 24-27 at the Sheraton Airport Hotel in Leather-friendly Cleveland, Ohio. Shuttle buses will meet every CLAW air-travel attendee — day or night — for their one-minute ride to the lobby door.
Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend (CLAW) has seen a growth rate of about 15 percent each of the past several years. CLAW’s biggest Vendor Mart will feature more than 25 merchants, including CLAW sponsors Leatherwerks, Mr. S Leather, Leatherman NYC, Torso, and Stompers Boots; three Recon Reflex dungeon parties in the warehouse attached to FLEX Spas in downtown Cleveland; and more than 40 skills workshops and other educational offerings, including 25 Years Later, a discussion featuring Guy Baldwin and Brian Dawson, the renowned and groundbreaking Leather titleholders who were International Mr. Leather and International Mr. Drummer, respectively, in 1989.
Greater Palm Springs Pride announced the recipients of its 2014 Pride Honors Awards. The prestigious Pride Honors are presented annually to individuals in order to recognize the work they have put into raising awareness and furthering the causes of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and their allies. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on October 10, at the Hyatt Palm Springs.
The Community Grand Marshals recognized for their positive and lasting impact represent two generations of volunteerism and service in the community. Alexis Ortega is part of a new generation that’s dedicated to building a stronger and more vibrant community and Thomas Smith is recognized for 30 years of community service, leadership in the Leather community and as an award winning author.
Community Grand Marshal Thomas Smith is recognized for 30 years of community service which includes being active in projects to provide books for elementary students, organizing a prom for youth with disabilities and raising funds for student scholarships, the senior citizens center, and community musical concerts. He has been a high school mentor and advisory board member of the Palm Springs High School Business Academy and currently he is serving as president of the Rotary Club of Palm Springs.
Empire City MC Folsom Street East. Photo by Chaz Antonelli
ECMC’s Motorcycle Weekend
Empire City MC’s Memorial Day Motorcycle Weekend was simply amazing this May at The Ranch in New York State – everything from the ride up, the ride back, the fantastic meals served all weekend-long, the camaraderie of the guests – we couldn’t have had a better time. The day trips were fun and included: Cycle Stop, Extreme Biker Leather, Ground Rounds (prime beef hamburgers) at Bill Gray’s and Abbot's Frozen Custard. On Sunday afternoon, we had a pizza-baking contest. We were all exposed to craft beers, thanks to the folks from Three Rivers MC. There was even a very touching collaring ceremony on Friday night! Sunday, anti-road gremlin bells were presented to three new bikes/bikers: Jack, Erik and Earl.
The Mr. Bear San Diego 2014 contest was held on Saturday 29, 2014 at The Hole. Three contestants vied for the opportunity to represent the Bears San Diego this year: David Ferguson, Jeff Breeze, and Phil Leggitt. Contestants withstood a private interview with a panel of judges at 6 PM.
The four-judge panel consisted of Everardo Aguilar, Mr. San Diego Bear 2001; Sister Ghana Maria from the San Diego Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence or The Asylum of the Tortured Heart; Ben Hernandez, Mr. SoCal Bear 2013; and this author.
Emceed by the wonderful and entertaining Empress XXV Roxie Bleau, the contest also drew many Sisters and one fearless Guard from the Asylum of the Tortured Heart, who showered the venue with blessings, songs, sass, and naturally…glitter.
On working with the Sisters, contest producer and Bears San Diego Treasurer Jeff Rosenfeld said, “The Sisters have truly been our partners in our fundraising endeavors throughout this year. We could not accomplish what we do without them.”The contestants were introduced to the audience in Casual Wear (everyday clothes). After a break, the three men took turns on stage in Bear Wear (what makes them feel sexy).
VT-TLJ: Is your contestant run sponsored by an Event, bar, club, organization?
LJD: Not applicable
VT-TLJ: Tell me about your favorite charity.
LJD: My Charity is The Pinnacle Foundation. The Pinnacle Foundation was established to provide scholarships to lesbian, gay, transsexual, queer, intersex and bisexual youth who are marginalized or disadvantaged. Their aim is to help young LGBTIQs who can face a tough time coming out to their families, friends and schools, with some finding themselves without the money and support needed to keep up their studies.
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) held its annual Coalition Partner meeting in Nashville, TN from March 14-16. The Coalition Partners voted in the new Board of Directors for NCSF, approved the 2014 budget, and brainstormed on NCSF's projects and goals for the coming year.
"The annual meeting gives NCSF's Coalition Partners the opportunity to tell the board where our focus should be in the coming year," says Chairman Kevin Carlson. "It's also their time to give us feedback on how we're conducting the day-to-day business of NCSF. The Board and staff of NCSF are now re-energized and eager to continue the good work of the NCSF."
For those who don’t already know, please tell us about yourself, your Leather titles and how you are connected to the community.
Hey there, my name is Joey McDonald. I’m 57 years old and a native Chicagoan, but have also lived in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia and Key West, Florida. I am a US Navy Veteran who served as an openly gay sailor (long, long before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell). I was lucky enough traveled around the world by the time I was honorably discharged, having visited 32 countries. In the mid-80s, I owned a catering and event planning business. I am a trained master weaver, and spent 15 years in the interior design industry designing and weaving luxury/high-end upholstery fabrics.
I worked for LGBT equality in Illinois until April 2013. I currently work as a Community Health Advocate, serving the homeless, recovering/addicted and HIV/AIDS impacted people and am going to school to get certified as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor.
Although I never won a Leather title, I competed for and was a runner-up for Mr. Windy City 1981. I am a member of the Executive Committee of International Mr. Leather, Inc. (IML). I have served as the IML Den Daddy for the past eight years, working with the men who compete each year. I have the distinction of having volunteered at every IML since its beginning in 1979.