If Leather is Indeed Dying, This May Be Why…
Awhile back, the Leatherman Discussion Group (or LDG) here in San Francisco put on a couple of panels with the first one called “Is Leather Dead? Does it Need to Die?” and the other one nameed “Is the Men’s Leather Community Dead?” Upon reading both the panels’ names I was dumb-founded. I know a large part of having those be the titles is to create a kind of shock value and to drum up interest in these discussions. Still, I thought to go to that kind of thought process was maybe exaggerating a bit.
Then today while doing something completely unrelated a thought came to me: Sure. with the closure of a number of leather bars in San Francisco, an important part of what historically has helped the leather communities get together is being threatened. There’s no argument from me about that. But if indeed leather is dying, could it be that it’s because leather is getting talked about more in mainstream media, sometimes accurately and other times, not so much? Are those “old schoolers” who still long for the more hush hush days feeling like their fantasies are being killed, because *gasp* “they” are letting everyone in? (heaven forbid!).
To ask more specifically, could it be that those who are lamenting about the death of the community are actually lamenting that folks of all ages (18+ here in California), shapes, sizes, genders, styles of play, and experiences are now more able to find their way into the lifestyle either through classes, going to a play party, or even the internet and now certain folks are thinking that the “leather pool” is now all of a sudden less pure?
As a host of two public play parties I’ve long wondered (in some instances publicly) why it is that some of the most audible complainers of the leather community dying are those in the gay men’s community, yet when I go to play parties, either the open ones, or the occasional specialty parties the men are so hard to find? I’ve actually talked to a few people who I know who identify as being a part of the men’s leather community, and they say that a major reason why a lot gay men don’t attend parties that aren’t men’s only is because a) the energy is different and it’s hard to get into it, and b) it’s just harder to find people to play with.
Don’t get me wrong. I can understand where they’re coming from. There’s a party hosted at my local dungeon that’s for folks 40 and under and their partners. It’s an awesome party, but it’s so crowded that it can often be difficult to find space, let alone create sexy energy for play. We don’t often go to that party because of those reasons, but we have gone because the hosts of the party are our friends, and it’s just good to support our folks, and that’s part of the point I’m trying to make. Many in the men’s community are saddened, perhaps even angered by what they consider the death of the leather community, yet despite a lot of those same men saying they find it really hard to find play partners because they’re sober and they feel going to bars may threaten their sobriety. A lot of those same people are reluctant to, and some even refuse to attend non-men’s events, or events that aren’t in bars where alcohol will not be served and where drugs are prohibited. You can’t really have it both ways.
When the various leather bars in San Francisco started closing I was not happy. And recently, during that period when the future of the SF Citadel, a place I’ve considered my kinky home for almost seven years, I found myself worrying about the places I and my fellows can gather and be ourselves. But this sort of lamenting about the “good old days” and talking about how the internet, the openness of the community…etc are “ruining” the community is rubbish! Gossip ruins our community, people demonizing certain types of play instead of learning a safer way to play that way ruins a community. People making certain people feel less worthy because they’re not what those people consider attractive ruins the community. Those who try to peddle the idea of the supposed “One true way” ruin the community. Change, and that’s all a lot of what’s been happening is doesn’t ruin our community. It just presents an opportunity for us to evolve.