Editor’s note: This column may contain content that is offensive to some people.
With everything that is happening in the world (i.e. Chechnya) and in the United States (the Trump circus), I can’t help but wonder if those of us in the Leather community will be forced underground again. Part of me doesn’t want us to return there, but part of me also yearns for that. Let me explain.
When the leather community first formed we operated in a very secret environment. This is what I refer to as the underground. Not only were gay leather men in the closet, there was also a back door in the closet that opened to this secret leather underworld. We didn’t have to worry about undesirables coming into the community as we had a vetting process to weed out the bad apples. We didn’t have to worry about what people thought because we were not seen. We didn’t have to worry about AIDS because it didn’t exist at that time. We didn’t have to worry what people were writing or misinforming others about the lifestyle because we WERE the lifestyle.
There is a nationwide resurgence of returning to this underground. There are some communities and some areas that are going back to being under the radar. They are small, they exist with very few individuals and you have to know someone to get into them.
Why is this happening? There are many reasons, but let me explain the two biggest. The biggest reason for this is what many call the “watering down of the lifestyle.” The original Leather community was masculine gay men. The watering down is that there are very few masculine gay men left. It’s like anyone can be part of the community. This has caused the leather gay men to retreat back into their homes and into the closed groups.
Another big reason is we have people who come into the community, who only have minimal experience and are professing to be knowledgeable about the lifestyle AND claim to know the “real” history of the community. Unfortunately, they don’t. They don’t know crap about the various types of play or the safety that is required and they certainly don’t know s**t about the history. Yet because they have presented themselves as educators or writers, people are being taken in with the incorrect information. No wonder those of us that have been around for a long time are fed up with it.
So, yes, part of me wants to return, but I know that going back is probably not going to happen. One, the elders who would be able to teach the correct info are very few. And since we don’t have a good vetting process anymore it makes it very hard to get rid of the bad apples. Many of us have tried, but found ourselves at the crucifixion of the internet. And as you all know, the internet is “always” correct. (yes, sarcasm intended!)
So, will what is happening in the world force us back anyway? Who knows? But I know one thing, right now we can’t go back. We would lose so many years of progress in our fight to no longer be persecuted. We ALL must fight for the rights of EVERYONE regardless of who they are. This is why some of us have not returned to the underground. As much as I would like to, there’s just too much at stake. We must continue to combat hate and bigotry. l