Friday, December 22, 1995

Norman Rockwell—NOT!

(Published in Lavender Lifestyles Magazine, Issue #15, December 22, 1995)

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza, Solstice or none of the above, Christmas Day will soon be here. Society tells us that on Christmas we are supposed to get together with the rest of our (biological) families and do Norman Rockwell scenes. If we don’t do this (either because we can’t or don’t want to) we are supposed to feel lonely and empty. The entire rest of the world is playing Ozzie & Harriet—what’s wrong with us?

We in the leather community certainly don’t have a corner on holiday stress, but we sometimes have to face issues that vanilla society doesn’t. Family issues tend to be more stressful around the holidays for gay people in general—add kinkiness to the mix and the situation can become even worse. In family and other social situations, we are often presented with two bad alternatives: stay in the closet about who we are and feel ashamed, or be out and risk feeling uncomfortable at best and being snubbed at worst.

If Christmas is supposed to be such a warm-fuzzy time of year, why is it so stressful for so many of us? And what can we do about it?

Well, we can start by looking honestly at the situation. My partner Ken has stated that, in his opinion, Norman Rockwell was not a painter or even an illustrator—he was a subversive agent, brainwashing us all into believing romantic notions of family life that even in vanilla terms simply aren’t realistic. Ken also says that even Ozzie and Harriet weren’t real; as evidence, he cites the manner of son Ricky Nelson’s untimely death (a cocaine-related plane crash, if I remember properly). There’s no reason to beat ourselves up emotionally for failing to live up to what is an illusory ideal.

Face it, we leatherfolk are outlaws. We don’t always play by society’s rules the rest of the year; why should the holidays be any different? Rather than Norman Rockwell telling us what we should want, let’s ask ourselves how we really want to spend the day. Let’s not be limited by convention. Do we want to gather at someone’s home for a big holiday meal? Spend the day with just our partner, a roaring fire in the fireplace, and a sling? Have a Solstice orgy with 20 or 30 or 100 of our closest friends? (“I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas . . . ”)

Every year on Christmas night gay bars are teeming with people who have just spent the day at a family gathering and need a dose of reality, freedom and fresh air. I’ve heard the opinion expressed that anyone who would spend Christmas night at a bar is a lonely, pathetic soul. I don’t agree, and I say thank goodness that there is a gathering place where an antidote is available for those who need it. (I hasten to add that the “antidote” to which I am referring is fellowship, not alcohol.)

It doesn’t matter what other people think about how you celebrate the holiday. What matters is that it be uplifting and meaningful for you. That’s my holiday wish for all my readers—whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate it.

A final word: there’s a wonderful book by Mary Borhek called Coming Out To Parents: A Two-Way Survival Guide for Lesbians, Gay Men And Their Parents. It discusses holiday issues along with lots of other family-related topics. If you or your parents are feeling family stress I recommend it highly, and the fact that I’m the author’s son has absolutely nothing to do with my recommendation.

An Open Letter From Darlette Knox, Ms. Minnesota Leather 1995, to the Leather Community at Large:

I’m writing in this form in hopes of reaching those whom I could not personally thank for all the support. I wanted to thank everybody for coming out and supporting the leather functions and the Mr. and Ms. Minnesota Leather and the Leatherman of Minnesota contests. Without the direct support of all of you the leather lifelight in the Twin Cities would be dim.

A big thank you goes out to the leather clubs and organizations, the GDI’s, the supporters and promotors, the judges and all the attendees and entertainers. I am honored and feel privileged to represent Minnesota and will carry and present the title with pride.

Lastly, our community is growing and your continued support does not go unnoticed. All of you who come out are appreciated as well as needed, and I hope that all of you have a warm and wonderful holiday season. And again, thank you very much.


Friday, December 8, 1995

Questions and Answers

(Published in Lavender Lifestyles Magazine, Issue #14, December 8, 1995)

What’s a bootblack? How do hanky codes work? When you talk about the “leather community,” what exactly are you talking about?

These are just a few of the leather-related questions I’ve heard lately, and those questions deserve answers. Therefore, today’s column, striving to educate, inform and entertain at the same time, takes a Q&A format.

What’s a bootblack? When a leather event advertises “bootblack in attendance,” it means there will be someone there polishing (or shining) boots. This person will probably use a lot of black boot polish and very little of any other color-—hence, “bootblack.”

How do hanky codes work? I could fill three columns answering this question. Here are the basics: Hanky in left pocket = top or dominant. Hanky in right pocket = bottom or submissive. Common colors: navy blue = fucking, grey = light SM [this was disputed, and I later published a correction: grey = bondage], black = heavy SM, red = fisting, yellow = watersports. (If you want to know what “fisting” or “watersports” are, ask me and I’ll tell you in a future column—see below.) There are many, many more, including handcuffs and teddy bears.

Keep in mind that in the dim light of a bar it’s sometimes difficult to tell exactly what color a hanky is, and some of the colors are pretty close even in the daylight. If you have a question about what color a hanky is or what it means, it’s okay to ask. It’s better to find out the color while you’re still at the bar, instead of dragging someone home only to find that the hanky you thought was navy blue is really black (or vice versa).

What exactly is this “leather community” that you’re always talking about? That was a humbling question to hear. Since I understand what it is, I just assume everyone else does too. For those of you who have been scratching your heads wondering what this “leather community” is all about, here’s as good an explanation as I can come up with.

There is no exact definition of the leather community; in order to belong you don’t have to join anything, or sign up for anything. You can join a club if you want, but you don’t have to. (That’s where another term, “GDI”—which stands for “God-Damned Independent”—comes from.) Basically, anyone who desires to be part of the community can join it.

So who are the people in the leather community? Members can be any age and any sexual orientation. There are gay men, gay women, bisexuals (people who feel attraction for both sexes), pansexuals (people who play sexually with both sexes), and even straights. Some people in the leather community don’t even wear that much leather—they may be more into latex, or spandex, or other types of fetishwear. Some members are into heavy sadomasochism, some only slightly, some not at all.

It’s a pretty diverse and wide-ranging group which happens to be united by several characteristics. We tend to be drawn to things and activities, sexually and in other areas of our lives, that general “polite” (or “vanilla”) society frowns upon and says we should feel ashamed of. We tend not to feel ashamed of them, however, but to celebrate them instead. That makes us outlaws, but for a lot of us that just adds to the excitement. We may sometimes find ourselves ostracized and shunned by “polite” society for what we see as flimsy reasons. Because we don’t appreciate being shunned, it behooves us not to shun anyone else just because they may see things differently that we do. That means the leather community, at its best, is a very open and accepting group of people.

Now, an invitation: If you have a question, send it BY MAIL to my attention c/o Lavender Lifestyles. I can’t promise I’ll answer them all, but I’ll answer as many as I can. And if I don’t know the answer, someone else probably will. (Please, no phone calls. The LavLife staff are wonderful people, and I’d hate to put them in the spot of having to take all those messages for me.)


Good Luck to Dale Willman: On Saturday, December 9, our own Dale Willman will be competing in the Mr. Great Plains Olympus competition at the Triangle in Denver. (For the record, a Ms. Great Plains Olympus winner will also be chosen, but Dale won’t be in that competition.) The winners go on to compete in the first-ever International Mr. and Ms. Olympus competition February 10 in New Orleans. This international contest is part of the Pantheon of Leather and is presented by The Leather Journal.