Friday, January 29, 1999

New Queers On The Block: Heterosexuals ( . . . and don’t call them “straight”)

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #96, January 29, 1999)

“Queer” seems to be the new umbrella term that’s been chosen to be inclusive of all sexual minorities, such as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Is that umbrella big enough to cover kinky heterosexuals as well? Historically the gay (predominantly men’s) leather/SM community and the community of kinky heterosexual folk have been parallel worlds, with little interaction between them. Some folks might like to keep it that way, but increasingly there are powerful forces inspiring a convergence of the GLBT and heterosexual kink communities.

I first heard about the concept of “het queers” from Jonathan Krall, senior congressional advocate for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. He was in the Twin Cities this summer to address a meeting of TIES, a local pansexual group of kinky people which bills itself as “GLBTH” (you can guess what the “H” stands for). He finished his talk with this admonition to the audience: “Don’t let anyone ever call you ‘straight’.”

It’s not easy for kinky heterosexuals in today’s society. They are in a no-win situation: They may look “straight,” but they aren’t, because according to society’s rules straight people don’t engage in kinky activities. They therefore have a choice: By being “straight acting and appearing” they can avoid the oppression and disdain that society reserves for the queer community—but they will be ignoring an important part of themselves in the process. Or they can be open and honest about their kinkiness, and society will reward them with the same disapproval it gives queers.

Actually, the disapproval may even be greater than that reserved for obvious queers, as if society were saying “Well, we KNEW they were queer, so we wrote them off a long time ago. But we had such high hopes for you. You have a lovely spouse, 2.2 children, a stable job, a house in the suburbs. How can you be such a traitor to our ideals?” Marriages may break up over the revelation of one spouse’s kinky proclivities; even if both partners are kinky, there’s always the question of what to tell the children—and how to keep the rest of society from finding out, lest the children be taken away.

As a response to these types of oppression, the national heterosexual and GLBT leather/SM communities have joined forces to form The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), a lobbying group that is “working to reduce the discrimination faced by adults who engage in, write about, study, or describe alternative sexual practices in the United States.” The NCSF includes gays, lesbians, bisexuals, heterosexuals, the transgendered, and individuals who self-identify as “none of the above.” According to Executive Director Susan Wright, “It’s time that Americans realized that one of our First Amendment rights is freedom of sexual expression. No one should ever have to suffer violence or discrimination because of their sexuality.” (Contact them at or visit their website at

In most places the infrastructure of the heterosexual kink community is not yet as well-developed as that of the gay leather/SM community; there are few equivalents to gay leather bars where they can meet like-minded individuals. In the Twin Cities there are several organized groups for kinky heterosexuals, but TIES (an acronym for “Tremendously Intense Erotic Situations”) is the only one that is public enough for me to mention in print; the rest of the groups are composed of people who, for various reasons, need to keep their private lives private.

TIES hosts a monthly gathering (called a “munch”) for members and non-members; attendance at December’s munch was somewhere around 150 people over the course of the evening. There are monthly discussion groups for dominants, submissives, and switches. There is also a TIES quarterly play party with attendance by invitation only. And there is an e-mail listserv featuring interesting discussions about topics ranging from serious (how do I tell my husband/wife that I want to experiment with SM?) to lighter subjects (BDSM shopping at Ax-Man). For more information, visit the TIES website at

It was through that e-mail listserv that I first got to know some of the members of TIES—a varied group of interesting people of all ages, genders, orientations and interests. Having followed the list for many months, and having attended two monthly munches, I am finding I have a lot more in common with them than I might have expected. If I had just assumed that we would have nothing in common because they’re het and I’m gay, I would have missed meeting some very nice people.

I know some male members of the GLBT leather community who are not happy about the coming of pansexuality to the leather/SM scene. For them leather is about gay men relating to other gay men, and they are allowed to make that choice. I’m sure there are lesbian feminist leatherwomen for whom leather is a woman-to-woman scene. And there are probably heterosexuals who don’t feel comfortable with the label “queer.” To all of these people, I have said it before and I’ll say it again: The leather/SM community is pansexual, crossing all gender and orientation boundaries. The people who make up that community, however, are not necessarily pansexual, and that’s okay too.

That’s an important distinction to keep in mind. If a group hosts a play space and wishes to designate it as exclusively for lesbian activity, for instance, that’s not politically incorrect. That’s their perogative, and it would seem to me rude for a group of men to crash the party. On the other hand, no one group or faction “owns” the leather community; in order to thrive it must be open and accessible to anyone who wants to identify with it and with its traditions and values, regardless of their sexual orientation, identity or expression.

Upcoming Leather Events

Atons Leather/Levi Dinner at Nicky’s Cafe
Saturday, February 6, 7:30 pm. Nicky’s Café is located at 107 3rd Ave. N. in the Mpls. Warehouse district.
The public is invited—call to make reservations.

The First Annual Mr. Minneapolis Eagle Contest (Preliminaries)
Sunday, February 7, 8:00 pm. Nicky’s Café is located at 107 3rd Ave. N. in the Mpls. Warehouse district.
Get a $10 bar tab and one free hour on Manline just for entering—how can you beat that? The Eagle is looking for someone who is the embodiment of their clientele: fun, hot, no attitude. Judging will be by customer and staff ballots. If you make it to the finals (Sunday, February 21, 8 pm) you’ll get an additional $15 bar tab, and there will be a fabulous prize package for the first and second runners-up and the winner. The winner represents the bar for the year and participates in the Pride Parade this summer. See any Minneapolis Eagle bartender for an entry form.

Pantheon of Leather IX and Olympus Leather Contest
February 5-7, New Orleans
Good luck to Mr. and Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather Greg Hausler and Cori Ander as they represent Minnesota in the Olympus Leather contest on Saturday night, Feb. 6. Community service awards for Pantheon of Leather will be announced Sunday afternoon, Feb. 7, and seven of the awards nominees are from Minnesota:

• Atons, Club of the Year

• Atons, Club Event of the Year (25th Anniversary run)

• Black Guard, Club Event of the Year (Black Frost 21)

• Kevin Cwayna, Reader’s Choice (Men)

• Renee Indehar, Midwest Regional Award

• Michael deLeon, Midwest Regional Award

• Steve Lenius (your humble columnist), Midwest Regional Award

The Black Guard presents Black Frost ’99
Friday through Sunday, February 12-14, various locations

You can still save $20 by registering for Black Frost ’99 before February 1, so hurry! Call for information and a run registration form.

Friday: Registration check-in at The Town House in St. Paul. Serving as host hotel is the Midway Days Inn, also in St. Paul. There will be sixteen events and parties throughout the run sponsored and hosted by other clubs from across the country.

Saturday: Even if you’re not attending the whole run, you can be there for the banquet, show and Red Heart Party in the Camp Snoopy Playhouse Theater at the Mall of America on Saturday night, February 13. The run banquet starts at 5 pm and will be followed by The Black Guard’s usual wild and high-energy show (this year’s theme: “The Land Of Oz”). After the banquet and show is the Red Heart Party, a fundraiser for the GLBT community. Admission for the Red Heart Party only is $25 in advance, $30 at the door; advance tickets are available at The Brass Rail or through Black Guard members. Call for banquet admission information.

Sunday: Awards ceremony, change of club officers, and wind-down party at The Brass Rail.

Mark Your Calendar . . .

February 26-28: The next leather contest on the horizon is the Mr. Minnesota Fantasy contest. The winner of this contest goes on to compete in the International Mr. Fantasy contest in Omaha in mid-August. If you’re interested in competing, contact Dale Willman.

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