Friday, December 29, 2000

Year-End Leather Review

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #146, December 29, 2000)

Updates and further thoughts on some of this year’s columns

The holiday season and the year are drawing to a close. As we all get ready to sing “Auld Lang Syne,” here are some updates and further thoughts on a few of this year’s Leather Life columns.

Even though this is a leather column, until this year I had never written about leather itself. Well, I fixed that oversight—the year’s first column was about leather care (“New Millennium, Clean Leather”) and a recent column dealt with how leather is produced. That column prompted a letter from Robert Davolt, former editor of Drummer Magazine:

“I read with interest your column on leather processing. I have never seen a leather column taken to such an entertaining and literal end. I will be using your recipe on a few of the folks here in San Francisco—the prospect of making something actually useful out of old dinosaur hides is quite exciting.

“In one of those delightful blends of kinks, did you know that leather production in ancient times made human urine a valuable commodity? It took the urine of the entire city of Rome to supply the tanners who outfitted the Legions with leather armor and equipment.

“You can’t imagine how long I have waited for an even vaguely appropriate application for this piece of historical trivia.”

The May 5 issue’s column dealt with Queer Youth Exist, a BDSM education group for minors that was created by two high school students, Hedge and Katze, as their Girl Scout Gold Award project. The column wound up being quoted as a “Cheer” in the “Cheers and Jeers” column of On Our Backs magazine. Since the column appeared Hedge has gone off to college; Katze is continuing the group on her own.

“Baby On Board: Leather Lesbians on the Mommy Track” appeared in the September 22 issue and featured a big picture of parents-to-be PJ and Vicki Knight, who have since been nominated for Pantheon of Leather’s Couple of the Year award. On September 24, two days after the issue hit the streets, Eli Francis Knight was born. He’s doing fine, as are the parents.

On December 3 the Atons of Minneapolis held their traditional Holiday Fundraiser (see photos on the Snapshots page), which raised over $4,200 for Every Penny Counts and the Aliveness Project. In addition, over 1,300 pounds of non-perishable food and personal items were collected for the Aliveness Project. The Atons thank everyone who made the event such a success.

Election Fantasy? Election Nightmare

I’ve saved the strangest follow-up for last. In the June 30 issue (“An Election-Year Fantasy”) I wrote what I thought was a satirical piece, fantasizing about what would happen if the country chose the President of the United States in the same way the leather community chooses International Mr. Leather (IML). The contest would be called the American Mr. President contest, and the titleholder would be chosen “every year in Chicago by a panel of judges,” as International Mr. Leather is chosen. I wrote that the judging panel, “nine wise elders of the community (otherwise known as the Supreme Court) would be entrusted with the task of choosing the man to lead the nation for the next year.”

Well, aided by masterful election engineering by those wonderful folks in Florida who brought you Anita Bryant, this election came down to the Supreme Court effectively awarding the “American Mr. President” title.

In some ways the analogy between presidential election and leather contest was not followed. Allow me to again compare the presidential race to IML and other leather contests: Normally the winner of a leather contest is not announced until the tallymasters have completed their counting (and, we hope, rechecked their figures). Better to make sure the figures are correct before announcing them than to risk an error, a challenge, and subsequent embarrassment. But I guess they don’t feel that way in Florida or Washington, D.C.

Of course, at a leather contest there’s an entertainer, usually a fabulous diva, on hand to keep the audience amused while the tallymasters total up the scores. If the contest entertainer has finished their set and the tallymasters still haven’t finished their tally, the audience waits and the entertainer does an encore. By contrast, the presidential election-night coverage was followed by a seemingly endless parade of politicians, lawyers and court cases. That’s entertainment? It seemed to enthrall much of the nation, or at least the media, in the same fashion as the OJ, Princess Di, and Monicagate stories. But for many it was simply the latest in a long series of media-hyped train wrecks, and they tuned it out. Maybe if Babs or Cher or Donna Summer had provided post-election entertainment the recounts could have continued. Oh, well—I guess we’ll never know.

Several groups and organizations have expressed interest in doing an after-the-fact count of the Florida ballots under the provisions of Florida’s Sunshine Law. What happens if that recount shows that Al Gore actually won the popular vote in Florida, as he won the nationwide popular vote? Well, in the leather community anyway, that calls for stripping someone of their title and awarding it to the person who should rightfully have it.

In closing: Happy New Year, and Happy Real Millennium.


Friday, December 15, 2000

Home for the Holidays?

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #145, December 15, 2000)

The holiday season is upon us, and it has a way of making good things very good and bad things horrible. If you are a kinky person (of any sexual orientation or preference) who is part of an understanding and accepting biological family, you are perhaps counting your blessings and looking forward to some sort of wonderful holiday family get-together.

Or perhaps your biological family knows about your kinky tendencies and some or all of the family members don’t approve. Maybe it’s your parents. Maybe it’s your kids (or your grandkids). Maybe it’s a brother, a sister, an aunt or uncle. In any case, their disapproval may mean that the time you spend with your family this holiday season will range from uncomfortable to downright excruciating. Or it may mean you won’t be spending any time at all with them by either their request or your choice.

Even though you may find yourself feeling sadness, anger, resentment or regret about your relationship with those disapproving members of your biological family, at least you’ll be free to spend time with people whose company you actually enjoy. Ask yourself how you really want to spend the holiday. Don’t be limited by convention. Do you want to gather at someone’s home for a big holiday meal? Spend the day with just your partner, a roaring fire in the fireplace, and a sling? Have a Solstice orgy with 20 or 30 or 100 of your closest friends? (“I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas . . . “)

Or perhaps your biological family doesn’t know you’re kinky. Maybe, as far as you’re concerned, that’s a fine state of affairs since it’s none of their business anyway. The time you spend with your family might be satisfying or awful, but the quality of that time won’t be influenced by feelings of guilt, shame or rejection relating to the fact that you feel you must hide something from them.

If for some reason you feel your kinkiness is their business—if you feel it’s getting in the way of open and honest communication and you want to share this aspect of your life with your family (or at least certain family members)—here are a few things you might want to consider as you contemplate how you will “come out” to them as a kinky person.

• Do you want to tell them during the holiday season at all, or would some other time be less emotionally loaded?

• Telling someone news that may shock them is better done on the day after Christmas than the day before Christmas (or Christmas Day itself).

• Don’t try to sugarcoat things by inviting someone for a grand holiday meal or other festive event during which you deliver the news. If someone is going to be upset by your revelation, they’ll be doubly upset that you ruined what up to that point had been a perfectly lovely occasion.

If you’ve already come out as a member of the GLBT community you may find that you’ve already gone through a similar process. As a matter of fact, these tips are adapted from 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 other family-related topics, and many of the book’s discussions about GLBT issues can also be applied to kink issues. If you or your parents (or your kids) 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).

Finally, remember that you have options and choices in the matter of how you’ll spend this holiday season. It doesn’t matter so much 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 holiday you celebrate and however you celebrate it.

Starting Jan. 3: Wednesday Evenings at The Tank

A new mid-week leather hangout: The Saloon’s leather bar, The Tank, will be open Wednesday evenings from 10 PM to 1 AM starting January 3, 2001 (the kitchen will be open 10-11:30 PM). The dress code will be “relaxed,” but there will be free pool for men in leather. (The Tank will still be open Sunday evenings as well.)

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Friday, Dec. 15, 7:30 PM-closing: Wear your club colors to Club Colors Night at The Minneapolis Eagle.

Saturday, Dec. 16, noon-7 PM: Do your holiday shopping at MSDB’s Bizarre Bazaar at Club Metro Underground in St. Paul. In addition to various vendors there will be a silent auction benefiting the Mr./Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather contest (to be held in January, 2001). $5 at the door; visit www.msdb-mn.org for more info.

Wednesday, Dec. 22, 10 PM-1 AM: Chris Steele, a leatherman’s fantasy, and legendary porn-film director Chi Chi LaRue will be making an appearance at The Saloon.

Wednesday, Dec. 27: The monthly TIES Munch starts at 7:30 pm, Legends Cafe, 825 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls. Come hobnob with about 150 other kinky folks at the perfect after-Christmas social gathering. If you’ve just been visiting the relatives in the hinterlands and need to get back to reality, this should do it.

Friday, December 1, 2000

Walkin’ in a Winter Leatherland

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #144, December 1, 2000)

What is there for a leatherperson to do this winter? Plenty! This column was supposed to be a leather calendar for the next few months, but there’s so much going on that I only have room for December’s events. Here goes:

Sunday, Dec. 3: Start the holiday season on a high note with the Atons Holiday Fundraiser at The Saloon, December 3, 5-10 pm. This event is a benefit for The Aliveness Project and Every Penny Counts, and it will be huge! Last year the Atons raised over 700 lbs of non-perishable food items and $3,000 for The Aliveness Project and Every Penny Counts. At this year’s event, a silent auction (you can preview auction items at www.atons.com/Auction1.htm) features over 50 choice items including an original signed and numbered Tom of Finland print, leather clothing, uniforms, books, posters, toys, and even—and I bet this sends some of you scurrying to your web browsers—some SantaBear and Department 56 Snow Village collectibles. Portfolio Studios will be taking photos with Leather Santa. Vince the leather barber will be doing haircuts, and a bootblack will be on duty. There will be door prizes, drink specials and free food, and even a spanking booth. Admission is an $8 donation at the door, or $5 with 2 lbs. of nonperishable food items or pennies and other change. (Penny donations will be challenge-matched by both The Tank and First National Bank of the Lakes up to $100 each.) For more information and a list of nonperishable food and personal items to donate, visit www.atons.com/events.htm. If you can’t attend the silent auction you can still bid on items in advance; e-mail scorpio@minn.net for details.

You might want to precede the Atons Holiday Fundraiser with a visit to the Mall of America at 1 pm, where PrideAlive will be having their 3rd annual Hand Hold In. According to Sean Kurysh, PrideAlive’s community organizer, “Holding hands in the mall shouldn’t take courage . . . but it still does.” This event is for all genders, ages, couples and singles, and it would be great to see the leather community represented. Meet at the Mall of America, Upper East Side entrance, Level 4 (top floor of the mall), right across from—you guessed it—Hooters.

Monday, Dec. 4: Order tickets to the area premiere of “The Rocky Horror Show” live on stage at the Phoenix Theater. Director Tim Lee has issued a special invitation to the leather community, noting that leather is prominently featured in the show. (A bonus: Thanks to this show you don’t have to travel to New York City and try to score a ticket to “The Full Monty” if you want to see full frontal male nudity on stage.) The show runs through Dec. 17. Call for tickets.

Friday, Dec. 15: Wear your club colors to Club Colors Night, starting at 7:30 pm at The Minneapolis Eagle.

Saturday, Dec. 16: Do your holiday shopping at MSDB’s Bizarre Bazaar, noon to 7 pm at Club Metro Underground in St. Paul. In addition to various vendors there will be a silent auction benefiting the Mr./Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather contest (to be held in January, 2001). Admission is $4 in advance or $5 at the door; visit www.msdb-mn.org for more info and a ticket order form.

Dec. 15, 16 and 17: For the holidays, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus presents “Making Spirits Bright,” their first concerts under new artistic director Dr. Stan Hill (who formerly directed the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus). Call for tickets. It should be noted that at least a few chorus members usually show up at The Minneapolis Eagle after a concert performance.

Tuesday, Dec. 19: Pride Alive, the queer men’s initiative at the Minnesota AIDS Project, presents another edition of my favorite Cafe Chat discussion/seminar: “Kink-O-Rama.” 7-9:30 pm at Dunn Bros., 329 W. 15th St. in Minneapolis. Register by calling Sean or e-mail @mnaidsproject.org.

Wednesday, Dec. 27: The monthly TIES Munch starts at 7:30 pm, Legends Cafe, 825 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls. Come hobnob with about 150 other kinky folks at the perfect after-Christmas social gathering. If you’ve just been visiting the relatives in the hinterlands and need to get back to reality, this should do it.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

See above.

Friday, November 17, 2000

Recipe for a Leather Vest

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #143, November 17, 2000)

“Daddy, where does leather come from?” If you’ve ever asked that question, read on. Most people know that animal skins become leather by a process called “tanning.” But how is leather tanned? What’s the difference between the animal skin before the tanning process and the leather after it has been tanned?

Leather is often irreverently and simplistically referred to as “dead cow,” but the reality is much more complicated. Actually, leather can be made from many different kinds of animal skins; in my collection I have cowhide (durable), pigskin (breathable), lamb (very soft), and even kangaroo (tough as iron). What’s the difference between a “skin” and a “hide”? Generally, a hide is from a large animal, like a cow, horse, ox, buffalo, or zebra. A skin is from a smaller animal, like a pig or lamb.

If leather were truly just “dead cow,” it wouldn’t last very long; an animal’s skin starts to decompose within hours of the animal’s death. Leathermaking is a way of stopping that decomposition, preserving the skin and turning it into something useful and durable. Skin is made of up mostly of water, fat and various kinds of protein including a fibrous protein called collagen. Leather is skin with much of the water and all of the stuff that decays (fat, non-fibrous proteins, blood vessels, muscle, etc.) removed and with the bonds between the collagen fibers strengthened.

People have been making leather for over 7,000 years. Early leathermakers dried hides in the sun to remove much of the water, pounded in animal fats or brain matter to soften the hides, and then preserved them by salting or smoking. Vegetable tanning, which is still practiced today, was developed by the Egyptians and Hebrews around 400 BC and involves soaking hides in solutions of tannin (tannic acid) extracted from plants. (The tannin is what cements the collagen fibers together.) Chemical tanning, particularly the use of chromium salts, was introduced toward the end of the 19th century.

Here’s a modern recipe for a leather vest. I doubt you’ll want to try it yourself, but it will give you some appreciation for the skill, craft, and complex processes that were involved in making the leather you’re wearing.

Take one fresh animal skin (probably cow). Wash and clean thoroughly. Remove hair and epidermis (the thin outer layer of skin) by first soaking the skin for several days in a solution of lime and water to soften the hair and epidermis, and then scraping the hair and epidermis away with a large knife. Now turn the skin over and scrape away any remaining flesh and fatty tissue on the underside of the skin. This will leave the thick central layer of skin, known as the dermis or corium, which is what leather is made from.

Now soak the skin in deliming solution to remove excess lime, soak in enzymes if desired to remove still more perishable proteins, then soak in a chromium sulfate solution to stabilize and strengthen the collagen fibers in the skin.

The dermis of an average cowhide is about 4-1/2 millimeters thick. If thinner leather is desired (and it usually is), split the skin in half using a special machine with a band-type knife. If you don’t have one of those machines, you can just scrape the underside of the skin until you’ve whittled it down to the proper thickness (that’s the way they did it in the old days). Once the hide has been split, the outer layer will become “top grain” leather, which is generally superior to the inside “split grain” layer. (What about all the little bits of leather that have been scraped or shaved off the hide? They are combined with a glue or other binding resin, and the resulting mixture is rolled into sheets of so-called “ground leather”—the leather equivalent of particleboard.)

Next, soak the skin in a dye of the desired color (probably black) mixed with oils and fats to soften the leather. The easy way to do this is in a rotating drum (hence, “drum-dyed” leather). Then stretch the hide out and dry by baking in an oven. Once dry, buff lightly to remove any surface imperfections.

Finally, finish the leather by spraying it with liquid pigment, dry in an oven, emboss it to give it a uniform grain pattern, spray on a clear protective topcoat, then tumble in a heated drying drum to pummel the leather and make it soft. Iron the leather to remove any wrinkles.

You are now ready to mark the vest pattern on the leather, cut out the pieces and sew them together.

Yield: One leather vest.

Two Local Leather Events To Be Rescheduled

The Minnesota Olympus Leather Contest, which was to have happened the weekend of November 11, will be rescheduled for the first part of January, 2001. The event was postponed due to a lack of contestants for the title. If you want to compete, call the Knights of Leather.

MSDB’s Bizarre Bazaar, a leather/fetish vendor mart which was to have happened the same weekend, was also postponed and will now be happening on Saturday, December 16 from noon to 7 pm at Club Metro Underground in St. Paul. At the Bizarre Bazaar, MSDB will also be doing a silent auction to fundraise for the Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather contest. Admission will be $4 in advance or $5 at the door; for more information see MSDB’s website at www.msdb-mn.org. (MSDB still has vendor space available—see the website for details.)

Atons Holiday Fundraiser Seeks Auction Donations

The Atons of Minneapolis will hold their annual Holiday Fundraiser on Sunday, December 3 at the Saloon Bar in downtown Minneapolis. Last year the Atons raised over 700 lbs of non-perishable food items and $3,000 for The Aliveness Project and Every Penny Counts. They are seeking donations of erotic art, new toys like whips & floggers, or gift certificates that can be used for a Silent Auction to benefit The Aliveness Project and Every Penny Counts. If you wish to donate an item please contact Tom. Pictures of donated items can be seen on the Atons website (www.atons.com), and a printed catalog of auction items is scheduled for distribution just before Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 3, 2000

Minnesota Olympus Leather Contest Coming Up

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #142, November 3, 2000)

PHOTO: I have many photos of Cori and David from which you can choose. I’ll drop the prints off at the Lavender office as soon as I can.

The Mr./Ms Minnesota Olympus Leather contest happens next weekend, Nov. 10-12 (see schedule details at the end of this column). This will be your only chance this year to see (or compete in) a state-level leather contest; at this time, to my knowledge, the other “traditional” leather titles—Mr. and Ms. Minnesota Leather and Mr. Minnesota Drummer and Drummerboy—are all on hiatus.

The winners of the Minnesota Olympus Leather titles go on to compete at the national Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather contest (which is part of the Pantheon of Leather community-service awards) in New Orleans next February. Minnesota residents have brought home a national Olympus Leather sash twice in the last two years: Cori Ander was Ms. Olympus Leather 1999, and David Coral (aka Jazz Thomas) is the current Mr. Olympus Leather 2000.

I asked Cori and David what makes the Olympus Leather titles different than the other titles mentioned above. Both agreed that the Olympus Leather title takes the leather community’s traits of diversity and inclusivity to new heights. David liked the fact that both Pantheon of Leather and the Olympus Leather contest “are probably the only leather events that really honor and acknowledge the entire community—men, women, bi, straight, gay, pansexual, pangender, everything. It’s for the whole leather community. I think the trend of the leather/SM community is toward a mixing of the disciplines, a mixing of the sexes, a mixing of the genders—I think that’s the wave of the future. The reason I believe so strongly in the Olympus Leather title is because it’s on the cutting edge of that. It’s been at the forefront of that trend for its entire history, whereas IML, IMsL, and Drummer have traditionally been gay titles.”

What Cori finds refreshing about both the Olympus Leather title and Pantheon of Leather is that they’re “pan-practice.” That’s a term she has recently started using to connote that whether you’re a heavy BDSM player or are just starting to get into it (or are just curious about it), everyone is welcome. She appreciates the freedom to interact with people in a leather/BDSM setting in many different ways: “You don’t have to be a heavy player, and it doesn’t have to be only about hard-core sex. It can be at whatever level and whatever practice people feel comfortable with.”

David told me he’s been having a great title year—even though he hasn’t traveled as much as expected, “The travel that I’ve done has been really quite extraordinary, and I’ve met fantastic people. The diversity in this community is amazing. Having this title opens all kinds of doors to places I never would have gone, people I never would have met, and experiences I never would have had otherwise. You know, I competed in the contest, and I had fun with it, but I didn’t think I would win. I thought, ‘I’m not this huge heavy player, I’m not this big leather guy—there are other people who are way more qualified for this than I am.’ I’m just this regular guy, and all of a sudden all these doors get opened just because I happen to have this title attached to my chest.”

Cori agreed that holding a title creates opportunities; in her experience, many of the opportunities have been chances to learn. “Just because I have a title doesn’t mean I know everything, and I love it that I continually get to learn from people. Big things, little things, it doesn’t matter—I love the variety. And I love the creativity of some of the people I’ve met, and the different styles. Creativity is very important to me, and one of the reasons I got involved with this community is because it’s so creative. And it’s always evolving—anything that involves people and their wants and their likes is going to evolve, and I like being part of that evolution.”

You can meet Cori Ander, David Coral and other leather luminaries at the Mr./Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather contest next weekend (Nov. 10-12) at a location yet to be determined. Tentative schedule: Meet and Greet Friday night, contestant interviews Saturday during the day (not open to the public), and the contest and show on Sunday night. This contest is presented by the Knights of Leather; for further information, or if you want to compete, call the Knights of Leather.

Another feature of this weekend will be the Bizarre Bazaar, a leather/BDSM/fetish vendor boutique tentatively scheduled for Saturday from noon-7 pm at the Club Metro Underground in St. Paul. The Bizarre Bazaar is presented by local kink group MSDB (Minnesota Stocks, Bonds and Debentures).

Friday, October 20, 2000

All I Really Need To Know About Leather/BDSM I Learned in Kindergarten

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #141, October 20, 2000)

The following was inspired by further reflection on the dungeon etiquette seminar that was the subject of last issue’s Leather Life column. I present it here with apologies to Robert Fulghum, who wrote the original All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten (Leather Life column published in 1989 by Villard Books, a division of Random House).

All I Really Need To Know About Leather/BDSM I Learned in Kindergarten

• It’s not nice to hit people (unless you have their consent).

• Don’t hog all the playground equipment. Take turns.

• Be polite. Learn to say “Please, Sir” and “Thank you, Mistress.”

• People will be more likely to play with you if you’re dressed and groomed attractively.

• Not everyone will want to play with you. Don’t take it personally. That’s the way the world is.

• You don’t have to play with someone if you don’t want to. And you don’t need to give a reason why you don’t want to play with them. A polite “No” is sufficient.

• If it’s not your property, keep your hands off. Don’t play with other people’s toys unless they offer them to you.

• Stay out of other people’s games unless they invite you to participate. Nobody likes a buttinsky.

• Basic sanitation is important. When you’re done playing, clean your toys and put them away. Keep the playroom clean, too, so it will be ready to go the next time you want to play.

• Curiosity is good. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s one of the best ways to learn.

• Learning is good. It will make you a happier person and a better member of society.

• Respect the people who supervise the playground. They’re not there to spoil your fun—they’re just trying to keep the playground safe for everyone.

• Learn the rules first before trying to break them. You can only color outside the lines effectively once you’ve mastered coloring inside them.

• It’s hard to play nicely with other people when you’re upset or angry. Sometimes it’s good to take a time-out and simmer down.

• Even the most energetic person eventually runs out of steam. When that happens, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break (or even a nap.)

• This is a free country. We all have the right to be ourselves, and we’re all entitled to our likes and dislikes. But other people are also entitled to theirs. If we all respect each other, even those whose preferences might be different from ours, we can all get along.

• Finally: If you can’t control the scissors, don’t run with them. You don’t want to put someone’s eye out.

International Mr./Ms. Deaf Leather 2000

PHOTO: Left: International Mr. Deaf Leather 2000 Buck Rogers (his real name). Right: International Ms. Deaf Leather 2000 “Black C.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Hernandez

More new leather titleholders: The tenth annual International Mr. and Ms. Deaf Leather contest was held on Friday, Sept. 22 in San Francisco as part of San Francisco’s Leather Pride Week (which culminated with the Folsom Street Fair on Sunday, Sept. 24). The new International Mr. Deaf Leather 2000 is Buck Rogers (his real name) of Washington, DC; the new International Ms. Deaf Leather 2000 is “Black C” of Tucson, AZ.

These new titleholders will spend their title year as highly visible representatives of the deaf leather community. You didn’t know there was such a thing? Try typing “deaf leather” into your favorite Web search engine—you’ll be impressed with the number of web pages your search will return. The existence of the deaf leather community speaks highly both of the general leather community’s commitment to inclusion and of the deaf leather community’s resolve to live life to the fullest without letting their hearing impairment get in the way.

If you want to find out more about the deaf leather community (and the deaf bear community as well), here are some websites to get you started: visit www.deafleather.com or www.bladeaf.org (the website of the Baltimore Leather Association of the Deaf).

Friday, October 6, 2000

Dungeon Class 101 and Drummer v2.0

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #140, October 6, 2000)

PHOTOS:

“Dear Mr. Manners, Sir: I was at a dungeon party the other night, and the most unspeakably rude thing happened. Without even asking me, someone picked up my brand new flogger— I hadn’t even had the pleasure of trying it out yet —and started using it on their submissive. I wanted to interrupt them and ask them to give it back, but they were enjoying themselves so much that I waited until they were finished. Unfortunately, I found myself fuming about it all evening, which rather ruined the party for me. What would have been a better way to handle the situation?”

That was only one of the scenarios explored at a dungeon-etiquette seminar recently presented by local kink group MSDB (which stands for “Minnesota Stocks, Debentures and Bonds,” but they’re not a financial services company—read the initials in reverse). The seminar attracted an audience of about 25, ranging from newbies to seasoned dungeon enthusiasts. A moderator and a panel of six speakers (including your humble columnist) started with an overview of general BDSM etiquette before moving on to the more specialized topic of how to properly conduct oneself in a dungeon party setting.

Following this, MSDB presented another seminar dealing with the issues faced by dungeon masters. These are the people responsible for maintaining a safe, sane, consensual atmosphere at a dungeon party—and doing so in a non-intrusive fashion. Once again, a panel of speakers discussed the basics before considering more specific situations ranging from the rude (people who hog the dungeon equipment and keep everyone else waiting) to the possibly dangerous (an inexperienced top who doesn’t know how to properly handle a bullwhip, but thinks he does).

As a bonus, both seminars featured excellent take-home materials that, by themselves, were more than worth the price of admission: “Introduction to Play Party Etiquette,” “A Guide to the D/s Lifestyle,” and “Techniques, Tools & Toys: Extreme Play FAQ’s.” These handouts were “a collaborative effort on behalf of TIES, MSDB, Beats_Me, Atons, Knights of Leather, et.al.”—all the groups represented on the speaker panels and in the audience. If you want to get your hands on those handouts, watch for the announcement of the next presentation of these dungeon seminars and sign up to attend.

MSDB’s next educational presentation will be its fourth safety class on Saturday, Oct. 21. Participants will receive instruction from a certified teacher of the American Red Cross (who happens to be kink-friendly). The morning class will be CPR for adults and the afternoon class will be general First Aid. Upon completion of the two classes, participants will receive certification from the Minnesota Chapter of the Red Cross; the CPR certificate is good for one year, the first aid certificate for two years. The class runs from 9 am to 5 pm with a break from 1 to 2 pm. Folks who need to be recertified on just the CPR portion can attend only the morning session (9 am to 1 pm) for a reduced fee. For more information, visit the MSDB website at www.msdb-mn.org or e-mail msdb-mn-owner@egroups.com.

International Mr. Drummer, version 2.0: “Reinvented”

PHOTO: Standing: International Mr. Drummer 2000 Daniel Clark; kneeling, International Drummerboy Richie Black.

PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Hernandez

It gives me great pleasure to report that the International Mr. Drummer and Drummerboy titles are alive and well after the relocation of the contest from San Francisco to Florida. On Sept. 16, at the Sun Coast Resort complex in St. Petersburg, Daniel Clark of Indianapolis became the new International Mr. Drummer (IMD) 2000 and Richie Black of Phoenix, Arizona became the new International Drummerboy 2000. IMD first runner-up honors went to Randal Kinnear of Pawnee, Oklahoma; the Drummerboy first runner-up was Derrick Rojas of Baltimore, Maryland.

You may recall that last year an era ended as Drummer Magazine ceased publishing and the International Mr. Drummer contest was sold. By all reports this year’s contest got the new era of Drummer underway with an impressive production (it started with the Drummer Men and boy contestants making their entrances on motorcycles). According to International Mr. Leather 2000 Mike Taylor, “Throughout the contest you could feel the energy, this sense that Drummer was still going to continue. We were realizing that it was happening before us—that our past wasn’t lost, it was just being reinvented.” Happily, for International Mr. Drummer, the beat goes on.

Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather Contestants Wanted

Speaking of leather contests: Nov. 10-12 will be both the Mr./Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather contest and MSDB’s second annual Bizarre Bazaar. First mark both those events on your calendar, then consider the fact that it’s probably time you entered a contest—if not now, when? This competition is open to all leather/BDSM folk and the focus is on the lifestyle, not the look. Contest organizers stress this is not a beauty contest—they are looking for folks who truly love the kinky life and are proud of it! Contestants will be judged on a fantasy presentation, leather/kink/fetish image, and how they handle themselves in social interactions. For more information, contact David or P.J.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Saturday, Oct. 14, 7 pm, Gluek Brewery, 16 N. 6th St. (at Hennepin Ave.), Mpls.
Presented by the Atons, open to all. Drinks at 7 pm, dinner at 7:30 pm. Call the Atons HotLine for more information and to make reservations. Information is also available at the club’s website: www.atons.com.

Friday, September 22, 2000

Baby On Board: Leather Lesbians on the Mommy Track

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #139, September 22, 2000)

PHOTOS:

On Sunday afternoon, August 13, 2000, leather history was made when a baby shower was held at The Minneapolis Eagle—quite possibly the first baby shower ever held at any leather bar anywhere. The entire Twin Cities leather community had managed to keep the upcoming shower a secret from the two moms-to-be, PJ and Vicki Knight, and many leathermen and leatherwomen had braved the terra incognita of Target’s baby department and lived to tell about it. Ed Hopkins, the owner of The Minneapolis Eagle, was at the shower and was clearly excited and pleased about the event. PJ and Vicki were completely surprised, and totally delighted as well.

This may be the start of a trend. Vicki is due to deliver a baby boy at the end of September. Another leather lesbian couple, Kay and Shelley, are the proud parents of a beautiful daughter born in 1999. Shelley is the birth mother and Kay is a legal guardian of the child. According to Kay, “she is still on the petite side at only 22 lbs. but her vocabulary and understanding of concepts and conversation are growing at a phenomenal rate. She is quite the interesting person.” (At Kay and Shelley’s request, their last names do not appear in this article, and neither does their daughter’s name.)

While certainly there are folks in the leather community with kids, up to now most of them had their children in their “previous” lives, when they were still married to someone of the opposite sex. A relative few have become parents through adoption. What’s new and noteworthy is that lesbians are coming out in both a GLBT and a leather sense, pairing up, and then deciding they want to raise kids, and to—ahem—make them “from scratch,” even.

While it’s revolutionary in one sense that leatherwomen are having babies, in another sense it’s a non-issue. All these mothers agree that they are not raising “leather babies.” Nor are they necessarily raising future leather daddies or leather dykes. “I don’t know who this new little person is,” says Vicki. “People come up to me and joke about the future leather daddy. I don’t know if he’s a future leather daddy or not. This kid is not waving any flags for the leather community, unless he chooses to do so when he’s an adult. And that will be HIS choice—I don’t have any control over it.”

Kay says her daughter HAS waved a flag: “Our daughter rode the trolley at the head of the gay pride parade in Chicago, waving her little rainbow flag, and she went to the Pantheon of Leather this year and to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival last year. But she doesn’t really understand any of those things yet. I think our daughter will grow up more as the child of a lesbian couple than as a ‘leather baby,’ because in many respects we live a pretty dull, vanilla life, and she leads a pretty sheltered life, too.”

Shelley isn’t sure what she and Kay will tell their daughter about their sexuality and their leather/SM leanings—“That’s the big unknown for us, both philosophically and practically. There’s not much that she sees, of course: we keep our play and equipment well out of her consciousness. But for us, leather/SM doesn’t begin and end at the dungeon door. The baby sees me in my collar at home, and hears me call Sir ‘Sir’—I feel like now she’s too young to understand, but soon that won’t be true. I’m not interested in recruiting her for the International Ms. Leather contest in 2025, yet I don’t want to imply that there’s anything shameful or wrong about her parents’ dominant-submissive relationship. I honestly don’t know how we’ll handle this one. I’m just glad I don’t have to do it perfectly.”

Like the rest of these women, Vicki feels that leather is for consenting adults and not for a child’s consumption. “Leather/SM and child-rearing are apples and oranges to me—they’re two completely different worlds. I don’t personally want this kid to know anything about my sex life, or any lifestyle in that respect that I choose to follow. While we’re raising our child, that part is in the background.”

PJ believes it’s possible to enjoy leather while keeping it separate from child rearing. “When I was young, my parents would allow me to go to a friend’s house for a sleep-over. Well, I know full well NOW what they did the nights that I was gone—they were making babies. So while our child is sleeping over at a friend’s, we’ll be playing in the sling—what’s the difference there? The point is that all the toys are taken out when the child is gone, and are all packed away nice and neat before the child returns home.”

Still, parenthood brings inevitable changes. Kay describes a few: “We can’t hop on the motorcycle or go to a movie or do any of the spontaneous things we used to do. Weekend visits to see friends are logistically more demanding because children are equipment-intensive. And we don’t swear anymore because our daughter picks up on words so easily. We now live a child-focused life, but we were ready to make that commitment.”

Shelley says, with a sigh, “Becoming a parent has meant giving up a lot of the things I most enjoyed about being a leather dyke. We rarely travel to leather events anymore; it’s hard to find the time and space for intense play; and I’m 15 lbs. too big for my hottest outfits.” But she accepts the changes and says, “I’ve found I can’t have everything, but I’m happy and blessed with what I have.”

With the birth of their child getting closer and closer, PJ sounds like she’s ready for parenthood. “Right now everything seems to be like it is for every other pregnant couple getting ready for childbirth. We’ve done birthing classes and I feel like all the rest of the fathers in the room—the anticipation, the extra work, the preparations, all of it.” PJ says she needs to get a workbench together—just like her father had—so she can fix things like bikes and skateboards and rollerblades.

Vicki has had a difficult pregnancy and says it will be a relief when the pregnancy is over and her child is finally born. But more than that, she is excitedly looking forward to being a parent. She sounds refreshingly enthusiastic when she says, “I want to be involved with the PTA. I want to do bake sales and all that kind of stuff—I do! This is not a mistake. This is a choice—I’m choosing this person to be in my life, so I’m going for it!”

Wouldn’t it be great if every child could be born into such welcoming circumstances?

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Second Annual Drag-Challenged Wig Party
Saturday evening, Sept. 23, The Saloon
Walter, The Saloon’s manager, says, “I believe even some of the butchest butches have secretly wanted an excuse to put on a wig. Now here’s your chance.” No dress, no makeup—just grab a wig and throw it on. (The Ragstock store on Lake Street in Uptown will give a discount to anyone who whispers the magic words, “Saloon Wig Party.”) The event is hosted by the fabulous Tinea’. If you’re really good you may share in $500 of prize money.

Thursday, September 21, 2000

Dispatches from the Future: The Leather Summer of ’28

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #165, September 21, 2001)

With autumn fast approaching it’s time for a look back at some of this summer’s leather activities. And what a summer it’s been! But with a kick-off event like the 50th International Mr. Leather (IML) contest, how could it not be? The event was held over Memorial Day weekend, as always. And for that weekend, Chicago’s McCormick Place became the world’s largest leather bar—filled to capacity with leatherfolk of all genders, ages and descriptions.

A capacity crowd jammed the McCormick Place auditorium to watch the contest, and estimates placed the number of viewers who watched the contest via the internet in the millions. The evening’s most unforgettable moment: first-ever IML titleholder David Kloss (all these years and he still looks good!) received a standing ovation from the crowd after reading the list of next year’s judges. New IML Lik Tinghe (from Antarctica—it’s only the second year they’ve sent a contestant) won’t be spending much time at home this year as he fulfills his titleholder duties.

In contrast to IML, which is firmly rooted in Chicago, the International Ms. Leather (IMsL) contest in recent years has never been in the same city twice in a row. This year they returned to Las Vegas, Nevada, where Mary Kay Khali, Ms. Leather Dakota, was chosen from a field of 64 contestants as the new International Ms. Leather. The last time they were there was back in 1999, and what a difference the intervening years have made! This year’s host resort was Las Vegas’ newest and kinkiest showplace, The Charenton. Named for the insane asylum where the Marquis de Sade spent his last years, it was a perfect backdrop for the weekend’s activities. Imagine—a hotel where every one of the 5,000 rooms is a fully-equipped dungeon. Only in Vegas, folks.

The excitement of IMsL had barely subsided when it was time for another competition of a different sort: the Summer Olympics, this year returning to Greece. Several new competitive events have been added this year; after much campaigning and lobbying by members of the leather community we will finally get to witness both Tag Team Fisting and Competitive Bullwhip. (Tag Team Fisting was first proposed as an Olympic event by a contestant in International Mr. Leather 2001—that’s how long it has taken to get that event added to the Olympic lineup.)

The leather/SM community also continued to influence the world of entertainment. Last year’s Broadway smash “Fantasy: The Musical,” an all-singing, all-dancing revue of breathtaking leather fantasy performances, is still packing them in (you’ll be lucky if you can get tickets for 2031). Building on the success of the musical, “Fantasy On Ice” has been touring major metropolitan ice arenas this summer, and from the crowds lining up at box offices across the land it looks like Disney has another winner. (But how they can skate and flog at the same time is beyond me—after the show in Minneapolis one of the cast members got me on the ice and I tried it, but even with his coaching I just couldn’t make it work.) By the way, plans are in the works to make “Fantasy: The Musical” the permanent show at The Charenton in Las Vegas.

And now, a look ahead: The Leather Summer of ’28 will officially close with another milestone, the 50th annual International Mr. Drummer contest. This year it finally returns to San Francisco (as the song says, right back where it started from) to be held in conjunction with the Folsom Street Fair—which outgrew Folsom Street years ago and now stretches along Market Street from downtown to the reclaimed and revitalized Castro. Drummer and Folsom in the same city on the same weekend—all’s right with the world again.

Romano-Blas takes Ms. World Leather title

PHOTO: Annie Romano-Blas and Mindy Chateauvert

PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Hernandez

From a field of nine leatherwomen/activists Annie Romano-Blas was chosen the first-ever Ms. World Leather on September 2. Romano-Blas is a health advocate and is the domestic partner of former International Ms. Leather Jo Blas.

Runner-up honors went to Mindy Chateauvert, a college professor from the Washington D.C. area. The contest weekend was held in Dallas, TX. (Thanks to Marcus Hernandez, leather columnist for San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter, for contest details and photograph.)

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Leather Fashion Show
Sunday, September 23 (doors open at 7PM, show starts at 8PM), Quest Nightclub
Featuring the work of designer Sean Doyle in his first-ever solo fashion show. Eye-popping leather fantasywear for women and the unveiling of the designer’s line for men. He also has some fun accessories that might appeal to anyone who’s into leather. General admission $10 at the door, VIP admission $25. For a preview visit www.seandoyle.com.

Friday, September 8, 2000

What The Leather Archives & Museum Can Do For You

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #138, September 8, 2000)

PHOTO: Joseph Bean, Executive Director, Leather Archives & Museum

PHOTO CREDIT: LA&M

PHOTO: The Leather Archives & Museum: “Located In Chicago, Serving The World”

PHOTO CREDIT: LA&M

I’ve written before about the Leather Archives & Museum. (All together now: “Located In Chicago, Serving The World!” That’s what a leather crowd always yells at the first mention of the words “Leather Archives & Museum.”) But every previous time I’ve written about it I’ve written in the spirit of “What a great concept, let’s all make it happen.” Well, it’s happening, and it’s happening bigger and faster than anyone dared hope. The Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M) has become a multi-faceted, vibrant organization working in many ways to collect, preserve, display and perpetuate the leather community’s unique heritage. The LA&M serves up a feast of leather culture, and you don’t even have to go to Chicago to indulge.

In a speech to the audience at the International Mr. Leather (IML) 2000 contest in Chicago, Executive Director Joseph W. Bean was clearly and happily overwhelmed at how quickly the community has embraced the LA&M. In November, 1995 the archives occupied its first public space, a rented storefront on North Clark Street in Chicago. By 1997 it had already outgrown the space. Bean told the IML audience, “I first dreamed of us owning a building in December, 1997. That was yesterday, barely. I announced the Capital Campaign to buy a building in January, 1998, imagining that it would take you guys ten years to buy us a building. Well, it took you less than a year and a half. You’d think that the geniuses of finance would live on Wall Street. Instead we live on Leather Street, U.S.A.

“Last year [at the 1999 IML contest] I showed you a picture of a building that could be a home for the Archives—this year it’s a reality.”

Bean went on to say that his hope was that the LA&M would be able to make the transition from leather community charity to leather community resource, and this appears to be happening as the LA&M finds news ways to reach out to the worldwide leather community. In addition to the exhibits in the improved display space afforded by the new building, the archives has put together a traveling exhibition of leather community history and memorabilia which has been ricocheting from city to city for some time now. (It was supposed to be in Minneapolis this summer for the Twin Cities Festival of Pride and Minnesota Leather Pride 2000, but the exhibit was lost in transit. It was subsequently found and is now slated for next year’s Pride festival.)

If you have internet access and a web browser, you don’t even need to leave home to enjoy an exhibit from the LA&M. For some time their website (www.leatherarchives.org) has presented an online Art Gallery with examples of “the many erotic works the Archives has access to.” Also on the web, The Colors Project has been an ongoing effort to collect and display the patches, banners and logos of the organizations, motorcycle clubs, discussion groups and social clubs that, as the website puts it, “are part of the foundation of the leather community, part of the proof that we ARE a community.”

Much more is on the way; a brand-new website now under construction will feature many more exhibits including a leather history timeline and Q&A, more art exhibits, regularly updated newsletters, online shipping at the Gift Shop, and an e-mail list server (to join the list server, send an e-mail to webmaster@leatherarchives.org). The new site should be available shortly, so keep checking that URL.

If you’re in Chicago, of course, you can visit the Archives (6418 N. Greenview Avenue, Chicago, IL 60626; 773/761-9200; archives@leatherarchives.org) and see the exhibits in person. The Archives requests that you please call or e-mail in advance to make an appointment; according to Bean, “We can almost always accommodate anyone’s schedule if we hear from them in advance.” The LA&M also occasionally presents classes, lectures and workshops—contact them for details.

The expanded space provided by the new LA&M building means that the Archive’s collection can continue to expand. Bean noted during his IML 2000 speech that the Archives has “gone from representing about nine countries when I spoke to you last year to more than 30 this year. We keep getting letters from people saying, ‘Someone from Ohio wrote to me, I’m here in Morocco, and I thought you’d like this.’ It happens, it happens all the time and it’s because of you. You guys are making them do it.” And, he told the IML audience, “Without you none of it would have ever happened. No government institution, no foundation, no public reservoir of money has been involved. Every penny that has made the Leather Archives & Museum happen has come out of the pockets of leatherfolk.”

Bean noted that while he might wish otherwise, the need for raising funds for the LA&M continues. “We have the building, but that means we have a mortgage. I’m dreaming of paying off the mortgage in 2004. . . . If we pay off the mortgage by the refinance date in August 2004 you, the leather community, will save $813,000 in interest.” He concluded by saying, “That’s worth the effort. Make the effort.”

What You Can Do for the Leather Archives & Museum (or What You Can Do for the LA&M)

There are many ways you can contribute to the LA&M:

• You can contribute financially by becoming a member or by making a donation to either the operating fund or Capital Campaign.

• You can contribute your time and talents by volunteering to work in the collections or to do administrative work. The Archive’s Vacationing Volunteer program gives you a chance to do this even if you don’t live in the Chicago area. In some cases you can even work from your home by computer or otherwise.

• You can expand the LA&M’s collection and knowledge base by helping to research the histories of local clubs and organizations or by collecting the colors (logos, patches, etc.) of those clubs.

• Be aware of the leather history around you. Help the LA&M properly record and preserve leather history by identifying individuals who should be interviewed and by discovering leather holdings and estates in your area that should be collected and preserved.

• By making a will or adding a codicil to your will, you can ensure that your leather-related items, perhaps some of your money from insurance or other holdings, and even saleable assets such as real estate are donated to the LA&M. According to LA&M Executive Director Joseph W. Bean, “People can name the LA&M [as a beneficiary] in their life insurance policies or pick up a separate, often very inexpensive, life insurance policy just to provide something for the LA&M that can be many times larger as a gift than it will ever be as premiums.” Donations to a 501.c.3 charity like the LA&M can be very useful in estate planning; contact the Archives for more information.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Saturday evening, Sept. 9, 7 pm, It’s Greek to Me (626 W. Lake St., Minneapolis)
Presented by the Atons, open to all. Reservations are not necessary this month—just show up. Drinks at 7 pm in the bar, dinner at 7:30 pm in the downstairs banquet room. Visit the club’s website at www.atons.com or call the Atons HotLine for more information.

Friday, August 25, 2000

A Leatherman Looks at the Presidential Race

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #137, August 25, 2000)

Recently I wrote a column comparing the way we select the President of the United States with the way we select International Mr. Leather. On further observation I’m beginning to think this year’s presidential election has more in common with a local leather contest—one of those contests where the promoters have been able to come up with only two contestants, and as you watch them onstage you wonder if either of them will be able to serve the title properly. Forgive me for delving into political waters again, but it is, after all, an election year. This is what one leatherman thinks about the presidential race so far.

First of all, neither of the major candidates has said anything about being kink-friendly. In this post-Monica age (have you forgotten about Monica? The folks in Washington, D.C. haven’t), where Altoids and cigars are considered kinky and where the pendulum continues to swing further toward “traditional family values,” I think it will be quite awhile before a presidential candidate courts the kink vote. So we shall have to judge them on other criteria.

By almost any criteria (on second thought, delete that “almost”), I don’t like Bush and don’t want to see him in the White House. It’s appropriate that I live in Minnesota; according to Newsweek, Minnesota is the only state that’s more or less a sure thing for Al Gore.

So I guess that means I cast a vote for Gore as my “George W. Bush over my dead body” vote. But I’m not all that excited about Gore, either, because he hasn’t given me much to get excited about. Aside from the legendarily wooden way he presents himself (which I guarantee you would not score big points in a leather contest), he hasn’t really said much of anything about anything. So far, he’s a blank. His wife, Tipper, seems to have taken firmer stands on more issues than he has. I sincerely hope he is able to better define himself before the election in November.

The news media are constantly pointing out that this is the first presidential race where both candidates are of the boomer generation. Is this really the best my generation can do? Are we boomers really that lightweight? Eight years ago I thought Clinton, also a boomer, was lightweight—now, compared to Gore and Bush, he seems like a brilliant statesman.

If this was a leather contest, and I was judging, I would watch the proceedings and I would mark my score sheet. And I would do so secure in the knowledge that most leather contests are set up so that if none of the contestants receives a certain minimum number of points (usually 70% of the maximum number of points possible), the title will not be awarded. This is another instance where the leather/BDSM community has come up with a way of doing things that society in general might do well to follow.

Contrast this with the way a presidential election works: no matter how turned-off the electorate becomes, no matter how many voters stay home, each state’s electoral votes will go to one candidate or the other (barring a third-party-candidate upset). Theoretically a president could be picked by only 10% of the country’s eligible voters, even if the other 90% were so disgusted with both the candidates that they decided to stay home on election day.

In this country there’s no such thing as a presidential no-confidence vote. You can vote for a third-party candidate as a way of saying you don’t like either of the two major-party candidates, but that’s usually called “throwing away your vote.” I say “usually” because Jesse Ventura proved that if enough people feel enough disenchantment with the two major parties, a third-party candidate can win. Will Nader or (perish the thought) Buchanan pull off a Ventura-style upset nationally? Wait and see.

I suppose we can take some comfort from history. Just as the leather nation has survived the occasional lackluster titleholder, the United States has survived the occasional lackluster president. Even so, whether we’re talking about a Hobson’s choice between leather title contestants or one between presidential candidates, the lesser of two evils is a better choice than the greater of two evils.

One final thought: Al Gore made history by selecting as his running mate Joseph Lieberman, the first-ever Jewish candidate on a presidential ticket. That started me thinking about other Presidential barriers that have been broken, such as presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960 being the first-ever Roman Catholic on a presidential ticket (he won), and vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 being the first-ever woman on a presidential ticket (she and Walter Mondale lost).

How long will it be before we have a self-proclaimed member of the GLBT community as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate on a major-party ticket? Or the first openly-kinky candidate? Or maybe even both at once? It could happen one day, and that day might be sooner than you or I expect. But it won’t happen through apathy and hiding. It will happen through involvement and pride. Be proud enough this year to get involved in the political process—even if that involvement is “only” paying attention and voting intelligently, and encouraging others to do the same. I said it before and I’ll say it again: This election is too important to tune out.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Duluth/Superior: Kick-Off Cocktails for Pride in Boots & Leather (in conjunction with Twin Ports Pride Festival)
Friday, Sept. 1, 4-7 PM, The Main Club, 1217 Tower Avenue, Superior, WI
This is the kick-off; other Pride in Boots & Leather events are planned as well throughout the weekend, so it will be worth the trip north. For full details contact Bob Jansen, owner of the Main Club, or send an e-mail to mainclub@skypoint.com. For information about Twin Ports GLBT Pride Festival events visit www.dspride.bizland.com. Bonus: In addition to the above events the Great Northern Classic Rodeo will be held at the Superior Fairgrounds (4700 Tower Ave., Superior) at 7 PM on both Friday, Sept. 1 and Saturday, Sept. 2 and at 2 PM on Sunday, Sept. 3.

Friday, August 11, 2000

BDSM Party Raid in Massachusetts

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #136, August 11, 2000)

Also a new International Ms. Leather and a Drummer Update

The recent raid of a private BDSM party in Attleboro, Massachusetts has lessons for everyone reading this magazine, whether you’re into leather/BDSM or not. Cops, courts and the laws of the land are not kind to those who practice ANY kind of “alternative sexual practices”—and if it’s not one-man-one-woman-missionary-position, it’s considered “alternative.” Until that situation changes, we all need to be aware of what’s going on out there, and what we need to do to keep ourselves out of jail and out of the court system. (Information about the raid was supplied by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, hereinafter referred to as NCSF.)

On Saturday, July 8, 2000, beginning at approximately 10:30 PM, police broke up an SM party in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and two individuals were arrested. The party was private. All guests were over 21 years of age and were well known by the host. A donation at the door (to cover food and rent charges for the space) was requested but not required.

Thirty-five to 40 people were at the party at the time the police entered the premises. How the police discovered the party is unknown; according to police and news reports, they were in the building on an unrelated matter. Neither the host nor any guest at the party saw a warrant at any time, despite repeated requests to see a warrant.

The host had his wallet, Palm Pilot, and employer-issued laptop computer seized by the Attleboro police. Also seized was a printed copy of the guest list, in which attendees were identified by their screen names only. Other personal property (which belonged to the host and was being stored on the premises) was seized, including clothing, a TV/VCR, stereo equipment and personal financial records. Equipment bags belonging to the host and many guests were also confiscated, some without property receipts from the police. So far, nothing that was seized has been returned to its rightful owner.

Benjamin Davis, the host, and another guest were arrested. (Another person was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant—that the police later admitted had been dismissed a year earlier). Davis was arraigned on 12 charges:

• “operating a business without a license” and “keeping a house of prostitution” (because Davis asked for donations at the door)

• possession of an item of “self-abuse” (in Massachusetts, as in many states, it is illegal to own an instrument for “self-abuse”—this includes sex toys of all sorts)

• assault and battery of a police officer (see “If It Happens To You,” below)

• and eight counts of possession of a dangerous weapon. The State Judicial Court of Massachusetts has ruled that items such as riding crops, whips, kitchen type knives, walking sticks, broom handles, flashlights, etc. can be “dangerous weapons” depending “to a certain extent on the context in which it is used.” (Commonwealth v. Appleby [300 Mass. 304 (1980)])

The guest was charged with one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. The alleged “weapon” was a large wooden kitchen spoon (some reports call it a “spatula”) with which she was spanking her partner. Spanking your sexual partner, even with his or her consent, is against the law in Massachusetts.

A prominent Massachusetts law firm, with experience in this area of the law, has agreed to take the case, and a defense fund is being established. Donations can be sent via the Bisexual Resource Center, a kink-friendly, non-profit community group based in Boston, who have volunteered to act as a holding account until further notice. (Checks may be made out to “BRC” with “PDL” in the memo line, and mailed to Paddleboro Defense League, Cambridge, MA.)

As might be expected, every newspaper (and most of the television and radio stations) in the Boston area have covered the raid and are continuing to report on the situation, as well as producing many articles and pieces about the SM-Leather-Fetish communities. For the most part, the reporting has been fair and unbiased. Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagen even wrote a hilarious column pointing out the absurdity of the dangerous wooden spoon (worthwhile reading at www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/eagan07252000.htm). This represents progress: the media focus has generally been less on the titillating aspects of the party and more on the overbearing manner of the Attleboro police and the cluelessness of the prosecutors and courts. At least one newspaper ran photos of Davis and the guest, however, which raises ethical questions regarding the right to sexual privacy. The NCSF reminds us that “it took many years before the media stopped harassing gays and lesbians using similar tactics.”

If It Happens To You

Still, the media is making progress, which seems to be more than can be said for the police and judicial system in Massachusetts. And we in Minnesota can’t afford to be smug—I remember being at one recent party in Minneapolis that was raided. The host spent the night in jail after being arrested on trumped-up charges that were later dropped. And some of us may travel to Massachusetts or other states and suddenly find ourselves embroiled in a legal nightmare that seemingly came out of nowhere. Here are some recommendations from the NCSF to minimize unpleasantness if the police come calling.

• Stay calm. If the police question you, be respectful, polite and courteous and use common sense. Don’t take a “bad attitude.” No matter how much you might want to, taking a swing at someone is not a good thing to do right now.

• You have the right NOT to make statements. You have the right NOT to incriminate yourself. You have the right NOT to allow a “consent search” or a “voluntary entry” of your car, your property, your home, or your place of business.

• Try to handle the police inquiry outside the door, not inside your home. If the officer(s) demands entry, voice your objection, then stand aside.

• If the officer(s) believe there is a domestic violence call, volunteer for your partner to talk to the police.

• Transport all equipment in a secure (closed) container and in the trunk of the vehicle. Do not consent to a search.

• If you are arrested, do NOT make any statements, and ask for an attorney.

• Remember that some items commonly found in equipment bags (double-edged blades, regulation issue handcuffs, etc.) are considered contraband in some states. To paraphrase the U.S. Customs Service, “Know Before You Go.” For example, in Massachusetts items such as dildos and vibrators are technically classified as items of “self-abuse” and could be subject to confiscation, arrest, and penalty. As laughable as that sounds now, you won’t be laughing if it happens to you.

For updated information about the Attleboro Raid and the legal defense committee, visit www.nla-newengland.org/attleboro.html. The NCSF website’s URL is www.ncsfreedom.org.

Jo Blas wins International Ms. Leather 2000

PHOTO: Jo Blas

The International Ms. Leather (IMsL) 2000 contest was held July 22 in Toronto. San Diego’s Jo Blas won the IMsL 2000 sash; Christine Baker of Calgary was first runner-up and Crickett Watkins of Chula Vista, CA was second-runner-up. In the concurrently-held International Ms. Bootblack 2000 competition the winner was Michael Ann of Colorado Springs, CO.

Megan DeJarlais, IMsL 1998 and associate producer of IMsL 2000, was pleased with this year’s event: “Even though the contest was smaller this year [because it was outside the U.S.], people really seemed to enjoy it. We had many comments on how smoothly the event ran, and the hospitality shown by the city and the hotel was outstanding.”

Going to Drummer? Stay in the Drummer Bunkhouse

The International Mr. Drummer 2000 contest has come up with a novel approach to accommodations at their host hotel, the Suncoast Resort Hotel in St. Petersburg, FL. The Drummer Bunkhouse is a barracks-style lodging facility for men only during International Mr. Drummer 2000 Weekend (Sept. 14-17). For the set price of $100, guests may stay for up to three nights. Reservations for the Drummer Bunkhouse will be granted only to International Drummer Weekend package holders.

The Drummer Bunkhouse will offer army cots or air mattresses, shared showers and bathrooms, and air conditioning. Bring your own sleeping bag or linens. Guests will be entitled to use of the swimming pool and other Suncoast Resort facilities. There will be security posted at the door throughout Drummer Weekend, but there are no lockers or locked storage facilities, so bring a locked suitcase or bag. Space is limited to 100 to 150 men. Reservations will be given on a first-come, first-served basis by e-mail or call (10 am to 10 pm EDT). Weekend packages are still available by visiting the International Mr. Drummer website (http://contest.drummer.com) or by calling the above telephone number.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Saturday, August 12, Buca di Beppo (2728 Gannon Rd., St. Paul)
Presented by the Atons, open to all. Call the Atons HotLine for more information and to make reservations. Information is also available at the club’s website: www.atons.com.