Friday, May 27, 2005

A Decade of Decadence: Ten Years of “Leather Life”

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #261, May 27, 2005)

From Lavender Lifestyles, Issue #1, June 9, 1995:

“Greetings! New magazine, new leather columnist. When the editors of this publication asked me if I was interested in writing a leather column for them, I immediately assured them I was. By the time I hung up, I had recovered my senses, and asked myself, ‘What have I gotten myself into now?’ Well, I guess we’ll see.”

That, folks, is how it all started—ten years ago. Where has the time gone?

When I started writing this column (at the invitation of my leather mentor, J.D. Laufman), I had no idea how long the column would last, or how long the magazine would last. Back then the life expectancy of any new local publication aimed at a GLBT audience was not very long. Come to think of it, it still isn’t very long—which is why this anniversary is such a milestone.

I decided I would write this column as long as I could come up with something to say every two weeks. When I no longer had anything to say, I would stop writing.

Obviously, I haven’t run out of things to say yet. I have always had the opposite problem: how to cram everything I have to say into the space allotted for me to say it.

It’s been quite a trip. I’ve publicized leather events beforehand, been there to take pictures, and then written about them afterward. I’ve covered leather contests and even helped judge a few. I’ve interviewed a wide array of fascinating people—titleholders, porn stars, leather luminaries and ordinary people who have lived extraordinary lives.

Ten years ago I was asked to make this column “interpretive” rather than “descriptive.” That has meant that besides writing about what’s happening, I have also had the privilege of sharing my perspectives and opinions. I have tried not to abuse that privilege. I have tried to use my writing as an opportunity to strengthen and encourage the community.

I have inspired a few letters to the editor—some complimentary, some not. I’ve occasionally had requests for permission to reprint a column. I was even syndicated to the Gayly Oklahoman for awhile.

I am blessed to have been a part of this magazine since its inception. I think the community is blessed not only that Lavender is still publishing, but that it keeps getting better and stronger. I give great credit to Lavender’s publisher, Stephen Rocheford, and his dedicated staff—I’m glad they understand that publishing this magazine, and producing the website as well, is a business and must be run as such.

Because they understand that fact, Lavender is still here. Over the years, too many leather writers have watched as the magazines or newspapers for which they wrote were pushed into extinction. I feel very lucky to be one of the few leather writers left who still appears in actual print.

I thank all the editors I’ve had over the years for their guidance, for giving me chances to write other articles besides my column, and for not editing me too much. I especially remember two Lavender editors who are no longer with us: Heather Henderson and Tim Lee. I miss them both.

Thanks to Lavender Founding Editor George Holdgrafer for coming up with “Leather Life” as the name of the column—I think it has turned out to be more appropriate than anyone could have known.

A very special thank-you to my partner of over five years, Bill Schlichting, for love, support and encouragement. Bill is also a writer as well as a great copy editor, and my column is immeasurably better and more focused thanks to his suggestions.

I am grateful that Lavender has such a great website that allows these columns to be read anywhere and everywhere, much further than the distribution boundaries of the printed issues. And I am grateful to Joe Gallagher and, who link to my column on the Lavender website.

Since I began writing this column, my audience has grown from primarily gay leathermen and leather lesbians to include members of the burgeoning pansexual movement—heterosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, gays and lesbians, and those who don’t identify as any particular sexuality or gender but who identify as kinky. Because of the coming together both locally and nationally of previously separate factions, the community is much stronger than it was when I started writing this column.

I have met so many great people along the way. My horizons have been immeasurably widened. It’s impossible to put a price on things like that.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading my column over the last ten years. And thank you to the leather/BDSM community for being such fascinating and beautiful people. Thank you for giving me so much good stuff to write about. If you all will just keep being who you are and doing what you do, your humble columnist will keep on writing about it and sharing it with the world.

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