Friday, July 22, 2005

The Pink Triangle Project: A Modest Proposal

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #265, July 22, 2005)

The recent Pride celebrations (leather and GLBT) were both great, energizing experiences. I’d like to share a line of thought that occurred to me while I was basking in the afterglow.

For awhile now we’ve been hearing that the GLBT acronym has been widened to GLBTA: Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans and Allies.

That’s the society we’re trying to build—a society where every sexuality is accepted (not just tolerated, but actually accepted and honored) and no sexuality is discriminated against.

Well, if you ask me, the leather/BDSM/kink community could serve as a prototype, model and mentor to society at large, because we’ve already evolved into that kind of society. That idea brings up several points.

At a recent Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus concert, the chorus sang a song called “Not In Our Town,” about what happened in 1993 in Billings, Montana when white supremacists started committing hate crimes against minorities there.

There wasn’t much reaction at first. Then, one night during the holiday season, a cinder block was thrown through a window displaying a menorah.

The town’s residents responded by displaying paper menorahs in a window of almost every home, whether the people who lived there were Jewish or not.

The owner of a sporting-goods store posted a message outside his store that quickly became a rallying cry: “Not in Our Town. No Hate. No Violence. Peace on Earth.”

That’s what I call having allies.

I also read recently that when the Nazis invaded Denmark and ordered the Jews there to identify themselves by wearing a yellow Star of David, the response of the Danish people was that everyone started wearing the Star of David, whether or not they were Jewish.

It’s good to have allies.

I recently heard Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mom, talk to members of several GLBT employee groups in Minneapolis. She talked about the importance of coming out, and also of having everyone who knows us come out as having a lesbian daughter, gay uncle, transgender teacher or whatever.

If the Danes could all don Stars of David to protest the Nazis’ discrimination and hate, and if the people of Billings, Montana could photocopy, color and display thousands of menorahs, what would happen if we in the Twin Cities, in Minnesota, in the United States of America—gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transpeople and allies alike—all started wearing pink triangles?

Maybe armbands would be a bit much, but how about cloisonne pink-triangle lapel pins? Even if we ourselves don’t happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, what would happen if we wore a pink triangle as a show of solidarity with and support for those who are?

Would that be like the menorah in the window of all those homes in Billings, Montana? It would.

Would that send the same message, that hate and discrimination is not wanted, not welcome and will not be tolerated coming from the mouths of our political leaders and our religious leaders? It would.

Would that mess with people’s minds, when they see a happily married woman or man—whom they’ve known for years, with children at home, an usher in church on Sundays—wearing a pink triangle? It would. And that would be good.

Would things change? I think they would.

So, I hereby call for the start of a movement—an ongoing, quiet demonstration. I think the leather/BDSM community should be among the leaders—or, if you will, the instigators.

Wear a pink triangle. Wear it all the time. Wear it proudly. When people look shocked and say, “I didn’t know you were gay,” either tell them, “Well, I am” or tell them, “Well, I’m not—but I have a lot of friends who are, and I don’t like seeing them discriminated against.”

Pink triangle pins are out there. Everybody doesn’t have to wear the same one. But wear one. Be a proud GLBT person or become an honorary one. In the short run it might be uncomfortable. In the long run, it will be much more comfortable for everyone, when society doesn’t spend all that energy on hate and can use it for better things.

No hate. No violence. Not in our town. Not in our state. Not in our country. Not in our world.

Peace on Earth.

LeatherLife.net Debuts

GRAPHIC: Leather Life logo

For the last ten years this Leather Life column has appeared in Lavender Magazine, and for the last several years the current column also has been available at <www.lavendermagazine.com>.

Now, your humble columnist is pleased to announce the launch of <LeatherLife.net>, a new online community resource that will feature the Leather Life Library, an archive of past Leather Life columns and other writings. (New columns will continue to first appear in print and online exclusively at <www.lavendermagazine.com>.)

<LeatherLife.net> also will include Leather Lens galleries of previously unpublished leather photos. Currently on display: the 2005 editions of International Mr. Leather, International Ms Leather and Minnesota Leather Pride.

Other features of <LeatherLife.net> will be audio files, links, a blog and more. More columns, photos and other features will be added constantly, so bookmark the site and visit often.

Friday, July 8, 2005

Robert Davolt, 1958-2005: Elegy for a Dinosaur

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #264, July 8, 2005)

PHOTO: Robert Davolt.

“San Francisco writer, publisher and humorist Robert Wayne Davolt, 47, died on the 15th day of May, 2005, after a brief battle with cancer . . . in which, obviously, the cancer came out slightly ahead.” These words begin Robert Davolt’s self-penned obituary. No one else could have done it like him.

Davolt was a multi-talented and prolific writer, editor, publisher, businessman and leatherman. He was best known for being the last editor of Drummer, the pioneering and iconic leather magazine, and for being the executive producer of the International Mr. Drummer contest.

After Drummer ceased publication Davolt wrote for many other publications, edited several issues of Bound & Gagged, and wrote an online column on <Leatherpage.com> that had a readership of nearly 125,000.

In 2003 he published his first book, Painfully Obvious: An Irreverent & Unauthorized Manual for Leather/SM (published by Daedalus, <www.daedaluspublishing.com>). The book was nominated for an American Library Association Stonewall Book Award.

Davolt’s next book, nicknamed GotterDrummerung: Twilight of the Odds, was to have been his full account of the demise of Drummer Magazine.

Davolt was born in Renton, Washington, and started writing and publishing while still in high school. At 17 he joined the U.S. Navy. He returned to the Seattle area after honorably completing his enlistment and earned two degrees at Highline Community College. He later completed a bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

From Missouri Davolt relocated to Madison, Wisconsin, where he was a founder and officer of The Unicorns of Madison Leather/Levi Club and held the title of Mr. Wisconsin Leather/Levi Daddy 1994. He was an International Mr. Leather contestant in 1995.

In 1996 Davolt moved to San Francisco to become publisher and editor of Drummer. He was an active member of San Francisco’s leather community and held the title of San Francisco Leather Daddy XIX.

At the time of his death Davolt was a member of the board of directors of the Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M) in Chicago. Among other duties he served as press liaison for the LA&M mortgage-burning ceremony in February, 2005.

Quite apart from all that he accomplished, Davolt distinguished himself by his integrity, intelligence, caring, professionalism, high standards and (sometimes brutal) honesty. In his final column for Leatherpage.com he invited his readers to do what he had done his entire life: “ . . . if I have taught anything—if I leave you with anything—DO NOT accept second rate for yourselves. Always question; always challenge; always ask ‘why.’ Do what you want, but do your very best and do it to the very best standards you can establish.”

Davolt also had a unique and gentlemanly sense of personal style. He was often seen at leather events wearing either a leather necktie or a black uniform tie from his Navy dress blues. And both his dress leather hat and title vest were emblazoned with representations of a dinosaur.

Wearing the dinosaur symbolized that Davolt felt he was among “the last of breed that practices a more discreet, more cerebral, courteous and less impertinent denomination of leather.”

Davolt’s sense of leather propriety even extended to his frequent admonitions to his readers to tip their bartenders, and to tip appropriately: “ . . . if you can hear the tip hit the bar, you are being too cheap. Someone is bound to think you are straight.”

A memorial service was held in conjunction with International Mr. Leather (IML) 2005 on May 27 in Chicago. (This year would have been the twentieth time Davolt had attended IML.) A ballroom-full of shocked and grieving leathermen and leatherwomen listened as a dozen speakers remembered Davolt as leather leader, mentor and curmudgeon.

Davolt is survived by his loving partner of seven years, Joe Granese, of San Francisco, and by his parents, brothers and sisters in the Seattle area. According to his official obituary, “A private scattering will return the sailor to the sea on a date this summer to be announced [July 9] and after, a celebration of his life and sense of absurdity will be held at Daddy’s Bar at 440 Castro. In lieu of flowers, please remember the Leather Archives and Museum (LA&M) in Chicago and tip your bartenders.”

I will now dispense with the journalistic formality of calling Robert by his last name. Robert and I started as colleagues and ended as friends and mentors to each other. I am so glad to have had the privileges of writing the introduction to Painfully Obvious and doing an early editing of the manuscript. It saddens me immeasurably that I will not be able to ask Robert to write the introduction for my book, and that I will not have his guidance in getting it published.

I cherish every moment I was able to spend on the phone with him and every e-mail we exchanged. I especially cherish the times when we simply sat and talked during IML weekends and at other events.

Hail and farewell, Robert. I will miss you more than you could ever know.