Friday, July 6, 2007

All Together Now: “Thank You, Hilton, for Not Discriminating!”

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #316, July 6, 2007)

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), and this columnist, want you to write a short note of support to the Palmer House Hilton, host hotel for the International Mr. Leather contest weekend. In your note, thank them for not discriminating against any guests or groups. According to NCSF, “The Palmer House Hilton has been a staunch supporter of the Fair Accommodations Act in working with alternative lifestyle groups, particularly IML.”

Please email your note of appreciation to:

• Stephen Bollenback, CEO, Hilton Hotels Corporation (

• Trina Owens, Hilton Hotels Corporation (, and

• Peter Lynn, General Manager, Palmer House Hilton (

Why is this necessary? Because an anti-gay group called Americans for Truth has posted an action alert calling for people to protest the “homosexual orgies” that take place at the “sadistic sexual perversion-fest known as International Mr. Leather.” You can view the Americans for Truth article about IML, complete with pictures, at <>.

“Americans for Truth About Homosexuality” (AFTAH) was founded by Peter LaBarbera in 1996, but was dormant for many years. Previously LaBarbera was involved with other right-wing organizations including Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America. He recently resigned from his position with the Illinois Family Institute to work full-time at re-launching AFTAH (now listed in the organization’s web site masthead as simply “Americans for Truth”) as a group devoted solely to countering what LaBarbera calls “the homosexual activist agenda.” Obviously LaBarbera feels a lot of passion for this issue and sees it as worthy of his full devotion.

One of LaBarbera’s stated goals for the organization is to “send reporters to ‘gay’ events and publish first-hand information about the lifestyle and radical ‘gay’ activism that the media routinely ignore or cover up.” To that end, LaBarbera himself has attended IML repeatedly and has taken many photographs to catalog the goings-on at the event he describes as “one of the most purely evil perversion-fests ever invented by mankind.”

His organization’s web site recently published seventeen photos taken at the 2006 and 2007 IML Leather Markets. They were prefaced with “WARNING: ***NOT FOR CHILDREN***/Graphic photos below with offensive depictions of real-life homosexual depravities.” (Interestingly, however, the web page is not protected by NetNanny or any other service or technology to ensure that minors cannot see the images.)

The photos cover many bases: bondage, slavery, water sports, tattoos, rubber hoods, electrical play, paddles, jockstraps and kilts, bathhouses, and even fisting (well, actually it was just a photo of a St. Andrew’s cross, but he managed to work an explanation of fisting into the caption below it). Referring to the photos, LaBarbera breathlessly noted “there are others that we could not publish” (leaving one to wonder if the rest of that sentence is, “so we’ll just save them for our private collection”).

On another page of the website LaBarbera calls Chicago “Sodom-by-the-Lake” and says the city is having a “moral meltdown.” As an example, he discusses Chicago’s Leather Archives & Museum: “I visited this ‘museum’ last year and was stunned by its audacious chronicling of the most repulsive perversions, e.g. ‘fisting.’ The sheer horror and weirdness of the place makes it difficult to describe to a normal audience.” Americans for Truth is headquartered in Naperville, Ill., making it convenient for LaBarbera to get to both the Leather Archives & Museum and The Palmer House for research purposes.

LaBarbera encourages visitors to his organization’s web site to take contact Hilton Hotels CEO Stephen Bollenback and “politely express your dismay” that Hilton is associated with International Mr. Leather. “If you feel so led, tell them that you will certainly never stay at the Palmer House Hilton—who would knowing that disgusting homosexual orgies have gone on in their rooms?—and you also will not be staying at other Hilton hotels while this deviant association continues.”

LaBarbera’s second step: Contact Palmer House Hilton General Manager Peter Lynn to “ask him how they sterilize their rooms after the perverse IML orgies” and express outrage over The Palmer House’s hosting of IML. Step 3 is, in the future, to book hotel rooms through a website offering “porn-free” hotels “so you can rest easy knowing that you are not rewarding the pornography industry through your stay.”

There has been much speculation, in the blogosphere and elsewhere, about whether or not Mr. LaBarbera is himself a closeted gay man. But while such gossip may be tantalizing in the short run, ultimately the question of what motivates and drives anti-gay activists such as LaBarbera is a red herring and a distraction. The real issue is that voices like his are out there, and they must be countered strongly, eloquently and in great numbers. So let’s get those e-mails going, okay? Thanks!

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