Friday, October 24, 2008

Leather Invasion: Kink The Vote!

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #350, October 24, 2008)

Date: Tuesday, Nov. 4

Location: Your designated polling place

Six months ago I wrote a column with the headline “Sex and Politics” (Lavender issue 335, March 28, 2008). I ended that column by saying, “If politicians professing to be God-fearing Christians have made such a mess of things over the last few decades, it might take a bunch of people formerly known as ‘pervs’ to make things better.”

It’s time. On Tuesday, Nov. 4, in the spirit of many “Rock The Vote!” and, more recently, “Queer The Vote” campaigns over the years, it’s time for “Kink The Vote!”, a nationwide Leather Invasion of the polls to help make sure the next four years are better than the last eight.

The concept of a “Leather Invasion” was invented by Robert Valin, a self-described “leather bear” who lives in New York City. Dismayed by bar closings and other signs that New York City’s leather scene was dwindling, he set about to revitalize things by calling for “new and alternative social and cultural activities for those interested in the love, commraderie [sic] and kinship of the Leather/Fetish lifestyle.”

In one of the group’s early outings, New York City leatherfolk invaded MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art. Other Leather Invasions have included IKEA, Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The idea has been adopted elsewhere, including the Twin Cities, where there have been Leather Invasion nights at several local theaters and restaurants. (Of course, the Atons of Minneapolis have long held their monthly Leather/Levi dinners at area restaurants—same idea.)

Now it’s time for the biggest and most important Leather Invasion ever—nationwide, at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

I don’t have to tell you things are a mess. I don’t have to tell you how bad the last eight years have been for our community, our country and the world in general. You can see it all around you.

I don’t have to tell you how you should vote. You’re smart enough to figure that out for yourself.

But consider this: The leather/BDSM/fetish community is a voting bloc. Or it could be if we want it to be, and if we make it one.

The radical Christian right is often estimated to make up about 15% of the voting public. The GLBT community usually is estimated at roughly 10% of the population, but according to the Stonewall Democrats GLBT voters account for only between 4% and 5% of voters in national exit polls.

Kinky folk, according to author Gloria G. Brame (Come Hither: A Commonsense Guide to Kinky Sex) are estimated to be between 5 and 50% of the population; the consensus is 10-15%, but Brame suspects the true percentage is higher.

Now consider that in 2004 about 64% of the general population voted. In the 2006 mid-term elections that figure fell to 40%. That’s a lot of people not voting. That means that if you do vote, your vote’s significance and influence is increased.

Imagine if we, the proud members of the leather/BDSM/fetish community, all showed up in force and voted. Imagine if we all got our friends to come to the polls and vote with us.

That’s what we need to do. We need to vote, and we need to vote in numbers big enough that the election results are a sound repudiation of the damaging and destructive politics and policies of the last eight years (and, in reality, most of the last twenty-eight). Oh, and we need to vote in numbers that produce such a large enough margin of victory that the election can’t be stolen—or stolen again, for those of you who are into conspiracy theories.

You can bet the forces of intolerance will be at the polls. These people will be voting against our community’s best interests, but ironically against their own best interests as well. Some people are so concerned with keeping an African American out of the White House, or keeping gays and lesbians from marrying, or trying to control what goes on in other people’s bedrooms, or taking away a woman’s right to make choices about her own body, they will base their vote on those issues and ignore the economy, the environment, two wars and our country’s tattered image.

These people will be voting. We need to outnumber them.

And remember, it’s not just a presidential election. Minnesotans, for example, will be voting also for a U.S. senator, a U.S. representative, state representatives, a variety of district and appellate judges, a proposed amendment to the state constitution, and possibly for other city and county offices and on various ballot issues. Be an informed voter—research candidates and issues before you go to the polls.

Not registered to vote? In Minnesota you can register at the polls on election day (info at <>). Wisconsin and Iowa also allow same-day registration at the polls. (By the way, the state with the highest voter turnout in the 2004 elections was Minnesota, with Wisconsin taking second-place honors.)

You have every reason to vote and no excuse not to. On Nov. 4, everybody gets one vote, although not everyone will use it. Use yours. Kink the Vote!

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