Friday, January 19, 1996

Calling All Wannabees

(Published in Lavender Lifestyles Magazine, Issue #17, January 19, 1996)

During the time I’ve been writing this column I’ve been introduced as LavLife’s leather columnist to quite a few people. Their reactions vary from a polite “pleased to meet you” to various degrees of fawning and drooling (just kidding!) Seriously, though, there has been one curious reaction that I have heard many times over. It is this: “Oh, so you’re into the leather scene? Me, I’m just a leather wannabee!”

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that I hear this “leather wannabee” response so often, because for many years I was a leather wannabee myself. Shortly after coming out at age 19, I was doing—ahem—”research” when I discovered Drummer Magazine. It was unlike any other gay magazine I had ever seen until then; the men were different than the men I saw in In Touch or David (and certainly different than the men in Playgirl, which was my primary source of beefcake at the time).

The men in those other magazines ranged from ruggedly handsome to overly pretty. The Drummer men, however, were in a class by themselves. I almost didn’t know it was possible for anyone to be that rugged and that masculine. Even fully clothed in leather, they exuded more sex than a lot of the naked guys in the other magazines. Of course, the Drummer men got naked too, and that was phenomenal. And then they started doing unspeakable things to each other’s bodies, which was scary. (“Gosh, doesn’t that hurt?”) Scary, but also strangely, secretly, somewhat shamefully attractive; it repulsed me when I thought about it, but some of what I saw in Drummer kept showing up in my fantasies for years.

As I got older, I kept my leather fantasies to myself. The thought of a big, masculine leatherman even wanting to speak to someone like me seemed outlandish. And the thought that I could actually meet that leatherman on his own turf was beyond outlandish—it was impossible. If I would have had the gall to actually put on leather and invade their territory, I felt like I would have been recognized as the phony I was and laughed (or thrown) right out the door.

I wasn’t even a leather wannabee. I was a leather wish-I-could-but-know-I-can’t-be.

Well, obviously a few things have changed, the first and most fundamental being my attitude towards leather. Once I gave myself permission to actually interact with leatherfolk I discovered that those tough people in leather were actually very friendly and accepting. And I discovered that leather is about inclusion, not exclusion.

Moral of story: If something about leather attracts and excites you, you don’t have to be “just a wannabee.” Give yourself the freedom to explore all the facets of leather life, and you’ll be amazed at the new vistas you’ll discover. You may really get off on certain aspects of the scene; other aspects may not be to your liking. You get to choose what works for you and what doesn’t—you don’t have to buy the whole package in order to be a “real” member of the leather community.

You, too, can be a member of the leather community. I personally invite you to come check it out. You don’t have to be intimidated. We won’t bite.

Unless, of course, you want us to.


If the various international titles are the leather community’s version of Miss America, then the upcoming Pantheon of Leather (sponsored by The Leather Journal) is the leather community’s version of the Academy Awards. This year, 380 individuals, businesses and organizations are nominated to receive awards in twenty-one categories including man, woman, club and business of the year, as well as various regional awards. Among the nominees for this year’s Midwest Regional Award are Madison’s Alvin Robinson (the current Great Lakes Mr. Drummer), as well as J.D. Laufman, Heartless, and Your Humble Columnist, all from the Twin Cities. Congratulations, J.D., Heartless, and Alvin; I’m honored to be included in such esteemed company.

The awards will be presented Sunday afternoon, February 11 at the 1996 Pantheon of Leather VI in New Orleans.

Upcoming Events

Sunday, January 21:
The Atons present Snow Ball/Winter Sleaze, Gay 90’s Dance Annex, 4-9 p.m. $5.00 admission includes beer, sodas, food. “Best Buns” and “Sleaziest Jeans” contest. Hanky code information available (and hankies for sale!)

Friday-Sunday, Feb. 16-18: The Black Guard presents Black Frost 19, “Spurred On In ’96.” Registration deadline Feb. 1.

Friday, January 5, 1996

New Year's Resolutions

(Published in Lavender Lifestyles Magazine, Issue #16, January 5, 1996)

Happy New Year! By now we’ve done our celebrating, so let’s get down to the business of resolutions.

It seems like every year, a few days before Christmas, I always have at least one friend who is hospitalized with pneumocystis. This year was no different and no easier. Six months ago he was robust; it was jarring to see how frail he had become. I thought to myself, “Why does he have to go through this? He shouldn’t have to. Nobody should have to.” Life and the universe didn’t seem terribly fair at that point.

As I left the hospital, for some reason I remembered a poster I saw last September in San Francisco that asked an intriguing and sobering question: “What have you done lately to stop AIDS?”

What an empowering way of looking at it. Asking the question this way leaves no room for making it someone else’s responsibility. There are brilliant people in laboratories everywhere who are looking for a cure and a vaccine, and I hope they find something soon. But in the meantime, there’s a nasty little epidemic running loose out there. We know there are steps that each of us can take to stop the virus from spreading. Doing our part to stop AIDS is our responsibility both to ourselves and to others.

So I would like to encourage you to make a New Year’s resolution or two. Regardless of your HIV status, resolve to practice safe sex every time. If you have questions about what’s safe and what’s not, make a resolution to get the answers. Every sexual encounter that’s safe represents a little victory over the virus—it means that, for this one time, it didn’t get a chance to spread. It may not be a cure or a vaccine, but it’s still extremely significant.

If you’re positive, resolve to take care of yourself so you can stay as healthy as possible. Whatever that means for you, resolve to do it. And resolve not to lose hope for the future. I am meeting more and more people who have been infected for long periods of time and who are leading healthy, productive, fulfilling lives. Every one of these people represent another reason not to lose hope.

If you’re negative, resolve to do what you need to do to stay that way. One aspect of staying negative is physical: knowing what’s safe and what’s not, and choosing to be safe every time. Then there’s the mental aspect of not losing hope, not giving in to mind games. Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder why so many of my friends have the virus and I don’t. There are times I could easily slip into feeling guilty about being negative, and there are times I could easily give in to fatalism: “So many other people have it, it’s only a matter of time before I get it, so why should I bother being safe?” But none of us can afford to think such dangerous thoughts. If you’ve made it this far through the epidemic and you’re still negative, now is definitely not the time to throw in

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to write this column as a way of honoring my friend’s struggle and as a way of helping others avoid that struggle. Incidentally, since that visit the drugs appear to be working and he’s getting stronger. I hope he makes it out of the hospital. I hope he gets to go home again. I hope he gets to go to Mexico this winter—and next winter, and the winter after that.


For the record: Two columns ago I told you that Dale Willman was traveling to Denver to compete in the first-ever Mr. Rocky Mountain Olympus contest. It gives me great pleasure to announce that Dale was awarded the prize for First Runner-up. Attaboy, Dale! (By the way, current Great Lakes Drummerboy troy traveled to Denver with Dale and obviously did a good job assisting him.)


Mark these dates on your brand-new 1996 calendar.

January 14: Whips & Wheels, 5-9 p.m., Gay 90’s Dance Annex, admission by donation. A fundraiser featuring Ms. Minnesota Leather, Mr. Minnesota Leather, Leatherman of Minnesota and Ms. Twin Cities Leather. See event posters for more details.

January 21: The Atons present the Snow Bowl!

February XX & XX: The Black Guard present Black Frost 17, “Spurred On In ’96.” Get your registration forms in soon!