Thursday, July 28, 2011

Leather Legacies

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #422, July 28, 2011)

Two leather/GLBT activists leave us

It has been sobering and sorrowful to learn recently of the passing of two significant GLBT and leather activists—George Wong of Los Angeles on June 6, 2011, and Roger “R.J.” Chaffin of Chicago on June 17, 2011.

Both made significant contributions, on both local and national levels, to the GLBT and leather communities. You might not know their names but, if you’re reading this column, their accomplishments have touched your life.

Wong was Public Relations Officer for Avatar Club Los Angeles since he joined the club in 1995. He presented educational seminars, judged or worked behind the scenes at many local and national leather contests, and produced events including the Mr. Los Angeles Leather Contest in 2007 and 2008. He also was one of the producers for Leather Leadership Conference VI in Los Angeles in 2002 and, on a personal note, his advice, mentorship and encouragement was a huge help in putting together Leather Leadership Conference XI in Minneapolis in 2007.

Chaffin was one of Chicago’s most prominent gay businessmen and activists for over 30 years. He started and ran several retail businesses including R.J.’s Video, Gay Mart and Ragin’ Rae Jean’s. He held several positions with Chicago’s Gay Life newspaper. He produced many leather and non-leather fundraising events for AIDS-related and other charities. For 18 years he directed the International Mr. Leather Weekend’s Leather Marketplace, building it into the world’s largest vendor fair of its kind. Among many notable awards and honors, he was inducted into Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1997.

Both men have created huge and inspiring legacies. They leave very big boots to fill. And they leave many, including your humble columnist, who miss them tremendously.

George Wong (Credit: JayPG Photography)

Roger “R.J.” Chaffin