Thursday, June 19, 2014

Minnesota Leather Pride invites you to “Fly your flag”

Leather Pride events expand beyond June and beyond Twin Cities

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #497, June 19, 2014)

The theme of the 2014 Minnesota Leather Pride celebration is “Fly your flag.” This year’s theme is incorporated into the design of this year’s collectible Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag (see sidebar). This year’s theme also will be collectively expressed by community members as they carry Minnesota’s giant leather pride flag in the Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade up Hennepin Avenue on Sunday, June 29.

The first Minnesota Leather Pride event, held in the early 1990s, was one single Sunday-afternoon gathering where members of the leather community socialized after marching in the Twin Cities GLBT Pride Parade. From that humble beginning, Minnesota’s annual Leather Pride celebration has grown over the years into one of the biggest leather-pride celebrations in the U.S., with a wide array of events stretching over three weeks in June (see the schedule below).

Now the Minnesota Leather Pride celebration is growing even bigger. This year, the board of the Minnesota Leather Pride organization has had two goals: to expand beyond June by having quarterly events throughout the year, and to expand geographically beyond the Twin Cities.

The first quarterly Minnesota Leather Pride event was an afternoon-long workshop on “BDSM and Creativity” held in January (and covered in this column in Lavender issue #490, March 6, 2014). Upcoming quarterly events include a “Family Feud” of local leather clubs this coming autumn, as well as a Minnesota Leather Sir/Minnesota Leatherboy contest (part of the International Leather Sir/Leatherboy title system) in April 2015.

As part of its geographic expansion, Minnesota Leather Pride was represented at this year’s Capital City Pride, June 6-8 in Des Moines, Iowa. Minnesota Leather Pride shared a booth at Capital City Pride with two leather clubs, the Corn Haulers Leather and Levi Club of Iowa and the Titans of the Midwest. Minnesota Leather Pride also will be visible at Fargo/Moorhead Pride on August 16, and possibly other regional pride festivals as well.

Listed below are details, at the time of this writing, for most of this year’s Minnesota Leather Pride events. Other events may be added to the schedule; for the most current event details visit <> or follow “Minnesota Leather Pride” on Facebook.

Leather Pride Fashion Show: A Grimm Fairy Tale
Friday, June 13, 8 P.M., Camp Bar, St. Paul
Fantasy and sex meet fairy tale characters in the kick-off event of this year’s Leather Pride celebration. Admission is $8 with a 2014 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag (or $10 without a dog tag).

Kink U Master Class: Dom/sub Discussion
Saturday, June 14, 1-4 P.M., Twin Cities Leather & Latte
An interactive discussion of the dynamics and challenges of Dominant/submissive relationships. Open to those who identify as Dom, sub, switch or none of the above. Presented by Titans of the Midwest.

Bondage Slam
Sunday, June 15, 1:30-4:30 P.M., Patrick’s Cabaret
Come to participate or just to watch. Different categories of bondage on display will include duct tape; fashion; rope; hankie code (bondage using hankies); and “fly your flag” (i.e., anything goes). There will also be a few surprise categories announced at the event. Participants will determine their method and execution of bondage. Three judges will award prizes for best of categories and best overall. Admission is $5 with a 2014 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag (or $7 without a dog tag). Presented by MSDB.

You Say Kink, I Say Leather, Part 2
Thursday, June 19, 7 P.M., Camp Bar, St. Paul
Continuing a discussion that started last November, this will be an open discussion about the leather and kink communities—where they overlap and where they differ. Presented by PEPRMNT.

Two Seminars: “Customs, Conventions and Protocols” and “The Art of Flogging”
Saturday, June 21, 1-4 P.M., Bondesque (707 W. Lake St.)
“Customs, Conventions and Protocols” will discuss ways of integrating these three concepts into alternative-lifestyle relationships. “The Art of Flogging” will cover everything from making your own flogger to using a flogger to create erotic pleasure with maximum effect. Admission is $7 with a 2014 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag (or $10 without a dog tag). Presented by Leather Journey.

Leather Pride Motorcycle Ride
Sunday, June 22, 10 A.M., meet at 1610 Harmon Place
Presented by Knights of Leather.

Reading and Exhibition: The 8th Annual Leather Pride Anthology
Monday, June 23, 7-9 P.M., The Saloon
An evening of locally created kinky poetry, art, short fiction and photography. Authors will read from their works; art and photography will be displayed; and printed copies of the Anthology will be available for purchase. Presented by the BDSM Creative Collective.

Leather Pride Swap Meet
Tuesday, June 24, 7-9 P.M. (vendor setup begins 6:30 P.M.), Camp Bar, St. Paul
Vendors can swap as well as sell their items. No charge to attend, mingle, swap or negotiate a sale; $5 per vendor table or space. Presented by MAsT (Masters And slaves Together), Twin Cities chapter.

Cigar Smoker
Thursday, June 26, 8-11 P.M., Eagle/BOLT Bar (patio)
Bring your favorite cigar; enjoy a summer evening on the patio with smoke and conversation. Presented by the Atons of Minneapolis.

Friday, June 27
Get your Pride Weekend off to a flogging good start at Floggapalooza. At this writing, event time and location are still being determined; check <> or Facebook for details.

Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival
Saturday, June 28, 9 A.M.-5 P.M., Loring Park
When you visit the Pride Festival, be sure your visit includes a stop at the Minnesota Leather Pride booth.

Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade: Leather Flag March
Sunday, June 29, meet before 11 A.M. at 3rd St. & Hennepin Ave.
“Fly your flag” as you march with members of the Minnesota leather/BDSM/fetish community and help carry Minnesota’s giant leather pride flag. Parade steps off at 11 A.M.

Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival
Sunday, June 29, 9 A.M.-5 P.M., Loring Park
After the parade, visit the Minnesota Leather Pride booth as you spend the afternoon in Loring Park at the Pride Festival.

2014 Minnesota Leather Pride Dog Tag

“Fly your flag” by wearing your 2014 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag, the latest in a long and distinguished line. This year’s dog tag also gets you discounts at certain Minnesota Leather Pride events (see the event schedule). Get yours for $7 while supplies last at participating businesses (see <> or Facebook for details) and at Minnesota Leather Pride events. Dog tags will also be available for $10 at the Minnesota Leather Pride booth in Loring Park during the Pride Festival.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Leather and Social Capital, 2014

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #496, June 5, 2014)

Your humble columnist, you may recall, is currently a student at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn. For a course titled “Ethics in the Age of the Internet” I wrote a paper concerning the Internet’s recent effects on democracy and community. (Heavy stuff, right?)

As I was writing that paper, of course, I was also applying the concepts I was discussing in it to the leather/BDSM/fetish community. Although I was pessimistic about the Internet’s effects on democracy as a whole, I was pleasantly surprised when I thought about the effects that the last decade’s technological innovations seem to be having on our community.

Return with me to 2005, when I published a column (Lavender #272, Oct. 28) titled “Leather and Social Capital.” According to Dr. Robert Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard who was featured in that column, social capital is defined as “features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.”

In the “Leather and Social Capital” column, I discussed a description by Dr. Putnam of the way social connectedness had plummeted in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Among the factors Putnam blamed for the decline were television, suburbanization, and a decline in entertaining. Putnam also noted the decline of long-established social organizations, institutions and frameworks such as the American Legion and VFW. Putnam wondered what kinds of social organizations would evolve to fill the social needs that used to be filled by these organizations (or, alternatively, how organizations would re-invent themselves to stay relevant).

At that time Putnam believed the Internet might be one key to reestablishing connections among people. He predicted that the Internet would either evolve into a “super telephone,” which would help to keep us connected, or a “super television,” which would further isolate us. Putnam noted that “You don’t make friends over the telephone,” but rather that telephones are used to keep us connected to people we already know.

That was in 2005. In 2007 the iPhone was introduced, and compared to what had gone before it was certainly a “super telephone.” The iPhone combined a telephone, a camera, a touchscreen computer and an Internet connection in one pocket-sized device. Other smartphones followed, and they have revolutionized the multiple ways in which people communicate—not only voice and text messages, but also video chats, photographs and homemade movies delivered to one or multiple persons as soon as the images are captured. (And, contrary to what Putnam said above, you certainly can use any number of apps on your phone, including Grindr, to meet new people and make new friends as well.)

Smartphones can increase our sense of connection to people far away, but what about real-life, local connectedness? Facebook, which was opened to the public shortly after the “social capital” column was published in 2005, also could be considered part of that “super telephone” phenomenon (although smartphones also function as a “super televison”). In a breathtakingly short time, Facebook has become a popular piece of Internet infrastructure used for maintaining our connections to our social networks, both local and long-distance.

In the case of the Twin Cities leather community, Facebook has become one of the primary methods of publicizing real-life events where people actually show up in person and, like, you know, talk to each other face-to-face. Rather than replacing face-to-face social interaction and diluting community connections, Facebook is being used to facilitate face-to-face interaction and to strengthen community connections. I consider that a positive development.

There is also Fetlife, which debuted in 2008 and which has been called the “kinky Facebook.” But I think it’s interesting to note that a large group of local gay leathermen use Facebook rather than (or in addition to) a more specialized social-media platform like Fetlife. Even with the limitations imposed by Facebook’s terms of service, Facebook can be made kinky enough to be useful.

In 2005 I described a frequent topic of leather-community conversation: “What’s happening to our community? Why are traditional leather clubs graying, with few younger members in sight? Why is it harder to find contestants for leather contests? Why does it seem as if people don’t go out as often as they used to?” I am happy to report that the situation does not seem as dire in 2014, a time when younger people are actively building “social capital” by using new technologies to perpetuate, evolve and strengthen the leather/BDSM/fetish community.