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May 25, 2014

Change Is The Norm

This post originally appeared in the Bay Area Reporter for which I write a regular leather and kink column. You will find the original online version here.

As I communicate with fellow leatherfolk, whether they be local or from elsewhere, I consistently hear comments about how the leather scene has changed. Generally such comments are complaints bemoaning the loss of a past version of the leather scene while decrying how people dress, identify, behave and play today.

“Leather isn’t what it used to be.” “So much of our scene seems to be about contests now.” “We’re losing our bars.” “Those younger kinksters don’t respect the old ways.” “The scene has moved online.” “It seems that you need a degree in kink to be qualified to play these days.” “What happened to our mentors?” “Our community has been diluted with too many people who aren’t really kinky.” “Everything’s so expensive now.” And on and on. I could list dozens of such common complaints. And for all of them I have but one bit of advice.

Accept the ways things are or do something to change it so that they’re more to your liking.

One of the tenets of many life philosophies that I have always gravitated to is the concept of attachment. The belief is that attachment leads to much of life’s suffering. Attachment to an idea, including ideas about the past, are as poisonous as attachment to things. Everything, everyone, every tradition, every society, every subculture is ephemeral. So it is with leather and kink. The sooner an individual accepts that, the happier they’ll be. If you resist accepting change, unhappiness is a foregone conclusion.

I don’t see the morphing and adaptations of what we often refer to as leather to be much different than the organic way any community or subculture evolves. Change is the only constant. It’s why I find it amusing when anyone bemoans “the way it was.” I have too at times I must admit. But there is no way anything can remain fixed in time. That’s just not how things work. Everything changes. As Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

I think a big disconnect occurs because many do think leather is fixed in time. That’s why there’s a continuing churn over traditions, history, protocols and other such things because people want to believe that some golden era of leather in the past was the ideal and that what we have now is not. I disagree. The landscape of today’s leather and kink world is vast, diverse and rich with more experiences, events, social life and play opportunities than ever before. True, it looks and functions differently than it used to. So what? Most of life from the past looks and functions differently today. Many would call it progress. Yet many leatherfolk hold on to the past for dear life as if somehow accepting such realities will lessen them as a leather person or kinkster of whatever stripe.

Today there are certainly intersections among the various kink and leather sexualities, but those intersections might be large or small. The scene is less monolithic than it used to be. I see that as a good thing. And while it’s true that the scene sometimes sends out mixed messages about inclusion when it appears to some to be exclusionary, the same can be said of any group or subculture. I believe our scene is fairly good at embracing all good, decent people who want to be part of what we have to offer.

For every possible negative someone suggests about our scene I can offer an abundant collection of positives or a way to make it more positive for your own individual experience.

If you seek them out, there are social circles, clubs, groups, events and venues that will cater to your individual desires. San Francisco and the surrounding East Bay and South Bay are particularly blessed to have an assortment of such options. Locally and nationally you can find a plethora of offshoot groups interested in BDSM, rubber, sports gear, pup play, cigars, uniforms, fisting, power dynamic (Dominant/submissive) relationships, and much more. These are smaller subcultures within the larger leather and kink umbrella subculture and there’s room for anyone who wants a place at that table.

The natural human tendency is for us to want to feel that we belong to something special. If a subculture morphs over time into a bunch of more diverse groupings that might have only a modest amount of overlap, in time each of those groupings will want to exert their specialness (unconsciously usually) and form their own separate social circles, language, identifiers and so on. So while the term leather meant one thing a few decades ago, it now means something quite different to many. I can’t get too worked up over how it’s changed because I don’t want to be one of those old cranky people ranting about younger people or scene newcomers who don’t “get” leather culture. They get it just fine. It just doesn’t look the same as the leather culture I came out in during the early ’70s. And that’s quite OK.

Now, since I try to get kinky people offline and face to face as much as possible, let me mention a few upcoming events you might want to attend.

The finals for the Bare Chest Calendar will be on April 27, 2014. The calendar has been linked to the leather scene since its inception. Many of the men involved with the calendar, both as calendar men and behind the scenes, are part of the leather scene.

Another big event coming up is International Ms. Leather weekend, April 24-27, 2014. This is the preeminent leather contest and weekend for women. Join women from all over the country as they carry on this tradition in their new host city of San Jose.

The nominees for San Francisco Pride Leather Marshals have been announced. Male nominees are Brent Gannetta, Patrick Mulcahey, Scott Peterson and Graylin Thornton. Female nominees are Beth Bicoastal, Deborah Wade, Tracy Wolf and Lou (Alchemy). Voting takes place May 3, 2014 at the SF Eagle. Congratulations and good luck to all of the nominees.

For more details about the events I’ve mentioned and many others, check out the calendar entries that appear with this column.

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