By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
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And why shouldn't I? I got my first dose of kink love at Leather Pride Night, an evening of fundraising organized by several of the city's leading leather organizations. Sporting studded codpieces, leather uniforms, and ass-cheek-baring chaps, lots of leatherpeople whipped out their wallets for a good cause (proceeds went to Heritage of Pride, the Anti-Violence Project, the NOW Violence Against Women Project, and the Leather Archives and Museum). Auctioneer Jo Arnone topped, taunted, teased, and talked up the crowd until every last donated item was sold, from a stunning leather straitjacket to a handcrafted bondage chair. Along with bidding, there was plenty of schmoozing with the s/m royalty: Every other guy was decorated with a sash bearing his titleInternational Drummerboy, Mr. Baltimore Eagle, American Leatherman, International Mr. Deaf Leather, to name just a fewwhich provided many opportunities for genuflecting, of course.
The following day, the sashes still hung proudly, but this time on bare, beefcake chests as leathermen took over a block of West 13th Street for Folsom Street East, produced by Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA). A sea of shiny leash links led to spiked collars. Neatly folded or loosely stuffed hankies in back pockets signaled favorite fetishes. Black leather harnesses crisscrossed under gym-crafted pecs and pierced nipples. Where else can you get great deals on leather pants, French food (leave it to fags to feed a street fair with crepes), and more cruising than The Love Boat?
And if that wasn't enough animal-hide pride, there was plenty more of it for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Day. The leather contingent was positioned second to last in the lineup. I assume that organizers hoped the media would run out of film by the time we rolled down Fifth Avenue, so the faithful "God Made Me Gay" sign holders would make it on the news instead of us. But sadomasochists are generally a patient bunch. The Eulenspiegel Society (TES) led the way with lots of gay-loving heteros (I just love straight people who love gay people!). The Metro Bears Clubyou know, big hairy men and the men who love themfollowed, and GMSMA brought up the rear. When my platform knee-high boots were slowing me down, I briefly rode in the official GMSMA cara green convertible blasting Donna Summer tunes with three leathermen, two leather Pride flags, and one cute boy wearing a leather thong splayed on the hood posing and playing to the crowd. Does anyone have more fun in June than gay leathermen?
I wish that question weren't predictably rhetorical and the answer were actually leatherwomen. But the men have us beat on the numbers. Marching with all the s/m straights and gays, fewer than 10 women walked with the Lesbian Sex Mafia (LSM) banner. Not a very strong, fierce showing for what is actually a very strong, fierce organization. According to its chair, Lolita Wolf, LSM is the oldest lesbian s/m organization still in existence. Founded in 1981, it has weathered the Lesbian Sex Wars, political ups and downs, and a slump that nearly forced its extinction in the mid '90s. Today, LSM is more visible than ever and its membership is rapidly growing. It used to be that LSM was much harder to locate: It was so underground, you had to know a leatherwoman to find it. Today, all you need is a healthy curiosity, the monthly meeting schedule (available online at go.to/lsmnyc, or call 212-726-3844), and $6 (actually, orientation to learn more about becoming a member is free). In a landmark decision made last year, the educational portion of LSM's monthly meeting is now open to nonmembers ("all interested women who adhere to LSM's tenets of safety, consensuality, and confidentiality"). At these events, LSM hosts talks on topics ranging from "Mummification: Subtle Effective Immobilization" to "Pushing the Psychological Edge."
So, if the numbers are growing, where were all the girls of the leather persuasion during the Pride parade? Divided in their loyalties, many Mafia chicks went with other groups like Dykes on Bikes and the transgendered contingent. Twenty members were bartending at the Pride dance on the pier in order to raise money for the organization (Heritage of Pride donates a portion of proceeds as well as all tips its members make to the group). As for the rest, well, the Sex Wars are over, but it is still difficult and dangerous to be a leatherdyke. There are hundreds in the city (I've seen them at meetings and parties), but strutting 50 blocks is a big commitment, platform boots or not. Several LSMers have high-profile jobs they aren't willing to risk, some are teachers or work with children. S/M is still largely misunderstood and maligned by mainstream America, and s/m folk are closeted about their kink to protect their careers, their families, and the custody of their children, all of which they can lose because of their erotic desires and practices. Plus, we've got criticism from a place our leather brothers don't: other lesbians. The bitter taste of feminist anti-s/m rhetoric still lingers on our tongues, and sometimes the discrimination we face is from our own so-called sisters who think that we sex radicals make them look bad. Our dungeon furniture, chain-mail bras, and leather contests don't jibe with their rainbow-colored picket fences, matching polo shirts, and $250-a-plate fundraisers.
I dream of the day when the number of out leatherwomen will match the number of men; when kinky dykes are loud, proud, and spilling out into the streets; when sexual freedom is a reality for everyone.
Visit my Web site at www.puckerup.com.