is here and International Mr. Leather weekend is just
around the corner. I hope you are giving thought to your
participation in the weekend.
of you are dying to begin your exploration into leather
but just need a little nudge, and so I offer you this
column by my friend Ken. He wrote this last fall after
having time to reflect on his experiences of the last
year or two.
it is, another one of those newbie columns. I suppose
for those who are veterans of the leather community, this
may seem boring and perhaps even unnecessary. Then again,
any community of people will only continue if it recreates
itself with each new generation. So perhaps together we
can learn how to do that through the sharing of common
those of you still on the fringe, I hope my experiences
provide encouragement as you journey toward discovering
the leatherman (or woman) inside you.
I look back over the past year and a half year at the
changes in my life I must admit that I am somewhat amazed.
Back then, I would never have imagined that I would find
myself living in a gay community, socializing with gay
friends, feeling free enough to desire a gay relationship,
or finding acceptance within the leather community.
first things first....
was about a year and a half ago that I first emailed Jack
Rinella in response to his column about the 1997 IML contest.
He had written about how wonderful the weekend had been
and how warm and accepting the leather community was.
had ventured to the Congress Hotel that weekend and had
visited the leather market with wide eyes as I saw for
the first time what had only been part of vivid fantasies.
You see, at age 33 I was a gay closeted male, living in
the suburbs believing that there was no way I could ever
live the life I dreamed about. However, things began to
change when a good friend of mine, who happens to be straight,
confronted me about being gay.
those of you who are living a secretive, closeted life
as I did, let me tell you, itís probably not as much of
a secret as you think. His acceptance of my sexuality
began a series of changes in my life that, while sometimes
scary, have been great. He took me to my first ever gay
bar and gave me the confidence to begin exploring the
part of the gay community that intrigued me the most....the
back to that first email to Jack. I wrote telling him
that my visit to the Congress Hotel during IML left me
wanting to know more about the community and the people
who were part of it, but I didnít know how. Jack responded
to my email within a couple of days and suggested that
the best way to learn about the leather community was
to visit one of the leather bars. He also said that the
bartenders could be great resources of information.
thought that was the most absurd advice I could have received.
I, who was afraid to think about going to a leather bar,
was going to go into one alone, mosey on up to the bar
and ask for a lesson in leatherhood......NOT!
bold via email, I wrote back and told Jack just that.
He then invited me to phone him. I felt less bold by phone
and it took me two months to make that call, but I did
and he was very kind and understanding.
told me that the only way to change my life and start
to have some of the experiences I wanted was to set some
goals that had to include meeting people who could teach
me what I wanted to learn.
thatís pretty much what I did, albeit slowly.
first I began visiting some of the non-leather gay bars
in Chicago. Something about all that leather and chains,
while erotic, was also kind of scary and kept me away
from the leather scene. Then, Jack announced the formation
of a Chicago chapter of Masters and slaves Together (MAsT).
I remembered what he told me about finding opportunities
to interact with people in the leather community and I
called and said Iíd be at the first meeting.
became a real turning point in my gradual exit from the
closet and entry into not only the gay community, but
the leather community as well. I discovered that I wasnít
the only suburbanite who was gay and into leather. I also
learned that leathermen are indeed very welcoming and
willing to teach and guide.
the second meeting, I made my first visit to the Eagle
and by January I had purchased my first ever leather vest.
Even better than that, I had my first opportunity to play
with a real leatherman and experience what had only been
you know what, thereís no comparing the two.....the real
thing IS better.
IML 98 approached, I didnít have to wander alone to the
Congress Hotel. I went there with friends (leather friends),
attended many of the events, cheered on the contestants,
and....well maybe you donít need all the details.
short, I had fun. IML is a great place to explore the
leather community. Last summer I moved to Boystown, have
roommates who are also into the leather scene, and have
even vacationed on a gay cruise.
quite a change from the days of believing that something
must be wrong with me for being gay and into things like
spanking and flogging.
of the fears I had to overcome was that I would not be
accepted by the leather community. Lack of acceptance
had been my experience as a gay man trying to live a straight
life. What I discovered was that when I got honest with
myself and accepted who I was and what I wanted to experience,
then it was easy to gain acceptance from those who shared
those same interests.
learned a few important lessons along the way. First of
all, as with any community, you must learn the rules of
time to learn from those with more experience is essential
to gaining acceptance and understanding. It also helps
to alleviate some of the fears that accompany venturing
into uncertain territory. Many of the things that people
new to the leather lifestyle fear are based on superstitious
learning taught to us by a society more interested in
propagating hatred rather than acceptance.
leatherfolks come in all shapes and sizes. Most are good
people, some are not. Understanding the principles of
safe, sane and consensual is essential to having positive
and healthy experiences.
you donít know until you try it. Are you a top, a bottom,
dominant, submissive? Try things out, you might be surprised
what you discover about yourself.
really nothing new here. Itís all been said in one form
another in Jackís previous columns. I hope, however, that
for those of you who have the same uncertainties that
I had, you take away the old adage.....if he can do it,
then maybe I can too.
and learn about the leather community. I think youíll
be pleasantly surprised with what you find. Iíd be happy
to hear from you. Email me at KennyB999@aol.com.
Have fun, play safe and Iíll see you at IML 99."
you have it, more testimony that life can be fulfilling
when you decide to put your fears on hold for a while.
I havenít asked, but it doesnít sound like Ken regrets
can find out more details about IML at their web site
Or go ask the bartenders.
a great week. You can leave me e-mail at email@example.com.
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