Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014 San Diego Pride for Kinksters, From A Historical Standpoint

Short version:

I'm inspired by everybody who showed up, and there were a LOT of fine folks who showed up!

It was NOT this way in the old days.

Long version:

I did some analysis of Scott's excellent photos.  
Over 100 folks showed up as proud kinksters, 
joined the Leather Contingent for 2014, and marched 
in the broad daylight, for all of the world to see. 
When we joined up with the turbo-charged, 
dynamic volunteers at the Leather Realm, 
the level of authentic, proud representation 
of our community at its very best hit 
an emotional peak, that lasted all weekend.

The world noticed.

My first San Diego Pride March, in 1976.  
I was twenty years old, and I marched 
with the San Diego Gay Youth Group.  
That's Jeff Brosby in the middle, who ran the group.

My second San Diego Pride, in 1977.  
That's me in the middle of the banner.
We are in Hillcrest, approaching the corner of Robinson and Sixth.
The Advocate Experience was a gay-specific version of est.

1978 Pride March.  You can guess why I took this picture.
The white banner says "LESBIANS POLITICAL…" something else.

San Diego Pride 1979.  
I was joining up with the gay car club 
"Great Autos of Yesteryear" (G.A.Y.)
to drive dignitaries in the parade.

1999, driving the current Emperor and leatherman, Czar Dean.

I celebrated my 40th San Diego Pride in 2016.  I've either been IN the parade, or watched it, every single year.  I could go on and on about the overall aspects of Pride in general - the festival, the parade (it used to be an angry march, with shouted slogans) and so forth, but I choose instead to speak about the Leather aspect of the annual celebration.

That's me, driving my '61 Imperial convertible, Pride 2000, 
carrying Leather And Sister Hood ("LASH").

In the earliest days of San Diego Pride, there was no representation of leather, whatsoever. As I recall it, folks didn't show up in leather in the parade until around 1984. We were always in the back-most portion of the parade, and we were clearly not welcome.

California Cyclemen Motorcycle Club (CCMC) in front.
Rampart Leather Tribal Dance Party and RHSD floats, Pride 2000. 
I hosted Rampart for two years, and Bill Freyer was head of Red Hankies San Diego for 17 years!
Other than LASH, there WERE no other leather folk in the parade this year.

There was a lot of angry shaming of drag queens and leather folks, because we "made everybody else look bad".  Here we were as a gay community, trying to gain acceptance, and the TV cameras would only focus upon the freaks. Folks called to chastise TV stations for stereotyping us with their coverage, and then would focus their anger upon those of us who didn't, or couldn't fit in.  We were manifestly unwelcome.

SD Leather Contingent 1999.  The whole thing.

Starting around 1998, there was a lot of resistance in the kinkster crowd to the idea of even being part of the Pride Parade. If we were going to keep being made to feel unwelcome, then we would create our own, entirely separate thing. The entire reason for the invention of Leather Pride was to show defiance to the larger community: to lay claim to the many things that we felt that we could be proud of… our volunteers, vendors, artists and artisans, and community leaders.

If nobody else would appreciate us, then we would celebrate our own Pride.  After all, "Pride" is the exact opposite of "Shame". 

That's Wendy Sue on the far left. Pride 2000.

Even if we had the goal of being in the Pride Parade, we could never get it together. There would be separate, hostile factions, who would be in separate parts of the parade. That went on for years. It was very discouraging. I give great credit to Wendy Sue for sticking with the dream of bringing everybody together, no matter how resistant they were.

That brings us to the present. 

Parade Contingent, 2012.  That's Wish Linda laying down in the front.  
She has been the glue that has bound us together in the parade… 

The younger generations of kinksters don't have the heavy burden of AIDS survival holding them back. This is a good thing. The bad years are in the past, where they belong. Now, it's time to celebrate! 

Scott Smith's photos tell the story, very eloquently. What you're seeing in 2014 is not just sheer quantity, it is our quality that speaks for us... We are joyful, affectionate, diverse, unified and celebratory. We have nothing to be ashamed of, and we can't imagine why we would.

San Diego Pride Leather Contingent, 2011

San Diego Leather Pride has had many years of success. It has accomplished much to build our community's pride and self-reliance. However, the world has changed around us. I credit the Internet with having exposed more and more people to the fact that kinky folks are everywhere. Oddly enough, we have become more and more normalized.

San Diego Pride Leather Contingent, 2013

At least here in San Diego, leatherfolk have become TRENDY. I'm not kidding. If I am in gear, and I show up in public, I am an intensely observed and admired figure for fashionable young people. Instead of hiding in darkness, and only showing up in public once a year for the parade, more and more people are sharing their truth, expressing what is in their hearts, and living in the light.

San Diego Pride Leather Contingent, 2013

Of all the cities that I am aware of, San Diego's Leather Tribe shows incredible authenticity, more and more often. As with any family, we have our disagreements periodically, but when it is important for us to draw together, we always do.

A fraction of the San Diego Pride Leather Contingent, 2014

Speaking as an older man, I've seen some seriously wild changes happen in our community, and all within my lifetime. I NEVER would have expected that we would show up so unified, numerous and bountifully joyous as kinksters.  The older leathermen who were my mentors in the 1970's would have blown a gasket if they had looked at 2014 in a crystal ball… They had lived in constant fear of imprisonment for being sexual deviants, and they thought that I took too many foolish risks by being so open and unashamed. I did it, because I wanted the world to CHANGE.

It did, and we can all continue to take credit.

Many thanks to everyone who gave their best toward Pride this year, whether it was in the parade, or working hard at the Leather Realm.  You have shattered old preconceptions, and paved the way for even better days for the younger folks who follow us.