A lifetime ago.
Back in the 1970’s, leather garments were extremely transgressive. Folks could still be thrown into prison for being a pervert.
Nobody outside of our Tribe loved, helped or wanted us. We only had each other for support. It was a hostile world for us.
Many of us gay leathermen felt a STRONG pull toward each other, because it was such a relief that we finally found men like ourselves.
Back in those days, coming out as gay was very, very difficult and perilous. Coming out to family as kinky was something that was vastly harder.
I did it. A lot.
The last 2-1/2 years that I was in the Navy, I was an openly, proudly gay Leatherman. I’d go on and off the ship in full gear, shoulders back, great posture, doing the Champion Strut. There was a lot of Pride in my stride!
The Officer of the Deck would ask me “Where are you heading off to, Lindsey...OH! Never mind…”
(After twelve years in Catholic school, and trying to kill myself twice because there was no place in the world for a Catholic queer boy, I was fed up, and wanted my life to be at the other, street-wise extreme.)
I made the other gay guys nervous as hell, because I was so BOLD. I took full advantage of my size. It gave me the confidence to be coolly serene in my pride. Nobody dared to mess with me. Ever. I made it through on sheer chutzpah.
My nephew, who I raised as my son.
I appalled the older generations sometimes. I was SO bold, and they feared for my safety. Nothing bad happened. In fact, my extreme visibility got me laid CONSTANTLY.
Yeah, there was some sort of “suit of armor” effect. More than that - I was shining with joyful pride. I was a CHARMING knight in shiny black armor.
After several days of fucking, fisting and flogging at one of the big, weekly sling parties, I’d rouse everybody, and gather them together for Sunday Brunch.
At the biggest luxury hotel in town.
Dozens of us would arrive in full gear. Some guys would have to turn their t-shirts inside out, because there’d be raunchy pictures on the front. We’d get into the buffet line, and all of the teensy little “Q-Tips” (ladies with poofy white hair) would recoil in horror. I’d start charming them, and pretty soon I’d get a few hugs.
Everybody would relax, and the staff would ALL come over to our table (they’d seat us in the best banquet-room) and bring us extra-nice platters of goodies, no charge. They’d beg us to come back often, since we were so much fun.
Leather as Self-Expression
Back to Leather. It has always been a Tribal identifier, just like for Steampunks, Rockabillies and Goths, nowadays.
WE were Tribal, long before most folks alive nowadays.
If I go to a popular local bar in a trendy neighborhood, populated by men and women with purple hair, neck tattoos, and other bold expressions of individuality, I win.
They all want to be me. My gear is old, well-used. My demeanor is wide-open and friendly. I’m clearly Old School, as far as they are concerned.
It’s my Second Skin.
One of my best, most authentic compliments that I gave during the 2018 IML weekend was “You look like you were BORN in that outfit. It is very natural on you”.
The man who I said that to, told me days later that he had been floating on air, ever since our encounter.
Yes, there are men who use Leather as a distancing mechanism, to hide the fearful soul within. It’s an easy trap, for some.
I like to think that I would always use it as Social Grease... a great conversation-starter.
I’ve owned at least ten times more gear than I currently own, not counting toys - I’ve given away hundreds of those:
I tend to give individual items away, as a gesture of loving approval, as you may already know. Why? Because I want MORE brothers in leather. We lost SO many.
Words can’t express how bad it was, though I have tried.
Back in the days when our community was deeply traumatized about sex, I started an annual tradition. I'd gather together twelve gay men, and I would be the shortest one. I am six foot five.
We would gather at my place early, and go through my walk-in closet full of leather gear. They would fight amongst themselves, saying "You got to wear those chaps LAST year - I get to wear them now!" We'd get all geared up in black leather, and I would teach the newer guys how to walk in big boots in a sexy way, and how to project sassy confidence.
Then, we would all go out to dinner together. After that, we would go to the NON-leather bars.
Imagine the scene: a bunch of decidedly NOT-leather men would be inside a twinky bar, and suddenly, twelve tall men in full leather gear would arrive, ducking down to get through the doorway. We'd stop in a group, and start looking around the room. We were looking for exactly the right man for the next step. I'd spot a short man, with REALLY BIG EYES, staring adoringly at us, with drool coming out of his open mouth.
I'd tell the guys "There's our target", and we would gather closely around him, and start fondling him, talking dirty, and peeling his shirt off. All 24 hands would be caressing him, and eventually lifting him off of the ground horizontally. We were gentle, but THOROUGH in our lusty groping.
He'd be delirious with joy. MANY gay men have a fascination with big, tough masculine men, and the more, the better. We were playing up to that, with focus and attention.
This pic is from 2013. I still like doing it!
Other men would be jumping up and down in a circle around us, trying to see over our shoulders, wanting to get in on the action. After getting our target into state of delirious joy, we would set him down, hug him, and then LEAVE.
Why be so cruel?
Because, back in those days, actual, follow-through sex was SCARY. Toxic. If we didn't dare give him closure, we'd at least give him a memory to last a lifetime.
Months later, I'd see one of those target men. I'd chat him up, and he thanked me gladly for what happened. One said "I haven't had to buy my own drinks since then, because everybody keeps asking me "How can I get on the list?"
I don't usually include this next part when telling this story, but I will include it for the sake of helping people to see why my generation is so messed up:
ALL of those taller men are dead. I am the only survivor.