Friday, July 21, 2017

I Am Not Hanging Up My Leather in Your Closet

Written by  Rodney Burger

There have always been protest at pride parades. In fact the first “pride parade” was a protest. We can usually count on one or more members of the religious right to hold up a sign that reads: “Homosexuality is a Sin!” Or “God Created Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve!” (Frankly for over 16 years I’ve been happy that he created Steve.) Pride parades have always been a celebration of diversity and acceptance. We celebrate all the colors of the rainbow.

This year, at a time of great turmoil in our nation, I am seeing a turmoil in our own LGBT community. We are even questioning the colors of the rainbow! At the Capital Pride Parade in Washington, DC, in June there were protesters. This year, however, they were members of the LGBT community protesting large corporations appearing in the parade. I grew up at a time when I was taught that it was wrong to be gay. It makes me feel good when I see Hilton Hotels, Southwest Airlines, McDonald’s, and others supporting the LGBT community.

I also grew up knowing that I like leather and kink. That has also always been a part of who I am. Recently an article written by Heidi French started showing up on my Facebook feed. It is called “Keep Your Kink Out of My Pride Parade.” I cannot keep my comments to myself after that one.

Complaints about the leather community being visible are not something new. Since 1984, the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco has been a celebration of leather pride. Filling several city blocks with all kinds of vendors and demos, this celebration of the BDSM / kink community attracts thousands. It also donates all money from the gates to charity groups. I saw an article last year about the Folsom Street Fair not being “family friendly” and not being welcoming to families with small children in strollers. What? Does it have to be? The leather community does not have to be for everyone nor does it have to be politically correct. I wouldn’t bring a small child to a heavy metal rock concert or many recent movies or Broadway shows. It doesn’t mean that they should be sanitized to be more family friendly. Not everything has to be Disneyfied. (Las Vegas tried that years ago. It didn’t work. Adults didn’t want another Disneyland. They wanted Las Vegas!)

Ms. French complained that “kink is not a sexual orientation” and that having the leather community in the pride parade makes the parade “inappropriate for minors.” Being Christian is not a sexual orientation either, but many religious groups are in the parades. “Inappropriate for minors” reminds me of Anita Bryant and her 1977 Save Our Children campaign. Anita Bryant fought to repeal a local ordinance in Dade County, Florida that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. After all we can’t have homosexuals working in our schools with children. Just when you thought that we have advanced from those days. What happened to teaching our children that the world is a big place and is made up of all kinds of people and that sex between consenting adults is not dirty or shameful? There is nothing wrong with being socially conservative. Just don’t expect me to conform to your expectations of morality.

Some LGBT young people dream of having the perfect mate, buying a house in the suburbs, having or adopting children, and being accepted by their straight neighbors June and Ward Cleaver. I didn’t have that dream when I was a teen. I dreamt of meeting a big, burly, mustachioed leather daddy who would make me his boy. Isn’t it great that dreams can come true? Oh and Heidi while we are on the subject, relationships in the leather community do not have to mirror vanilla straight couples. The relationship can even involve more than one person. I guess that the idea of polyamorous relationships also goes against your idea of family friendly. You might want to save the children from that idea.

For years folks have complained that when covering a pride parade the mainstream media will always focus on the drag queens and the leather folks. That picture in the morning newspaper will show some outrageously dressed drag queen or some large hairy man in chaps and a harness. “These folks are ruining the image of the LGBT community,”

Well guess what? These folks are a big part of the LGBT community. When it came time to raise money for AIDS research and help our brothers and sisters in need the drag queens and the leather clubs were the first ones to step up. They are still the hardest working members of the LGBT community. The drag queens and leather folks are not the fringe of the LGBT community. They are the fabric.

Take my kink out of your pride parade? It’s never going to happen. When I attended the first Pride Festival of Central Pennsylvania Unity Parade in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 2006 I noticed an absence of leather folks. The following year I made sure there were lots of representatives from the area’s leather clubs and several local leather titleholders including my other half Sir Steve who just happened to be Mr. Maryland Leather 2007. My favorite memory of the festival that year was a little bright-eyed boy who asked his mother to take his picture with Mr. Maryland Leather. Many years ago I would have been that little boy.

The LGBT community is a diverse and dynamic family. We are here, we are queer, and some of us are kinky. Get used to it. I’m not hanging up my leather in your closet.

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