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Friday, August 18, 2017

Join The Club

Written by  Rodney Burger
MAL Parade of Colors MAL Parade of Colors

Times have changed. People don’t shop at malls, they shop online. People don’t meet in bars, they meet online. People work at home online and go to college online. Even during those rare times when people are out in public they are staring at their online devices. It makes me wonder. In the internet age are leather social clubs even relevant? As someone who has been the member of a leather club for over 20 years, my answer is a resounding: yes!

So why should someone join a leather club? What can he or she get out of joining a club that cannot be found online? There are so many reasons. Let’s start with brotherhood. I always knew that I was interested in leather and kink. Years ago I had to go to a leather bar to meet like-minded people. Now you can just go to an app or a website. But are you really making friends? You will meet someone online who will help you enjoy an evening. But what about real relationships? (Plus when you are talking bondage and kink it can be a little scary playing with someone who you do not know anything about.) As a member of a leather club I have met so many people from all walks of life that I would have never met otherwise. These lifelong friends are not just the members of my club but as a leather club member I am often invited to attend other club’s dinners, pool parties, cookouts, and social functions. I meet people every time I put on my leather vest with my club’s patch on the back. I wouldn’t think of traveling without my club vest. I can walk into any gay bar in the country and will be welcomed by all the club members from that city. The last time I was in New York City I stopped in the Eagle NYC and discovered that Empire City MC was having a bar night. I walked in and was immediately greeted by name by so many leather folks. It really made me feel good. That is brotherhood.

I cannot tell you how many times I have interviewed a young leather titleholder and when I asked them how they became involved in the leather community their reply is that they googled things online. That may be a way to start but I can google “swimming” and I am still not going to know how to swim. Sometimes you just have to go to a pool and jump in. I cannot begin to tell you how much I have learned about the leather community since I became a club member. And I am still learning. Please keep in mind that when joining a leather club there is no requirement that a pledge have any prior knowledge or experience in the scene. All that is needed is a curiosity about leather and some free time. There is no need to feel apprehensive. These are social clubs and although some clubs may sponsor play parties, all clubs stand by the leather credo: Safe, sane, and consensual. No one is asked to do anything he doesn’t want to do. There is no hazing of pledges. Pledges are just asked to show up, sell a few Jell-O shots or raffle tickets, and help the club with cocktail parties and events. I’m currently in my tenth term as a club president and I still love to sell Jell-O shots and raffle tickets. It gives me an excuse to talk to and meet everyone in the bar. In fact I met my other half in 2001 when I sold him a winning raffle ticket. Some of my friends say that they hate to go out because they never meet anyone. I meet everyone!

Not only do I have a great time peddling my Jell-O shots, but in many cases when you support one of the leather clubs the money goes to charity. My club has raised lots of money over the years for everything from the Johns Hopkins Pediatric AIDS Unit to the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre, Chase Brexton, Moveable Feast, and many more. Our charity this year is the Baltimore Transgender Alliance and I am proud to say we selected that organization long before more hate came out of the White House. So not only will you meet people and have a fun time with your leather club, but you will also be helping many worthwhile organizations in your community. Talk about a win/win situation.

I love the leather clubs and I love my leather community but like any organization there is always a down side – the politics. Face it. You put any group of people together and there is going to be disagreements and conflict. Have you ever seen Facebook? Club members may disagree on the selection of a charity for a fundraiser, the venue for an anniversary dinner, or whether or not the club should have a booth at Pride. I have always lived by the motto that if you don’t like something, work to change it. Unfortunately too many people have a different motto: If you don’t like something, quit. I guess Rosa Parks could have just stopped riding the bus, but that would not have brought about change. Sometimes you have to step up. If you are not happy with how your club is doing things, run for office. Leather clubs have a board of officers or eboard and most clubs have annual elections, but keep in mind that the clubs usually run on a majority rules policy. Even the club president cannot always get his way. Leather clubs are just like any family: not everyone agrees on everything, not everyone always gets along, but the bond that comes from being a family keeps them together.

We are very fortunate in the Mid-Atlantic area that our region has been blessed with a large number of leather clubs and organizations. Keep reading this column and I will keep you informed about leather club events being held by the Centaur MC, COMMAND MC, DC boys of Leather, FIST, Maryland boys of Leather, Onyx Mid-Atlantic, Philadelphians, Pennsmen, Potomac MC, ShipMates Club of Baltimore, Three Rivers Leather Club, and many more. Attend one of their bar nights, buy a Jell-O shot, and talk to the members about their club. Leather clubs are always looking for new members. And if you must you can even stay home and start by checking them out online. But get out the door, join in the fun, and join the club.

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