Leather Life: A (Re)introduction
The hardest part in starting this column has been how to address you, the reader. Often, I’m on stage emceeing and the greetings just seem to flow naturally. However, I’ve been kindly offered the opportunity to lend a new voice to this column and fill some big shoes in both the leather community and the Twin Cities LGBT community. Continuing the tradition of this column for Lavender Magazine and Steve Lenius is a scary task that I don’t take lightly. Steve wrote this column for almost 30 years, giving us insight into leather, updates on events, and explaining things we wanted to know about before we could just click a mouse and find out online. Thank you, Steve.
So who am I? Many know me in the leather community and the larger Twin Cities area as the creative force behind Twin Cities Leather and Latte, that closed prior to Covid. Others know me from involvement with other various clubs and organizations. And some just see me once a year on the Saloon stage giving a speech dressed in leather pants.
Who I really am is a little more complicated. And, I think, illustrates why I can continue this column while bringing a different perspective to you. First and foremost, I am a person of color—specifically a Paiute from California. I came to Minnesota in 1993 to attend the University of Minnesota with an American Indian scholarship opportunity. I received a History and American Indian Studies degree before continuing on with graduate work in Anthropology. I joined the work force in the American Indian community working for a non-profit and then worked in various advocacy and lobby roles before losing everything during the small recession and housing crash.
In that time, I was married, had children, divorced, and came out of the closet. I’ve sat at tables with people while being the only person of color in the room and often the only queer person as well. I’ve marched before marching felt like a thing, I’ve testified in front of various city and state governments, and I’ve written from a community perspective for other publications. The one consistent thread since coming out was my love of leather. In fact, I often state, leather saved me and I owe it a debt.
My philosophy in the leather community has always been I want all people to be happy. I don’t care what you are into as long as it doesn’t hurt someone or violate their consent. You deserve to be happy. And saying leather community is also somewhat of a short cut. In person I often say communities. Because that is what leather-capital L is, just a collective of various communities including rubber, puppies, bdsm, etc. attempting to find their happiness. Wrapped around this is terms of gender, sexual orientation, and sexual positioning. So many words and activities the whole thing can become quite confusing.
That’s my goal in this column to unravel some of the confusion. To speak to both the current participants of leather and the curious. Honestly, I’m not sure if I was brand new, wanting to join in the leather community, I could do it. All of this does seem quite daunting at first from the outside. But I hope to untangle and explain it to you. In the future, I want to elevate unheard voices from these communities as examples and guides to things you may be interested in knowing about around the Twin Cities. Because I do believe leather is one path towards happiness. And, we live in a city of such diversity.
I’ll leave you with a recent experience for the new and old participants of leather. Recently a young man of color approached me about going out to a leather event. He wanted so badly to fit in; he’d seen things online that made him believe this could be a place for him. He was so afraid of what his friends might say, but was willing to overcome that fear based on the potential reward. I helped him with a simple item of gear, answered his questions, and said I’d be a recognizable face in the crowd. Above all, I told him be yourself because you are valid in the queer leather space that is created for you. So, to the experienced leather community member, I say…. remember how scared we were in the beginning and offer a hand up. To the new potential member…take a chance. I’m living proof that there is a wonderful group of people waiting to meet you and make your life better.