During a recent leather weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with some of the judges for the weekend's competition. The subject of "leather leadership" came up. One of the conversants asked, "What is leather leadership?" It's a good question, and it came up again yesterday when someone asked why there were so many posts about gay marriage and Proposition 8 on this blog.
The gay Leather Community does not exist in a vacuum. We are part of the broader gay community -- all the preppies and twinks, the drag queens, the lesbians and dykes, the transgenders -- we are all one large Gay Nation. We may segregate ourselves sometimes into our separate bars or play-spaces, but generally what affects one segment of our community affects all segments.
I believe strongly that leather competitions serve an important purpose. They help identify and foster the growth of potential leaders in our particular corner of the gay community. Winning a leather contest is not the -only- path to leadership, I hasten to add. But it is an important path. Chuck Renslow, Jack Rinella, Joe Gallagher, Frank Nowicki -- they all play or have played important roles in the development of the competitions, and they are all terrific representatives for our community. They are great leathermen.
But they are great leathermen because their efforts and labors extend beyond just a the narrow leather community itself. They are politically active. They serve. They educate and teach. They are involved in the wide spectrum of issues that face all gay people. They are heroes.
Leather leadership means more than just winning a leather contest. It means more than going on to judge still more contests. It has to mean more than belonging to a local leather club or giving the occasional speech about supporting the Leather Archives, although the LA&M is a worthy cause. Leather leadership shouldn't end when the leather comes off.
Leather leadership should mean Gay Leadership. Our leaders should be prepared and willing to stand up for all segments of our Gay family, speak for all segments, defend all segments when we're attacked or challenged.
The people who passed Proposition 8 in California, and who passed similar anti-gay amendments in Arizona and Florida and Arkansas ten days ago, attacked and challenged all of us. Including the Leather Community. So discussion of Proposition 8 is totally appropriate for this blog. As are any of the array of issues facing us, from "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," to adoption rights, to ENDA, etc., etc., etc. It all belongs here because it all affects us - in or out of leather.