Issue:  Vol. 46 / No. 5 / 4 February 2016
 
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Should We March?

Leather


 The Leather contingent in 2015's LGBT Pride Parade. photo: Rich Stadtmiller
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"I'm still passionately interested in what my fellow humans are up to. For me, a day spent monitoring the passing parade is a day well-spent." – Garry Trudeau

 

The San Francisco Pride parade is one of the largest events of its kind in the world. Locals and visitors flock to the parade each year to watch various dignitaries, nonprofits, political action groups, clubs and others march down Market Street in a statement of pride. Leather people and groups have had a presence in the parade since 1972 and as a unified leather contingent since 1999 when Robert Davolt organized the first one.

This past week the San Francisco Leathermen's Discussion Group (LDG) hosted a town hall discussion titled "SF Pride: Should Leather March – A Community Discussion," and it was well attended. It was clear from a quick scan of who was there and from the discussion and comments that transpired that this is a hot topic for many in the local leather and kink scene.

Origins of the LDG event are rooted in complaints some in the leather community have made regarding the leather contingent's late placement in the parade lineup. Many feel that the contingent has been placed late in the parade far too often and that it's unfair to the leather community to relegate them to back of the bus status that reduces their public exposure significantly. So, LDG figured it was a good time to give the community a platform from which to air their grievances, suggestions and perspectives.

Erik Will, Chairman of LDG, offered opening comments that set the proper tone for the evening. Bob Goldfarb, Program Director for LDG, was masterful at managing the discussion. With rare exception, the entire discussion was thoughtful, respectful and civil, which is a significant accomplishment when hot button issues like this one are discussed in such a large and public forum.

Panelists Jason Husted, the current Chairman of the SF Leather Pride Contingent, and Dahn van Laarz, President of the San Francisco Bay Area Leather Alliance, offered their own perspectives and inside information and answered questions from the audience. There was also a lot of productive cross-talk among the audience members. Over the course of the two hours, hands were consistently raised to talk and still it was impossible to find the time for everyone to speak. People care about this topic, many of them quite vehemently.

Two members of the San Francisco Pride Board of Directors were present and I give them lots of credit for attending, since the discussion had the potential to get contentious. Gary Virginia, a former Mr. SF Leather and an incredibly active community activist and organizer, was one of the Pride Board members in attendance and he offered a lot of detailed information about the management of the parade. He represented the SF Pride Board well.

A well-attended town hall discussion on whether the leather community should continue marching in the SF Pride parade. photo: Erik Will

So, what were some of the sentiments expressed by the audience? It's difficult to summarize the entire discussion into a consensus because I don't think any sort of consensus formed. So here I will simply list what I consider an amalgam of the comments I heard over the course of the night. I leave it to you the reader to formulate your own opinion. In no particular order, here are what I heard as some of the audience's and panelists' primary sentiments.

A few mentioned the option of not marching at all, but I heard more people wanting to continue to have a leather presence in the parade while working to improve our placement. Those wanting to keep marching had various reasons for that stance as did those who didn't want to march any longer.

Corporate influence over the Pride parade's funding and decision-making was discussed a lot. The reality of supporting a $2.1 million cost for producing the Pride festival and parade was countered with charges that the parade was no longer as representative of the LGBT activist and community roots as it should be. The claim of the corporatization of Pride and the parade was brought up many times by those in attendance who felt corporations had more influence than mainstream LGBT people and organizations and that's a sticking point in their mind.

The length of time it takes for the parade to complete was mentioned many times and it was pointed out that the 2015 parade was particularly problematic due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, and that such problems are not likely to be repeated. Still, ways to shorten the parade's timeframe so that everyone marching could be seen by the maximum number of onlookers was a priority for many.

How the parade lineup is determined was discussed quite a bit. The Pride's Board representative explained the complexities of producing the parade and determining the parade order. There are factors such as people with disabilities, people with pets, following government protocol for political figures, high donor sponsorship placement, and others that go into the parade order decision.

Because the SF Bay Area Leather Alliance requires many volunteers to staff its Leather Alley space on the Pride festival grounds, having the leather contingent so far back in the parade impacts the ability of volunteers who want to march and also volunteer at Leather Alley.

There were a few other points brought up, but I think I've encapsulated the array of comments into the basic themes of the night. I am sure this community discussion will continue. The Pride Board's representatives mentioned that they definitely heard the community input expressed during the discussion and they'd take back what they heard to the entire Pride Board.

One way that local leather and kink folk can help ensure that the leather contingent is well planned this year is to attend the San Francisco Leather Pride Contingent general planning meetings for the 2016 SF Pride Parade. Meetings are held at the SF Eagle, 398 12th Street, every second Tuesday at 2pm from now until June. The next meeting is February 13. I encourage those interested in creating the best leather contingent possible to attend the meetings.

Another way to help is to become a member of SF Pride. Members can attend regular meetings and offer input on the Pride festival and parade planning.

 

(Left to right) Demetri Moshoyannis, Executive Director, Patrick Finger, Development and Projects Manager, and Edwin Morales, Jr., the newly elected President of the Board of Directors, for Folsom Street Events, at the recent open house party for the new Folsom Street Events offices. photo: Race Bannon

Folsom Street Events' New Digs

I enjoyed seeing the new Folsom Street Events offices on 8th Street in South of Market when they had an open house event this past week. As is happening all over San Francisco, their previous location's rent was skyrocketing and they needed to find a new place from which to operate. They found great new offices.

Folsom Street Events is currently in the midst of a fundraising effort to raise the money needed to equip the offices properly. They do such great work for the entire leather and kink community that I feel they are a worthy beneficiary of any donations readers of this column might be able to contribute.

You can find their fundraising page by visiting the IndieGoGo site at www.indiegogo.com and entering "FOLSOM" in the search box. Their "Help Folsom Street Events Fight Gentrification" page will appear and you can donate from there.

Folsom Street Events, of course, produces Folsom Street Fair, but they also produce seven additional events, all of which generate monies that they then distribute to a wide cross-section of community nonprofit organizations. They are such a vital element of the local leather and kink scene.

 

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. You can reach him through the contact page on his website, www.bannon.com.

 

Leather Events, February 5-19, 2016

 

There's always a lot going on in the San Francisco Bay Area for leather and other kinksters.

Fri 5

Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

Officially a CMA meeting, but open to all Anonymous 12-step Fellowship members, 4058 18th St., 9:30pm. www.castrocountryclub.org

Gear Party @ 442 Natoma

Gear play party (leather, rubber, harnesses, etc.) for gay men. 442 Natoma St., $15 (requires $5 membership), 10pm. www.442parties.com

Mon 8

Ride Mondays @ Eros

A motorcycle rider and leathermen night at Eros, bring your helmet, AMA card, MC club card or club colors and get $3 off entry or massage. 2051 Market St. www.erossf.com

Rope Bondage Basics with Ropemaster John @ Eros

SF Ring offers a discussion, demonstration and hands-on practice session covering the basic concepts and techniques of rope bondage for erotic male-male play. 2051 Market St., 7:30-9:30pm. www.sfring.org

Wed 10

Golden Shower Buddies @ Blow Buddies

A men's water sports night, Golden Shower Buddies, $15 with membership, 933 Harrison St., 8pm. www.blowbuddies.com

Thu 11

Red Hanky Nite @ Powerhouse

Bar night for men into fisting. 1347 Folsom St., 7-9pm. http://hellholesf.com/

Fri 12

Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

Officially a CMA meeting, but open to all Anonymous 12-step Fellowship members, 4058 18th St., 9:30pm. www.castrocountryclub.org

Gear Party @ 442 Natoma

Gear play party (leather, rubber, harnesses, etc.) for gay men. 442 Natoma St., $15 (requires $5 membership), 10pm. www.442parties.com

Puppy Luv Auction at Lick It @ Powerhouse

Pedal Pups are the beneficiaries for this Lick It at Powerhouse Valentine's Weekend. 1347 Folsom St., $5, 10pm-1am. www.powerhousebar.com

Cigar Play Party @ Blow Buddies

Cigar enthusiasts take over the (heated) back patio to smoke and play. 933 Harrison St., 10pm-1am. www.blowbuddies.com

Sat 13

Brut @ Beatbox

Join like-minded kinky men who appreciate mind-blowing dance music, have a confident sexual verve, and a little bit of sleaze. 314 11th St., 10pm. www.brutparty.com

Mon 15

Ride Mondays @ Eros

A motorcycle rider and leathermen night at Eros, bring your helmet, AMA card, MC club card or club colors and get $3 off entry or massage. 2051 Market St. www.erossf.com

Tue 16

Kinky Entrepreneurs Munch @ Wicked Grounds

Are you an entrepreneur or small business owner in the kink community? Would you like to swap notes with other kinky businessfolk, build community and network? 289 8th St., 11am-1pm. www.wickedgrounds.com

Fri 19

Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

Officially a CMA meeting, but open to all Anonymous 12-step Fellowship members, 4058 18th St., 9:30pm. www.castrocountryclub.org

Gear Party @ 442 Natoma

Gear play party (leather, rubber, harnesses, etc.) for gay men. 442 Natoma St., $15 (requires $5 membership), 10pm. www.442parties.com






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