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Leather Resistance: Kink communities & political activism

by Race Bannon

The Leather Pride contingent marched in the 2018 LGBT Pride March on Sunday, June 24. Whip master Danny Thanh Nguyen's skills got a lot of applause.
The Leather Pride contingent marched in the 2018 LGBT Pride March on Sunday, June 24. Whip master Danny Thanh Nguyen's skills got a lot of applause.   (Source: Rich Stadtmiller)

There are times when I begin to write this column and simply stall. I want to write about things like leather pride, great sex, kink events, and relationship options. I put fingers to keyboard, and I freeze. No, it's not writer's block of the garden variety.

It's instead the overwhelming feeling that as the American political landscape collapses around us into a heap of hateful dung, all my efforts should be focused on saving what's left of our country rather than telling you how to have awesome sex or meet fellow kinksters.

I question what I do here because it feels to me that loftier goals for this all too rare publication space are vital to ensuring we still have a democracy in which to enjoy our unique, adventurous take on sex, eroticism, identity and relationships.

At the same time of year when San Francisco celebrates Pride, we are also approaching July 4, the day on which we enshrine our country's Declaration of Independence. Freedom. Pride. Independence. Liberty. Autonomy. Liberation. Diversity. Acceptance. Within the course of a few days' time we honor all these things.


Leather guys show a rainbow-colored Abolish ICE sign at the 2018 LGBT Pride march. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

Yet, they're all slipping away before our eyes. The urgency with which Americans are addressing the loss doesn't seem commensurate with the danger at hand.

The Resistance is alive and well, but considering the severity of the dangerous circumstances we now find ourselves in, I'm astonished that everyone isn't in the streets daily and screaming from rooftops that this is not okay.

Because it's not okay. It's not normal. It's the most perilous time in our nation I've experienced in my 64 years on this planet.

So, what does this all have to do with kink, leather, sex, relationships and all the other things I typically write about in this column?

I'm old enough to remember what it was like to try to live my gay life in a world that didn't want me to have any freedoms. I remember random police bar raids, arrests of drag queens for not wearing enough male clothing, frequent bashings, no legal protections of any kind - an environment entirely antagonistic to everything I am and wanted to be.
Add on top of my gay identity my leather and kink identity, and the depth of disdain some had for my kind back then was often off the charts.


The Rainbow Color Guard, a popular part of the Leather contingent's annual participation in the San Francisco Pride March. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

In time, things got better; not perfect by any means, but better. Slowly but surely our freedoms, acceptance and legal protections grew. As LGBTQ and as leatherfolk we engaged in our own forms of resistance. We marched. We lobbied. We undertook research. We wrote. We called. We published. We brainstormed. We organized. We boycotted. We did whatever it took to make the lives of LGBTQ and kinky people better.
To a large extent we were successful, but we never achieved 100% success and the successes we have achieved are dissolving before our eyes, all led by a maniacal President hellbent on destroying everything that is good about our country.

Take away the freedoms and protections we have achieved thus far, and the world becomes a lot less friendly to LGBTQ, leather, kink and indeed all the erotic and relationship adventurers. Make no mistake. If the powers in Washington, D.C. had their way, our nation would today be a rabidly right-wing religious state that would love nothing more than to wipe out all LGBTQ, kinky and non-conforming folks like us.

Now, I know some will say to themselves upon reading this that this space is supposed to be for all who enjoy the erotic pleasures extolled herein. Generally, I would agree with you.

But I need to take a stand personally, and my stand is that if you side with the powers occupying the White House today, you do not side with any of the radical adventurers - LGBTQ, leather people, kinksters, anyone seeking to express their sexualities and relationships in any non-conforming manner. You also don't side with women, people of color, non-Christians or immigrants. Side with the enemy and to me you are the enemy, even if you're dressed head to toe in cowhide.


Two of the many Dykes on Bikes at the SF Pride March. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

I've attended leather conferences at which I've heard someone proudly declare their love of Trump and his ideas while at the same time surrounded by their supposed friends who Trump is trying to systematically oppress. LGBTQ. People of color. Non-Christians. Women. Immigrants. The poor.
The edgier slice of our culture that this column attempts to comment on and document is replete with people clearly in the White House administration's and Congress's crosshairs as people who must be demonized and devalued as less than, as unworthy, as those who deserve fewer rights than wealthy, white, heterosexual, Christian conservative men.

I've held off writing a column like this for a while. The optimist in me felt that in time the obvious evil emanating from the White House and their Congressional enablers would clearly be noticed by everyone and dealt with appropriately.
That's not happening. Those in majority power in D.C. seem to be happily complicit in the destruction of our country and our freedoms if it adds to their coffers and powerbase. They have sold their souls and we are the chum they've decided to gladly throw into the Piranha-infested waters as sacrificial offerings to shore up their bank accounts and power.

Dark, I know. But it is what it is. Sugar-coating it won't make it go away. This is real. This is dangerous. This threatens all that we are and the freedoms to live our lives as we see fit.

Please, resist. Every single day, until this national nightmare is over.

My own forms of resistance come in many forms and I feel resistance must be daily and ongoing. However, I'm focused like a laser on the November elections and I hope you are too.

Please register and vote. If you're already registered, make sure your registration is still active and accurate. Get everyone you know to vote. I feel voting in every election is the duty of every American. I know it's technically optional, but I don't think it's morally or ethically optional.

Let's make sure we return some Democratic control to Congress in November, because if we do not, I fear our country and our democracy may be lost forever, and along with them our erotic freedoms as well.

Experienced activist that I am, I'd also be remiss if I didn't say that to resist long-term you have to take care of yourself. Part of taking care of yourself means getting your sexual and social needs met. It means you must find some joy to counter the misery. Without those joys, you won't find adequate strength to resist.

So, now is the time to increase, not decrease, how often we gather, have sex, play, socialize, organize, and support each other. Be leather. Be kinky. Be polyamorous. Be queer. Be an erotic rebel. Be whatever you want to be. But at the same time, never lose sight of the fact that it could all be taken away from you in a heartbeat.

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. You can reach at www.bannon.com.

See Leather Events here: http://www.ebar.com/arts&culture/culture/news//261852


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