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Here is what I have learned: Leather columnist bids adieu

by Race Bannon

Race Bannon. photo: Alex Ray
Race Bannon. photo: Alex Ray  

It is bittersweet that I am announcing I will no longer be writing this column. The legacy of this column is something I have tried to honor by elevating discourse about LGBTQ adventurous sex and the cultures and relationships they spawn. But the time has come for me to focus my energies elsewhere.

Coming to this decision was difficult. When my editor, Jim Provenzano, always the consummate and generous professional, approached me about taking over this column with such a rich history, I was rightfully elated. Taking it on meant I owed the reading public something more than snarky leather scene gossip or rote event reporting. My goal has been to nudge discussion in a thoughtful yet respectful direction. I hope I succeeded.

The time has come for a change in direction for me, my writing, and my life. While I will still write about sex and relationships, I want to broaden my interests, write more varied content, and explore new projects and horizons. Stepping back from this column is strategically necessary, although admittedly that decision does not come without a sense of loss.

During the nearly seven years I have been writing here I have learned a few things. The act of good writing requires the writer to think. Plopping words on a page is easy. Having those words prod intelligent debate or illuminate readers to new information requires more depth. Even when simply reporting, hopefully there is simultaneously some thought-provoking content that delivers more than an account of what transpired.

So, here are a few things I have learned. Perhaps you will find them useful.

If you believe that anyone of any gender, gender expression, orientation, color, faith, origin, kink, or of any other definer of humanity's vast diversity is less worthy of opportunities awarded to others, then you have no place in decent society, let alone the kink scene. One would think this self-evident, but it would be folly to assume all kinksters abide by the same values or ethical principles. We have our own sets of faults and biases.

Worshiping at the altar of traditions or cultural habits at the expense of allowing everyone to have the best sex and social life possible is a terrible idea. The prime directive must always be to help individuals thrive. If no harm is caused, it is no one else's business how someone expresses their sexuality or forms their erotic networks.

What we call leather today is only vaguely definable. Ask a dozen people and you will get a dozen answers to what comprises leathersex or leather culture. The same goes for what defines a leather person. This is not a value judgment, just an observation worth making because so many seem to have decided specifically what leather is and what defines a good leather person.

Fluidity to some degree is the norm, not the exception. This applies to interests, priorities, roles, identities, gender expressions, how we dress, relationship styles, nomenclature... everything. Life is not static. Our sexualities and identities are not static. The communities in which we gather are not static. Cultures are not static. Change and variation are the way life rolls, like it or not. It is best we roll with it rather than fight it.

Social media has polluted some aspects of the kink and leather communities by embracing the few loud and pervasive voices that bully and pummel others into nonconsensual submission. It is not healthy. It does not change anyone's mind. It is often nothing more than virtue signaling in the guise of activism. I hope true discourse with a goal of mutual understanding prevails because the negative noise is not helpful. State an opinion. Present facts. Ask for discussion. Point out disagreements. But please leave the tactic of character destruction to others. Let us try to be better than that.

Leather contests can be fun and entertaining. A handful of people who win such contests go on to do some cool stuff. Most do not, which is fine, by the way, because there should be no expectations of them to do so.

Contest results are also significantly subjective. No one can put a realistic metric on what it takes to be a quality kinky person or erotic rebel. No one should get too bent out of shape about contest results because they could be entirely different another day or with different judges.

Some people engage in radical sex practices or nontraditional relationship configurations entirely outside of any organized community, and that is okay. We should not ostracize or condemn anyone who chooses to pursue their sexuality and its expression outside of an organized community. Everyone decides their own path.

Technology has democratized us in significant ways. In the past some heavy lifting was required to make one's way into certain sexual underground scenes. To organize and advertise an event pre-social media was tough whereas now it can often be done with a few clicks. In many ways this has been good. In many ways this has been bad. That said, on balance I think it has been a good development.

I have learned many other things, but it would require a tome to present them all here. I hope you continue to follow my writings and projects elsewhere. I still have a lot to say.

Finally, I want to thank you, my readers. It has been an honor to write for you here for these many years. Thank you to the Bay Area Reporter and my editor. I could not have asked for better treatment or collaboration. Thank you to the San Francisco Bay Area and larger national and international communities in which I navigate. You have taught me much and I will continue to learn from and celebrate with you.

I am not going anywhere. You will still see me around, physically and in print.

So, to use a perhaps hackneyed phrase, until we meet again.

Be kind to each other and have amazing sex with amazing people.

Resources Guide
The LGBTQ Leather, Kink and Sexuality Communities Resources Guide is a 'living' document and will be updated ongoing as more information is made available. https://bit.ly/2Jpcxud

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. www.bannon.com

Editor's note: If you liked this article, help out our freelancers and staff, and keep the B.A.R. going in these tough times. For info, visit our Indiegogo campaign. To donate, simply claim a perk!

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