Leather: to be or not to be

I recently went to a Leather Community educational event. I was subsequently informed that I am “Leather.” I identify as many things, but Leather isn’t one of them. However, in the interest of keeping an open mind, I decided to do some research on what being “Leather” in the BDSM community means. Perhaps I was Leather and just didn’t realize it.

Wikipedia was useless in determining any set of values. The most it could offer was that there is some association with the military, drugs, motorcycles, and BDSM. Of those, I’m only interested in BDSM. Other articles from various BDSM or Leather sites suggest that Leather involves wearing leather clothing. Then I found a few sites specifically meant for the leather community. Now we’re on to something!

So according to one, Leather values include loyalty, respect, integrity, and courage. Another Leather site additionally listed empathy, a desire to learn, and self knowledge as important Leather values. The National Leather Association says that Leather values include honesty, accountability, education, and community service. I’m seeing a bit of a trend here. So maybe I could be considered Leather after all. Except…

I don’t think these values are so much “Leather Values” as they are “being a decent human being values.” Well, to be honest, I’m not much for volunteering or community service. But I do strive to be empathetic, know myself, be honest, keep learning and improving myself, etc. Except…

It reminds me of a scene from the old movie, “Amadeus.” They are trying to decide which language an opera should be in. It goes something like this:

Mozart: “It’s highly moral, Majesty, it’s full of proper German virtues.”

Salieri: “Excuse me, Majesty, but what do you think these could be? Being a foreigner, I would love to learn.”

Emperor: “Well, tell him Mozart. Name us a German virtue.”

Mozart: “Love, sire.”

Salieri : “Oh! Love! Well, of course, in Italy we know nothing about love.”

And, of course, Salieri is right. Love isn’t exclusively a “German” virtue any more than loyalty or respect or education are exclusively “Leather” values. So I don’t think I’ll be calling myself Leather any time soon.


5 responses to “Leather: to be or not to be

  1. While I know and like several people who are part of the Leather community, I’m pretty much 1000% agreed with you here. Also, it’s notable how often I’ve seen in the last two years, someone being a complete shitfuck and then trying to use their involvement in the Leather community as a shield. Or trying to say that because the Leather community supposedly holds those values, that they have them without actually demonstrating such.

    They have nice boots, though.

    • I can definitely agree that just because any group is supposed to hold particular values, it’s not a guarantee that all members of said group will actually hold those values. There are jerks and assholes in every large group of people. That’s just human nature. Unfortunately! And the Leather community certainly isn’t immune to human nature. As an aside, I’d kill for a pair of thigh high leather combat boots!

  2. So interesting because I’ve NEVER understood Leather to be that.

    I mean I understood that it included those kinds of values and they were very proud of that, but as you say: those are qualities that make up ‘decent and good human values’, so meh to saying someone is ‘Leather’ because they are a decent human being.

    My understanding is that being ‘Leather’ was at least as much about believing in a strict hierarchy and protocols and adhering to very structured community values and old ‘Leather’ traditions. For example, nobody gets to call themselves Mistress or Master just because they feel like it: That’s not how it works. There is a formal process to go through to ‘become a Master/Mistress’ in Leather and be acknowledged as such

    Though I imagine like all of these very traditional things, popularity and wider exposure has softened what it means and I’m sure it’s argued wildly amongst those to whom it matters.


    • I think that my confusion about what constitutes “Leather” stems from how many Leather people I know. In point of fact, most of the people I know that are in my local kink community are Leather, and our local public dungeon is run and staffed by Leather people. I also know several Leather families in the local community. So most of the people I know and events I go to locally are Leather. (Not true of the city where I first discovered I was kinky. I know almost no leather people there.)

      Of the Leather people I know, only a very few of them follow what might be the “Old Guard” way. Most of the Leather people and families I know are all made up of hetero people and are not much for the old ways of doing Leather. Though I do know a few I’d consider to follow a much more hierarchical and strict Old Guard path. So, in talking to the more “New Guard” people I know, I got a very mixed answer about what “New Leather” was all about. I don’t really qualify as the Old Guard since I’m neither a gay man nor am I military or a biker. But the New Guard is much less strict and more inclusive. So I thought I’d ask about what makes them “Leather.”

      The answers I got were all about values and being a part of something with others who held similar values. But yes, the answers will vary quite a bit depending on who you ask. I once attended a class at a Leather workshop wherein it was held up as the One Twue Way that only a gay man who was ex military was really Leather and everyone else was a load of fakers. No lesbians, heteros, or civilians need apply. So clearly, opinions vary!

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