At this year’s GLLA, as is customary at that event, Ms. Kendra publicly awarded leathers to those that she felt had earned them. This reminded me of my own acquisition of leather, both earned and – yes/gasp – bought.
When I first came out into the kink/BDSM community, I had no idea what I was doing. My initial forays were to find straight people who were doing these wonderful things that I’d fantasized about for so long, but I didn’t find a traditional leather community. I found spankos, swingers who crossed into the kink, people who seemed to be living weekdays in one world, weekends in a different world, and I saw a few mysterious folks. These folks seemed to have an aura about them, a type of attitude that spoke of having forbidden or private knowledge. The way they acted, spoke and conducted themselves made an impression on me.
What impressed me about these people was their emphasis on learning, on having an approach that you earned things, that you weren’t entitled to be Grand Master Poobah just because you could fit that title into the Username text field on the account registration screen, but that you had to earn your way into the community. So, I didn’t call myself Master of anything, except I identified myself as on the Master/slave path about 6 years after I first came out. It took me that long to be sure this was a path I could walk! Little did I know how much I didn’t know! No, I was going to do it the hard way, but the right way. If the leather community that I was trying to become a part of felt that I had earned the title, then and only then would I accept it.
My first leather was not earned, mainly because in the het/straight world that I was aware of at the time, there weren’t the traditions of doing so. So my first leather was an FMC leather vest I bought at the Alley on Belmont and Clark in Chicago. My first boots were also self bought – OK, both pairs of boots that I own are self bought. My leather belt – self obtained. My second (and current vest) also was self bought. It wasn’t that I was thumbing my nose at anyone – it was simply that I wasn’t a part of a community where these things weren’t occurring. Yet.
It wasn’t until we became full members of the Chicago Leather Club in 2010, when slave angie and I were presented to the attendees of the Annual General Meeting as new full members, that I finally received a piece of earned leather – and that ended up being my Master’s cover. Mistress Joanne Gaddy and slave angie had gotten together to make it happen. Mistress Gaddy, Daddy T and Master Rick S all three presented it to me. I not ashamed to tell you that I cried, this had been a moment that I’d wanted to be a part of, to be the recipient of. Over the 15 years I’d been a part of the Chicago community, both underground and public, I’d given what needed to be given to help support my circle and my tribe and now I was recognized.
Since then, I’ve started seeing a lot more pansexual awarding of leathers, in Chicago and around the region. The nice thing is that this awarding is following the same thought patterns I had seen 15 years earlier… it’s given to people who’ve earned it. We don’t have the tradition of a person needing three pieces of earned leather in order to start awarding earned leather, but that’s not a bad tradition to look to the elders and those who’ve put in the time to get your leathers from.
If there was anything I would pass on as a lesson, it’s that sure, you can buy your leather gear, but to really feel it, to really have earned the titles and earned what is given to you, that’s a completely different thing – and it’s necessary to the growth and journey of a leatherman/woman. I feel really strongly that when you earn leathers, when you earn titles, it “entitles” you to more responsibility, more duties and more on your shoulders to continue earning those leathers, even though you wear them.
Writing this blog post is hard because I still feel a “twitch” that I shouldn’t buy more leather, that those leather pants that I see that would look so hot on me… I should keep my credit card in my wallet. Should I wait for all leather to be earned?
Now, though, I have people I can bounce these questions off of. People that are part of my community, people who are part of the leather family that I hold dear. For that, for being given a chance to earn my place and my leather, I am continually grateful and hope that I continue to earn my place each day.