This post is part of a longer series of reflections as I work to learn more about what LEATHER means to me. This is mostly self-directed study (with, I hope, the help of a few friends along the way) and will include too many topics to list here. In fact, I’m kind of just going down the rabbit hole and seeing where it leads me.
At this moment, I am reading Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice by Mark Thompson. I am also using the directed reading questions posted by Andrea Zanin on her amazing blog SEX GEEK.
I will keep posting my replies and responses, thoughts, and musings as they come. They are for no one, really, but me. I seem to process and make much more meaning out of things by not only reading, but writing. And dancing – that’s how I make meaning in my life but who knows how I’ll turn this self-education into a dance? Hmmm, nice challenge!
by Michael Bronski
Question – – – Bronski attributes a fairly specific meaning to his self-construction as a leatherperson. Do you think his perspective applies widely, i.e. that fantasy is always or mostly about wanting to be (rather than do) a different person? For your part, do you think the people you fantasize about being with are people you actually want to be?
For me, a huge part of my own self-identity as a Leatherman is closely tied to my fantasies of the ideal male and the man I always wanted to be.
I think every one of us, at some point, had to fantasize about what it would be like to put on leather. Every one of us had to wonder, think, ponder, and explore that mental construct before we actually took the steps to bring that thought into reality. It could be that we saw someone who was wearing leather and lusted after them – or wanted to be them. I think in all of our roles, there is an element of identifying that which we seek in the outside world and turning into a goal or fantasy of our own.
I think many of my kinks, sexual desires, drives, and passions started in this way – as a fantasy or amusement in my mind. I don’t know if it’s common, but I have always had a very active fantasy life. When I fall asleep at night, I almost always play out certain fantasies until I fall asleep. If it’s a particularly good fantasy, I may end up staying awake for hours on edge – unable to let go of the possibilities inherent in that fantasy.
Michael Bronski’s essay was very impactful for me because it spoke to and about a moment I experienced, not too many years ago, when I too found that the image of who I desired to be for so long had been manifest in the real world.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an image of myself as a Leatherman. It’s part biker dude, black leather jacket, collar popped, knee high boots, leather chaps around muscled legs. It’s part Tom of Finland/Kake with Sam Browne belt, gloves, cigarette, leaning up against a wall. It’s the stance, the power, the macho energy, the manhood, the fuck-it-all attitude. It’s the rebel, the bad boy, the cocky, aggressive man.
These are all things I would never use to describe myself. When this personal fantasy took its biggest hold on me – as a 12-13 year old adolescent entering puberty – I felt that I was absolutely the opposite of all these things.
I knew that I wanted to be less girly, more manly; less shy, more aggressive; less awkward, more confident. But I didn’t know how to be those things – they seemed so out of reach.
The image of this Leatherman was who I wanted to be – and who I wanted to be with. The same things that I fantasied about being were the things that turned me on in the pictures and images I found on AOL or CompuServe (yeah, I’m a 90s baby!)
Growing up as a Leather baby in Utah, finding mostly my own way into the kink/BDSM/leather world of Salt Lake left me thinking that maybe that image, that ideal, the fantasy (of who I wanted to fuck AND who I wanted to be) was something that would never really become a reality. I struggled with all this throughout my teens years and even into my 20s. I still lacked the ability, skills, self-projection, awareness to see how that image, that fantasy could become manifest.
10 years later, having lived my nightly fantasies for more years that I could count, I remember the day when I had just finished dressing for a leather event in town and I looked in the mirror and that fantasy man was there – right there – standing in front of me.
It was such an amazing and unexpected moment. I had accomplished bringing that very personal fantasy into the world. Standing in front of me was the man I had dreamed of being AND the man I’d wanted to fuck for most of my adult life.
I don’t know what shocked me about that moment more – that what I thought was contained deep inside me was now manifest in the world, or that I didn’t even know that over the years, that Leatherman had been working his way out into the world.
Thinking back on it, I feel that actually, I was doing exactly the work I needed to be doing to bring that Leatherman to life. And he was helping me more than I knew throughout the early years of my life.
The first step to bringing him into the world was getting comfortable with myself and admitting what I wanted. Without knowing it, my inner Leatherman was who I drew upon when I needed confidence, or power. When I needed to stand in front of a group of people, it was that inner fantasy that reminded me to stand up tall, talk loud, command the room. I didn’t quite know it was happening but, by carrying him around in my mind for so long, I slowly became him.
The second step was being a part of a community (thank god for blackBOOTS, that came around in my mid-30s) that allowed me the power and the space to bring that Leatherman out, into the world. The Salt Lake Kink community that I finally allowed myself to be a part of in my 30s became a huge source of encouragement and allowed that inner Leatherman to truly be born into the world – and in the presence of others who would encourage, appreciate, and enjoy him as much as I did.
So, for me, I agree that the potent image of who we want to be can be intricately linked with who we want to fuck. The negotiation between those two can result in real change and growth; bringing new things into the world that we thought would only exist in our fantasies.