Don Thompson
May 31, 2006

LEATHER ETIQUETTE

A lot of non-leather people donít realize this but there are two kinds of leather lifestyle, old leather and new leather.

Old leather goes back to the beginning of the leather community and in those days things were much stricter. Those people who considered themselves The Old Guard were quite often military men who had been demobilized after World War II when the leather community was first getting organized and they brought some military traditions with them into the community. Prior to going into the forces gay men often lived lives isolated from any particular community but once they were in the forces they found that they were in the company of other men 24/7 and there was a fair amount of bonding that went on, together with an almost total reliance on each other. You had to trust the guy next to you in the battle and to know that he could be totally relied upon. In such circumstances absolute discipline was necessary.

When the war ended many, if not most of these men retained their patriotic fervor (youíll notice that we still have the presentation of colors and the singing of the national anthem at most major leather events). Military uniforms were exchanged for uniforms of a different kind, made of leather and a guy in full leather is in fact in a uniform of a kind, often complete with the peaked military-style cap, not to mention those men who actually joined uniform clubs (like the Booths and Breeches club in Palm Springs or the Phoenix Uniform Club in San Francisco). Non-club members also often wear military garb at leather events.

Many men entering the leather community also brought the military traditions of discipline with them, including those of respect for rank and obedience to the rules. So we had this community where assertive tops were addressed as "Sir" or "Master" and boys were seen but not heard. They stood quietly in the background in "at ease" pose, legs slightly apart, hands behind the back, head often bowed. One still sees this occasionally at major leather events and there are still a few Masters who insist on this kind of subservience from their boys. However, Old Guard seems to be passing away. In fact, in a speech at IML a couple of years ago former IML Guy Baldwin is reported to have stated that in his opinion, Old Guard was dead.

So what is New Guard? It is a much more relaxed style. When submissives self- identify as boys more often than not they refuse to be addressed as "boy." They are often not at all submissive in attitude and consider themselves, while sexually bottoms, to be in no sense subservient. Tops tend not to insist on the protocol that once existed. Clothing is different. Far fewer tops wear the biker cap and those that do often do so only because they have lost their hair! Boys often wear leather kilts or other non-traditional attire. Attitudes are far different; elaborate respect in some cases has gone out of the window. Boys speak up now. They tend not to address the tops as "Sir" or even as "Daddy." The boy movement is growing; there are boys of Leather groups in many cities that present their own events and fundraisers. Our own boys of Leather here in Palm Springs are very active, presenting fundraisers and other events and in no sense relying on their Masters or Daddies or partners to do anything. In fact many of them are not in partnerships of any kind, and are perfectly happy running their own lives. And more power to them, I say!

Donít forget to vote next week. We will be electing a Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General and so on as well as a Senator and Assembly person among others. Remember those people who have been firmly against us and get rid of them. This is not a political column so I wonít go into details, but just remember who you are and who our friends are when you vote.