Life in Leather

Finding Purpose in the Bonds of Community

Interviews by Yusef Najafi, Will O'Bryan and Doug Rule
Published on January 14, 2010, 6:09am | Comments

It's the roar of motorcycles on 14th Street. The crisp smack of leather on flesh. All those leatherfolk standing in front of the Washington Plaza Hotel on Thomas Circle. You know what time it is. Welcome to Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend 2010.

There are a number of ways to quantify MAL weekend. There's the notorious 1976 leather cocktail party at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel that was the forebear to the massive event seen today. The Centaur Motorcycle Club (MC), turning 40 this year, now runs the weekend (see Brotherhood of Love). The weekend has turned out a Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather since 1985. You could count attendance or income generated for the city. What really matters are not the figures and dates, but the soul of the event.

And that soul belongs to those who create and attend MAL Weekend. These thousands of leather enthusiasts -- or these days it could be sports gear, neoprene, or a variety of other fabrics or fetishes -- have sensibilities and stories about their own leather experiences and about the larger community. Speaking with a slice of this life, it's nearly impossible not to see this community as one that values an unmatched camaraderie, that celebrates philanthropy, and that ignites the kinkiest desires in those who even dare get close.

NAME: Mary Elizabeth Boyd

AGE: 69
HOME: Arlington

LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: "First Lady of Leather" (unofficial). DC Boys of Leather, honorary member.

Mary Elizabeth Boyd
Mary Elizabeth Boyd
(Photo by Todd Franson)

What was your initiation into the leather community?

I have always, from a child, had some interest in leather, like boots and leather apparel. I guess it started as Western leather and then moved on to motorcycles. I lived with a Spartan Motorcycle Club member for some years, and then I went to MAL and to IML. Everything took off from there.

That was over 20 years ago. Within months after I was at IML I was being invited to other things. A lot of people ask me, "Being an older female, how can you be accepted into all of these things?" Well, it just clicked. I was born to be there.

Are you strictly leather, or do you further define yourself?

Very, very leather! My age tells you that. [Laughs.] Other gear is going to be much younger folks.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

I was dancing at the Lost and Found with a leatherman. And he had a small, leather type of a whip hooked to his belt. As we were dancing it would go between my legs and hit on the inside of my legs and I thought, "Oh, my. There's something to this!''

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

I have a passion for the leather lifestyle. In the leather community, when you talk about diversity people usually talk about women/men, age, black/white, that type of thing. The diversity in the leather community that I'm speaking of is a diversity of culture, a diversity of professions. I like that.

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

Yeah, but I won't tell ya. It's my private, fulfilling moment. I can smile about it the rest of my life.

What is the future of the leather community?

All of us who have been involved for a long time are termed by the community "old guard." Some of us don't like it, and some of us are okay with it. It means we never miss a stroke of protocol. I think we will be a shadow in the annals of time. I think that's where we will end up. The new members of the community will remember us as their fantasy. I respect them moving into their own world of fetishes – sports figures, foot fetishes, all types of fetishes that you see, that people wear. But I'm still proud of my basically old-guard lifestyle that I've lived.

NAME: Bill Cappello

AGE: 55
HOME: Arlington
LEATHER AFFILIATION: DC Eagle, primary owner, employee since 1981.

Bill Cappello
Bill Cappello
(Photo by Todd Franson)

What was your initiation into the leather community?

My roommate was a sailor and took me to the Eagle for the first time in '78. I just liked the whole idea of the community. I was in the military and had to be hush-hush about it. When I got out of the military in 1978, I started going to the Triangle, a leather bar in Denver.

[Back in D.C.] I went out and bought myself a motorcycle and learned how to ride on my own so I could be a member of a leather club. That was 1982. I wanted to be a member of the Spartan Motorcycle Club.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

The first time I rode my motorcycle home to visit, I woke up and my kid brother was trying my chaps on in the mirror. He had 'em on backward so I had to show him how to put them on. [Laughs.] Today he's a big Harley man who runs the Sturgis [Motorcycle Rally] and likes wearing our DC Eagle pins on his vest.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

It's a great crowd to be around -- we're very supportive of each other. We're all into individuality, we're free spirits. The whole idea of the leather community is being supportive of men who want to walk to a different beat. The younger generation might see it as more of a fashion statement, but it's not to a lot of us.

Once you've got it in your blood, you'll always have it in your blood. You don't have to be in leather 24 hours a day to be a leather man.

What is the future of the leather community?

I see it continuing. It's here to stay. Lately it seems like it's building. Every generation has a new generation coming up behind it. I'm pretty proud of the new guys. They feel secure and they don't have to be pretentious.

NAME: Mindy Chateauvert

AGE: 51
HOME: Washington
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS: Centaur MC, member. Leather Archives & Museum, Chicago, board member.

What was your initiation into the leather community?

Mindy Chateauvert
Mindy Chateauvert
(Photo by Todd Franson)

One of the things that's unusual is me being a leatherwoman, dyke, somewhat femme, and being a member of a gay men's leather club. It took me a long time of being around a lot of different segments of the leather community, being in and out of numerous events and organizations, before I actually found the place that I felt most at home. That was in [the Centaur MC].

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

It's fun! [Laughs.] I mean, come on, we all need recreation in some form or the other.

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

I'm a historian, too, so stories about realizing that there are things about leather that have happened in the past, more like the discovery of the history -- that's really interesting to me.

Continuing to find through my work at the Leather Archives & Museum new communities, new historical interpretations of what we might today call leather that sometimes happened decades or maybe a century or more ago that really show that this is not some sort of post-modern, post-war kind of thing. There have always been, in terms of the history of sexuality and the history of human interaction, relationships that are based on what we now define as BDSM. Those [relationships] were pleasurable and consensual, not situations of exploitation.

What is the future of the leather community?

I think it's assured. The people I know that identify as leather, including myself, have no problem with and are proud of being leather people. We're getting rather ticked off at the other members of the gay community who want to define normal gayness as vanilla. It's a question of when the gay community is going to stop defining itself so narrowly, or being so willing to keep leather people out of it.

NAME: Lewis Curtis

AGE: 42
HOME: Rosslyn
LEATHER AFFILIATION: Panther L/L, Atlanta, honorary member.

Lewis Curtis and Patrick Grady (right)
Lewis Curtis and Patrick Grady (right)
(Photo by Ward Morrison )

What was your initiation into the leather community?

Honestly, it was probably just walking into the DC Eagle well over 15 years ago. I've always been fascinated with that Tom of Finland look. That's always the type of man that I've been interested in.

I do a lot of traveling and I went to Atlanta 10 years ago for a business trip, and I walked into the Heretic in my leather chaps and a jock strap. The doorman greeted me and said, "I'm going to let you in, but the next time you come in you got to have a strap down the back." That following Friday night, everybody knew my name, and who I was. I was the guy from D.C., and they really made me feel like I was part of the family.

Are you strictly leather?

Leather is a part of my entire world. I'm also into a little bit of rubber and latex. I like the feel of it.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

At work, as a human-resource specialist, I was involved in some meetings. It was around the same time as IML in Chicago, so I had to take some time to go there. I was explaining to them where I was going and actually showed them some pictures when I came back. I was pretty comfortable.

Another great story is we had an agency conference in New Orleans one year and I always take my leather with me no matter where I travel. So I was actually walking down the street in the French Quarter in my leather chaps and a vest and I passed some executives [from my office].

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

It is an extension of my family. I know that if I need something I can call somebody and they'll be there for me. It's more than just the sex part of being in the leather scene. It really is a great community.

What is the future of the leather community?

I'm hoping it isn't dying out. It gives me hope every time one of these events like MAL comes up, because there's a huge turnout. I would like to see more of that.

NAME: Patrick Grady

AGE: 48
HOME: Alexandria
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: Mr. Double L, 2003, Rehoboth Beach, Del. Centaur MC, member, past vice president, past tribune.

What was your initiation into the leather community?

MAL Weekend 1997, when I worked at the Washington Plaza as director of catering. I'd never seen so much leather in my life. I heard a gay men's group was coming in, so I ordered all these extra cordials. Of course, we didn't sell a dime of them. We didn't know what to expect at all. I fell for the Centaurs that weekend.

Are you strictly leather?

No, just leather. I enjoy wearing leather.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

Oh, no, no.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

Most of the men in the leather community are very real. And they're quite accepting. The community has been very good to me. It's filled with men and women who are so appreciative of your efforts, and who will band together to help, whether it's a friend in need or to raise money. It's a huge family. You've got some crazy great-aunts and some shy cousins, but it's a huge, warm, wonderful family.

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

Winning the Double L title. I never expected to win. I was a "baby Centaur." I'd just joined the club, and here I was at this contest at the beach. It was magical, fun, hot. A great time.

What is the future of the leather community?

It has to grow, accepting the younger, crazier-looking kids. They're young and they do things differently. You just have to accept everyone for their quirks. You have to change to survive.

NAME: José Gutierrez

AGE: 46
HOME: Washington
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: International Leather Boy, 2002. DC Boys of Leather, past member.

José Gutierrez
José Gutierrez
(Photo by Todd Franson)

What was your initiation into the leather community?

I was curious to learn more about the leather community, so I went to the DC Eagle in 1995. I went by myself. I started going there and making friends. Then the DC Boys of Leather accepted me as a member. I identify as a leatherboy. I like to serve the community.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

With some Latino friends, I had a great opportunity to come out to them. They thought the leather community was not respectful, but they accepted it. In fact, they asked me to translate some of the leather information into Spanish.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

The sense of being a big family, the unity. The leather community is one of the most organized communities in the country. It's people with good hearts.

After I won my title, I raised a lot of money for organizations around the country and that made me feel really good.

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

Wow. I guess one of my favorite moments was when Frank Nowicki said my name when I won the title. The moment of suspense. When he said that, it was a brilliant moment.

Can I share another moment? In 2003, the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago asked me to volunteer with them for a weekend. I feel really good when I'm serving my community.

What is the future of the leather community?

The leather community is one of the most important communities in D.C. and in the country, so I think the future is going to be bigger, more productive. And with more straight people as well.

NAME: JP Halford

AGE: 78
HOME: Washington
LEATHER AFFILIATION: Centaur MC, past president, member.

JP Halford
JP Halford
(Photo by Todd Franson)

What was your initiation into the leather community?

I was practically born into it. My mother and father were both in a motorcycle club back in the 1920s in England. My earliest memories of my parents were in a motorbike with a sidecar. The smell of my mother's leather coat and my father's leather outfit -- that was really one of my first real beginnings. I had a bike back in the 1950s when I was in England.

When I came to Washington nearly 50 years ago I met several people who were interested in motorbikes. In 1971 the Centaur Motorcycle Club formed here and I knew one or two people who belonged to that. My lover at that time was not in the least bit interested in bikes or leather, but after he died, 25 years ago, I joined the club.

Are you strictly leather?

That's always interesting, an excursion. It's always good to explore. One should always be curious.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

Not really, because it was step-by-step as I was growing up. The whole business [of leather] was no surprise to me and I sort of stepped into it bit by bit. I never really came out to my parents. My father knew, because on one of my little excursions I got to know a band leader in England who was gay, and my father seemed to know more about him than I did.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

The involvement, the support, the events. Doing things for the community, raising money for charity.

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

I think it was Detroit, April Fool's Day in 1990. Several clubs from all over the country, especially the East Coast, were staying at this hotel. There was a luncheon downtown. A whole bunch of leathermen dressed up in drag as waitresses, in brown outfits with handkerchiefs and nameplates. It included some people I really shouldn't name. They corralled some of the full leathermen to form a sort of guard, going down the street from the hotel to the bar where this lunch was going to be given. People came out of the shops and applauded us. It was very well-received. Nobody threw stones.

What is the future of the leather community?

That is a great puzzle. I don't know. I think there will always be bikers, but there are fewer bike clubs now. There are fewer events to go to, and the general age of the people is higher than it used to be.

One thing that has really altered everything is the fact that in the old days, in the '70s and '80s and part of the '90s, you could go to a bar and meet people like yourself. Nowadays you go online. There is no mystery, there is no mystique, there's no secrecy. And that has changed the whole scene. The art of conversation, of course, has been on the wane for a good many years, what with Twitter and tweet and God-knows-what. I have no part of that.

It's trying to interest young people and bring new people into clubs, because the younger people are the lifeblood of the clubs.

NAME: Kip Hollar

AGE: 33
HOME: Baltimore
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather, 2009. Mr. Maryland Leather, 2008, first runner-up.< /strong>

Kip Hollar
Kip Hollar
(Photo by Ward Morrison )

What was your initiation into the leather community?

A friend of mine is in the ShipMates, a leather club in Baltimore, and another friend of mine is in COMMAND, another leather club in Baltimore. But I never inquired too much into it. I knew them outside of the leather scene.

At Baltimore Pride 2008, at the festival, COMMAND and ShipMates had joined at a booth at the festival and they were doing a fundraiser. I think you would pay $5 and they would dress you up in leather and take your picture. [My friends] kept egging me on to do it. I really wasn't interested. But they kept pushing me and finally I did it. Once they had me dressed up in the leather, I knew that that was me. Once I had it on, felt it, saw it, I was like, "I know what I've been missing."

Are you strictly leather?

I do have an interest in rubber. There's a whole laundry list of fetishes, but leather is my primary focus.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

I was at Baltimore Pride this year wearing a harness and a jock and my [MAL] sash, and a group of college-aged girls came up to me and asked to have their picture taken with me. I agreed. One of them asked me if I was my sister's brother. I immediately texted my sister, because she had no idea. "Just to let you know, I ran into your friends at an event." I was being very vague about it. "You might see pictures of me." And she said, "I already know, they're on Facebook." [Laughs.] That was the end of the conversation.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

The brotherhood. It's a unified group. Everybody has each other's back. There's a sense of understanding and belonging. As far as my attraction to leather, it would be the look, the feel, the taste, and the smell.

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

I was competing in IML this past May. I was trying to maneuver through the crowd and I fell into a fountain inside the host hotel, built into the wall outside the ballroom. I fell in front of two of the judges and both the emcees. I was mortified. It was in the middle of the competition, and I was ready to just go back to my room, pack everything up and go home. But it ended up being a blessing in disguise, because it had happened in front of [those officials]. That put a stop to the rumor mill that I was drunk and fell into the fountain.

What is the future of the leather community?

The younger generation. It is a brotherhood, and it is a continuation. If we just rely on the existing members of the community and the older generation, it will die off and the tribe will end. We need to welcome and encourage new, younger members of the community to get involved in the leather scene, to carry on the traditions.

NAME: JoAnn ''Joansie'' Kokindo

AGE: 68
HOME: Arlington
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: Ms. Baltimore Eagle, 2003, 2004. Highwaymen TNT, member. DC Boys of Leather, associate member. COMMAND, associate member.

JoAnn ''Joansie'' Kokindo
JoAnn ''Joansie'' Kokindo
(Photo by Todd Franson)

What was your initiation into the leather community?

As far as the D.C. leather community, 10 or 12 years ago attending MAL. It was an experience. I don't know that I was readily accepted at that time. Females were kind of low on the totem pole and few and far between. But eventually I became really comfortable with it all.

Are you strictly leather, or do you further define yourself?

I define myself in other ways. Although I love leather, I'm also a uniform freak. I love uniforms. And in general, at times, fetish clothing. It's all about the clothes right? [Laughs.]

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

Coming out to my family was probably the biggest one for me. My adult daughter dropped over to my house one night when I had three bois – b-o-i-s – there. We were all dressed in combat boots and BDUs [battle dress uniforms]. She walked in and just looked them up and down and very calmly said, "She wouldn't let me dress like that when I was in college."

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

I bought a long, leather dress, in Highwaymen colors, and a friend and I went into this place, this tiny restaurant to have dinner. It was during MAL a couple years ago. And all of these men in the Onyx club stood up and applauded me. That was really a very cool thing. I was blushing.

When I wear the dress at MAL, men come up to me and ask me to have their picture taken with me. My club has some really good-looking, built guys and they'll say, "How come you get your picture taken with them but not me?"

What is the future of the leather community?

I'm hoping it's going to continue. We're not getting a tremendous number of young people in. I'm not really sure if that's because people are hooking up on the Internet more and don't see a need to go to a bar, don't see a need to join a club. Or maybe the clubs are so established and so cliquey that they're not really welcoming and open to people that are younger. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will continue.

NAME: David Merrill

AGE: 35
HOME: Washington
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: Mr. Leatherbike Week 1996, Daytona Beach, Fla. Chicago Hellfire Club, member. CODE, organizer. SigMa, gold key master.

David Merrill
David Merrill
(Photo by Todd Franson)

What was your initiation into the leather community?

I was kind of initiated by a master who took me under his wing and trained me. This was in D.C. in '93 or '94. I was like 17 when I first got into it.

But when I was 13, there as a 12-year-old boy that lived next to me, and we used to play "cowboys and Indians," which basically involved me capturing him and tying him up. We played "cops and robbers," which basically involved me capturing him and tying him up. We'd played "soldiers," which basically involved me capturing him and tying him up.

It's as much as part of my sexuality as [being] gay is. I didn't decide to be into leather anymore than I decided to be gay. It's what makes my dick hard.

Are you strictly leather, or do you further define yourself?

I've been a master for 12 years. I've had a slave for nine years. I was never really a slave. In old guard leather the tradition is that you start out that way, and that's how you train.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

It's just a group of people that are like me. It's just like [asking], "What fulfills you about being a part of the gay community?" Nothing, really, except that they're like you, and they understand you. As individuals, they're fun, they're kinky, [and] they have sick, twisted minds, which I love. As a community, they're very generous, very friendly, very accepting.

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

I had just turned 21, been in the scene for about three or four years. I was at the Eagle, hanging with a friend of mine. I was doing the top thing and the bottom thing sometimes. That particular night, there was this really hot top there. He put me in a dog cage. I was wearing a jock strap and handcuffs -- something like that -- and my friend Tommy comes up to me and says, "David do you trust me?" I said, "Yes." And he says, "Okay then, just go with it."

Next thing I know, six guys come in and pick up the cage with me in it, take it outside and load it in the back of a truck and start driving away. I'm sitting in the back of the truck -- "Oh my God, where am I fucking going?" -- wondering what was going to happen to me. So they drive around for like 20 minutes and then stop. They go back and they open the truck, and we're right back at the Eagle. It was all just a mind fuck. It was so hot.

What is the future of the leather community?

We're going through a lot of transitions right now. Like every community, things are always evolving. We're leaving behind some of the structure, some of the rules that used to apply.

It used to be if you were a boy, you couldn't wear a hat. If you did, it had to be a boy's hat. If you wore a T-shirt, it had to be a black T-shirt, it couldn't be a white T-shirt. The rules were very, very specific.

Also, just the opportunities for expression are so much wider. Now we have the whole rubber scene, skinhead scene, athletic gear and military uniforms. I'm kind of into all of them.

NAME: Frank Nowicki

AGE: 53
HOME: Washington
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather, 1993. Centaur MC, fraternal member. Motor Sport Club, Amsterdam, member. Utica Tris MC, honorary member. Potomac MC, honorary member. Lords of Leather, honorary member. Leather Archives & Museum, Chicago, affiliated.

What was your initiation into the leather community?

Frank Nowicki
Frank Nowicki
(Photo by Ward Morrison )

My first experience with the leather community was during the first March on Washington in 1979. I was with a group of friends riding a 1962 Panhead Harley-Davidson down 9th Street. We stopped at the original Eagle in Exile. It was there that I met Paul Criss and his partner Dick Cogan, Lou Ritz, Tony Bacharach and Lou Tuck. They took me under their wings and kind of adopted me. I would end up living with Dick and Paul. It was my friendship with these two men that led to further introductions into the club scene, which at that time was very strong and supportive of newcomers to the leather community.

Are you strictly leather?

I find that when you place definitions on specific likes or dislikes, it limits your ability to be open to future experiences. I enjoy all aspects of the community. Uniforms hold a particular fondness to me. I have supported the rubber community with emceeing and auctioning at many of their events. I do find the gear fetish community especially hot. Being a jock in high school and college, it brings back great memories and fantasies I had as a younger man.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

Well, on a friendship level it would be the March on Washington in 1979 at The Eagle in Exile. On a sexual level it would be in the downstairs vault area of the Exile. On a titleholder level it would be helping out behind the scenes at the first MAL weekend in 1985 and culminating in my experience in 1993 when I won the title.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

The constant and proven friendships that have been such an important part of my life. Those very friendships are an integral part of my community activities and provide me with a dependable constant. The leather community is typically at the forefront of support when any negative issues arise against basic human rights. The leather community was the first to organize support groups and fundraising vehicles to assist our members afflicted with HIV/AIDS even before there was a name for the disease. The community always bands together to form a credible and respected force in support of any worthwhile cause, or against those that would do us harm. These attributes stand paramount in my estimation of our group.

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

I will always remember the night I stepped down from my year as Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather in 1993. It was my chance to say farewell to the many family and friends that had such an influential impact on my title year. These same people are still an important part of my life. And when my mother ran up on the stage at the end, there was not a dry eye in the whole house. The Centaurs lined the runway with a champagne toast. It was truly a magical night.

What is the future of the leather community?

Technology provides an efficient vehicle to reach others sharing the same interests and proclivities, [but] it also removes the physical human contact I feel is so important in establishing a "connection" between two people. The hallowed traditions that have made this community so strong are not being passed on as effectively. [We need to] utilize the technology of the present to disseminate our history, accomplishments and diversity, which have made this community such a viable force.

NAME: David Phillips

AGE: 44
HOME: College Park, Md.
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: None.

David Phillips
David Phillips
(Photo by Jeff Code)

What was your initiation into the leather community?

During my freshman year of college, Labor Day weekend in Houston, I met an older gentleman at a bar that's been long gone, called The Drum. This gentleman taught me to be a fisting top. Friday evening, I was a novice. By Sunday evening, I was a pro. It was like, wow, that was interesting. It was a new experience for me. It was enlightening to me at the same time it was a bonding experience.

Are you strictly leather, or do you further define yourself?

Leather is the basic term that I use. I don't have an attachment to uniforms or particular roles, though I do tend to identify as a daddy. In addition, I often use the terms "leather shaman" and "kink evangelist," because of my interest in how sexual experiences integrate with the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual dimensions of our lives, and my encouragement for people to explore that space.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

I'd been out to my family as gay since I was 19. I was 22 when I bought a leather jacket. My grandmother was not surprised, but it was interesting for her to take that in and identify my sexual interest just because of that one item of clothing. It was the connection between that and some of the people I had dated. She saw it and said, "I saw that jacket in there. Does that mean you're one of those people, too?" I said, "Well, if you're talking about people who like wearing leather, yeah." She was very perceptive.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

The only satisfaction is being honest and open about who I am. Particularly within the larger leather community, there is this tension between this fierce spirit of individualism -- the environment in which I came out -- and the concept of needing validation by being accepted as a member of a club or going to right events.

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

I would get dangerously close to outing certain people. There are some interesting people I've had experiences with. The one thing I've found the most intriguing about the sexual underbelly of Washington is how so many powerful people who seem pretty tightly wound on the surface really want to explore some sharply contrasting roles in private. That has never ceased to amaze me.

NAME: Steve Ranger

AGE: 45
HOME: Washington
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather, 2005. Mr. Double L, 2004, Rehoboth Beach, Del. Centaur MC, member. DC Eagle Animal Kingdom, gryphon. Mama's Enigma, member. Breeches & Leather Uniform Fanclub (BLUF), member.

Steve Ranger
Steve Ranger
(Photo by Todd Franson)

What was your initiation into the leather community?

The DC Eagle, about 18 years ago. I hadn't been out all that long. My partner was taking us around to the various bars to see what I thought of them. I immediately sort of bonded to the Eagle and we started hanging out there most of the time, so I got to know a lot of people. After we had been going there quite a while, my partner got me a leather vest. It's the only old piece of leather I still have. I donated everything else, but I held onto that.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

The only thing that comes to mind is why I ran for a title 13 years after I got involved in the community. I'm basically a very shy guy. Most people don't believe that, but I am. In 2003 I severely injured my neck. I stood a really good chance of not recovering well from it, or not recovering at all. I made a promise to myself that I would get over it and be more public about my leather interest and involvement, and made a promise to myself that I would run for a title. That's why I ran for my first title at the Double L in 2004. For me that was sort of a huge coming out. It was something that I was into, but very private and quiet about. Now I walk out my front door fully clad in leather.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

A sense of camaraderie, not only to my club members and being part of the Centaur Motorcycle Club, but also people I've met all over the world from various leather events. There's a sense of acceptance that you feel when you're around other [leather] people. You feel that you can be very open and frank with them.

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

I could come up with a few you couldn't print. [Laughs.] Being asked to join the Centaur Motorcycle Club was a real surprise. It's an invitation-only club, and I'm actually the first former Mr. MAL to be asked to join as a full member of the club. I was very surprised and honored that they asked me to join right after I stepped down as Mr. MAL -- literally. It was right after I finished sashing the new one.

What is the future of the leather community?

If we want to continue to attract and encourage young people to be open about their kinkiness, we really have to stick to the core of the leather community: the concept of acceptance. So if I expect you to accept that I want to wear this leather, and that I want to be involved in kinky sex, who am I to say that you shouldn't do that while dressed like a football player? Or like a squirrel or a robot or whatever gets your rocks off? I think we need to continue to be more and more accepting. Some people get really hung up on the name "leather community," but to me it's more about the acceptance of, hey, if that's what turns you on, fine. We need to accept younger people for who they are now -- just like we want them to accept who we are -- and encourage them. Maybe over time they'll get more into leather or maybe not. But I think that's sort of a minor issue.

NAME: H. Alexander Satorie-Robinson

AGE: 51
HOME: Baltimore
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: Mr. DC Drummer, 2000. Mr. Ebony Leather, 1999, Chicago, alternate. Highwaymen TNT, past president. ONYX, associate member.

H. Alexander Satorie-Robinson
H. Alexander Satorie-Robinson
(Photo by Todd Franson)

What was your initiation into the leather community?

When I really started coming into my own as an openly gay man living in San Francisco, one of the first individuals I went out with was a leatherman. In addition to just finding him physically attractive, I found someone in jeans and chaps and black leather jacket appealing.

He took me to Ramrod. I was enticed and intrigued and turned on, and thought i t was great. And I felt horribly out of place. I remember feeling as though I had on a dress or something. I remember the feeling of "I don't fit into this crowd at all." Not only that, when I walked in, there was no other black person in the bar.

There were times when I wasn't certain whether some of the standoffishness I was experiencing was related to the color of my skin. But I quickly overcame that because I was with someone who was well known and respected within the clan. Given that I was with him, there was some immediate acceptance.

In the tradition, he gave me my first leather: a motorcycle jacket. That was probably about six or eight months later.

Are you strictly leather?

I'm a "sir," in that I have a family, people I have an ongoing relationship with, people who are part of my tribe, my circle.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

The most significant story was when I competed in 1999 for Mr. Ebony Leather. There was a photographer there. He took a photograph during the jockstrap/physique portion of the contest, which then ended up in a magazine. More people saw it than I would have imagined. It was GBM (Gay Black Men), issue No. 11. My parents didn't see it, but they were told about it by a cousin.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

The interpersonal relationships that I've had, the support that I feel -- I mean, I'm an individual who for many years was estranged from his biological family. So the leather community for many years, that's who I celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays with. That was the family. When I had a problem or challenge, that was who I turned to. It was also a way I could give back. Clubs assist club brothers and sisters when they have emergencies. It's all a part of the leather scene.

What is the future of the leather community?

If you had asked me that question maybe two years ago, I think I would have been very pessimistic. The community has diversified even more. It's now more people who like sports gear, or rubber. The Internet had done a lot to keep people out of the bars, which was a central meeting place for the community. With the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we lost so many of the folks who were passing the traditions down, I felt pessimistic about the future.

One of the things I've seen and been a part of in the past couple years is mentoring young people who are interested in the community, interested in what it has to offer. Just in the leather title scene, in our region we have quite a few 20-somethings that are titleholders. And we're getting more of that. That makes me feel very optimistic. We need that young energy. I do think it will continue -- and continue to change, of course. But what makes it what it is, is that tribe-like camaraderie, our affinity for the erotic and the exotic, and the sense of masculinity, and of power and control that comes from being on a motorcycle. All those things are lasting and every generation is going to have a slightly different take on how they express themselves about it, but I think it will be a lasting part of our culture.

NAME: Marc Sherkness-Carcione

AGE: 26
HOME: Laurel, Md.
LEATHER AFFILIATION: DC Boys of Leather, secretary and first lady.

Marc Sherkness-Carcione
Marc Sherkness-Carcione
(Photo by DC Boys of Leather)

What was your initiation into the leather community?

It was the first time I met the DC Boys of Leather. It was at the Baltimore Eagle. It was one of my first dates with Jason [Carcione]. By the end of the night I was hooked up to an "electro (stimulation) box" at the bar. That was Sept. 25, 2006.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

Friends, they kind of knew. When I first came down to D.C. -- I was down there for college -- I was very "twinkie." A lot of my friends say they couldn't really picture me as that. When I came out as leather, they said, "Yeah, that pretty much fits."

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

Ever since joining the DC Boys of Leather and the leather community in general, I'm much happier. I've found a lot of great, amazing friends through the leather community. One of the things I'm most grateful for is that I started this young.

What is the future of the leather community?

I think it's going to change. Whatever happens, it's going to be good for the community. It's going to go where it needs to go. I really enjoy seeing a lot of younger people getting into leather. Mr. Maryland Leather 2010 is 28, one of my close friends. He has an HIV blog and has done amazing things for both the D.C. and Baltimore communities. It's amazing to see young people step into that light and be able to fill those shoes.

NAME: Justin B. Terry-Smith

AGE: 30
HOME: Laurel, Md.
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: Mr. Maryland Leather, 2010. Onyx, associate. DC Boys of Leather, associate.

Justin B. Terry-Smith
Justin B. Terry-Smith
(Photo by Todd Franson)

What was your initiation into the leather community?

When I was a child, I found out that I liked bondage because either I was letting people tie me up or because we were playing little "cops and robber" games. I found it a little arousing. On top of that, I was a little bit of a bully. I actually liked beating people up, taking control of things, and making sure that I was the one that had the say-so about what everybody else was doing. As an adult I have a husband, but I also have a leatherboy. That works out for me, because I'm in control.

Are you strictly leather?

I'm strictly a leatherman, but on top of that there are other fetishes that I have, like wrestling. I have three singlets at home, and I love to pin people down, and things like that. I like to fight for control, especially if I'm fighting with another dom [dominant].

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

My mother and my stepfather kind of knew that I was a little on the kinky side when my mother came to visit and she was like, "What's in there?" It was my dungeon, basically, where I have a sling, whips, chains, floggers, rubber gloves for fisting, a couple of collars, restraints, dildos, condoms, lube, Boy Butter, toys, butt plugs -- anything under the sun. I [told her], "Just another closet." She was like, "Do I not want to go in there? Just tell me what's in there." I told her.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

One thing is the unconditional love that I get from the leather community. I wasn't judged. I wasn't looked down upon because I was younger. People saw potential in me when I walked in. They grabbed me and took me by the hand, showed me a path of enlightenment and understanding because they themselves have been through what I have.

What is the future of the leather community?

I think that it's going to live long, because I'm looking at all these titleholders and it's kind of great to look and see where it's going. I was in Toronto for Mr. Leatherman Toronto, and the titleholder there was the youngest titleholder they've ever had. He was 24. The younger generation is coming up and we're finally being given the torch from the older generation saying, "Here, we've paved your way, now it's your time to step forward."

[Youth are involved] now more than ever, especially when we have events like CODE that include the younger generation, that aren't necessarily leather, but are kinky.

NAME: Jackie Thompson

AGE: "I don't really remember. It's over 35 and under 40."
HOME: Washington
LEATHER AFFILIATIONS/TITLES: Ms. Capital Leather Pride, 2009. Highwaymen TNT, road captain. KINK women and transfolk play party, creator and co-host.

Jackie Thompson
Jackie Thompson
(Photo by Ward Morrison )

What was your initiation into the leather community?

At Tracks. It was a spillover from that Crucible party they used to have. I was with my aunt, and a woman walked up to me. She said, "My slave, that guy in the red tutu over there, one of his fantasies is to be dominated by two black women. Would you all do me a favor and help me out? Just humiliate him." We could do that. I borrowed lipstick from someone and wrote "slut" on his forehead, paraded him around. That was my introduction.

It stirred something because I've always been bossy, dominating. It felt natural, having him in submissive positions following me around. The shoe definitely fit.

Are you strictly leather, or do you further define yourself?

Leather covers it, but I'm also into BDSM, a player. Sometimes there's a fine line between people wearing leather as a lifestyle, and people who like to give and receive pain, who may actually not wear leather, who don't like leather.

Do you have a leather coming-out story?

We had a costume contest at work. It was the same day my "sash husband" was being honored. I was already planning to go to the ceremony in leather, so I just decided to wear leather for the entire day. So I came out to my co-workers -- government employees -- in full leather. I wore it the entire day. I remember my boss coming up to me and asking me where I got the sash. I told her I earned it. "So it's really not a costume for you?" No, I won the contest too. I got an iPod Shuffle.

What satisfaction do you get from belonging to the leather community?

It's about community service as well as brotherhood. There were a lot of things missing in my life that I wouldn't have found if I wasn't part of the leather community. Things that have shown me the different strengths that I have. The friendships, the relationships. I get a lot out of being a part of the leather community. I hope I give some back as well. I've been trying, for sure.

Do you have a favorite leather memory?

Collaring my boy for the first time. It was something that we had both wanted. For him it was a commitment and relationship outside the typical dating world. I asked him to turn around, present his back. I put the collar on him, kissed his shoulder, turned him around, hugged him, and he's been my boy ever since.

What is the future of the leather community?

The future is amazing. We went up to Toronto over Thanksgiving and the winner of the contest was 24 years old. I love that there is new blood coming into the leather community. It's not only faces, but new ways of communicating.

For more information about MAL Leather Weekend, visit leatherweekend.com.


Call 202-638-6830 to advertise here in Marketplace