What is Leather? Do a Google search, or ask a friend this question and invariably you will get the response that it’s origins come from the Gay community. Although this is partially true, it is not completely correct.
Heterosexual Leather has been around for decades. It’s origins are very similar to the Gay Leather origins; men and women disenfranchised from the mainstream society. Motorcycles Clubs, (MC) began forming in the early 1950’s. Some were formed for socializing and partying together as social outcasts. They are a breed apart from all others. These individuals bow to no one, test the boundaries of all and give their devotion to few. The patch is worn with pride by those who choose not to settle, not to give in to polite society but instead ride with the wind in their face and their back to the status quo. Only another Leatherman can truly understand what belonging takes. Leather finds freedom in the style they see fit and apologizing to no one for it. Leather is “the ultimate expression of liberty.”
A smaller segment moved towards organizing and forming the outlaw biker clubs known today as Hells Angels. the Outlaws, and Satan’s Choice. Although they still exist today, and have been growing in numbers, they are insular in model and have little interaction with the main Leather community.
The Gay Leather community has done an excellent job documenting and preserving their history and background. This was partially because of the alarming realization of the multiple death of AIDS and the devastating affect it had on that segment of society. The Heterosexual Leather community has not had the same urgency to document and record it’s history. In fact, there is very little found about it’s past.
While the Gay Leather community began to organize and become more pro-active around sexual awareness, and safety; they also became more as political activists because of the backlash within the larger gay community about fears of rejection and stigmatization within mainstream society.
Similarly, the Heterosexual Leather community began to organize to distance themselves from the outlaw MC; as well as the growing movement of what is now known as the pansexual community. It has only been in recent years that there has been a concentrated effort to distinguish the differences between Gay and Het Leather; as well as between Het Leather and mainstream BDSM.
Leather is a subculture organized around sexual and social activism. Wearing leather garments is one way that participants in this culture self-consciously distinguish themselves from mainstream sexual cultures. It is the use of the body and erotic energy to explore spirituality. It is who you are in your soul. It cannot be taught. It is the essence of who you are.
Today, there are many organisations such as Toronto Leather Pride, The National Leather Association (NLA-I), the Southern Ontario Leather Association (SOLA) and the BOLD Conferences that help promote the Het Leather community. There has been positive growth and interest from the general public, but caution must continue to be forefront distinguishing why and how Het Leather is different and individual in it’s own history, traditions and origins.