I by no means am a Leather expert nor have I been presented anything aside from gifted pieces. These are my experiences and thoughts and have them here as an aid to help others learn as I was fortunate enough to have people in my journey to help me learn as well.
I first really became interested in Leather culture at my first educational event called a “Bootcamp” at a local beginner’s group after hearing a local (at the time) capped Leather Master speak about the history, the community, the ideals that Leather is about and stands for. A lot of what was said seemed very familiar due to vanilla affiliations of mine and immediately became something I wanted to hold myself to and be involved with, but how? I began asking questions and researching everything I could on my own because of course Google is the answer. I found an immense about of information online from articles to books to videos to forums and websites but at the same time found absolutely nothing to tell me how to get started. Where are the blazes to mark the trail, the signs pointing this way, a tour guide maybe. Where is the fucking trailhead on this path?!
I was lucky enough to have someone in the community with his own Leather lineage that was willing to help me discover my own path by answering my questions, helping me learn just about anything I could be curious about, and pointing me toward others to talk to for different perspectives. Poor bastard probably had no idea that I was going to pester the shit out of him with my questions and curiosity. With everything I had learned so far, it just solidified my desire to continue toward this goal. In other organizations that I am and had been involved in, there is a clear path, a petition or application, rites of passage, lessons to be learned and dues to be paid, etc; all I have to do is find that path of enlightenment and I’m golden. I just knew that I’d find that heavily trafficked path to the land of Leather and would be rocking boots and a vest… but wtf, where are the foot prints? All these damn Leatherfolk that I see, read about, and hear about there has to be some common starting point but I’ll be damned if I could find it.
I went through a period of bordering frustration and disappointment trying to figure out how to get started, how to “become Leather”, earn the leather I’ve heard and read about, and find the ever elusive “path into Leather”. Well, I’m gonna hopefully save some of yall some of the same internal dialog I had and tell you exactly where that highway of Hide is that leads you on the straight path to the land of Leatherfolk. Ready? There isn’t one. So of you’re looking for it the real secret is you have to change what you are looking for. In my research and study of Leather culture I kept seeing all of these mnemonics such as THIRD, LEATHER, HILT, etc. and interpreted them as ways of remembering the values of the Leather culture. Cool, good shit to remember right? Well here’s another reason why they seem to ring out across the Leather culture whether as mnemonics or individually noted values. They are the path markers I had been searching for. They are the white blaze of the AT that keeps you on the path and from wandering into the woods to get lost at night or from crashing off a cliff that you cannot return from.
Why hadn’t I seen this earlier? Simple, because it wasn’t what I thought I was looking for. What seems to get mistaken as the path into Leather, or atleast was for me, isn’t the path into Leather but a path into a group be it a Leather family, house, etc. So screw the focus on patches, the presentation of leathers, the inclusion into a group, the validation or perception of value of being a recognized community member. What it’s about is that personal journey, growing and discovering your authentic self with ethics and integrity. If you end up in a group of like minds and shared mentalities then cool, but know that Leather is how you live not what you wear or what group you’re a part of. Chances are, if you found yourself here then you likely are well on your way without realizing it. The trailhead to Leather is in your heart.
So to those that are searching for the Leather path, here are some of the blazes that identify the heading. Sometimes we may wander off our path but remember it’s never too late to be the person you should have been and get back on track.
Honor and humility
Honor and Humility
(adopted from an old writing on another social media account of mine)