If 2020 were a hula hoop, it would be made of barbed wire. Individuals and businesses are having to make difficult decisions with no good options. The Dallas Eagle is no exception. Last open on March 16, of this year, the bar has remained closed as a precaution for both employees and patrons.
We all have a place that is a home away from home, and for many of us it has been the Dallas Eagle. Owner Jeffrey Payne takes that responsibility seriously. Upon the announcement of closures, he immediately contacted the mayor’s office pushing for a comprehensive plan from the City of Dallas and various agencies to assist those within our community with lost revenue and lost wages. Regardless of the city’s response, though, he has continued to look out for his community’s best interest. “Money is not at stake,” says Jeffrey. “Our patrons,
my staff and my families’ lives and health are what is at stake…Do I need to open
for financial reasons? You bet your ass, I do. But I will never value a person’s life and well-being over my making a buck.”
As a place where many of us have made lasting memories, had unforgettable moments, and found many friends, we feel the loss of our gathering place acutely. Founders Matt Miller and Mark Fraizer first opened the doors of The Dallas Eagle in 1995 to meet a perceived need in the DFW Leather Community. Since the opening of the bar, through moves and changes of ownership, numerous clubs and organizations (some still around, some now defunct) have called the Eagle home. Across the years, on any given night, one could attend meetings and gatherings of a myriad of clubs such as the Leather Knights, NLA-Dallas, Discipline Corps, Lone Star Cigar Men, Eagle Bears, United Court of the Lone Star Empire, Dallas Bears, Texas Gay Rodeo Association, DFW Leather Corps, Dallas Diablos, and The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Other highlights we are missing include themed bar nights, community fundraisers, weddings, and a variety of contests traditionally held at the Eagle. Annually we have hosted many contests – South Central Leather (Sir, Boy, BB), Great Plains Olympus Leather (Mr, Ms, Mx), Dallas Eagle (Mr, Ms, BB), and Texas Leather (Mr, Ms, BB). Bartender Dylan Brown had this to say, “The Dallas Eagle has been my home even before I started bartending there. I’ve made lifelong friendships with the people I work with and awesome customers I have grown to know. I’ve seen people learn to be comfortable with fetishes, kinks, people who are different than them and, of course, themselves…I’m proud to be a part of a bar family that cares about the community and the employees.”
Since Covid hit, our home away from home has been staying closed for our welfare and safety. Throughout the crisis, Jeffrey has consistently chosen to err on the side of caution to protect his people. “We could take precautions that could limit the potential spread of COVID-19,” he says, “however, I do not feel the risk involved in potentially spreading this within our community is a risk worth taking.” He assures us that he and the staff miss each of us immensely, but they will remain closed at least till the end of September or there’s a better outlook. We can rest easy, though, knowing that when the time comes, the doors will open again, and we all can go back to the place we call home and enjoy drinks and cigars with all of our friends and family.
On May 30th, 2020 at 6:03pm, Leather Master’s Markus posted a picture on its Facebook page with its final customer, Ronin. When asked how he felt about being the final customer before Leather Masters (LM) shut its doors permanently, Ronin had this to say,
“It was saddening, I took pictures and recorded a few words. I can’t believe it’s gone. Thanks for the opportunities, the knowledge, and most of all the memories. This isn’t the end.”
The history of Leather Masters stretches back to 1989, making them 31 years old as of April 2020. Starting in a single room above a bar called “The Heat” in San Jose, California, founders David Carranza and Tony DaCosta recognized the need for high quality leather clothing in their community. They eventually moved and expanded to 969 Park Ave. and began selling their products online in 1996. In 2001, they opened a store location in Allentown, PA and ran that location successfully until forced closure due to harassment from the city of Allentown. In 2004, a bar owner contacted David and Tony and they opened a spot in San Antonio. Unfortunately in 2005 both the Allentown and San Antonio locations had to close, but in June 2005, Leather Masters opened in Dallas, Texas, along with adding a 25-year legacy from Leather by Boots, including new unique designs and a manufacturing department.
Markus, who has been working with leather since he was 13 years old, met David and Tony at a kink event about 7-8 years ago where he filled in at their vendor booth due to an emergency. From there, they began building a relationship with each other, with Leather Masters selling House of Markus products, until, eventually, both businesses decided to merge, and Markus took over the business while David and Tony retired. During the year 2020, Leather Masters moved from its Deep Ellum location to a bigger location in Dallas with plans to open an over 14,000 square footage of space that would have included a 60-person classroom meant to serve the community, with the idea of being a central education hub for the DFW leather and kink community. However, due to COVID-19 and the mandatory quarantine, Leather Masters was forced to postpone its Grand Opening and remain closed. During the pandemic, Leather Masters faithfully served the Dallas Kink and Leather Communities and beyond by making masks during the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) Shortage.
Leather Masters, to Ronin and to the entire community, was more than just your average leather goods store. It was an information hub for the Dallas kink and leather community. Numerous educational events sponsored through his group H.O.M.E (House of Markus Endeavor) were held at Leather Masters, to include classes that sometimes crammed up to 60 people in the manufacturing section at the Deep Ellum location, or the all-day intensive which hosted 4 classes on various topics in one day.
Sometimes though, the education was not always taught in a formal setting. There was a welcoming atmosphere in which to make connections at Leather Masters, even through casual interactions and conversations, and that really drew Ronin and others to keep coming back to the store time and time again,“…It was more about etiquette and social norms learned from conversations,” Ronin said.
For those who are not necessarily leather but are into kink, Leather Masters served as a safe space for those in the lifestyle looking for gear, connections, or an all-around unique experience. “Anytime we went, we were always greeted by a friendly associate, and when we had questions about something, there would always be more than one associate trying to help us, by making suggestions or other recommendations if they didn’t have exactly what we were looking for.” says Taylor, a member of the Dallas Kink Community. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, what a revolutionary place. Putting a place that promotes and normalizes kink right in the middle of Deep Ellum.’”
On top of providing education, high quality leather products and goods, and a friendly welcoming atmosphere, Leather Masters also made a name for itself through its numerous donations to Raffles, Run bags, Vests, Back Patches, and Medallions for various events and title runs, large and small, throughout the country supporting events such as Mr. and Mrs. Texas Bootblack, GPOL (Great Plains Olympus Leather), SPLF (South Plains Leatherfest), a primary sponsor for ILSB (International Leather Sir and Boy), and for IMSL (International MS Leather) for which they provided Medallions and Lanyards.
They’ve been a sponsor for numerous events as well as a vendor selling their products. Countless title holders and contestants around the world have worn or currently wear Leather Masters clothing and/or products. When asked what they would like Leather Masters to know, numerous voices from the community had this to say:
“If I could say anything to Leather Masters, it would be, thank you. Thank you for helping me grow as I first came in as a little boy and grew into a leather man that is now standing here in front of everyone as a proud leather woman.” (Maria “Rev Angelique” Trevino)
“I’m proud of them. Their vision for the future of the business as a core part of the community was remarkable. They saw a need for classrooms and meeting space and included that in their plans.” (Giant)
“Thank you, for all of the time, resources, and energy you have put into the community through the years.” (Bootblack Zahira, 2020-21 Route 66 Bootblack)
“I think it’s admirable that they’ve been serving the community as long as they have. And so efficiently.” (Da Kollector)
“I think I would like to say that what you have done for the kink Community by creating a space for kink education and offering quality leather goods is something we are thankful for and that we are going to miss. And that we hope that you are able to make a comeback and continue to make leather goods after this Coronavirus stuff is over!” (Taylor)
“It saddens me to lose such an iconic place where people would come to Dallas just to visit and the leather world will never be the same.” (Master TC)
When speaking of any future plans, Markus already has ideas in the works. He intends on getting back to his roots with custom leather work and House of Markus high end custom made pieces, with that being his main focus and missed passion while running the business of Leather Masters. While stuff from the old store location has been moved into storage, Markus does plan on donating rich pieces of history from Leather Masters to put into the Leather Archives Museum in Chicago, IL, such as Dave’s Original Mail Order Catalogue and IML posters that are autographed by title winners and runners from 1989. As for Leather Masters, as a brand, there is hope as he shops around for local leather businesses looking to pick up the product lines. He has found a manufacturer in Kansas that can produce vests and he is currently in talks with someone to produce harnesses.
In the end, another chapter in the exemplary story of this historic business in the community comes to a close. However, due to its versatile history, the only question that remains is, when and where will Leather Masters begin another chapter?
I have always been a big fan of Valentine’s Day. It is strange I hate chocolate (yes I know that is weird lol ) and I am not big on flowers. I tell Sir every year that I do not need a showy act of love in the middle of February. I feel his love for me every day. The thing I really love about it is that Valentine’s Day is one to celebrate love in many different ways. Most of us know that Valentine’s Day is a mash up between both Christian and ancient Roman traditions. Now I am all for a good fertility festival, and a cool priest who gives it to the Emperor by marring people who have been outlawed to do so. This year however I found about a cool new version of this holiday.
In Japan there’ll be millions of men hoping to receive chocolate from girlfriends, wives, daughters, and the other women in their lives. Yep just the men you read that correctly. Valentine’s Day has a really neat twist there, women are expected to give chocolates to each of the men in her life, even the ones she doesn’t care for. There are two types of chocolates that girls give. First is Giri-Choco which roughly translates to obligation or duty chocolate. It is given to bosses, teachers, colleagues, and male friends. There is no romance with Giri-choco.
Next you have Honmei-choco, Honmei means favorite or best candidate. This is given to boyfriends, lovers, and husbands. It is considered to be true love chocolate. In Japanese culture effort is greatly valued. Many women in Japan prepare the Honmei-choco from scratch as too many it is not thought of as an act of true love to just buy them. Others will spend in the several hundred yen range on store bought Honmei-choco.
Pretty cool tradition and some fun trivia knowledge, hope you enjoy!
M/s dynamics and relationships are as rewarding as they are difficult. It is not a lifestyle choice that anyone should rush into for themselves. There are just as many, if not more, pitfalls of “normal” relationships to navigate through; choose this path carefully. Neko and koneko have been on this journey together for many years now and they shared some of their experiences and wisdom for us. Or as Neko said it, “Experience is when you learn from your own mistakes. Wisdom is learning from others mistakes.”
In his early twenties Neko attended a party where he saw a woman being served and attended to. Immediately intrigued, he began talking with her and those serving her and he discovered a new life. For roughly eighteen months he was in service to her but as he puts it, “I was a poor servant to her; I had control issues.” Grinning, he explained that it did not take long to discover that he might belong on the other side of the slash. She agreed and he began learning how to master himself. He spent much of his time learning how to care for others and how to properly live.
koneko came into this life rather early when, smirking as she related it, “I liked hanging out in bars at a young age whether it was legal or not.” She continued with, “I also found out quickly, that I enjoyed kinky sex!” She entered her first M/s relationship when she married her husband. When the relationship ended she entered into another with a woman who allowed koneko to continue growing. She discovered many things about herself but she commented, “I found that I really enjoyed watching others receive pleasure; I loved it!” It was during this time that she also provided safe places for those in the Wiccan or kink communities.
It would be at a Pagan ceremony where they first met and soon they began dating. Eventually koneko petitioned Neko for service and they moved in together along with koneko’s partner. Together they learned about many aspects of this lifestyle together and their journey began in earnest. At this point in their presentation they both said, “Don’t walk another’s path! You must walk your own.” They were also free with some of their own difficulties in their early experiences. Suffice to say that communication and honesty were key to the survival. koneko pointed out, “We experience the same struggles that other relationships have; loved ones needing attention, family obligations, etc. Everything gets dealt with while we maintain our dynamic.”
Neko and koneko continued explaining how their relationship developed and continues to grow into the future. “Our dynamic is not rigid; it’s rather quite fluid,” Neko said, “mistakes have been made, but you grow from them.” It is important to remember that the relationship is one of Master and slave; not husband & wife or boyfriend & girlfriend. There is an exchange of power and authority in effect. koneko explained one aspect of their relationship concerning limits when she added, “He will push me to do things I may be scared or hesitant to do. I trust him that what I am doing is for my good.” Neko supported her comment by adding, “She is my slave and that means she is still important. I care for and protect her.”
Together Neko and koneko began a Leather House by the name of Blood and Ice. The name references blood being a force of life and ice representing control. The Code of Bushido features very prominently within their house as well. This famous code of the Samurai holds seven virtues in high regard; Integrity, Respect, Courage, Honor, Honesty, Loyalty, and Compassion. Neko offered this explanation, “All of these virtues are the foundation but I favor loyalty and trust. I expect the same things in others as I do myself.” They further explained that this code gives them a sense of consistency in their lives. When your actions coincide with your beliefs, you are at your most truthful. “Who you are comes from within,” he finished.
“Living in a M/s dynamic is not for everyone and it requires the usual relationship management skills,” koneko continued, “communication, honesty, and loyalty are the key.” They carry their beliefs into all their relationships. Both of them are polyamorous and this too requires careful thought and attention to their M/s dynamic. In closing, they offered various thoughts on their own experiences and observations from others. They both were in agreement when they said, “If it’s not fun, then why are you doing it?” Be communicative and honest and your M/s relationship can survive!
I sat down to discuss TC’s presentation for NLA Dallas’ Leather Perspectives and what follows is a tale of one man’s journey through Leather and the wisdom that he shared. TC did not start out perhaps as everyone else did. He grew up identifying as a hetero male and it was during his time in the United States Army that he discovered the world of Leather. He had a chance meeting with his sergeant that would forever change his life. After discovering a collection of books and magazines dealing with BDSM and power exchanges his sergeant decided to have a word with him.
One week later TC and his sergeant go out in a military vehicle for a routine maneuver. It was not long before they came upon a group of KKK members burning a cross on a hill. Within minutes TC was instructed to open the hatch and pop his head out. Seemingly, like the scene in Blazing Saddles, his sergeant announced, “Hey guys, check this out”, while pointing to TC. Giggling TC related, “Here I am, a black man, surrounded by white men and there are burning crosses; the first thought going through my mind was, ‘Shit…this is how I’m going out.’” His sergeant ordered him to knock down the crosses with the vehicle and then they headed back to base. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he had just demonstrated his loyalty and trust.
Not too long after that night his sergeant invited him to attend a hole-in-the-wall bar. It was a non-descript bar but upon entering his sergeant immediately told the guys at the front that “he’s with me.” It was a gay Leather bar. Still looking astonished TC said, “My sergeant had just outted himself to me! This was the late 80’s folks!” After looking around and taking it all in his sergeant asked him, “So which side are you on? Do you like to do the whipping or being whipped?” Like a kid in a candy store TC was flooded with choices and images.
Soon after this TC entered the world of Leather as his sergeant began his training. When he was transferred to Korea he was told to look up another Leatherman and he continued his journey there. Before he left the US Army he had trained under different Leathermen learning various aspects of our lifestyle. Soon after returning to the states, he left the US Army and joined the local Leather of Dallas; his home since the 90’s.
His first experience attending the Dallas Eagle was interesting as well as eye opening. It was not what he was expecting as he explained, “I watched and observed for a while and eventually folks were approaching me. When I saw a large black man I assumed he was a Dom but I quickly learned he was a sub. I was surrounded by big guys and they were subs. I thought to myself ‘Damn…you’re not helping.” Laughing he continued, “I was surprised at the lack of many people of color in the Leather scene here in Dallas.” It did not take long before he ingratiated himself into the Dallas Leather scene.
TC has traveled extensively visiting many Leather chapters and growing in his journey. In 2013 he was named Mr Great Plains Olympus Leather 2013 and he commented on his title, “The hardest part wasn’t winning the title, it was all the traveling involved with it! I don’t regret it of course, it just took time and energy.” This achievement and the experience helped to create a greater sense of pride in his Leather identity. He encourages everyone to get past the nerves and go out there to have fun while earning Leather titles. He finished by saying, “Damn, just go have fun with it folks.”
As time permitted I asked TC some questions that dealt with his opinions and thoughts on various topics. He shared his views on the future of Leather and some of his hopes. When asked what was the most difficult thing to accept or discover and he replied, “Well, two things: First, and it’s gotten better, but there seems to be a prejudice between gays and hetero people.” TC further explained that initially there were those who resented the inclusion of hetero-sexuals into the lifestyle. He enjoys that over the years everyone in the lifestyle are considered allies more than intruders. He continued, “Secondly there seems to be, in my observation, to be a lack of people of color in the lifestyle. When I do encounter them, they tend to be subs or slaves; I just don’t get it.”
When asked what his most rewarding experience in his Leather life was he quickly responded with, “Watching this Dallas group grow! I’ve seen young people enter and forge their own paths while keeping the traditions that came before them.” Among various other things he said that perhaps his favorite moments come from mentoring and teaching others. TC has been involved with the Dallas Mentors Program over the years and it is a continuous source of pride and satisfaction.
Finally the question was asked what he’d like his legacy to be. He laughed and said, “You mean, what do I want on my tombstone?” Carefully considering his answer and taking a long draw on his cigar he responded with, “There’s nobody here; the soul is gone. Or maybe, he helped the Leather folk.” Overall TC wants his contributions to the Leather community to be helpful and uplifting. To this day he continues to support the local BDSM and Leather communities by leading groups or just being a friendly face welcoming newcomers.
On a warm Saturday afternoon, Master Tallen gifted those attending the Leather Perspectives presentation the tale of his Leather Life. His life, Leather and otherwise, was laid before the audience for their examination. This was a very frank and open discussion on the ups and downs he experienced so far in his life. His accomplishments have earned him fame, mostly good and sometimes bad, but there were important lessons learned. Master Tallen shared life changing events and wonderful reminders of why we live the life we do.
At a young age Master Tallen realized he was homosexual but given where he was living and the culture he never expressed his feelings until later. After high school he joined the United States Marines and this awakened in him a love and desire for discipline and regimentation. Little did he realize how this experience would shape his future and life! Being stationed in Hawaii he began to explore his sexuality. He commented, “This was before ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ but as long as you didn’t cause a fuss nobody seemed to care.” His tour soon ended however and he returned to the states; the door was opened but the journey had just begun!
“Ironically”, he smiled as he spoke, “I met my wife at a gay bar.” Together they have two daughters but unfortunately the marriage ended after a while. It was at this time that Master Tallen decided he would not keep up appearances and as he put it, “abandoned the ‘straight life’”. For a few years he began a real soul-searching that made him realize that he was missing something in is life. He knew he loved the control and discipline of the military but he was unsure how to find this in his civilian life. His search continued…
Like many of us, the Internet changed his life as he discovered the life and concept of Master/slave relationships. Immediately he was intrigued and believed that this was just what he was looking for! More research was conducted and he discovered Leather and the various relationships therein. He gave a thoughtful nod and gave a wide grin when he said, “Soon I was contacting all kinds ‘Masters’ looking for a relationship; boy, I found some real doosies…” In one particular instance he talked and decided to meet with a master, (lower-case letter on purpose), who turned out to be the worst master he had ever encountered. It was a case where the man had no money, or any kind of life and just used Master Tallen’s resources selfishly. “Lesson learned”, he said as he shook his head gratefully.
After a few relationships, that left much to be desired from the Masters, meant moving to other states, and even required starting life over again, Master Tallen resolved to learn more about Leather and even becoming a Top. With much enthusiasm he said, “I became motivated; if I couldn’t find a Master worth a damn, I’d become the Master!” While researching the whats and wherefores of being a Top and/or Master he tasted his first spark of control; the Top’s high. He found it greatly to his liking and this encouraged him to find his first slave. A new era had begun!
Master Tallen attended a myriad of conventions with his new slave and even helped create some of the events that exist today. With so many volunteering jobs and other work towards assisting the community, it was time to step away for a break; but not for too long… After much research and delving deep into countless symbols and their numerous meanings, he developed a visual concept of the Master/slave relationship; something very deep and personal to him. Part of this originated from his desire to create a sign or flag for inspiration and to be a source of pride. The end result is apparent for all in the community to see, but it was not universally accepted at first.
The familiar flag that contains red lines on a black field with a white border was an accomplishment that resulted in a mixed reception. Although there were some in the community that mocked Master Tallen for his audacity to create something like this, it has stood the test of time. Today, the Master/slave flag is worn by many people in the community and it is an accepted symbol of Leather and BDSM activities.
Unfortunately, Master Tallen’s life took a very dramatic and different turn when he suffered from an accident in which he fell from a ladder. Part of the recovery locked him to a wheelchair for an indefinite amount of time. Master Tallen said in a somber voice, “Crisis of identity doesn’t even begin to describe it.” He had to re-evaluate his role with regards to his changed physical condition and relationships. He asked the audience, “How can you still be a Master if you’re sitting and needing constant care?”
This was the greatest trial he experienced in his life and today he is forever thankful for those people, including his current slave, who helped him recover. His slave attended to his every need and in such a way that Master Tallen was in control. Together, they modified their relationship so that they maintained their previous protocols. It was a testament to the dedication that they had for each other. This injury certainly kept his activities low; he eventually recovered to the point that he could discard the wheelchair!
Most recently Master Tallen has fought to preserve the International Puppy and Trainer Contest and this is but one of his many pursuits. Today he enjoys the full life he has with his Leather family and biological family. In his closing words he commented that life is constant change and that burnout is common and expected in this life. He expressed to hold on to what matters to you and follow your heart. After his presentation he ended with these words of wisdom, “Follow your heart, but just be smart!”
Dan Perry opened the discussion by simply asking, “What is community? What’s it mean?” Audience participation and responses were welcomed as Dan poled everyone in attendance. Truly, to all of us, what makes a community? Is it as simple as everyone under one umbrella? Is it a subset of something greater? How do you define a community? Reminding us of the roots of modern Leather, Dan suggested that the soldiers returning from World War 2 were the first community. Where did it go from there?
As the years went by, the Leather Community saw its ups and downs but as groups became larger the sense of togetherness seemed to fade. Dan posed another question, “As we get larger, our closeness goes away, and we are left wondering how do we retain our sense of community.” As one group becomes larger, because more like-minded people gather around it, sometimes subsets begin to form. While this is not necessarily a bad thing it does begin to perhaps dilute the whole. Or does it? Dan finished his question then added, “We form different groups because people want a “tighter” group. When this happens we sometimes become ‘cliquish’ and this is not good.”
Although community can mean different things to different people we still strive to uphold the whole. This can lead to good and bad things… “We are quick to start something new because a need is perceived. However, we are reluctant to end them when perhaps the need is no longer there”, he pointed out. Case-in-point: If a group was begun several years ago to address an issue but the issue no longer persists, does the group need to continue out of obligation?
Can our umbrella of acceptance get too large or can we always separate into smaller organizations? As the years rolled on our “umbrella” became larger. Dan said poignantly, “AIDS and other common enemies brought many folks together and our umbrella became larger.” Whereas before many organizations were private and very secretive, now they were larger and sought different areas large enough to house them. As this was occurring our sense of community was being tested in new ways. According to Hardy Haberman, “Today we have numbers, but do we really have strength in numbers?”
One of the largest reasons for forming a community was to protect ourselves from outside enemies. Although, one may argue that in today’s society BDSM, Homosexuality, or Kink in general is more accepted, for many years these things would get you arrested or worse. So now that we have come together and formed sub-cultures do we still have one defining characteristic? Dan offered, “We once had one thing that united us, but now it seems that everyone in their separate groups has their own thing.” Perhaps from the joining together we have lost something that united us across several boundaries.
When we were smaller and tighter, we could easily know each other and encourage or discourage activities. As any group or community begins to grow you lose a level of intimacy that exists so easily with just a few. This problem is expressed in many aspects of our culture; just look at the rise of mega-churches. We are all united but still we identify and belong to other banners. How do we regulate ourselves? When there are 20 people in a group it is easy to keep tabs, watch others, and protect ourselves. Dan continued, “There was a time when NLA Dallas was just a small group of people. Now we are at over 100 members.”
How do we as a community handle issues or problems when our umbrella is so large? In one example Dan told of a group of puppies that were randomly interacting with people and biting them. When questioned, the puppies merely replied that they were dogs…what did you expect? With the age of the Internet we are gaining new friends but also losing our sense of respecting our community. Our umbrella has become so large and our sub cultures so varied that we are having trouble keeping up.
So what is a community? From where we started and where we are now, how do we prepare for our future? Many questions were asked by Dan and the answers were often never the same. Discussions could have lasted for far longer but it was important that we become aware of our sense of community. Do we need all these sub-groups or has their original purpose been served? Is it time to collapse the umbrella of community to a more manageable size? Ultimately, you must decide how you view community and how to serve it.
“Does wearing leather make you Leather?” Ms. Boots asked the assembled crowd gathered at the Dallas Eagle. What is Leather and what is being “into leather”? Is there a difference? She asked these questions and waited to hear everyone’s responses. Everyone’s answer was similar but the idea was to gauge how the older and younger members of Leather replied. For the June Leather Perspectives we were treated to the wisdom and advice from Ms. Boots.
“There is a clear distinction between being Leather and ‘into leather’,” Ms. Boots continued. She continued to say that a person of Leather demonstrates with their actions that they are indeed Leather. Someone who is simply interested in leather or maybe is just “into” leather, does not commit to the culture or principals of Leather. There is nothing wrong between the two; it is important to know the difference and know who you are. One is a culture or a family, the other simply a fashion choice. Both are equally fine!
Ms. Boots received her introduction into Leather when she came into contact with a biker gang. During those days Leather folk wore denim but the family environment was still the same. Immediately she was struck by the sense of duty and honor that these people demonstrated to each other! “That’s when I learned that Leather looks out for each other”, she stated. She suffered some hard times and the Leather folk there helped her out as best they could; she was never abandoned. She eventually had to move herself and her family to a different area of the country but she knew she could seek out other Leather folk wherever she went.
Leather is more than just what we wear. Leather is something you are and you do not cease to be simply because of what you’re clothed in. “If I walk in here without wearing leathers am I still Leather?” she asked the assembled group. She continued, “If I put on my Master’s Cover, am I now Leather?” The questions received non-verbal answers as she further explained that what we wear does not define us so much as our attitude and actions. As a community, it does not matter what we wear but if we define ourselves as Leather, then we should hold ourselves to these standards regardless of where we are.
“Leather promotes the values of duty, honor, respect, and integrity; these are things that bind us together and make us a family.” This particular part of the presentation meant a great deal to her as she seemed to concentrate more and it was as if she wanted to stress these points. “Be true to yourself.” After this she paused and continued, “Leather is freedom. Leather is also family. Whatever brought you here, wherever you’re from, whatever called you to this point, you are now in a family.” This statement was received with grand approval from those listening to her this day. “We look out for each other because we all chose this path; we know hardships about a society that does not accept what we do. Although our world is slowly beginning to recognize and possibly accept BDSM, we are still not totally there.”
She also shed some light on the modern thought that BDSM and Leather are the same thing. While certainly BDSM culture follows very similar practices of Leather, the two were once separate. Even today, the two can still be separate; it is not required that you practice both. “Twenty or so years ago everything about Leather or BDSM was still very much underground; that was before the Internet happened,” she smirked. Not wanting to comment on the why’s and how’s the Internet has changed our lifestyle, she was quick to point out that BDSM, Power Exchanges, M/s relationships, and erotica in general is slowly becoming more accepted in vanilla society. She smiled and said, “We still have a ways to go folks!”
On the subject of change Ms. Boots was prolific in the telling of her personal experiences and to remember that everything changes. “Your life, your family, your Leather identity, and even your desires; all will change,” she solemnly intoned. Drawing from her own life she explained that she started with one goal in Leather and it changed; over and over. She began as a submissive but her mentor helped her realize that her calling was not submissive at all… After some time she became the social director for Beyond Vanilla and instituted changes that still reach us today. The most notable being the Friday Night Entertainment! She also held several officer positions within the National Leather Association Dallas Chapter including co-chair. In this way, she humbly said to us all, she fulfilled her sense of duty to the principles of Leather.
When Ms. Boots suffered some health issues, she had to cut back on her participation in Leather activities. “This comes back to when I said that things will always change,” she restated. With a heavy heart she continued, “I cannot commit myself like I used to; this hurts! Because of my health issues I do not know if I can attend or perform at events like I used to.” She further explained that this is when you learn how to support your local Leather community in different ways. Again, she reminded us of the inevitability of change.
Her dedication has never wavered away from her Leather path. Currently Ms. Boots still offers wisdom and advice, with great humility, to anyone who will ask. After she finished her presentation, to grateful and incredible applause, she entertained questions from the audience. Some of the members of the audience had known Ms. Boots for many years and shared some of their favorite memories of her. It was clear to anyone that knew her that she has been an influential member of the Dallas Leather community.
When asked what her fondest memory of her NLA Dallas experience was she was fast with her response, “the family and camaraderie! The knowledge that Leather is acceptance, friendship, and the family you choose.” However Ms. Boots chooses to spend her time within the Dallas Leather community from now on, she has already left a lasting legacy that will live on in many Leather folk. A wonderful woman who gave us a few hours of her time had these lasting words, “Your kink and your life will evolve, but never lose your Leather!”
Spirituality and religion are often spoken of together as if the two are inseparable. Master Z suggests that your spirituality can be separate from your religion or fully integrated with it. Although he officially joined Leather in 2000 Master Z says he has been following his spiritual path ever since he can remember. Growing up he was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools for education; headed on the track to become a priest in his family’s tradition. Things were going great but there was something missing in his life.
After joining the NLA he began another journey finding his spirituality. Exploring the various aspects of this lifestyle he determined he was a service Top. He enjoyed giving back to others and the community. In part this is why he travels all over the United States giving presentations on various BDSM topics. In all discussions he stressed that this lifestyle is a journey and that as soon as one ends, another begins.
Master Z began speaking about various points in his life that were significant to his journey; both spiritual and Leather. Although he would say that the two are not mutually exclusive! A wonderful example he gave was from the children’s book named The Velveteen Rabbit. Characters were discussing the concept of what is real and it spoke to Master Z in a meaningful way. It made him focus on his path and come to a certain realization. This truth was that you cannot make yourself something you are not. You cannot decide to become a slave; you either are a slave or you are not. Forcing yourself to become one only harms you and your journey.
What is our calling? Master Z stressed this question greatly because it is something that drives him. “In different points in my life I have had a drive that called to me,” he said. “If I ignored the calling or the passion then I felt empty.” Once that call has been sounded do you have the courage to live it with integrity? Master Z pointed out many times in the presentation that answering your call takes a commitment, but that also you will be the better for it. Learning to hear that calling is the first step.
There are three types of energy or thoughts that permeate who you are according to Master Z. There are physical, intellectual, and spiritual modes that are at work. Your physical is the simplest to explain. It is who you are on the outside and how you choose to present yourself. Your intellectual energies are spent learning new things and experiences. There is always something new to learn and eventually master. Your spiritual energy is who you really are; your authentic self. With regards to your spiritual energy you cannot deny what it is because it is your truest self. It is important to know yourself so you can grow on your journey. By recognizing and harnessing these three energies you can begin to reach your personal truth.
When comparing your spiritual journey to the M/s relationship, Master Z says the two paths share a unique quality; the role of Master. “We all have a Master,” he said. No matter how you see yourself or what path you tread everyone has a Master they must serve in order to proceed. This Master can be physical, mental, or spiritual. In the simplest terms you can see this relationship when you consider that regardless of which side of the slash a Christian is on, their Master is still Jesus. Sometimes the student becomes the Master and this just means the next path has opened before you.
Obviously not one path fits all. What’s most important is the integrity we live with our calling when we travel along our truth. In his final words Master Z imparted this bit of wisdom: “You will succeed whenever you obey your Master; whatever you decide that Master is.”
An Afternoon with Master Jim, slave marsha, and Sir Cougar
By: Bushido Bard
Are all leather families the same? Is it required that everyone is poly? How do you define your leather family? To answer these questions I listened to the presentation given by Master Jim, slave Marsha, and Sir Cougar. Living in an M/s relationship, for over fifteen years together, Master Jim and slave Marsha recently included Sir Cougar in their family. Regardless of who joins, when you’re part of the family, you’re family. These three merged their leather journeys into the same path on December 31st, 2006.
So what makes a leather family? “First and foremost” they said, “you must consider what you define as family.” Ask yourself, what works best for you? Throughout the presentation we were told that no one way works for everyone; you and your family adapt and grow together. Perhaps the most important advice or lesson they have learned comes from the term “Ohana”. In the Hawaiian culture the word or phrase Ohana means a family bound together and not necessarily by blood. To Master Jim, slave Marsha, and Sir Cougar, this is not merely a simple term; it is a basis for their union.
Master Jim identifies as a father-figure or Daddy archetype; both the light and the dark aspects. He is considered the head or Master of the family with slave Marsha in service to him while Sir Cougar is in service to the family. Slave Marsha identifies as a FEM slave in service to her Master Jim and Sir Cougar’s girl. Her role in the family is to be the heart and emotion of the family; the keeper of the flame. Sir Cougar, a proud Marine, identifies as a leather butch and acts as the guardian of the family. Together these two women and one man serve each other and the family. To give an example of one family dynamic, slave Marsha is married to Sir Cougar and they are monogamous to each other, while slave Marsha serves Master Jim. All three serve the family in their own way, but different relationships exist within the family as well.
When forming your leather family they could not stress enough patience. Slave Marsha often said, “Take your time and give serious thought to who you are adding.” Master Jim and slave Marsha were still in a M/s relationship for several years when Sir Cougar entered their lives. Master Jim pointed out, “To me, a leather family is a union of leather people who share the same philosophies, goals and even values.” Sir Cougar and slave Marsha spent a great amount of time together and even got married before Sir Cougar joined the family. When Sir Cougar joined the original dynamic didn’t change; the M/s relationship between Master Jim and slave Marsha remained. Sir Cougar serves the family in a hierarchal relationship in regards to the family.
Regardless of what hardships or issues the family faces what is most important is communication. From time to time a family meeting will be called to discuss matters. Decisions are reached by consensus and how it will affect the family overall. This is why it is important to add members slowly and with great thought. Everyone in the family has needs and for the family to thrive those needs must be addressed. Constant communication and as slave Marsha put it, “listening generously”, is how leather families can grow together and flourish. If you add members too quickly, or if the family becomes too large, any issues that arise become increasingly harder to adapt to. In their experience some people will decide to become a family too soon, or a large group of people decide to join without great thought to the future. All three of them said at different points, “Grow your family slowly!”
Regardless of anyone’s reasons for wanting to form a leather family it must be done with forethought and understanding. If a problem arises, other members must stand up to more responsibility or take over various tasks until the problem passes. Unity within a leather family comes from mutual respect and a willingness to sometimes sacrifice for others. Sometimes family members may have to depart for a time or they are incapable of contributing for a while. Chores and other responsibilities are passed to others until balance is restored.
As the afternoon drew to a close, the three presenters answered various questions but they always stressed beginning slowly and not rushing to decisions. Above all they repeated the importance of “Ohana” and its meaning to them. Ohana, to Master Jim, slave Marsha, and Sir Cougar, means a family that is not just by blood but also one in which no one is forgotten. That is how they define family. Before you start or join a leather family you must carefully consider how you define and how you treat family.