Bay Area Reporter
by Race Bannon
San Francisco's Pride 2014 weekend is now just a memory, but I remember it fondly. I especially cherish being able to yet again march with the Leather Pride Contingent in the parade. The contingent is a microcosm of why it's so great to be a kinkster in the Bay Area. We were a proud gathering of people from all walks of the local leather and kink factions coming together to celebrate and declare our pride in being ourselves alongside many others who were doing the same. The Bay Area is a unique place indeed.
As usual, the contingent included the man and woman selected by vote of the community to be the Leather Marshals leading us down Market Street. This year they were Deborah Hoffman-Wade and Scott Peterson, both people who are quite deserving of the honor.
I am fully aware, however, that many people can't comfortably do what we did. Marching out and proud so comfortably and visibly is not as easy elsewhere. The Bay Area bubble is far more welcoming and accepting of kinksters than are most other parts of the country. As I gazed upon the marchers in our contingent, I realized how lucky we have it and how much I hope that other kinky folk may feel the same freedom and acceptance.
This made me think about some of the national organizations working hard to ensure that kinksters across the country can experience even some semblance of the openness and opportunity we in the Bay Area feel. While there are a plethora of local leather and kink clubs and organizations working hard to make life better for us all (and most such work does need to be done at the local level), there are a handful of national organizations trying to do the same on a broader scale. I don't think the general kinkster population is as aware of these national organizations as they should be. Their work helps us all. Let me point out a few of them.
Founded in 1997 by Susan Wright, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) (www.ncsfreedom.org) is an organization committed to creating a political, legal and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights for consenting adults who engage in alternative sexual and relationship expressions. Their work is done primarily with BDSM, leather, fetish and polyamory issues and encompasses direct services, education, advocacy and outreach.
I asked Ms. Wright why she founded NCSF and why it's an important organization to support.
"When I kept hearing from people who lost their job because they were into leather or had their kids taken away because they were kinky, I knew we needed a group like NCSF," she said. "Nobody else fights for our rights, so we have to do it ourselves. For 17 years, NCSF has worked hard to destigmatize BDSM, but we still have more work to do."
Another organization doing important work on a national scale is the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) (www.carasresearch.org). CARAS is dedicated to the support and promotion of excellence in the study of alternative sexualities and the dissemination of research results to the alternative sexuality communities, the public and the research community. CARAS does this by supporting research that addresses understudied sexual communities, with a current focus on BDSM/leather/kink/fetish sexualities and consensual non-monogamous relationships such as polyamory. Employing a community-based research model, CARAS has assembled a network of academics, clinicians and respected members of these communities who will work directly with researchers to promote scientific and other forms of scholarly research.
One of the original founders of CARAS, along with Robert Bienvenu and David Ortmann, is the current Executive Director and Bay Area local, Richard Sprott. I asked Mr. Sprott why it's important for the leather/kink community to support serious academic research about us
"Research is the 'coin of the realm' for legal and medical concerns in our society," he said. "Courts, criminal proceedings, medical professionals, psychiatrists – and people who make policies and rules in our society about kinky behavior – are more likely to change if we can discuss the reasons why they should change in the language and discourse they understand and use. But beyond our need to destigmatize kink (so we can enjoy it without penalty or punishment or interference), knowing more will increase our ability to play better, to live better, and to increase our health and well-being. That's why we need to support serious academic research about us."
Years ago, my friends Tony DeBlase and Gayle Rubin, along with a few others, were deeply concerned that the history of the leather and kink scene would be lost unless a concerted effort was made to capture and preserve that history. Out of their concerns the Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M) (www.leatherarchives.org) was born. The LA&M serves the international leather and kink scene by compiling, preserving and maintaining our history, archives and memorabilia for historical, educational and research purposes.
The current Executive Director of the LA&M is Rick Storer. I asked him why he think it's important for leather and kink folks to support their work....