Within the incredibly diverse LGBT community, the worldwide Leather/fetish/kink family is undoubtedly one of its most close-knit subcultures. Leathermen, Leatherwomen, and their allies have created a large and diverse — yet simultaneously intimate — network from Amsterdam to New York City. Throughout the year, there are an endless number of social events taking place, both large and small. Those events include the many annual Leather and fetish contests. Whether it is a bar title or a state, regional, or international title, the winner of the Contest is expected to dedicate a significant amount of time to community service and to take on a philanthropic cause that he or she is passionate about. Forty year-old Dan Ronneberg, a former Officer in the U.S. Air Force who lives in Arlington, Virginia, became the thirty-second Mr. DC Eagle in March 2015. Nine months later, he won the prestigious national title of American Leatherman 2015 during American Brotherhood Weekend (ABW) in Chicago. Ronneberg is an Aviation Safety Inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration. He serves as the National Chairperson for FAA GLOBE, the FAA’s LGBT Employee Association. Fifty-one year old psychiatrist and U.S. Army veteran Todd Leavitt is also a dual Titleholder. In January 2016, Leavitt was named Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2016. It was the highest honor in a Contest held during one of the country’s largest and most anticipated Leather/fetish/kink events: Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in Washington, D.C. Leavitt, however, is not a newcomer to the Leather world. Almost 25 years earlier, he had won the Title of Mr. Leather Detroit in May 1991. Leavitt is taking his journey even further later this month: He is one of 59 men from all over the world competing for the envied Title of International Mr. Leather (IML) 38 in Chicago during Memorial Day Weekend.
Dan and Todd, both incredibly muscular, make an instant impression wherever they appear. In keeping with their responsibilities as Titleholders and role models, they make a lot of public appearances all over the States as well as in other countries. It’s clear that the two of them are devoted to each other, and that they share at least one common interest: bodybuilding! They are both handsome, intelligent, and outgoing. Their three-year relationship, however, is a bit more complex than a casual admirer on the street would perceive. Dan and Todd have a modern consensual Master/slave relationship. It’s an example of a “Dominant/submissive” relationship, the spectrum of which also includes “Daddy/boy” relationships among gay men. But here comes another twist in this happily renegade family portrait: Todd is legally married to Randy Gooch, who has been his life partner for 20 years. Dan is Master to both Todd and Todd’s husband Randy. The three men live together. (And, yes, they all sleep in the same bed, along with their two English bulldogs.)
Obviously, every power differential relationship is different. Some partners choose to enact their roles on variant levels when in public and in private, for example. Although I had known Dan for quite some time, I had not yet officially met his slave Todd. To show the significance of the dynamics of a Master/slave couple, I actually felt it appropriate to ask permission of the Master before freely speaking to his slave. As you may have gathered by now, it was fine!
It is impossible to accurately estimate how many Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, are in power differential and/or polyamorous relationships. Despite superficial pop culture interest in BDSM culture, the whole subject remains largely misunderstood and often disrespected in American consciousness. In the Leather community, however, these relationships are often open and supported. Still, the idea of both BDSM and polyamorous relationships may be considered at best unusual, and at worst controversial even among the LGBT community at large. But one thing is clear: This unique Leather family makes it work. More importantly, they make it work well. Dan and Todd took the time out of their incredibly busy travel schedule for an enlightening discussion about their relationship, HIV and PReP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) awareness, and the current state of the Leather community.
JR: Hello gentlemen. Thank you for speaking with me. So, Dan, let’s start with you. A lot of people, even in the LGBT community at large, may have a hard time understanding the dynamic between a Master or Daddy and his collared slave or boy. They may have a negative impression because they say that the relationship is not “equal”. How would you explain that to them?
Dan: They aren’t equal. It’s very clear that they are power differential relationships. One person is agreeing, consensually, to give up some of their power to make decisions or to do certain things. But it is an exchange. So, the other person is agreeing to take over those roles and to be responsible for that. And that really does mean being responsible to it. That means sexually as well. I am completely responsible for making sure that they (Todd and Randy) have a good time, and that they get off, and that they are happy. There are two of them and just one of me, so I have to make sure we do things that involve all three of us, and that nobody feels left out, and to figure what we are going to do next. I have to put some thought into how I play with them and what we do. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “catering”, but it is paying attention to certain needs and interests — which may be very different for Todd then they are for Randy and determining how can I do both of those at the same time. ...
What better way to celebrate and enjoy a beautiful, sunny Father's Day than to trek over to the Folsom Street East festival? The 15th annual event was held this past Sunday in the urban valley of West 28th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues, under the watchful eye of the newly opened section of the High Line park. After all, hanging out during daylight with lots of sexy guys wearing nothing but skimpy scraps of leather, a healthy sprinkling of freaks, a little BDSM in the open air and some beer on tap was lots better than buying Daddy a tie and taking New Jersey transit out for a tedious day with dysfunctional family members. Instead, this celebration of sexual freedom offers what daddies really want: some rubber puppy paws, a plastic tail plug and a rubber dog hood for puppy play sessions.
Although you might think the event caters only to a fringe group, I bumped into a lot of my friends there. "I love leather, and I think this event is one of the sexiest of the year," photographer Rob Ordonez told me. He and his friend, fashion designer Geary Marcello, are regulars and were dressed in typical Folsom Street attire, with matching spiked dog collars, leather straps, face piercings and tattoos.
When I arrived around 3 p.m., the block was crammed with mostly men, a few women (some in leather) and drag queens. And one living blow-up doll: A person encased in a latex mask covering his entire face, who was also wearing black latex—with balloons for tits. I pushed my way through the crowd looking for the press table on the other side of the block and thought about getting a beer ticket for $5 because it was starting to get hot (in more ways than one).
As I expected from photos I'd seen from previous Folsoms, some men were semi-nude and consisted of all different body types, ages and colors. Some wore leather chaps with ample ass hanging out, some wore other bondagetype fashion (harnesses being the most common) and some were just wearing average, everyday clothing. What made the day fun was the sense of adventure and friendliness of the crowd.
The stage shows were emceed by porn star personalities Mike Dreyden (who later participated in the most unique pie-eating contest ever conceived) and Will Clark. Sassy drag queen Peppermint performed and—although there were some wellplaced taunts from the average-looking gawkers on the High Line—it was a feelgood day.
My friend, nightlife photographer Teague Clements, seemed to have a great time. "It was a veritable cornucopia of sexual freedom: leather daddies with their lovers, lesbian doms with their boi slaves, muscular bears walking hand-in-hand," he said. "And every now and then, people just... kissing. And yes, there were straight folks, too."
Members of the leather, fetish and BDSM community from across the country visited Houston this weekend to share their wares and offer workshops on the fetish and BDSM lifestyle in a convention at the Sheraton Brookhollow Hotel. We sent a photographer to check out the booths and the most interesting items for sale. Text in some images may be semi-NSFW. PHOTOS BY GROOVEHOUSE
NCSF is pleased to announce the addition of the “Consent Counts” project to our major programs. Consent Counts is a community-wide project that was launched in 2007 at a Leather Leadership Roundtable hosted by NCSF at the Creating Change conference.
Consent Counts is focused on the decriminalization of BDSM. This was determined to be the number one priority for the BDSM/Leather communities at this meeting and the subsequent town hall meeting held at the Leather Leadership Conference.
It was decided that a steering committee should be formed that included representatives of national advocacy groups as well as other key individuals. An extensive survey was conducted to gain community input-- which also provided a basis for further planning.
It was recently determined that in order to serve this critical sexual freedom project that one of the national groups involved needed to take primary responsibility for it; because of the history of the origin of the project NCSF was the logical choice. The program will be directed by Judy Guerin, the former Executive Director of the NCSF, and long-time sexual freedom and gender expression activist.
“We are very excited to have this community-wide project as one of our major programs and a central area of focus,” stated Leigha Fleming, Chairperson of NCSF Board of Directors. “This is a major priority for the BDSM and Leather communities, and NCSF is pleased and proud to be able to take the leadership role.”
For more information on Consent Counts, or to volunteer, please visit:
This Quarter's Newsletter was the most fun to write. It features several different community perspectives, inclduing an article by Catalina Loves, talking about how the NCSF helped her in a critical moment in her life; a youth group in Baltimore that serves to help newcomers find their second skin, Tabu Social Club a success story for the NCSF Incident Response Program and a lively swing community space, and the new changes the NCSF is facing to better serve you resultant from our first ever joint board retreat. This issue is indicative of the new communications you should expect to see from the NCSF, highlighting not just the critical threats facing us, but the joy our community has and the beauty we aim to share with the world--and now with color pictures and more content!
I hope you enjoy, and don't forget that now your stories, your opinions and your writing can be featured in the NCSF blog and newsletter so submit yours to: