Class mentioning Hitler raises controversy at LLC

Conference issues apology after days of criticism

ATLANTA — The leather community was rocked this week after a class at Leather Leadership Conference (LLC) 22 included references to Hitler and Genghis Khan in the course description.

Here is the full description of the class. It has since been pulled from both the LLC schedule and the event’s Fetlife post:

Powerful Leadership Styles (Part 1) What can we learn from Genghis Kahn, Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Hitler? They all were incredibly powerful and dynamic leaders. They all changed the course of history. In the class we look at the difference between being just powerful, and being truly great, by examining similarities, differences, and how their leadership styles impacted the people they “served”

The class description got a lot of attention after author Laura Antoniou, originally the keynote speaker, wrote an open letter denouncing the class and saying that she could not support an event with such a class. Since then, other attendees, presenters and vendors have said they will no longer attend the event in Atlanta next year.

LLC did remove the class after the social media outcry and apologized, but the damage was done.

When asked how the class description made it through considering the rise of racist actions in the country, LLC Chair Ben Earlehad this to say:

“The initial belief was ‘how timely this is’; especially with the recent events so reminiscent of the past. With the current administration, we are seeing those old political dogmas, thoughts and behaviors become blatantly public. Our lives are being assailed through tacit and directed threats to friends and family.In this political climate, we believed a discussion on how to constructively battle the evil forces infringing on our lives and freedoms, would not only be timely, but necessary.  The people listed in the class description changed the world – and now the most nefarious of those ideologies is again rearing its ugly heads.

“The big question which was raised within our communities is how to deal with this new barefaced wave of hatred and intolerance.We are agents of change, and the best way to institute positive change is to learn why and how this systemic hatred has become so prevalent.

When contacted by a reporter, Laura said she understood that Khan and Hitler were never meant to be role models in leadership. She said that her problem with it was “the intellectual laziness, cheap theatrics and moral relativism revealed in the set-up. Because it was a set-up, a fact made clear when the presenter defended the class.”

Laura had talked with the presenter of the class, a Mistress Varii, Laura said defended the presentation by bringing up the faults of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., who were also included in the class description.

“There is literally no reason to bring up historical genocidal monsters as examples in a workshop on small community leadership. NONE,” she said. “No one in the leather or kink scenes is going to start a genocidal movement – or, if they intend to, taking a course at LLC would hardly dissuade them. The very idea of using them as examples is a bizarre and irresponsible choice.

“Were there truly zero examples of unethical leadership between Rev Dr Martin Luther King and Hitler? No one came to mind? They had to go right for Hitler, like a bad internet comments section.”

Laura said it was another example of Nazism being used in regular discourse in current society, citing a recent New York Times profile on a white supremacist and recent public demonstrations by racists.

“It’s been a touchy couple of years, politically,” she said. “I don’t need people in MY SCENE tossing around Hitler as a talking point about leadership when there are actual nazis hanging around the White House.”

Ben said that LLC would do a more vigilant review and vetting of presenters, course content and descriptions “There will be a committee that votes on all presentations submitted with validation ensured and the final decision resting with the board,” he stated.

As for including more people of color and marginalized communities, Ben said that LLC would further its efforts to reach out to all marginalized segments of the leather and kink community for direction, content and critique, using the example of ASL interpreters being at the conference for the past five years. “If a community has not been represented or believes we are not adequately representing them and their needs, we invite them to stand up and represent themselves with LLC. Our board and volunteer staff are comprised of a pretty diverse crowd. There is always room for expansion of the base, and we would love to see that happen.  We encourage anyone interested to apply for the board positions, join our excellent volunteers and work with us to grow and improve ourselves as an organization and as a community. ”

LLC put out a more detailed and longer apology on their Facebook page on Friday.

To our community:

It is with heavy heart that we reach out to ask forgiveness regarding our error in judgment.

We selected a class for the upcoming LLC which caused hurt and pain within our diverse community of Leather and kinky people. We cannot and will not attempt to justify that mistake. The Board of LLC takes full responsibility for this lapse.

“Powerful Leadership Styles” was selected as a presentation to confront prejudice. It was in no way intended to support it.

Leadership is an act of motivating people towards a common goal, but HOW that is accomplished and what those goals are is critical. We could have and should have included a lengthier program description to adequately show how the class would provide a useful opportunity in addressing the issues that are distressing our community and the people we hold dear.

In an effort to be transparent: some presenters have withdrawn from the upcoming conference.

We have been in communication with these presenters and sincerely respect their decisions and that of all LLC speakers. We will always be in debt to our volunteer presenters for the time and talents they provide to deliver excellence to our guests.

Moving forward, the LLC is enacting a more diligent review and vetting process for presenters, course content and classes. A full board review will be required to provide the due diligence necessary to ensure all our course offerings are in compliance with our shared values.

There has been a recent call for more inclusion of marginalized communities in the planning of LLC. We strongly agree. We shall further our efforts to reach out to all of you for direction, proper content, and discerning critique.

Folks- We made an egregious mistake.

We ask you for your forgiveness as we take positive action to prevent recurrence.

In learning from this experience, we invite all those interested in having input in how LLC can better accomplish this we ask that you let your voice be heard by being part of these positive changes. And, we cannot assure that unless all of our community is represented.

Toward that end, please send us an email to and we will make sure your voice is heard by the entire board.

The LLC Board