Community Comment: Leatherman Interrupted

This isn’t a new topic, but one that rears it proverbial head every few years or so. Sometimes more frequently. As time goes on opinions change, sometimes they stay the same, and sometimes the problem is fixed. “Old Guard” vs “New Guard” and every combination of these terms has been cancer that has troubled the culture we’ve come to live in.

Community Comment is an occasional column written by community members on various topics of living a leather, bear and kink lifestyle.

It’s taken a breakup for me to really grasp the similarities between this situation and an issue I seem to have had a lot of relationships suffer with. From friends to Sir’s, to partners, even pups. Only recently had I made the correlation between the two topics. Before I begin to talk about the subject I want to remind everyone reading that this is not the absolute truth, it’s an opinion of a person. It is subject to interpretation and absolutely able to be changed should evidence prove otherwise.

Ren Rushold

I’d like to take the time to explain why I have the thoughts I do about this topic. These are based on personal experience with myself and no one else.

I wasn’t into leather/kink when I learned about the culture. My partner Adam was, he was what I called a “wallflower” as amazingly hot as he was to me. He would be the person always silent in the corner at the bar events just watching. He had his reasons, I’m not really able to say why with certainty. One time he had brought me to a “Gear night” it was a local bar in upstate New York. The turn out wasn’t that large but he enjoyed having me there. I was more concerned with him fucking me later (Surprise…) and who was coming to this event. I watched with him asking questions when they came up. “Whats that color mean? Why is he wearing it like that? Seem so impractical? etc…” The night ended at his place and he had given me a harness. He told me it was his first harness and he wanted me to have it. At the time I honestly thought nothing of it. I put it in a box and never wore it eventually forgetting about it. Well, he passed away. Life became bleak and dark for me but I pressed on. Eventually meeting a couple I became a poly partner with. A year or two later I was digging around in a box to look for a controller for my Xbox 360 I had lost. I found the harness at the bottom of a chest and looked at it. Holding it in my hand made me remember that night and my former. I put it on, and to my surprise it made me look hot and feel that way. I did some research into Leather and kink, in general, to find that it really wasn’t that much different to myself life as it was and I enjoyed it!

One night I threw on the harness and went to the local “Gear Night” again. Nervous as this time I was alone, I recalled my former telling me “Be more talkative and outgoing.” I found some gentleman who was older and had these biker looking vests on. They were all sitting together at the bar. “Fuck it, they might be able to help me understand some things.” they did help me understand one thing. I was not welcome. I had sparked conversation about the night mostly small talk. Then asked if they could help me with some understandings about the culture. The first words out of them were the last I’d hear before walking out. “Pfft, why? You’re what? Like 20 something? You don’t care about it other than how it looks on you. Beat it.” For an average person, they might have let it roll off their backs. I did not, I was pissed told them “Whatever dude..” and left.

When I had returned home, I spent the night lurking on kink forums to find that others had similar interactions all over this world with something called “Old Guard”. I researched more, as any person with a computer and internet access would have. I read up on it and with youthful disdain, I said “Yeah fuck that. No one will tell me what I can and can’t do.” I researched International Mr. Leather, International Leather Sir/boy, International Mr. Bootblack, etc to see what these all were. I never went back to that bar, however, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to make sure anyone who wanted to come to this world wouldn’t experience that. I wanted them to find a place to belong, most of all I wanted to get laid.

About a year later I moved to Minnesota and jumped head first into the Leather Culture locally. It was already a different world than Upstate NY. So many people, so many experiences, a whole new world (Que Aladin music). It was at that point I decided to run for a local Leather Title. I knew exactly what I wanted to do should I win, I didn’t care about being the most popular or being like the ones before me. I wanted new people and old persons within the community to know who I was so if and when they needed me I could be there to help. I wanted to be the gateway for those who needed to find a home or new home, or even just try something different could count on. I wanted to be the person that those Leatherfolk from NY were not.

Since IML, I had learned quite a bit about myself and the culture I had helped in a small way shape. I learned that you can’t hold the ability to make everyone happy, and that compromise is something that is always needed. With that I was able to study the people around me and how they viewed the culture we were in. Some had idealistic views of how they wanted it to be, others had views that they wanted things to be like the old days. Some saw the changes happening and left altogether. I went through phases myself. Throughout my time in the community, I had lost partners, Sir’s, etc… It hurt at first, a lot in some cases but the friends and in reality the family I had made here had helped me grow and heal somewhat. However I watched, despite my bad eyes I saw so much. Learned so much and continue to learn so much.

Now, this brings me to the main topic, having learned so much and continuing to do so. I have become able to see a few observations. Regardless of what we think or say, everything we do has a level of investment into it. From financial to emotional, to a way of life. There is no gauge for these investments as every person is different and invests in different ways. I’ve noticed that when the subject of “Old Guard” comes up it’s met with disdain or “New Guard” met with a level of degradation. Where do these feelings come from? Where do they stem from? Who’s right and who’s wrong? Some say “We are sexual mavericks who cultivated a life against the normalities that we had been suppressed by.” and some say “We are a culture derived from traditions and a history that should be continued and honored.” While these are the opinions of many they seem to butt heads when others put those beliefs into question.

It’s been my personal observation that neither is totally correct or incorrect. What has people so upset is the way others go about managing their own personal feelings about the topic. Regardless of what you personally may believe, understand that we all have investments in this culture. From the newest kinkster to the most respected one. When what we believe in and invest in is questioned or disregarded it can almost be crippling to some to see something that they have such investment in treated in such a manner. Now this applies to everyone in the spectrum of “Old, New, whatever Guard”.

This was an issue I am guilty of in a lot of my relationships. Putting expectations on other people to have the same emotional investment into a relationship as I did. The same effort, the same love, the same passion… Otherwise, how would it be fair? It took my most recent relationship with two people to realize this to be a fault of mine. It took a conversation based on hurt today about the community and the topic of “Old Guard Vs. New Guard” to be able to apply my learnings and understanding toward it.

When these expectations are placed in our hearts and minds we tend to forget that everyone from every walk of life carries different needs emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc… That they should not be expected to understand everyone’s expectations and investments in such a cut-throat manner. We’ve all come here for different yet similar reasons. By no means am I saying we have to abandon our paths to accept what our hearts are unable to see or feel. However what I can say is that if we are to survive in trying times, and there will be trying times in our future. That we need to support one another as a whole. To know that the needs of our culture might have to change to fit what the world needs. To remind the world where we came from and the struggles of the past. But not as a barrier, but to aid people in whatever facet they may need…

Ren Rushold lives in Minneapolis.