Kim Justice, a prominent Ohio leatherwoman and organizer of the annual Leather Burlesque Bingo fundraiser at CLAW each year, said she started the petition because her feelings and those of others were still fresh from the just ended event.
“My partner is the yearbook coordinator and I came into the office to find him with his head in his hands while he had been building this year’s edition,” she said in an email to the Great Lakes Den. “He had been working on the schedule of event /education and skills pages. He told me having to type the words “Men Only” over and over made him feel sick every time he had to do it.” She had the same feeling mixed with the good feelings of community during the event.
Several of the classes offered this year were limited to men. Kim herself has been active for the past seven years in promoting the event, now one of the largest in the Midwest, and organizing the bingo fundraiser.
A request for comment to CLAW Chairman Bob Miller had not been responded too as of Wednesday evening.
“I feel I have let myself and others who are desperate for evolution down,” Kim said in the email. “I think of all the women and transgender leather folk who have commented to me over the years about how they were seeking knowledge or a skill set taught at CLAW, only to be barred from it because they weren’t cisgender male. I think of all the wonderful gay men who approach me, smiling and wanting to play, only to have a sinking realization creep over their face wiping their smile away and leaving uncomfortable silence.
“If I didn’t care or believe in the event at its core, I would simply walk away. I feel though, CLAW could be the best leather event Internationally, if not for this disparity.”
The Change.org petition, available here, has already received more than one hundred signatures and generated a lot of discussion on social media.
Kim said that she and Bob had planned to talk about gender issues at this year’s event. However, time slipped away during preparations.
“In months and years past when I would bring up my concerns (and the concerns others less outspoken would ask me to relay) about gender disparity at CLAW, some board members would be under the impression only myself and a handful of others felt this way and therefore it was not important,” said Kim. “Others would try to shout me down, hoping I will ease into complacency.
“I started the petition so that when he and I spoke, I could show him that indeed others feel as I do, even many gay men.”
CLAW has not as of yet sent out a response. Currently, CLAW does not state that it is a male only event.