Leather in the Lead

Whatever your conventions, you have kinship with the kinky crowd

There’s an axiom of which I never grow tired: Perspective is everything.

I think I’m an ethical person; others would cast me into the pits of hell for my homosexual abomination. Cross a border, and you’re a criminal. One society’s day-to-day normalcy is another’s capital offense.

Particularly, on a planet that I perceive to be grossly overpopulated, I turn to the Duggar family of 19 children. Someone else may look at the Duggars, with their ”Santorum for President” emblazoned family bus, see upstanding Americans and hope for at least another 19. Or, a producer at TLC, the network running their reality show, 19 Kids & Counting, might see them as simply a profit-producing data point. From where I sit, I wonder how many lashes the Duggar women might receive for loose morals if they miraculously appeared on a Saudi street corner one sunny afternoon in ankle-exposing tan culottes and short sleeves, heads brazenly uncovered.

Regardless of how they’re perceived, they are the same people. That’s not to dismiss the power of perception.

Another scenario that comes to mind is a pride parade and that float with the leatherfolk. There are the moons peeking out of chaps. There’s bound to be a latex hood or two, duct-tape pasties and even a bit of flogging. And somewhere along the parade route, a fellow sexual minority will utter something like, ”They make us look like freaks.”

There is the perception, once more – albeit anecdotal – illustrating the relativism of everything.

My hypothetical spectator – a variable we’ll define as a gay guy named Judd (because I don’t know anyone named Judd) – might see the kinky crew as something different from himself. He might see them as debasing a noble civil rights movement, of littering our path to equality with hedonism.

Standing next to Judd, I see heroes, because I know that my identity as a sexual minority doesn’t come from my adoration of Absolutely Fabulous or my preoccupation with my hair, but from my attraction to men. And, unlike Judd, I know that’s plenty for some to perceive me as disgusting. Someone may imagine my husband and me gettin’ it on, and be repulsed. Then she imagines Prince William and Kate Middleton doing the same, and she gets pleasantly flustered. Aside from her reaction, little else is different. ”But Kate is procreating!” Well, not if she’s blowing the prince, she ain’t. I am vile, the princess perfect.

Unlike Judd, I also know that I have more in common with the revelers on the leather float than with my hypothetical character who enjoys the royals. I could scrapbook, go to Bible study and stop drinking, and still I would belong to the sexual underground. There is no white-picket fence strong enough to redeem us in the eyes of critics. The pope is not alone when he says your marriage is the harbinger of apocalypse. For some, LGBT will just never be pure enough. Stop trying.

Instead, celebrate those who try to take sexual expression out of its closet. We live in a world where people despise sex as much as they crave it. Consider that there are roughly twice as many females in this world who have suffered some degree of Female Genital Mutilation/circumcision than have received the Gardasil vaccination against HPV. As a whole, we are more willing to damage a girl’s clitoris than to protect her from cancer (regardless of Merck & Co.’s lobbying efforts).

The leather/kinky community better us all by putting themselves out there. What some will always perceive as sick, sadistic and creepy – say, a man being mummified in Dore Alley or a woman bound publicly in Japanese rope play – our LGBT community better serves itself by recognizing what is safe, sane and consensual.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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