From a young age I always had a thing for leather. I remember watching my favourite TV shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed, and looking intently at characters like Angel or the demons wearing leather. I remember thinking, I'd love to have a pair of leather jeans and I'd love to look that good in them! I didn't know back then that I was attracted to men. I just thought that I was 'idolising' men for their boldness to wear leather.
I always suppressed attraction and convinced myself that I looked up to these guys. I couldn't be attracted to men… could I? I put these feelings aside and went on with life, leading to me marrying a woman at the age of 25. Things were good for a while and even in our final year of marriage I started exploring gear, starting with rubber. As you can imagine, I also wanted to buy a pair of leather jeans, but I didn't know where to look. I searched for World Leather Men, which came across when I was 18. I noticed it had changed its name to Recon. There I met member craig1989, who supported me and helped me look find a pair of jeans on the Bockleder website.
Unfortunately, my marriage broke down after this for a number of reason not actually relevant to my sexuality. There were issues that we both had to work through and for one reason or another, it didn't work out.
Being a newly single guy, I didn't know where to start, so I turned to Recon again, and met member cigarleatherworship. I was keen to meet someone who could introduce me to the leather scene. He was a patient guy and became a friend who was there to support me. He would listen to me while I just cried and opened up about my experience and I remember being so lost about who I was. I was quite the 'clingy' friend and would phone him most evenings for help.
Figuring out your sexuality is hard but when you're figuring out your sexuality and your fetish at the same time…. let's just say I was a bit of a train wreck.
This lovely gent, took me to my first leather social. It was one of the hottest days of the summer and we attended the Leather Social in London. It was perfect. Not many guys wanted to hang out in their hot leather with the sun blazing down, so it was a smaller crowd than usual (so I was led to believe). I got to make friends with a few like-minded guys and I had the support of a guy who was able to reign me in.
I felt liberated! I had attended my first ever 'event' and I felt like I belonged! It was after this that I was ready for my next experience. I'm the type of person that will grab life by the balls. I turned up at Brighton pride in a pair of leather jeans and a flowery shirt. I remember one of the guys saying to me that night 'We're trying to figure out if you're one of us'. I have my own bizarre sense of style with my leather. I would wear it casually more often if I could. I walked the streets of Brighton with lots of pride and I had a great time.
Unfortunately, I still hadn't dealt with one big issue. What was it like to be a gay man and what was it like to be a fetish man. I had spoken to a lot of guys and I had blurred the two. I came out to my family as gay but also wore leather around them and they accepted my fetish at the same time. Blurring these lines messed with my mental health in a big way.
Many people saw the whole 'liberation' as a good thing but didn't see that I had also lost a partner of 15 years. I was lonely and had made a big change in my life.
To immerse myself, I attended the Backstreet, London Leather Pride, Amsterdam Leather Pride, Manchester Alert and even more Leather Socials. I was at everything. I remember my head being so messed up that it put friction on some of my friendships.
I ended up with a visit to a hospital in November. I haven't told many of my fetish friends about this, but I think that mental health in men is important to be open an honest about and to share the impact it can have on a person.
I pressed pause in November and stopped attending events. I took a month to figure out what it was like to be a gay man and even went to some regular gay clubs. I spoke to friends and took the time to get to know what being gay meant to me. I started socialising with none kink guys as well and opened up my experience.
It was after this that I started to listen to my friends. Although I managed to achieve a lot and experience a lot of kink in a short space of time, I hadn't figured out 'who I was'. Every event would give me euphoria for that moment but then it would just wash away again.
My next event I attended was Leathermen South. It was here where I rebuilt friendships and people saw that things had finally fallen into place. This gave me the confidence to then attend the Recon New Year's party.
I was lucky and had a good support network, but I would like to give advice to new guys attending fetish events. Take Your Time! Know who you are before you attend! People might tell you what to do, but only you know your moral compass. Listen to it, don't lose it and stay safe.
I'm thankful I'm in a very good place now and I know who I am, but it takes time. Don't put pressure on yourself, Rome wasn't built in a day.