For me, like many others, Si Hands was one of the main forces in ensuring my fetish journey was made more accessible and fun. When Si passed, I started thinking about the #WWSD ('What would Si do') call to arms established at his memorial event. I came to the realisation that it was a big shame there was no fetish community in my own city of Leeds, like they have in Manchester.
Thanks to the resurgence of fetishwear and the pup-play phenomenon, it's never been more popular to wear gear at events or in public, which is a good indicator of a kinkier sexual appetite - especially in larger cities. In smaller cities, though, it has been trickier to fight against more conservative attitudes and values. We're now making the first steps to get a local group going and creating momentum for an actual scene (no matter how compact) to emerge.
Having contacted other fetishists and kinksters who were based closer to home than they were to Manchester, it seemed there was an appetite for some form of social activity which allowed them to share their thoughts, concerns and questions in a friendly space (along with a more focused and locally relevant online presence). We ploughed ahead and set up the Facebook pages and group, established a logo and slowly we got guys joining the group. Things have been gradual since those early days - we've had a trip to see the Tom of Finland film, attended 'Love Muscle' (the queer-oriented club night) and shown a presence in gear at arts venue, Live Arts Bistro. In recent weeks we've also seen a promoter come along to run a fetish night in nearby city, Wakefield.
However, when taking stock of this, we realised that we needed to create a point of focus to try and re-energise the Leeds Fetishmen. We therefore put in a successful bid to form the first fetish walking group at Leeds Pride on August 5th.
Our message at Pride will be enthusing that "Fetish is fun" - acknowledging an aspect of your sexuality and allowing everyone to see that Pride isn't just about showing how we've achieved strides towards equality. Being able to identify ourselves as 'accepted', we need to be able to show others that it is ok to have diverse sexual tastes. To show that it is healthy to do so and, as with other aspects of the community, that there is not just one way to be gay.
We understand that traditionally fetish and fetishwear has been linked to specific aspects or types of attire, but we're saying a fetish is personal and should be whatever it is to you. We plan to welcome all; the pups, the skin-clad, the rubbermen, those in sportswear, the uniform-wearers and those which admire a be-suited fellow, but also represent any other attires or objects which drive or reflect sexual identity.
We are hoping to soon be able to announce a monthly fetish social night in the city, but in the meantime, we're inviting all fetish wearers in or near the city to join with us on August 5th - both in the parade and at events in the city later that day. Check out the Leeds Fetishmen Facebook page using the links below for further information on how to get involved.
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