It was a cold winters night in New York city in 1972, I was standing on the corner of Christopher Street and the West Side Highway, trying to build up the nerve to enter my first leather bar – I was 17 and already had this white hair and beard. So, for all of you bitches who are doing the math I am 64. I am an active Leatherman, trained in the traditions of the Old Guard. That night in 1972 changed my life.
When I finally got up the nerve to go into the bar I was amazed at the energy that filled the room. Amazed at the number of strong masculine men. That night I started a conversation with a man who would become my mentor, teacher and friend. That conversation lasted over eight years. Through his guidance I learned to hold a flogger, use a paddle, bind a submissive in leather or chain and how to read the submissive - his eyes, his body, his breathing. From him I learned the value of protocols and the respect for our traditions as men of leather. Most importantly over those eight years I learned, though his training and his example, to be a person of integrity – once that lesson was rooted in me I knew I could call myself a Leatherman.
During those years I earned each of my presented leathers while becoming more integrated in the leather community we were building. First came my boots, starting my desire to walk a leather path. Next, my leather pants and belt, to tell people I was prepared to envelope myself in the leather life. Then my vest, when the community knew me as a teacher and mentor in my own right. Then in that last year my Mentor and friend covered me as Master Stephen. He passed from this life not long after my covering, leaving me his house, his submissives and the call to keep the tradition we so valued alive.
Now, some 46 years later I may still have the white hair and beard, but I am no longer young (I AM NOT OLD EITHER). Age often holds such a high premium in our world as gay men, and while I understand we all have our "TYPE" (I have never turned down a hot muscle sub in my life), my reason for writing is to show that with age comes history, wisdom, traditions and a chance to learn your roots as men of leather.
I currently own a Dungeon here in Orlando Florida. I am Master of the house and the club is run in the traditions of old leather. Before opening the dungeon, I was so over the leather life and all the 20-year-old instant Doms – most of whom got their prior experience in online dungeons. So over the disrespect for my history and the traditions I hold dear. I was fast withdrawing from the life and even from interaction with my own submissive.
During a visit to Fort Lauderdale I went shopping in a Leather store – where I watched two young men dressing themselves head to toe in new leather, their credit cards were going to get a good workout. The guys, I overheard, were headed to RAMROD that night for PIG DANCE. So as not to dress the same the guys dressed themselves in different colors. The first guy chose all RED trim for everything he was trying on. The Second chose everything YELLOW trimmed to match his blond hair. Having watched and listened to this for a while, I was curious as to why they were choosing what they were. I went to talk to the guys, only to get that look the young often give to those older, a look that did change in time. Undaunted, I asked them what they knew about pig dance or leather in general for that matter and their reply "What's to know, we look good in leather". When I asked the guy RED if he liked to get fisted and the blond guy how he felt about piss the two guys froze. After a conversation about "flagging" I helped to redress the two young men – no longer giving me that look – in more basic leathers for there first visit to a leather bar. I met them at the bar that night and they bought me a drink. We talked about leather and my life as a Leather Master and their desire to learn without getting hurt. The Age divide was, in this case narrowed.
In that simple encounter I realized I am the only one who can pass on my story and my knowledge. My way is certainly not the only way, but it holds traditions and protocols that are rooted in the very foundation of our leather lives. I have come back to the community, opened my Dungeon and I am teaching, hosting protocol events and mentoring the Leathermen (and women) of the future. I am writing this with two hopes in mind, first that my leather brothers and sisters who have age and history on their side will come forward allow your history to be told and shown and become a part of forming the future. Secondly, to those of you with youth and enthusiasm on your side, look with value on the elders of your community. Do not marginalize someone because of there age. Often, with my 40 odd years of experience I can do things with your mind and body that someone your own age could not. I can also mentor you in history of your chosen way of life because I have been there.
A secret, known only those of us lucky enough to have lived it and those who were awakened by it, is that the mentoring that makes one a good, no, great Leatherman also makes one a great man. That INTEGRITY I spoke of earlier that is not something one puts on and takes off - it is the branding of a true Leatherman. I am 64 years old and still a proud and active Leatherman.