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San Francisco Leathermen's Discussion Group

We Need to Let the Younger Guys Take Over (September 7, 2012 — RACE BANNON)


Before I start rambling here, let me state upfront that this post is specifically for gay leathermen. It’s not a topic that’s as relevant for others. With that said… Today I had a chat with a casual friend of mine who is a long-time leatherman. He was excited that a former leather bar of ours here in San Francisco, the San Francisco Eagle, is reopening after being closed for a while. The entire kink/leather community here in San Francisco is hopeful that the new bar will offer us yet one more venue in which to meet and socialize.

During our chat my friend started to say something like (not an exact quote) “Our entire scene is built on the foundation of us older leathermen.” I think he even used the term I’m not a huge fan of, the Old Guard. His tone and fervor seemed to indicate that he believes the bulk of the scene is in our hands today. I took exception with him.

No, I’m not saying that leathermen did not, indeed, build the foundations upon which much of what we today refer to as the modern leather/BDSM/fetish community has flourished. My friend though was implying that even today’s modern leather/kink scene is primarily fueled by us (yes, I’m one of them) older leathermen. I contend it is not.

All around the country and in Europe I’m seeing younger guys stepping up to the plate and taking charge of our clubs and organizations, events, venues, retailers, and so on. Yes, us older guys still have our place. We are still vital members of this community. We still contribute on all fronts. Many of the younger guys do look to us for information and wisdom. But far too often I see many older guys like myself failing to step aside on the kinky path to let the younger guys do their thing unencumbered.

At times I sense my older leathermen peers adopt an attitude that implies they are doing it all correctly and the younger guys must replicate what we do, how we dress, how we socialize, how we play, and how we identify with our kink. I think that’s a recipe for the atrophying of our scene, not its growth.

Change is inevitable. It’s one of the few universal constants. If anything in the universe stays the same, it eventually withers and ceases to exist. Why should we think the kinky scene we all love is any different. Change is good, not bad. Change breathes new life into things. And typically a large part of the energy for such change, no matter in what context, comes from younger people. So it is with leather and kink.

To the younger leathermen’s and kinksters’ credit, they have generally been quite inclusive of us older guys. I have rarely felt any sense of youth entitlement or feeling left out of things because of my age. Sure, younger guys at times want to be with their own kind. Good for them. That’s natural as human beings that we sometimes aggregate in clusters of those who are most like us. But overall I find the younger men ready to embrace and include us older guys in their midst.

The younger guys bring with them a new perspective on the leather and kink scene. They often dress differently than the classic leatherman. They often play differently than the classic leatherman. They often socialize differently than the classic leatherman. They often see their erotic identities differently than the classic leatherman. I think this is a good thing. I love to see our scene grow and morph into a wider variety of erotic and identity expressions.

So, I’m one old leatherman who is quite happy to wave the younger kinksters past me and encourage them to do the things many of them are doing so well. I’ll continue to contribute in the ways I can. And when you mix it all together, you have a healthier and better leather and kink scene. There is room for everyone.

Race Bannon at