As Orphans, We Wander (Response to Sir Hugh’s The Procrustean Bed)

Posted: December 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

My Title Sir is a remarkable man and he and Race Bannon have begun an interesting discussion on their blogs regarding “Leather Fundamentalism.”  I come to offer another viewpoint.  Their blogs are here – The Procrustean Bed and here Leather Fundamentalism)

Both men offer interesting points of view, but both are from similar vantage points, having the experience of many years as Leathermen.  I, however, am of another generation and a bisexual woman enslaved to a heterosexual Master…not your typical voice in Leather.  Not so long ago, I would have felt clearly the pain of Procrustes’s hammer as he forced me to fit his bed as I would never have fit into a very strict definition of Leather.  Even now, I sometimes struggle with identity and trying to decide where I do fit in.  Still, from what I see, this struggle to define myself and find my place puts me very much in line with the Leather community I find myself in.

I often see the upcoming generation as orphans, wandering in the wilderness, looking for something to cling to.

What we find, often, is someone who claims to know what it is that we are looking for, the birthright that we can’t seem to find as those who would have been our mentors and guides have faded into the darkness.  We find comfort in the rigid codes and mythology they weave for us.  It is better to believe that the past was strong solid ground than to believe that everyone before us also struggled as we do to define their world and themselves.  I think this is the allure of the stories woven about the “Old Guard.”  They give us something firm to hold on to in a time when our elders ranks have thinned and we often feel very much on our own to determine what Leather is and what it isn’t.  The fundamentalism gives a structure that seems at first to be comforting.  It appears to have a strength to it that we can cling to like vines and climb until we discover our paths.  It’s often only too late when we realize that this structure often becomes a prison that keeps us conforming even when it isn’t our nature to be what it is we are being forced to become.

We yearn to believe in a mythical past where some secret underground society of Leathermen all shared the same protocols, dress, values, and ideas partly because if it existed then, there is the comforting though that cohesion and unity are possible and that if they existed once, they might exist again.  It is also easier to be told the “one true way” to do something than to try to learn by trial and error what way is true for each individual.  Fundamentalism has the promise of something to believe in when the world around us can sometimes almost seem like post-apocolyptical with the empty shells of Leatherbars haunted by the ghosts of a thriving Leather scene past.  We sift through the rubble left behind, trying to find the meaning in it all.  Leather Fundamentalism offers a shortcut to that meaning that is tempting to take rather than having to spend the time sifting through all the debris.  Still, like a funhouse filled with mirrors, it only points back to itself and leads us only further and further away from our own unique truths.

The truth is, the answers are not in any one book now any more than they were when the books were written.  The answers for those authors are their answers and while they might help point the way to my own answers, they alone are not my answers.  My Leather journey will be influenced by many along my path, but the sad and scary truth is that I have to walk it alone and it will be different than anyone else’s.  That truth does not have the same warm and cozy comfort as the tight bonds of Leather Fundamentalism, but the truth rarely is as cozy and comfortable as the lies we tell ourselves to avoid it.  It’s harder to each make our own paths, sometimes uphill and each define what Leather will be for us, but, ultimately, I think our forebears would approve far more of that process and journey than of us trying to model ourselves on a mythical past they never lived.  I think they would see the bumps and scrapes we get along the way as we face the same questions they did and make the same mistakes as far more valuable than blind obedience to traditions that were never universally shared.

So, here I am, the alien, redhaired daughter of these titans, pulling from the debris that which I can find useful on the road ahead, seeking guidance from those who seem to know their way, and reaching out to those who are stumbling.  I like to think my forebears would not only be proud, but would also recognize the uncertainty of this journey as much like their own.

  1. A thought provoking article.

    Point of view is so important. The decision to relate to an ideal or standard is yours. It is not imposed on you by someone who claims authority over you.

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