Although I have had friends in the Leather community since my first San Diego Pride, they were not close friendships. I would go through the Leather realm every year and learn a little bit. It never occurred to me to really find out what their community was all about. I knew one Trans guy in the Leather world and he seemed to really enjoy it but again, our conversations around the community were superficial at best.
Fast-forward 16 years and suddenly I have some much closer friends who have not only been involved in the Leather community but have embraced it as a part of how they live their lives. My friend Jerry McCracken said this: The Leather community will give you a sense of honor; you learn self-respect; you learn to be gut honest. He went on to say there was a roundtable talk a few weeks ago. A group of folks listed out at least 30 different groups whose interests overlapped. I’d not sat down and really thought about it until that night — it boiled down to something really simple: We were all marginalized.
You discriminate against one group and you’ve hit a slippery slope. Theater, for instance, was on our list. It was amazing how different groups interact if there is a group that is marginalized. All groups are in danger of being marginalized. These words from Jerry gave me an insight into how the world of leather, at least in San Diego, confirms my guess that all the great people I meet every year at Pride really are nice people all year-round.
Back to the rest of my circle of friends: they all seem to get very involved — above-and-beyond kind of involved. The newest member of the group is Serafine Sawyer. She and I actually met at The Center and I didn’t even know she was part of the Leather community. Then one day, I saw a picture of her wearing her sash, which read Miss San Diego Leather 2019. Wow.
So, I asked if she could find some time in her very busy life to explain to me about the intersection of Transgender and Leather. Is it a place we are welcome? What is life like for a Leather Trans woman?
Ms. San Diego Leather 2019: Personal statement
After coming out as Trans, many of my friends and family quietly stepped back or walked away. I was lost. The San Diego Leather community was incredibly welcome and supportive. It’s also why there were more than 42 Trans-nonbinary titleholders worldwide in 2019. This includes the current International Mr. Leather Jack Thompson and San Diego’s own Bootblack Pup Rowdy and so many more. This amazing Leather community is steeped in a history of supporting those on the fringe and protecting our personal and sexuality expression.
I was drawn to this community because it spoke to my heart, and it allowed me the freedom to express my sexuality — a freedom which many in the larger LGBTQ+ community consider deviant and are less than supportive of. The Leather community has unified around promoting one’s freedom to consensually engage with others however you wish.
What kept me here was the family I discovered and the relationships I built. I connected with the San Diego Leather women through the San Diego Girls of Leather. This group is just one of many smaller groups that make up our community. We’ve spent time over bonfires, at events, and just hanging out during our monthly meetings. There’s more than 25 years of Ms. San Diego Leather titleholders and dedicated community women leaders who are always holding some event, class, retreat or roundtable. San Diego has a vibrant women’s community just waiting to be discovered.
My title year as Ms. San Diego Leather 2019 has been one of the most incredible years of my life and I’m truly honored to have served. Throughout this year, my two title husbands (Pup Rowdy, San Diego Bootblack 2019, and Jody Mitchel, Mr. San Diego Leather 2019) and I have formed strong connections. We have spent nights traveling between one event and another, just wondering if we were going to get enough sleep before the next day’s activity. Jody and I have spent many hours in the car traveling to distant Pride events eating Del Taco. I’ve celebrated with him and cried in his arms. His charisma is infectious, and it’s spurred me to continue when I was running on empty. Alex is always right there when I need him, either in the stands at the event, or setting up for pup night at the Eagle…he’s been my serenity and voice of reason when I just can’t deal with things.
I showed up, lost and alone — a middle-aged Transwoman. But I kept coming back — volunteering, gently asking questions, and slowly learning more about this rich and dedicated community…and before I knew it, it was my community — it was my new family. The local connection we form with each other binds and protects us, it’s tied to a strong and beautiful history that we honor and remember. We are a facet in a worldwide community grounded in promoting sexual freedom and dedicated to each other. This is my Leather community; this is my family.
So, that is Serafine’s story; Trans women are indeed welcome. From talking to all these people, I realize that the Leather community seems to be a place where those who don’t fit in very well elsewhere, fit in here just right, like it was waiting for them.
Another good friend of mine is Alexander. He also wanted to write about his experiences with San Diego Leather. I have known Alex for quite a few years and he is just a great guy. Here is what he had to say:
I had always had some kind of interest in Leather and kink. I thought it was a really hot aesthetic, and then I learned that it’s more than that. Folks in the Leather community are constantly working to be their best selves, often using the practices of BDSM as a tool to achieve this.
Honestly, I didn’t think that there was space for guys like me in the Leather community until Tyler McCormick became the first Trans man to win IML in 2010. He inspired me to get involved in the local community. Being in the Leather community has helped me to be a better, more authentic version of myself. Sure, I’m much more aware of myself sexually, but I’m also more open to communicate issues, learn and grow. I embrace change instead of run from it. I also picked up a bunch of fun and kinky skills along the way. Who else can say they can safely set folks on fire?!