Happy Pride Month! Let’s celebrate the input kink and BDSM has made towards LGBT+ liberation

PRIDE Flag

Pride celebrations have become a regular event to look forward to in countries around the world every year, with people and corporate businesses making positive statements in how they support the LGBT+ community. But what about the contribution our kinky community has made towards it?

Let’s take a look into our history and how it call began.

Men and the leather culture

Since the late 1940s, male leather culture had existed when it likely grew out of the post World War II biker / motorcycle culture. It reflected some men’s dislike of high culture, popular culture (especially musical theater), and/or camp style and as a leather community was emerging from the motorcycle clubs, it also became the location for men’s open exploration of kink and S&M.

1950s American biker club members

In 1961, South of Market in San Francisco became the hub of the leather subculture in the gay community and in 1964, Life magazine featured article entitled “Homosexuality In America,”. It was the first time a national publication reported on gay issues with the article opening with a two-page spread of the mural of life size leathermen in a bar called ‘Tool Box’. The article described San Francisco as “The Gay Capital of America” which inspired many gay leathermen to move there.

Gay mens magazine Drummer which was publicised from 1975 to 1999, became the the most successful American leather magazine and also sold abroad. The publication had a serious impact in spreading gay leather as a lifestyle and masculinity as a gay ideal.

How did Women come to be involved?

Female activist Cynthia Slater, made her way into the gay leather bars and clubs of San Francisco in the late 1970’s and helped pave the way for other women to participate in the gay male scene.

Female activist and 2014 Leather Hall of Fame inductee – Cynthia Slater

Through personal, social, and political connections with various kinky people, she created some of the earliest examples of mutual cooperation between gay and straight, lesbian and bi, men, women, and transfolk. Next she brought Sado-Masochist sex education institutions, and progressive sex education ideas back into the SM communities.

Pat Califia, who prior to transitioning into a bisexual trans man in 1999 at the age of 45, identified as a lesbian and wrote for many years in the sex advice column for Drummer.

Pat Califa with floggers and paddles in 1996

Califia is “one of [the] earliest champions of lesbian sadomasochistic sex” whose work has been taught in colleges across the USA and abroad. He also was the co-founder of a lesbian-feminist BDSM organization based in San Francisco 1978 to 1983 named Samois, where he then focused his attention towards the lesbian experience of BDSM. In 1989 Califia received the Steve Maidhof Award for National or International Work from the National Leather Association International.

Both Cynthia and Pat were amongst a very small number of other Women who were accepted into the gay leather scene in San Francisco during the late 1970s, and this brought them mainstream attention.

Men and Women bonding over leather

Over the years the Lesbian and Gay communities continued to merged in their love of leather and in 1984, the first Folsom Street Fair was held in San Francisco. Now known as the world’s largest leather event and showcase for BDSM products and culture, it hosts “Leather Pride Week” where men and Women from all over the world come to celebrate and be awarded for their contributions to the Leather community.

Left to right: Girl Complex, International Ms. Leather 2017; Gage Fisher, bartender at the Eagle; Ms. V., International Ms. Bootblack 2007; Race Bannon, writer and community organizer, Nuclear Patty; Graylin Thornton, International Mr. Drummer 1993; Beth Bicoastal, Folsom Street Events; Benjamin McGrath, bartender at The Stud; Rachel Ryan, Leather District community organizer; Nate Allbee, LGBT preservationist; Shaun Haines, President of San Francisco Black Community Matters; Sup. Jane Kim. (Photo by Eric Pratt)

The Leather Pride Banner

Structured by Tony DeBlase in 1989, the leather pride banner is an image utilised by the leather subculture since the 1990s. It was fully embraced by the gay community and has since become the flag to represent the entire leather subculture in the BDSM community.

The leather subculture signifies practices and styles of dress around sexual exercises for men that include leather articles of clothing, for example, leather coats, vests, boots, chaps, bridles, or different things.

Following this flag was the appearance of the BDSM rights flag which was designed by Tanos, a Master from the United Kingdom. Loosely based on the leather pride flag and also includes a version of the BDSM triskelion. The BDSM emblem has been said to represent either of these theories in it’s 3 divisions.

  • BDSM itself: Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism;
  • The BDSM motto of “safe, sane, and consensual”
  • Tops, bottoms, and switches.
The BDSM Rights flag

The flag is used to represent the belief that people whose sexuality or relationship preferences that include BDSM deserve the same human rights as everyone else, meaning people should not be discriminated against for pursuing BDSM with consenting adults.

Bringing it all together, and continuing to rise

The American National Coalition for Sexual Freedom was founded in 1997 and became a coalition of almost 100 groups, clubs and businesses, including mental health practices and law firms.

Their mission statement is as followed:

The NCSF is committed to creating a political, legal and social environment in the US that advances equal rights for consenting adults who engage in alternative sexual and relationship expressions. The NCSF aims to advance the rights of, and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory Communities. We pursue our vision through direct services, education, advocacy, and outreach, in conjunction with our partners, to directly benefit these communities.

The founding Coalition Partners were:

  • National Leather Association – International
  • Gay Male S/M Activists
  • The Eulenspiegel Society
  • Black Rose
  • Society of Janus (which was run by Cynthia Slater)

It also includes a charitable foundation that provides education and conducts research. Working with allied organizations they all support the rights and well-being of kinky and non-monogamous people, groups and businesses.

LGBT+ and BDSM today

There has been lots of conversation on a whether the ‘k’ for ‘kink’ should be included in the LGBT acronym. LGBT people are still fighting for acceptance and within the community, there is a repressed subculture of queer kinksters. 

Many members of the BDSM community regard kink as their sexual orientation, the reason being “a kinky person won’t enjoy a relationship with a vanilla person” and the kinky folk amongst the FFFTeam find this to be true. However on the flip side there is an argument against the inclusion of the ‘k’ because being kinky is about how you have sex, which is problematic as the LBGT+ movement is actually about who you are as a person.

Many LGBT people find BDSM one more avenue to explore their identities. Whether in private or public, kink is here to stay and trying to repress any kinky tendencies will always lead to a dead end, especially for those who already find it hard to accept who they truly are.

We understand the concern from the BDSM community that adding even more letters will dilute the meaning, message and importance further and further. Whilst we feel we don’t have to start adding more letters, we do have to commit to being each other’s allies and support each other wherever we can.

Engaging in kink is a celebration of all of our sexualities, and it also connects us to a community much larger than us. LGBT and kinky communities can continue to thrive and adapt to fit the social climates of the time and by doing so, our history can also become our cemented future.

Other flags and communities you might be interested in

Sexuality is not a straight forward thing to be understood and if you have found yourself curious, take a look at the flags below and see if any resonate with you.

Celebrating Pride virtually this year

So if you know of any BDSM/Leather Pride Virtual celebrations that will be going on, please do let us know so we can promote them here!

What did you think of this article? Please make your comments below.

Written exclusively for Female Fetish Federation

3 responses to “Happy Pride Month! Let’s celebrate the input kink and BDSM has made towards LGBT+ liberation”

  1. I don’t think adding a K into LGBTQ+ is necessary. It falls under the +. It’s long enough as it is. I mean it only makes sense that they added in the Q for the non-binary people out there who don’t identify as any of the previous 4 letters.

  2. I always thought I was Bisexual, mostly because I didn’t really understand what Pansexual meant up until a few years ago. And now that I do the flag resonates with me so much more. Yes for the bright yellow stripe in the middle! That’s more my scene!

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