"HARNESS" column for Beefyboyz.com - August 2003

My First Night in a Leather Bar - Part 2

Last month I described my first night in a leatherbar, and how I was on the point of leaving when a stranger gave me some advice on body language. However, not understanding the visual signals being used was only part of my anxiety. Despite having a tremendous desire to be part of this group of people, deep down I believed that I had no right to be there.

Most adults will admit there are times when they feel that they don't fit in with a group of people because of their appearance. Perhaps we see ourselves as too old, or too short, too fat, too tall, too ugly, not muscular enough or not tanned enough to feel at home. When you walk into a leatherbar as a newcomer another selection of messages also pops into your head, starting with the words "I'm not a leatherman because ..."

I don't own enough leather gear .... I'm not into bondage or SM .... I don't ride a motorbike ... I don't like kinky sex .... My friends would disapprove ... I don't have any facial hair .... I'm not into role play .... I don't smoke cigars ... I don't like pain ... I don't own any Tom of Finland drawings ....

I'm sure you can add your own reasons, the list is endless.

Looking round the lobby of the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago the weekend I won my IML title, I could have felt like that. Every third person seemed to be dripping with muscles, tattoos or fur. And I have been made to feel out of place in a bear bar - I remember being told bluntly: "you shouldn't be here" on an early visit to a well-known bear haunt in London. Why? Because I wasn't as big or chunky as the guy who so rudely said it. Fortunately, a dozen bears promptly came over to me and rubbished his remarks - after all, even though I didn't look like a bear, bears are the type of person I go for and I've felt welcome in bear bars ever since.

The good news is that, just like the bear scene, the leather community is big and broad enough to accept you. If you want to join, I'm sure there's a corner where you'll feel comfortable. Here's a list of some of the categories of people that I've noticed in leather bars to help you see where you might fit in. And if you don't see a category below that describes you, feel free to make up your own:

I've met men in every category who think they are more genuine or valid as leathermen than the other groups. But in my mind, the only true leathermen are those who treat other people with honour and respect. We ALL have something to add to this community.

Have fun, and look after yourselves and the people you play with.

John Pendal
International Mr Leather 2003

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