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LA Leather Pride highlights diversity, welcomes all The safe word is ‘enjoy’ By JOHN PAUL KING

Los Angeles is home to the largest leather community in the world and LA Leather Pride turns it out, March 10-25. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Leather Coalition

Though to the uninitiated, the leather and fetish scene might seem like a dark and intimidating environment, LA Leather Pride organizer Gus Norris wants you to know that nothing could be further from the truth. “You go to a couple of these events, and you realize these are just really warm and wonderful people who like to have a lot of fun.” Gabriel Green, a former Mr. LA Leather Bear and the president of LA Band of Brothers, agrees. “I think what is beautiful about leather culture is that there’s something for everybody. There are different levels to kink, from mild to wild, and there’s no judgment about it. Someone might be into something that you’re not, but that’s OK. The point is to just be yourself, celebrate it, and don’t be afraid to explore – just do it safely, sanely, with consent and with respect. That’s the main message of Leather.” It’s about more than just having a good time, though. Norris says, “I’ve seen the community actually save lives. They rally together to support someone who is feeling on edge, who might be thinking of hurting themselves – and also, just in the sense of camaraderie, the encouragement to explore and the acceptance that comes from that. It tells people they’re not alone in their feelings, that what they’re interested in is perfectly normal, that there’s a whole group around you that you can talk to, so you don’t have to feel different and apart – it’s all about telling people that they’re not alone.” Green’s experience bears that out. “When I first came to West Hollywood, I was excited because I was finally in ‘Gay Mecca,’ where I could get a boyfriend and hold hands in public and all that. And yes, it was a great introduction – but I found, unfortunately, there was also a lot of attitude. If you didn’t fit a certain mold – whether it be racially, or because of your build, or whatever, then you might not feel accepted. But when I entered the leather community, people were so warm and welcoming. They were willing to embrace me, to mentor me, and I gained what I really wanted – a big, loving, kinky leather family. I was introduced to a whole new world of experiences, and people, and love.” Green says that being part of the leather community has helped him to learn not to judge himself, and to become a more sex-positive person. “Sometimes something looks scary, or intimidating, and you think ‘I can never do that.’ But sometimes the best things in life happen when you say, ‘why not?’ That’s what I learned from the leather community.” If you feel like you could use a dose of that in your own life, the LA leather community wants you to know that you are welcome to join them for their annual festival. Reinforcing that message is the fact that the theme this year is diversity. You’ll also be supporting a good cause – the proceeds from Pride allow the Los Angeles Leather Coalition to make a substantial donation to Being Alive. Unlike other Pride celebrations, this is not a self-contained festival taking place in a single location; rather, it’s a series of gatherings at different venues, spread out over a 10-day period as the leather community gathers together to crown a new Mr. LA Leather.

Profile for Los Angeles Blade, Volume 2, Issue 5, March 9, 2018, Volume 2, Issue 5, March 9, 2018, Volume 2, Issue 5, March 9, 2018, Volume 2, Issue 5, March 9, 2018