The SF girls of Leather ♥ cute kink and breaking down stereotypes
"I had always identified with the title of 'girl.' I was a girl who liked to serve the community, but I was also a switch," says Mistress Pilar, a longtime leather veteran and member of the original, and now revived, SF girls of Leather. Being a switch — someone who doesn't commit to top or bottom exclusively — meant her definition of girl didn't fit with that of the Leather Girl Network, which stated: girl equals submission. She wasn't alone in her dilemma.
In 2004, San Francisco girls decided to put together their own troop, headed by girl Lori, the 2003 San Francisco Leather Dyke girl (a contest that no longer exists), and girl Hayden, the 2004 title-holder. They intentionally left the definition of girl open to allow for individual interpretation. The leather community shuddered at the loose restraints, confused by the men, boys, and transpeople that joined the girl ranks.
"People in the leather community were not comfortable with this idea at the time. No one even liked talking about it," says Pilar, referring to the notion that a girl didn't need to be a biological woman to be in their group. "The attitude that people should 'get off the fence' really hurt."
The initial group grew to about 30 members and its short three years as a successful alliance was packed with fundraising, volunteer work, and super-girly fun. But eventually the negative attitudes, biased expectations, and confusion over the definition of "girls" wore down on moral.
"People would walk up to me and demand, 'girl, clean my boots' and I would say, 'I don't serve you, I serve the community,'" Pilar says shaking her head.
Even Daddy Vick remembers how the group of strong, independent individuals struggled to prove themselves to the wider leather community. The girls, she says, "took a lot of flak" for contesting tradition. "There was still a belief in place that girls and boys couldn't be leaders. Some thought girls and boys should be seen and not heard."
The girls managed to have good times regardless, but Pilar says by early 2007 the group was down to five members who reluctantly agreed the end had come. It wasn't until the 2010 International Ms. Leather competition — when Pilar decided to donate the leftover SF girls memorabilia and a curious Leland started asking questions — that SFgoL sparked back into life, with a little PR and a lot of ambition.
"Leland is a wonderful leader. She creates a really positive image of a girl," says Pilar, nostalgically looking over an old stack of meeting notes, scribbled calendars, and photos from the original group. The dissolution of her crew hit hard, and it's bittersweet for Pilar to hear about the new group's instant success. But more than anything, she's proud. "I feel like a proud mom. Those are my girls."
Coincidentally, just as the girls sprung out of the woodwork and formed an official group, the San Francisco boys of Leather, a longstanding and once very active organization, hung up their chaps and caps due to a decline in membership. The boys generously donated all their remaining funds to the girls.
Steve Gaynes, the 1994 SF Leather Daddy and Alliance director representing the 15 Association, a longstanding sexual fraternity for men interested in BDSM, has been a leatherman since 1978 and has watched all kinds of groups come and go. He says the ebb and flow is just a reflection of the community's current needs.
"The energy ran of out the boys and ran into the girls. If there's no driving force behind a group, it will die," he says, noting the community's excitement for the new girl group. "They're enthusiastic, inclusive, and have clear ideas for their future. And they're doing [it all] with a lot of respect for tradition."
And the SFgoL's continued dedication to volunteer work and partnerships with other groups have shown the community at large that it values the path paved by the forefathers — and foremothers — of leather.